Monday, September 11, 2017

My hero, mentor, friend, and most important

It’s that time of year that I take a few moments to get my thoughts written down, it’s some sort of crazy therapy, I suppose.  But this year, this thought-writing process seems tougher.  I can’t even believe it’s been 5 years since my hero, mentor, friend, and most important title, dad, has breathed a breath.  I wouldn’t say that I miss him any less than I did during the weeks that followed September 12th, 2012.  I can’t say that I don’t think about him as often as I did on those long nights.  Some things are different though.  I would have to say that the anger has lessened since that time.  The crying has become less frequent and doesn’t last nearly as long as it did during the first year, or three.  There is one thing that hasn't changed though, I have that same spot in my heart that feels completely broken.  I have a hurt that I don’t know will ever go away…as I wouldn’t think that it would.  I guess that proves that someone can love someone so much that no matter what happens, that imprint never fades.  Clearly, my dad meant the world to me.  It wouldn’t still hurt if he didn’t.

Five years have flown by, so I decided to take a little look at what has happened in 5 years:  Ashley graduated from high school and went off to college in Austin, TX, and has hopes of becoming a missionary, she even went on a mission trip to Africa during her senior year of high school; Andrew finished his time at Springfield Lutheran School and went off to high school in Concordia...he has taken a liking to baseball and has been quite the handyman for his Grandma always willing to fix something, he also passed his drivers test and drives all over the place;  Katelyn has grown up into a beautiful and kind little lady who has developed a love for volleyball and continues to improve her skills, she loves to shop with her mom, grandma, and Aunt, and is always willing to help out friends and strangers;   Aaron’s knowledge of outerspace, and really anything and everything, amazes me every time I talk to him, he truly loves to learn...he has turned into a great student, getting praises from his teachers;  Jonathan has become quite a little ninja in martial arts and has such an honest heart, and the boy loves to cook which is so funny and awesome to me, he has also been a great crutch for grandma when needed;  and finally, Faith, well she has grown so much from that little 2 year old the year dad died  and has become one of the funniest kids I know...she's a kid with incredible determination and spunk!  Stephanie and her caring heart has taken in a few kitties that needed homes and has become quite the volleyball coach.  Doyle has become the number one sound guy for a local band in Springfield and is quite good at it while also doing everything he can do to provide for his family.  Gail has taken dad's place in the Praise Team at church and has proven that she can do anything she sets her mind to.  Sid has grown into an amazing dad who has taught his children manners and respect for others, he has also secured many rental homes in order to provide for his family.  Mom was able to retire and has really enjoyed the down time so far, she sold her house of 34 years and in turn, bought my house that I loved so much for 3 years and has made it her own.   She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis the year after dad died and has decided to live her life to the fullest.  She has her hard days, but seeing her rise above the disease has been incredible to watch.   The house I grew up in was sold to a nice older couple who are hopefully making as many wonderful memories with their own family as I did growing up (I wonder if they enjoy the sound of the summer nights on the deck as much as I did).  Me?  Well, I bought my first house and then sold my first house.  For the first time, I found out what it was like to be let go from my job...and looking back, that truly was the best thing that could've happened.  I should've known God had a better and bigger plan for me.  Anyways, I took the leap and moved to Kansas City to start a new chapter in my life.  Other than that, I have had more joy during the last 5 years of helping others than I thought I could ever have. 

As I wrote the paragraph above, all I could think of is, “wow…dad’s influence is shining through in each one of us”.  He had a passion to learn new things, he was kind to others, he had determination, he had an honest heart, he loved all sports, he prided himself on providing for his family, he believed that hard work always paid off, he took rough situations and made the best of them, he was always willing to lend a helping hand.  He really left a piece of himself with each one of us.  I can only imagine the pride he has as he watches down on all of us as we live our lives.  I imagine that he is laughing at Jonathan’s witty "Jonathanisms", or telling people in heaven that he knew his Ashley would come around eventually, or smiling with pride as he sees his bride taking on this new role in life that she was given…one that she didn’t choose.  He loved being together with family, so when we have our family get togethers, when the cards come out and the competitive spirit comes out in all of us, there are hundreds of laughs that come along with it.  I can only imagine the big grin on his face, seeing this family of his still enjoying just being together, showing kindness to one another, and truly loving one another.  And I have no doubt that he knows that he had a part in who each one of us has become. And really, the only part of this that is heartbreaking is that he is not here physically, he's not here to give a big hug to, to ask advice from, or to hear his laugh.  At the end of the day though, he is each one of our family our laughs, in our gestures to others, and in our love for one another.

If you were to ask any one of us, I am confident that each one of us would tell you that our dad/husband/father in law/grandpa was truly a hero, mentor, and friend!

