My cell phone was ringing. The clock read 1:30 a.m. with caller ID telling me it was the nursing home. I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
Dad fell out of bed and busted his head up pretty good. I met the ambulance at the hospital as we settled in for a wait in the emergency room.
Lying there with his head wrapped in blood-soaked bandages, he looked so vulnerable and scared. Although he can't always connect the dots to what role I play in his life, it was obvious he was glad to see a familiar face in the midst of being in a strange place in the middle of the night.
For the next five hours I'd remind him every few minutes where we were, why we were here and that soon he would be stitched up and we'd get to go home.
He'd drift in and out of sleep, it was the middle of the night after all, and I'd wonder if, in his dreams, he could remember life before dementia. Could he be dreaming of our days sitting in his back yard, enjoying small talk while watching the birds? Or the nearly 60 years of marriage to mom, his four kids and grandchildren?
Every so often something would startle him awake and the blood pressure readings would signal his internal fear of not knowing what was going on. I'd pat his leg so he would see me sitting there. He would instantly calm down and we'd go through the routine of 20 questions until he'd fall back asleep.
Even though it's hard to deal with the fact he can't acknowledge I'm his daughter, I can't imagine not being by his side. It made me sad to think of how anxious he would be if he were in this room, all by himself, and not have me there to remember for him.
I worry if Dad is truly happy in his new home, although it's times like these, I can reassure myself I did the right thing by moving him.
I often refer back to an article a reader once sent me about people with dementia and their state of mind.
I just hope it's true. It said that even though they've lost their memory, they are happy within the world of that moment.
I want to be happy for him, as the majority of time he seems content. If only I could have just a few minutes of coherent time with him, so I could ask the questions that keep me awake at night.
"Do you forgive me for breaking my promise to keep you in your own home?" "Do you remember the years I took care of you?" "Do you get enough to eat?" "Does anything hurt?" "Do you need side rails on your bed?"
Page 2 of 2 - I got him back to the nursing home just in time for breakfast. As I rolled him up to the table, he was smiling and waving to his friends, obviously happy to be back in the comfort of his home.
I suppose that's the only answer I really need.
Sandy Turner lives in the Kansas City area and writes this column for GateHouse Media.