My father passed away on Monday, January 19, 2015. I’ve written before about Dad and what a special man he was. Of course, most everyone thinks that about their own Dad being special and if they do, they’re right, of course. There’s that old saying that any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a “Dad.” Those of us who have a “Dad” have been very blessed and are very fortunate indeed.
My Dad was very special, not only to me, my mother, my sister, Son, my nephew, and niece, and the rest of the family. Son and my nephew and niece knew him as PaPa. He was also a beloved brother and friend. I’ve always known that Dad had many friends, but I had forgotten that Dad had friends of all ages. That fact was clearly demonstrated at his funeral. So many streamed in on that weekday morning to share their love and respect for Dad. He mentored folks in hunting, fishing, trapping, carpentry and woodworking, and, well, basically everything he knew.
I’ll be honest and tell you that on one hand it does not feel right blogging again and it does not feel right that life goes on, but yet it does feel right at the same time. This is the way the world works and Dad was always a big believer in going on, getting back to work, etc. He did not believe in languishing or feeling sorry for one’s self. Don’t get me wrong. Dad was always supportive and sympathetic when we faced life’s challenges—he was always there for us—but he felt that part of healing was “going on.”
Dad had been having some health issues for some time, but still doing fairly well. However, after a really wonderful Christmas Eve spent together with all our family—for which we are so grateful—Dad’s health took a turn for the worse. He’d been given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease several years ago and more recently we’d been told that his Parkinson’s was now in the advanced stage. So we thought that was the cause of his most recent issues, which we mostly saw as confusion and dementia, with movement issues being secondary. About 40% of those with advanced Parkinson’s not only have some dementia, they also have hallucinations and delusions. It’s important to mention that sometimes the very medications being administered for Parkinson’s can cause those hallucinations and delusions.
It was only when Dad was admitted to the hospital shortly before his passing that we were told that he most likely had Lewy Body Dementia instead of/or in addition to Parkinson’s and that he also had Capgras Syndrome (also called Capgras Delusion).
We were somewhat familiar with Lewy Body Dementia having researched it a few years ago suspecting at the time that Dad might have Lewy Body versus Parkinson’s. If you have never heard of Capgras Syndrome, we hadn’t either until the first doctor who saw Dad at the hospital stated that’s what we were dealing with, and both diagnoses explained so much that had been going on with Dad, whereas the Parkinson’s diagnosis had never been a “perfect fit” for his symptoms.
Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that about 5 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s. About 1.4 million have Lewy Body Dementia. That’s no small number, but most of the nurses who were part of Dad’s medical team were not familiar with Lewy Body Dementia, and none of them knew about Capgras Syndrome.
Capgras Syndrome is a neurological condition. “Capgras syndrome used to be considered very rare, but medical professionals are beginning to think that perhaps it isn’t so rare after all. The more doctors that know about it, the more people they find who have it.”
If you have a loved one with dementia (especially seemingly intermittent dementia and what seems to be unusual dementia) or just what you see as unusual behavior, please take a few minutes to read about these conditions. It might shed some light on what your loved one—and, thereby, you—are dealing with. I want to respect my Dad’s privacy and our family’s privacy but, again, I am sharing this information briefly in the hopes that it will provide an answer for someone else reading who has a loved one experiencing the same type of symptoms.
My Dad was 82 and had a full, wonderful life and we are so very grateful for that. As we said in his obituary, he married the love of his life, Mom, and they had almost 60 years together. His time with her and with us was a gift, but is there ever really enough time with a loved one? I think not. We are all doing pretty well, but we are grieving for sure.
I take comfort in knowing Dad is at peace and I know that I will still “see” Dad every day.
I will see him in my Duncan Phyfe dining room table that I bought back in my single days for $50. It was not usable as it was in pieces. Dad stripped it, reassembled it, refinished it, and made it look like it was worth a small fortune. The mahogany top shined like glass when he was done with it. So many family meals at our home (especially those for birthdays and holidays, including this last Thanksgiving with Dad and the rest of the family) have been enjoyed at that very table.
I will see Dad in the inexpensive ladder back chairs—now at my kitchen peninsula—that I bought to use with that Duncan Phyfe table. I bought the chairs unfinished and Dad sanded, stained, and finished them until they matched the finish of the table and looked like they were something special.
I will see Dad in that bi-level peninsula that separates our kitchen and our dining room. When Mr. GFE and I had our house built, we saved some parts of the construction, specifically in the kitchen, for Dad and Mr. GFE to accomplish. I never liked bar height so I designed a bi-level peninsula with one side that was kitchen table height where my ladder back chairs would go. (We had later inherited mahogany chairs from Mr. GFE’s grandmother that went perfectly with the Duncan Phyfe table.) The kitchen side would be counter space with cabinets and drawers underneath. The part I loved best was the built-in bookcase at the end for my cookbooks. Dad was especially skeptical about the bookcase factor, but he had accomplished woodworking projects far more challenging than that, so I knew he could do it, and he did. Beautifully.
I will see Dad in the ceiling of my kitchen. Part of the country look for my kitchen was to have a wooden ceiling with beams. Dad planned the layout and he and Mr. GFE made it all come together.