I miss my dad.  I miss him just as much today, September 11, 2017, as I did the night he died.  I miss his smile.  I miss his voice.  I miss his dad jokes.  I miss his comforting hug.  But, I will be okay.  While he can't ever be replaced, I know that I have so many incredible people around me to remind me of the stories of my dad; people around me that still talk about him, and say his name; I have family and friends that are there to offer me a big hug when needed; and I have a heck of a mom who has taken on the role of mother and father.  So, while he is celebrating his 5th heavenly anniversary, we, though are sad that he's not here, can find happiness in knowing that a part of him lies within each one of us.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016


48 months.  Forty-eight long months.  I cannot believe it's been that long since I've held his hand, that I've told him how proud I was to be his daughter.  Kissed his cheek and whispered those 3 simple words.

As I write this, my heart hurts.  It aches with an ache that a lot of people can't understand.  An ache that has no cure, no aspirin regimen.  An ache that I have felt so many nights since the night he died.  The night in 2012 when it really felt as though my heart was literally breaking into thousands of pieces.  The night I felt like my throat was closing up which made it so hard to breathe.  Yes, 48 months later I still get that same hurt and lump in the back of my throat.  While, in some ways you could say that the months have gotten easier, today I can tell you that the emotions are still as raw as those last several days in September 2012.  

This year I decided to look through that "tub" know, that tub everyone has under their bed or in their closet, the one that you throw things in that you want to keep but don't need to look at every day?  Well, mine contains so many precious of family and friends, concert ticket stubs, pictures my nieces and nephews have colored for me, and finally the documents that followed my dad's death.  As I am flooded with so many emotions, I can't help but smile.  People loved my, they really loved him.  Not just liked him or thought he was a nice guy...they loved him. Reading these things makes me incredibly proud, as most stories do when anyone stops me to tell me a story about him!

When the day came when my dad needed to go into a nursing home, his co-workers put together a booklet for his caregivers...something I hold so dear to my heart today. I would like to share just a few of the kind messages some of them wrote with you:
"He seemed genuinely interested when he asked, 'How are you?' each day."
"The Jim I knew was tall, with dark hair, and a smile that would light up a room... the Jim I knew was a man of grace, pride, and understanding."
"In my early days with the agency, my recurring thought about Jim was, 'Is he for real?  Is he really that utterly sweet, friendly, and kind?'.  The sure answer to that, which came to me so clearly over time...yes, he is."
"'Our Jim,' a Gentle Giant...always with a smile and a kind spirit, always helpful, always thoughtful of others.  'Our Jim,' a family man; always proud to share."
"I am so thankful my path crossed with Jim.  He blesses my heart in so many ways. His gentle spirit gives me strength and courage."
"He has a past filled with friends, co-workers and a family that all love him.  He has proudly served his country and community with honor.  He is known as a kind man with many a great story to tell you about his years of working with senior citizens.  He is a loving Christian family man."
"Once upon a time there was a man they called Jim Appelquist.  Jim had so many gifts and talents and it was mesmerizing. His kind loving spirit was known throughout the land.  The charm of his smile and warm greeting to everyone made the earth a better place.  Gentleness is his secret force.  The love of God reaches through his spirit and heart.  Music flowed from his being proclaiming joy and happiness to all those fortunate to hear.  What a gifted man this Jim Appelquist.  He is known to his family as a husband, father, and grandfather; but to the rest of us he is known as a true, kind, compassionate friend."

I love to read these words.  While those might be the words of his co-workers, they seem to be the same kinds of words I hear from everyone that knew him.  I am by no means trying to brag, or to make it appear that he didn't have his faults (trust me, I pointed his faults out to him when I felt the need...which usually resulted in me getting grounded, but as the youngest, I felt it was my duty to keep him on his toes), but I am just so incredibly proud to be his daughter, to be referred to as Jim's daughter, and to keep his memory alive.

As the months go on, my biggest fear is that people will forget him.  That they will stop saying his name.  That people won't remember the humor, the beautiful tenor voice, the heart and soul that was Jim Appelquist.  But after reading and looking through the "tub", I know that is impossible.  He left an imprint on so many.

Finally, one last note from one of his dear friends and CRB band members:  "I know I will never miss your dad as much as you and your family do Katrina, but I do miss my friend Jim!"  A simple statement that touched my heart.  He is not forgotten.

48 months later and people still think about him...miss him...remember him.  

I miss you, Dad!

James Spong Appelquist
1/14/1952 - 9/12/2012

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Three Years.

Three years.  I can hardly believe it has been that long.  Most people that I have known for years know the significance of September 12th and why I hold this day dear to my heart.  It's the day my dad passed from this earthly life and stepped into his eternal life.  In some ways, 3 years feels like an eternity, but in some strange way, it sometimes feels like it was last week.  How has it already been three years since I've seen my dads big smile, or laughed at one of his corny jokes, held his hand, or heard his beautiful tenor voice belt out a song on the radio or the hymns in church??  I guess I shouldn't be too upset because if I close my eyes I can still see his face or if i try real hard I can still hear him singing Two Princes or Lift High the Cross...I know, 2 very different genres, but he loved all music.  

I had no idea that 3 years ago, at the age of 32, that I would lose my dad.  I had no idea that he was going to pass away before I got the chance to do so many of the things daughters get to do with their dads.  I had no idea that I could have a hurt that cut so deep into my heart that a part of my heart will never heal.  But I do know is that he is no longer struggling with Alzheimer's.  And I do know that he is still with me.  And I do know that I have those memories and pictures to remind me of the  kindness and love he had for me, my mom, my sisters, his friends, his co-workers, and anyone else that he would meet along his road in life.

On this past Thursday, a gentleman, by the name of Ted Green, stopped by my mom's office.  Ted was a family friend and also happened to be my dad's Stephen Minister at our church...he visited my dad about once a week while my dad was at home by himself.  They talked, they read the bible, they watched Andy Griffith...they did whatever my dad wanted to do for a few short hours.  Well a few days ago, when Ted stopped by my mom's office, he brought a single rose.  She wasn't sure what he was doing there as he walked up with tears in his eyes.  As he handed her the single long stem rose, he told her one day before Alzheimer's got the best of him, that my dad realized he was dying and had asked Ted that on the 5th anniversary of his entrance into heaven that Ted please take a rose to my mom to remind her how much he loved her.  Because my dad did...he loved my mom with his whole heart.  And even though we were only coming on to the 3rd anniversary, he thought my mom needed the rose this year...and then proceeded to tell her that he would bring a rose to her every year from my dad.  

That's my dad for you...always thinking about someone else!  Always there to remind us that he's still with us and that he loved my mom and us girls more than we will ever know!

My dad had a kind heart.  A thoughtful heart.  A loving heart.  And I miss him every day!  And though I still get that tear in my eye and that lump in the back of my throat (maybe even an occasional break down) when I see a picture of him or hear one of his favorite songs, even 3 years later, I feel so blessed to have had such a role model in my life for 32 years!  

James Spong Appelquist
Our first Walk to End Alzheimer's walk in 2008.
My last picture with my amazing dad!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A life of love.

September 12, 2012 is a day I don't think I will ever forget. I spent the day in Buffalo, MO, sitting by my dad's bedside talking to him, reminiscing about our favorite family memories with my sisters and mom, laughing, crying, praying...all the while knowing my dad did not have much time left with us. We had called in hospice, our Pastor came to pray with us, we were frantically working with The Arbors in Springfield to get him back here to spend his final days close by, I talked with my best friends on the phone...we were all taking those steps to prepare ourselves for, what we thought would be weeks of, saying our final goodbyes.  We had gone back to Springfield around 4 to grab dinner with the intent that mom would go back to spend the night with him l and Stephanie, Gail and I would go back the next morning to see him and spend more time with him. Around 6pm, just as mom was grabbing her keys and getting ready to leave, we got that call.  That dreaded call.  That call that you never ever will be prepared for, even if you think you are ready for it.  Dad had taken those first steps into his heavenly home.  I can still feel that stabbing pain in my heart, that knife in my gut, that completely empty feeling that surrounded me that night.  Ouch.  That was it.  Just like that.  There was no more chances for me to tell him how much I loved him.  No more chances to tell him how proud of him I lucky I felt to have him as a dad.  Did he know?  Had he heard everything I had said to him earlier that day and for the past 32 years?  

The next few weeks are a little blurry, but what IS clear is how much of an impact my dad made on so many people.  We had hundreds of people calling, stopping by, sending cards, bringing us food...all because of one man.  I got to hear stories about my dad from so many people that firmed up what I already knew about my dad...that he was kind, fair, loyal, and truly loved helping those around him.  He not only had left a lasting imprint on my heart, he left it on so many others.  At that moment, I realized that I was not alone in grieving.  Every person's life that he had touched, grieved right along with me.  

Yeah, September 12th will always be a day that tugs at my heart strings, makes me sad, brings back a flood of emotions...but it is also a day that I want to make sure I celebrate.  Celebrate the life of a man who brought so much joy to my heart, to my moms heart, my sisters hearts, and so many others.  He took his glorious steps into his final home, he walked through those pearly gates into a home that was free from Alzheimer's, free from violence, free from heartache and disappointment.  He was reunited with his mom, his dad, his brother, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law...I can just imagine the party they had 2 years ago...and probably every day since.  It might really stink for those of us here on earth who miss him every moment of every single day, but I know we will be okay.  I know he's watching down from heaven, keeping an eye on us.  I can hear his voice of reason still...sometimes I can even hear his voice telling me it's going to be okay...although a lot of the time it's the voice that says "Now Trina...think about this before you do something you regret. "  I can see his personality shine through his the things they do, the things they say, the way they act towards others.  I am confident he's still with us.  

I will continue to try honor his memory on September 12th every year.  I will take this day to celebrate the life he led, the lives he touched, the man he truly was.  My dad truly led a life of love.  I am going to try to do the same.  My prayer is that no matter how many years go by, that no one forgets him.  I know I never will.

James Spong Appelquist

January 14, 1952 - September 12, 2012

Monday, September 2, 2013

From a daughter's perspective: My brush...or rather 'Punch you in the gut'...with Alzheimer's.