I will see Dad in the hassock that I rest my feet on as I write. He had this hassock made for my grandmother, his mother, and she gave it to me after using it for many, many years. Later in life, Grandma was one who embraced all things new and happily gave away her “old stuff.” Hence, I ended up with her china, silver, and much more when I was first getting set up in an apartment. (I treasure and use all of those items to this day.)
I will see Dad in the picnic table by our lake that he found for me at a yard sale. I “put in my order” and a week later, I was handing Dad $15 for this practically new, perfect picnic table and we were putting it in its place by the water.
I will see Dad in the treehouse that he built for Son. Mr. GFE helped, but Dad was the architect and foreman. This treehouse is really more of a tree chalet. Dad designed it so that it would comfortably hold two Army cots and a cable spool table. It is screened with a screen door, a storm window, a balcony, and is self standing, but nestled in the trees. Son’s treehouse received major use for many years, being the site for Halloween parties with ghost stories told by Pop (Son’s other grandfather, also no longer with us), overnights with buddies, and many nights of Son sleeping in the treehouse with his own Dad. The balcony is large enough that Mr. GFE and I’ve even enjoyed the occasional evening drink there as the evening fades.
I will see Dad in the leather-seated Mission-style chair that belonged to my grandfather, his Dad, which I was given while I was in college after Granddaddy passed. I always needed storage space so I asked Dad if he could add a shelf under the chair. Of course, he could, and to keep the chair’s historical integrity, he made the shelf a removable one, crafting it so that it sat on the bottom rungs of the chair and was almost hidden. The shelf was not often noticed by others, but it was a great place for storing the current stack of magazines and books waiting to be read.
I will see Dad in the rocking chair that he made, the one in which I would rock Son to sleep at times. I’ve never seen another rocker of that exact style.
I will see Dad in two “bookcases” in our house. He always corrected me and told me that they really were not bookcases. They were “those old shelves for paint cans.” Yes, he had made them to store gallons of paint and the like. He gave them to me when I needed shelves and he no longer needed or had a ton of paint cans in his shop. I painted them and they became treasured bookcases.
I will see Dad in our dear nephew, my sister and brother-in-law’s son. When we collected photos of Dad for the photo boards for his service (such a helpful and constructive activity for grieving families), we realized with delight that when Dad was a young man he looked very much like our nephew. Dark curly hair. Beautiful, sometimes slight, smile. The poses he struck.
I will see Dad in all the photos over the years, the ones that are tucked away in my photo albums and the others that are framed and out on display. Here are Dad and Mom on their 21st wedding anniversary. That’s my sister with them. She was 14 at the time. I was 20 and in my first apartment. I remember being so pleased to be able to host them all. I vividly remember the menu for that evening—Slow Cooked Bourbon Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots, Southern Style Green Beans, Baking Powder Biscuits, Sweet Tea, and Fudge Pie (the gluten-full version of this recipe poured into a crust).
I will see Dad in nature … a flock of turkeys, deer grazing, noisy and busy squirrels, and the occasional fox that I sight.
I will even see Dad in my own eyes, the green eyes that he had and Son, my sister, my nephew, my niece, and I also have.
But I will no longer be able to see his kind and smiling face, be able to ask for his help and advice for just about anything and everything, feel his fatherly hugs, and hear him say with genuine caring and interest, “How are you doing, girl?” And that is simply hard to face.
We’ve already experienced two of the “firsts,” the first Super Bowl without Dad and today the first Valentine’s Day without Dad. The Super Bowl has always been a family event for us—another occasion to share great food, fun, and laughter, and simply to be together. Valentine’s Day in our family is just another day to show our love to each other. We always exchange Valentines and small gifts. If you’ve lost a loved one, you know how challenging those “firsts” can be. Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad.
About a year ago, my mom had taken two spills within 24 hours (weather and medication related; she’s just fine now) and when my sister took her in to the emergency room to get checked out, Mr. GFE and I headed over to check on Dad and take him dinner.
As luck would have it, I had just baked a chicken (with rice and vegetables) the day before, I was so happy that I had a proper meal to take him as Dad has always been mostly a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. I was a bit worried that the chicken might be a bit spicy for him since there was a very slight Sriracha and fresh ginger factor. He welcomed and eagerly ate his plate full of food and said it was good, and I was so relieved and pleased to be able to provide that small measure of comfort to him.
So in preparing to “go on,” here’s that recipe for you today. It’s classic comfort food and a simple dish (always Dad’s favorites) with just that little bit of spiciness (some might call it a bit zesty), and we can all use some of both on a regular basis, right?
- 1 whole chicken
- About six carrots, cut in half
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tbsp Sriracha hot chili sauce, sometimes called Rooster Sauce because of the rooster on the bottle (use more if you are a fan of spicy dishes and/or Sriracha; see notes)
- One 1-inch section of ginger, grated
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Leftover cooked rice, about 2 to 2 ½ cups
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place chicken in roasting pan and place carrots around it.
- Mix chicken broth, Sriracha, ginger, and cumin. Pour over chicken.
- Bake for 1 hour with lid of roasting pan on, basting halfway through.
- At end of the hour, remove lid. Baste chicken again and cook additional 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Add rice, mixing well with liquid in roasting pan. Bake additional 15 minutes, uncovered.