This post is long, but it is MY story about my experience with Alzheimer's...what's it like?  It's not a disease that many people know much least I didn't until it happened to me.  If this can help even one person or shed some light as to how hard this disease is, then opening up and letting this vulnerable time in my life be made known, is worth it to me.  It is hard.  It does suck.  And the end result is hard and uncomfortable to talk about.  But it is reality.  It is life.  And I am blessed enough to know that with everything we go through in this life, the end result is eternal life.  I am not going to lie and tell you that we never had our doubts and wondered if it was too much for us to handle, but knowing that heaven is the end result, it eases the pain for us here on earth to know that one day we will see our loved ones again.  We were also very blessed to have the help of the Alzheimer's Association and many many family and friends who stood by our side, every step of the way!  Here is my story.
 A little over 6 years ago my mom asked my sisters and I to join her for lunch.  Little did we know that day, that this lunch would be the beginning of a 5 year journey of the toughest years of our life.  Lunch started out good, pretty normal, discussing our days and sharing some laughs...but then the only thing I really remember from that point on, is my mom getting silent and telling us that there was something she needed to discuss with us.  She and dad had been to the doctor and had been informed that my dad had the early onset of Alzheimer's. He had been put on medications that were meant to help slow the progress of this disease. My first thought was, "Alzheimers?  Isn't that something that elderly people get?". My first question..."Can he die from this?"  I mean, this is something older people get...not someone in their mid-fifties!  It felt like someone had punched me in the gut...I found it hard to catch a breath of air. We talked a little more and the next thing I knew, I had made it back to my office and was googling this "early onset of Alzheimer's disease"...what exactly does it mean?  How does it affect someone?  How long can they live? What does it do to someone affected by it?   How was it possible that someone so young could get this disease?  Everything I read just seemed to jumble up in my was overwhelming and I had to stop reading because my heart was starting to ache. Then came the flood of all the 100,000 emotions.  I was in shock.  I was scared.  I was too young to deal with this.  I wasn't ready to lose my dad.  What would I do if he were ever to forget me?  How long did I have with him?  I'm gonna tell you...I went there.  And it was an ugly little place.  I went to the worst possible scenario and couldn't control my emotions that night.  I had a softball game and fought back those tears...though, not very well...and tried to go on like everything was normal.  And in the following days and months, everything WAS normal...though it seemed.
It wasn't but a few months later that we came back from a vacation to California that I had that air knocked out of me...again.  I got a call from my dad had been let go from his job of 29 years.  WHAT???  I was angry. My heart hurt for fact, I finally was able to understand what a real heart ache felt like.  I remember to this day, the sadness and embarrassment that filled his eyes.  I still, to this day, get that lump in the back of my throat that makes it hard to swallow just thinking about how sad and hurt he was.  I wanted to scream and any and everyone.  How unfair!  How could they do this to a man that was so loyal to this company?  Someone that cared more for others than anyone I had ever known!   It took me a long time, but I finally came to peace with the fact that this disease that I had been trying to wrap my head around for months, had taken the first big toll on the strongest man I knew.  Yes, his memory had started to fail him at his job.
The next few months seemed like he was perfectly fine...I remember calling him up one day and asking him if he would meet me at Sam's (one of his favorite places) to help me pick out a new laptop.  I needed his so many, many, many times before!  He was happy to help and met me there...he drove himself, by himself.  He was okay!  Everything was okay!  
Over the next couple of years, things seem to be would drive himself places, he would keep their house clean, do dishes by day, run into town if he needed something, watch Mizzou sports and Cardinals games with me on the weekends...things were fine...well except for the occasional forgetting to put the milk away...forgetting where mom and I had told him where we were going...but I kept thinking, "Okay, I can handle this early onset if it's like this for the next 10 years."    We took a couple of family trips, one to Hilton Head and another to Orlando, with the entire family...we wanted to make some memories with dad and all of his family!  We all had a blast...and memories we did make!
Then came the winter of 2009.  Here we were 2 years into this disease, and we noticed he was having a harder and harder time remembering simple things.  He was still driving although we found more and more that he would forget to make the right turn when driving or would run red lights.  We decided that it was time to have another family meeting. It was time to discuss with dad that dreaded conversation...we thought it was time he stop driving...for his safety and the safety of others.  He did NOT take it well...not at all.  He was angry with us all.  In his mind, he didn't have anything wrong with him.  He was fine.  He knew he had Early Onset but he wasn't affected at all.  So, explaining to a 57 year old independent man, that we thought it was best he didn't drive anymore was probably one of the toughest things we had to do.  We convinced him to let the professionals handle this and suggested he take a driving test.  We were blessed to have the Alzheimer's Association there to help with the cost of this test and to guide us where to go.  Well, he took the test.  In the words of the woman giving the test, "I think it's best that he not drive."  His reaction time was horrible, he had a hard time following simple directions with her.  It was not good.  He talked with his doctor, and he also recommended that he not drive.  So, there we go.  He was crushed.  And convinced that everyone was against him.  It was hard.  "Hard" doesn't even do it justice.  I don't really have the words.  From that day in December, he never drove another mile again. 
We were now at a point that he was becoming angrier and angrier.  Mom would make a quick trip into town by herself and would get home to find that he was FURIOUS with her because she "took off without telling him where she was going".  Or she "would be gone for hours".  He was forgetting more and more and was becoming a very angry individual.  He went back in for a regular appointment with his neurologist and we soon found out that, not only did he have the Early Onset of Alzheimer's, but he also had Frontal Lobe Dementia.  Again, it was back to google to figure out what this meant.  Basically, this dementia, that had affected his frontal lobe of the brain, was causing him severe anger issues, paranoia, and changes to his personality.  His moods were terrible.  He was just mean to my mom which drove me CRAZY.  I felt like I had to protect my mom...she didn't deserve this, but there was no reasoning with him.  I saw my mom starting to spend her evenings crying.  I was becoming to HATE this disease.  This was not my dad.  My dad was not this mean spirited person. 
December of 2010.  Ugh.  Crappy December.  This was my breaking point...I had ENOUGH of this stupid disease.  I wanted my dad back.  I knew it wasn't my dad anymore...everyone had told me that for the last year.  This person he had become was someone with Alzheimer's. The dad I knew and loved had died (not the most comforting thing I was told, but I knew that I had to come to terms with it somehow).  But I still believed my dad was in there somewhere.  I was over his anger issue, and on December 7th, I had been pushed to my limit.  He was angry that my mom was "leaving him" again even though we were going to Advent by Candlelight at my church...a woman only event.  He couldn't understand that she was only going to be gone for a little while and would be coming back his mind, it was an eternity when she wasn't there.  So, he was upset with her which then caused her to cry...again.  Then comes the moment in time that I wish I could take back.  I lost control of my emotions.  I was mad.  I started yelling at him...he walked away, I followed.  I said some things that were harsh...he did the same.  I was crying, but that didn't stop me.  I couldn't help myself.  I was so angry that this was happening to me.  To my mom.  To my dad.  I was done...I was leaving their house...until I heard the man that I loved so very much, sobbing in the other room.  Ouch.  My heart began to hurt again.  Really, really hurt.  What had I done?  I made my dad cry?  And at that moment, I realized that I was never angry at him, I was angry at this disease, and I never wanted to make him hurt again.  My oldest sister was over at mom and dad's house by that point, and the 4 of us sat down on the couch and cried with him and for him.  He sobbed telling us he knew he was losing it.  He couldn't control simple things anymore.  He didn't know what was happening to him.  He started pulling his hair out.  And there he was...completely vulnerable, devastated, and feeling so alone.  He questioned why he was still alive.  And at that point, I knew I had to stop being upset with him, and had to do whatever I could to help him.  I was angry with myself for doing this to him.  I was angry at myself and couldn't believe I had lost complete control. What in the world had I done?
We took 2011 on with a new understanding for him.  The changes were happening faster than we had anticipated.  We were told that he could be in this stage for years.  That wore us out just thinking about it, but we took it day by day.  The year continued and he became more and more dependent on mom.  He couldn't make decisions on his own, we had to make every decision.  He had stopped demanding that mom get him a scooter to drive around instead of a car.  I believe he felt scared to leave anywhere.  That is, until a cold, and rainy day in November 2011.  A day we feared from the moment we started studying Alzheimer's disease.  It was about 11:00 in the morning on a weekday.  Mom was at work, along with the rest of us girls.  Mom got the dreaded call from the Battlefield Police.  She needed to come home.  The police had picked dad up about a 1/4 of a mile away from their home.  All he had on was a sweatshirt and jeans, and was picked up going house to house, knocking on doors.  Apparently he was looking for McDonalds.  Mom called me, beside herself, she couldn't stop crying, but was on her way home.  I hopped in the car and headed that way.  By the time I got home, mom was talking to the police officer and my dad was sitting on the couch in dry clothes.  Again, a whole new hurt I hadn't had to this point. He looked so sad, defeated, confused.  I sat with him and just put my arms around him.  I asked him what had happened, and all he could tell me was that he was hungry and  he was just trying to find McDonalds.  I tried to keep my emotions together, but I had a tough time.  The police officer had told mom as soon as she picked him up, she realized what was going on, as she had a grandmother who had also had Alzheimer's.  Luckily dad had his emergency bracelet on, and they were able to track down his address and mom's number.  Mom and I tried to hold back our tears and decided to take him to Steak n Shake...he loved that day.  We let him order anything off the menu that he wanted.  He seemed to forget what had happened and all was good in his world....although, ours just seemed to get more complicated. 
At this point he had been staying by himself at home during the days.  He had his buddy, Duke, mom and dad's cocker spaniel, that they had adopted when dad first was diagnosed, and he helped to keep dad company.  We thought he was okay...he would spend days sitting on the couch, and picking up hair out of the carpet, or cutting coupons, or actually anything in the newspapers that had a box around it, but it kept him busy.  But with this new revelation, we knew he needed someone at home with him during the day.  My mom couldn't stay home full time as they needed her income, so we had to find another option.  Thanks to Marci at the Alzheimer's Association, she helped us talk to dad and convince him to let us hire someone that could come and stay with him during the day while mom was at work!  She knew exactly what to say, and I believe that with her help and the guidance of everyone at the Alzheimer's Association, we were then able to hire our first caretaker.  My high school friend, Tasha, who worked for Omega Home Care, recommended, Phoenix Home Care. 
Joel was our first worker...we really liked him, as did dad.  He was a younger man, still in school, that would come in and just "keep dad company" for 1/2 days, until mom could come home.  Dad and he would play old movies, just sit there and talk, and dad managed to be okay with the fact that he was there.  It was now January 2012, and dad's 60th birthday.  We decided to have a party for him...although a little concerned how he would handle it.  He had become uncomfortable around a lot of people, but we knew that this might be the last time some people could see him!  So, a party we had!  129 of dad's closest friends and family came by the house...we had set up the bedroom as a place for him to go if he needed a break, but it was amazing!  HE WAS BACK!  Even if it was only for 3 hours, my dad was back.  He was smiling, laughing with friends, talking and enjoying this day that was all about him.  Family came from all over Missouri, friends came by that we hadn't seen in awhile, and for those few hours, we were able to get a chance to have our dad back the way he was before Alzheimer's.  I can't thank God enough for that day.  He knew that was what we all needed, and to see & hear my dad laugh again is a memory that I don't think I will ever forget.  We felt blessed.
Well, a couple of months went by, and his paranoia set in. He started becoming suspicious of Joel.  He started accusing mom of having an affair with our twenty-something helper.  WHAT?  That is absurd.  This is what we all thought.  Again, we had to remind ourselves that this was not our dad who was making these accusations and saying these very hurtful things.  This was a man who was becoming consumed with this disease.  Mom was becoming very worn out...dealing with the hateful and hurtful things he would say to her daily.  He would follow her everywhere.  He would get very agitated very easily.  He had forgotten where the bathroom was.  She was constantly having to ask him if he had to use the restroom and then would have to guide him to the bathroom in the house.  At times, she would look for him and realized he had gone back to childhood days of living on the farm, and had gone outside to go to the bathroom.  It seemed absurd to us, but he was regressing.  And we began to realize that my mom's life was spiraling out of control.  She was constantly "on", never receiving a break.  He would get up at night to go to the bathroom, which woke her up.  She was getting no sleep.  She wouldn't sleep at night in fear that he would get up, and then she would get up and go to work, and come home to an upset husband and would have to take care of him until he would wear out and would be ready for bed.  It was a never ending cycle.
It came to a point to find dad a day care for the times when mom was at work...we had to let Joel go, and this was the best option.  We visited a few different adult day cares, and that is where we found the Arbors.  He would go to adultcare Monday - Friday mornings.  He seemed to be okay with this place, although it didn't come without a few tears on his and mom's part every morning she left.  He was scared she wouldn't come back, and would be in all smiles when she picked him up...much like a child. 
We soon realized that mom needed a respite vacation.  Mom and I decided to go to would be a 2 week respite vacation.  It took lots and LOTS of preparation.  I had come up with a schedule complete with Phoenix workers to spend the night with dad who would then take him to the Arbors, and then my sisters would spend some time with him in the evenings, or other friends of dad's that we had lined up to visit him in the evenings; we had emergency numbers posted for everyone involved, the schedule was even color coded.  We were finally ready to leave.  It was heartbreaking to leave him.  The 2 weeks seemed to go okay...a few mornings of calls from family that he was completely heartbroken and looking for mom.  She would talk to him on the phone, which he could barely talk because he was sobbing, but she would assure him that we would be home soon.  He had no concept of time, so he would calm down and we would be able to continue on.  During our 2 week vacation, he started to have more problems and "accidents".  What we came home to was a man who needed even more constant supervision.  He was having more accidents in the house, was forgetting how to eat, and just really couldn't be left alone.  It was 2 weeks of being home when my mom realized this was more than she could physically handle.  It was time.  It was time again for a family meeting, this time without dad.  We were all in agreement that it was time to move him into an assisted living center.  The Arbors had a room available, and we figured since he was used to the people and that place, that this would be the best move.  My lease was up at the same time, so it was decided...I was moving in with mom during this transition period.  We moved dad into the Arbors on Friday, June 29, 2012, and me into my childhood home on Saturday, June 30th.  I can't even describe that day of moving him into his new room...but it was hard.   He was confused and seemed sad.  By this point, he wasn't speaking a whole lot, but he just seemed lost and sad.  Leaving him that day again left me with that big lump in the back of my throat that made it hard to swallow.  He wanted to come with us, but he couldn't.  We had to walk out the door and keep walking...knowing that he was so scared.  I would cry at night wondering if he was scared when he went to bed.  Did he think we didn't love him anymore?  Ouch. And at that point, we realized that he may never come home with us again, and that hurt, deep down into the pit of my stomach.  For the next 12 days, his anger had set in even more.  He was becoming very agitated with the workers.  They had all grown to love him since he had started coming to day care there, 3 months prior, so they knew this anger wasn't directed at them.  But it had become too much for them to handle, and they sent him to a psychiatric ward for re-evaluation for his medications.  They assured us he would only be there for 7-10 days.  So, off to Bolivar he went.  We could only visit him between certain hours, and could only visit him in pairs, and no one under the age of 16...which meant no grandkids but Ashley.  The Arbors had been told that they could no longer take him back because of the amount of care he needed...he needed a nursing home.  FOUR weeks went by, apparently no nursing homes in Springfield could take him due to how sedated he had to be and because of his anger issues.  No one wanted him.  I couldn't understand that.  No one wanted my dad.  My family made multiple calls to over 75 nursing homes...even trying places as far as Northern Missouri.  What were we going to do?  I hated that psych unit.  It was cold, it was not friendly, he couldn't have any pictures of family or any of his belongings with him.  All I could think about was him being so lonely.  Again, was he scared?  Was anyone talking to him?  He just looked so lost when we got in to see him.  He couldn't feed himself at this point, so we would go at dinner and help feed him when we could get up there....although being an hour away made it difficult.  While there, he had lost the ability to walk...he was confined to a wheel chair.  The last time I saw him at that unit was so unbearable.  They had him laying in a hospital bed and he couldn't speak.  He could barely acknowledge me.  It scared me and I couldn't control my emotions...I had to let someone else come back and take my place.  I couldn't stop crying.  I couldn't pull myself together.  He looked like he was dying.  And I wasn't ready for this. 
We got the call in the middle of August that they found a nursing home that was going to take him!!!  HALLELUJAH!  Our prayers were answered!  They moved him to Buffalo Prairie Center on August 10th.  Yes, it was still an hour away, but this would work while we continued to look for nursing homes closer.  And this way, the kids could go and see him!  He actually seemed to perk up a little over the next couple of weeks.  Praise the Lord!  We would go and visit with him, sing songs in his room to him, songs that he loved, we would help feed him, and just hold his hand or sit with him telling him about the latest news!  This was manageable!  Labor Day weekend 2012 brought a weekend of changes.  His talking had gotten less and less over the last month, but that weekend brought barely any speaking or movement on his part.  In fact, he had stopped eating.  When learning about this disease, we were told that one of the last signs would be the patient forgetting how to swallow.  And here we were, sitting in his room, trying to get him to eat.  He would store it all in his mouth...he would swish his food (which had been ground up for the last few weeks) in his mouth, but he would never swallow.  It was frustrating and we tried to coax him to swallow, massaging his throat, explaining how to swallow, but with no luck.  There were tears from us, but just a blank look on his part.  It took my mom cleaning the food out of his mouth and just coming to the realization that this was no use.  That day I heard the last words from his we were leaving, I said my goodbyes and gave him a kiss, and he said the words that will ring in my head forever and ever..."I love you, Trina."  Yes, he said it.  My heart felt a bittersweet feeling, but to hear him say that was what I needed.  Tuesday rolled around and we got the call that he wasn't doing sisters, mom and I left work and headed that way.  When we got there, he was hooked up to oxygen.  Wow.  He looked like my grandpa in that very moment.  It was tough.  Well, that's an understatement.  Mom spent the night, but we assured him we'd be back the next morning.  Wednesday, September 12th...a day that changed my life forever.  Stephanie, Gail and I got to Buffalo around 9, complete with coffee and breakfast and to our surprise, they had moved him into a private room.  Tasha arrived soon after with her co-workers from Omega Home Care, to start the process of hospice.    That day brought the 5 of us together as a family, for what we knew later, would be the last time.  We spent that day sharing stories of growing up, stories that brought laughter, and some that brought tears.  He was pretty unresponsive but would open his eyes for minutes at a time, and at times that we felt like he was looking right through us, but then at times, I felt like he was looking right into my eyes, letting me know in his way that he knew I was there.  Our Pastor came and held a devotion with us, and prayed with us.  I wished that life at that moment would slow down.  We each took our turn to talk to him.  To tell him anything we wanted to tell him.  And to tell him that we would be okay when he was ready to let go...although, I'm not sure how convincing I was, because my heart was breaking in half.  I made calls to my boss that afternoon, I made calls to my best friends, we made calls to the Arbors that decided that they would take dad back so he could be close to us for the last days of his life.  It was decided that they would come and get him the next day.  We knew time was coming to a close soon, but thought we had a week or so left.  Things were looking up as well as they could for our situation.
Well, God had another plan.  We left that day around 4 and headed home to grab some dinner that work friends of mine were bringing out, and then mom would head back to Buffalo to spend the night with dad, with us 3 girls joining her the next day!  As mom was getting ready to leave to go back to be with Dad, we got that call.  The call we had feared from the moment we heard 'Early Onset of Alzheimer's'.  Dad had passed away after we left that afternoon around 5:50 pm on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012.  Wow.  My heart hurt.  I couldn't catch my breath.  He was gone.  This man in my life that was the strongest man I knew, was now in heaven with his mom, dad, brother, brother-in-law, and many other members of our family.  The rest of that evening is a blur.  My eyes hurt.  I couldn't talk.  I couldn't stop crying.  A hurt that was worse than any other hurt I had ever felt up to that point.  Yes, we had lost him a long time before that, but his body was gone.  At that point, I just wanted to hold his hand.  To give him a hug.  To tell him ONE more time that I loved him. 
Life is precious.  Our memory is precious.  Our family is precious.  None of these are things we should take for granted.  I learned a lot about myself and others in my life during this process that began in 2007.  I feel like I am a stronger person.  I feel like I have a better relationship with my God.  I feel like maybe one of the reasons I am here on this earth is to spread awareness about Alzheimer's and to share my story. 
Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death.  It is affecting more and more people at a younger age.  So this is my story.  It is a story of a man that was well respected by so many.  A man that was loyal.  A man that was kind.  A man that wanted to help others.  A man that was strong in his beliefs...even in his last 5 years of life.  A man that loved family.  A man that wanted the best for his family.  A man that loved unconditionally. A man who served our country.  A man whose life we feel ended too soon and in a way that he would never have chose...but he dealt with it and did so in the best way he knew how.  His life story is one that will always be remembered as a good life.  And he was my dad. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Christmas in July? I think so... of my favorite months of the year.  Not only is it closer and closer to my FAVORITE time of year, it is also summertime, and best of all my birthday!  This July did not disappoint.  I started out the month taking a little road trip to Dallas with mom to help our friends, the Williams, pack up and move to Springfield.  While there, I couldn't let the chance to go to IKEA pass me by, so Mom and I took a little 3 hour break to go to the IKEA store to get things for my new home!  It. Was. Awesome.  I can't wait for the IKEA in KC to get built!
Next off was Ball of the Wild...a fundraiser for the Zoo at O'reilly Event Center.  I went with Kari, John and Andrea and we had a BLAST!!!  The band this year was amazing...we danced, and danced, and danced some more!  Thanks to my mom, and Andrea's mother-in-law (and mom's best friend) for coming and picking us up.  You guys are awesome!
The time then came for a little family trip to was a little time to celebrate mom's 60th birthday coming up in November and Stephanie's 40th birthday which was last February.  We did some shopping, played in the pool, did some more shopping, and even got to go to Silver Dollar City.  It was a great week!
Next on the agenda was my 33rd, that's just starting to sound old.  30 didn't bother me, neither did 31 or 32...but 33?  It's taking a little toll on me.  BUT I have amazing family and friends that made it an absolutely amazing day!  My birthday fell on a Thursday this year, and even though I had to work a 1/2 day, it was a pretty fantastic day.  Started out with my sister, Gail, and her 3 kids dropping by my office to deliver me a dozen pink roses (anyone who knows me, knows I love flowers) and pretzel m&ms, and then it was off to St Louis with two of my besties and their hubbies for 24 hours of fun.  Little did they know when they got our tickets to the STL Cardinals game, that the Cardinals would be celebrating Christmas in July...complete with a Buddy the Elf in the crowd, Christmas decorations everywhere, and even Christmas music playing in between the innings!  It was fantastical!  It was then off to Paddy-O's for a little post-game celebrating!  Two of Megan and Tim's friends, the Francis', were able to join us for the game and the celebration...we had so much fun.  On Friday we took a little trip to the City Museum, which was the best $12 I've ever spent.  There was so many fun things to do, complete with a 10 story slide.  After that, we hit lunch at Schafly's and then hit a couple of Antique Stores before heading back to Springfield.  Then on Sunday, we celebrated my birthday with my family...and what better way to celebrate than with another Christmas in July themed party?  My mom made a complete Christmas dinner, had the table set as if it were Christmas and even had Christmas decorations up, which included a Christmas tree!  My presents were all wrapped in Christmas paper...we even watched my favorite Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation, as a family.  So, all in all, my July was great!  Fantastic!  One of the best yet!!!!  I've been told that 33 is supposed to be your happiest year...or so, that is what google says.  And google doesn't lie...right? 
Below are a few pictures from the month!
 Heaven on Earth!
 Yes, I drove this beast from Dallas to Springfield.
 Our Ball of the Wild Crew!

 Welcome to Springfield, Andrea!
 Love the Hamras!
 Shots, anyone?
 On our way to SDC for a day of fun!
 Waiting for the train!
 Aaron, Jonathan, Faith and Gail ride the kiddie roller coaster.
 Then it was on to the big time...the American Plunge.  The kids did great!

 These 3 kids just make me laugh!
 My birthday flowers and surprise visitors.
Before we begin our road trip, someone gets Iced.  :)

At the hotel, getting ready to head out!
 A little pre-game drink!
 Christmas in July at Busch Stadium.
Cards WIN!!!


 The Arch at night!
 St. Louis City Museum
 Tim and John are climbing to the top!
 Waiting to ride the 10 story slide.
 Climbing the really really really tall cage outside.  I got a little bit nervous.

 Even preggars could do the mazes!

 Christmas in July with the family!