Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turning The Page

My father died this morning. As I type these words, I choose to not believe them and yet they remain the truth. This has been a surreal day. One minute I am crying hysterically as I stand in my dad’s closet trying to hide my pain among his things. An hour later I am laughing like a fool as I tell my sisters we are going to have a difficult time finding someone to adopt three middle aged orphans. I am pretty sure my condition is close to what a normal person would call psychotic today. The truth is, I am broken.

Love is patient ~

Thank you, Dad, for loving me when I was unlovable, which was more often than I wish were true. Even when I rejected you, you never turned your back on me. You waited patiently for God to change my icy heart and He did.

Love is kind ~

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me what it means to be kind. Not the fake kind but the real deal kind. The kind that loves other people even when they don’t look like you, think like you or smell like you. The kind that remembers to treat others better than they might think they deserve and really mean it.

Love is not rude ~

Thank you, Dad, for showing me how to negotiate my way through this world without being a bully.

Love is not easily angered ~

Thank you, Dad, for being the cool head of reason more often than not throughout my life. You made the worst situations seem so much easier to walk through because you kept your cool, which always helped to calm the hot-head in me.

Love keeps no records of wrongs ~

Thank you, Dad, for forgiving me …. over and over and over again.

Love always protects ~

…. for saving me from myself so many times.

Love always trusts ~

…. for trusting me when I didn’t deserve it.

Love always hopes ~

…. For believing I would do great things someday.

Love never fails ~

…. For never failing to love me.

I'm not quite sure how I am going to face this life without you but I know God is not done with me yet. I love you ~  Marla

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I’ll Take Morphine For $1000, Alex

My poor dad. In the last few days, he has fallen two more times. That means he has fallen a total of three times in the last week, all while under my care. I am only giving you this information in case you might ever consider asking me to care for you someday.

If you recall, when he first fell last week, he came home with a fractured left hip. Of course, I assumed … my first mistake … that a fractured hip would slow him down and he would mend while getting plenty of rest. Obviously, I had forgotten who I am dealing with. A few days after coming home, the old coot decided to get up and walk at six in the morning. This led to fall number two. Luckily, he landed face first, saving his hip from further damage. Having that gorgeous, chiseled Casas face is surely what saved him from further harm when he hit the floor although his poor shins look a bit worse for the wear. After fall number two, I had a hospital bed delivered. Surely, a hospital bed with high rails on both sides would keep the old geezer from further harm since I seemed to be unable to accomplish this.

The first night in the hospital bed, Kid Cassidy's dementia kicked in convincing him there was an intruder in his room at three in the morning. This, of course, meant that he needed to defend the family from harm. His first weapon of choice was the bottle hanging on the bed rail. You know, the one they give guys to pee in when they can’t make it to the bathroom because there are hospital bed rails keeping them safely in the bed. He grabbed the bottle, which he had peed in a few times during the night, and flung it at the guys head. When yellow rain didn’t seem to melt the invader, the old man, with the fractured hip remember, flung himself over the bed railings and began to pummel the dude. By the time I heard the commotion through the baby monitor, jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe and ran down the hall, the intruder had finally gone.

As I stood in the bedroom doorway of my dad’s room, with my mouth hanging open, speechless at the sight before me, the old man, kneeling on the floor in a huge puddle of what I prayed was lemonade, turned and looked at me with a huge grin. His first words to me were, “I bet you didn’t think I had that much fight left in me, did you!” My answer was, “Bob!! Get in here!!”

Yesterday, the damage of the three falls seemed to catch up with the old guy. His pain level became unbearable to the point of Hospice delivering morphine to bring him some comfort. So yesterday and today have been an emotional rollercoaster. One minute I am watching him fade before my very eyes and the next minute he is looking at me cracking a joke. I have cried more than I thought I would but probably not as much as I am going to.

Today, as I was preparing another dose of morphine for my dad, I burst out laughing. I hadn’t noticed until that moment that the drug is raspberry flavored. I am not sure why this hit me as odd but it just does. So here I am, preparing my dad’s nightly raspberry cordial. Sleep well, you old geezer and instead of dreaming of intruders, dream about the daughter who’s life will never be the same because of taking care of you. I love you, Dad!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Purgatory: It's Not Just For Catholics Anymore.

The last five days have literally flown by. I suppose that’s what happens when you haven’t slept in that many days. The old man spent one night in hospital and then we brought him home. It made sense at the time however I cannot for the life of me remember why at this moment.

That first night, when I left the hospital without my dad, I actually felt a bit depressed. Yes, he drives me crazy. Yes, he got hurt by acting ugly. Yes, it was my chance for a bit of rest. No, I didn’t get any because I kept waking up all night worrying about him. The weird thing is, so did Bob.

The next morning, we made the decision to bring him home since pain management and PT could both be accomplished in the comfort of his familiar surroundings. That, and he was driving everyone nuts with his complaining that he wanted out of that prison.

Caring for an elderly parent is not all that different from having a young child. They are noisy, messy, inappropriate in more ways than you ever expected before having one and they demand every second of every minute of every day of your life that they‘re with you. Yet, the minute they are out of your sight, you miss them, worry about them and wish they were home with you. There is definitely something wrong with parents and caregivers, but I fear there is no fix for either.

Come to find out, not only is his left hip fractured but he has another UTI. This, only two weeks after the last one. Of course, this means he has to make bathroom runs more often than the average person blinks. Since he cannot walk yet, “somebody” has to get him in the wheelchair, roll him to the commode, help him up and pants down. Once the king is on his throne, “somebody” can step out and pray a short prayer, usually something along the lines of, “God, I am sorry for everything I have ever done in my entire life. No, seriously, I mean it this time.” Then it is back to the throne room to de-throne the king and you don’t want details here, believe me.

Repeating this bedroom to bathroom run approximately fifteen to twenty times every twenty-four hour period has convinced me of something. I was wrong. There is a purgatory and it is in Piedmont, Oklahoma.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Think Twice Before Spitting On The Hand That Feeds You

I am sitting in the emergency room with my dad. He fell down, and no, I did not push him. I know I should feel very sorry for the old geezer right now however as I sit here listening to him moan and groan, I find myself wanting to say something my mother use to say to us, "See, God punished you for being so mean."

Now, I know that God does not punish old men by pushing them down, even when they are mean and He might really want to. I also know, my mom surely regretted using this plan of attack on us when we were younger after she had to pay for our therapy years later. Never-the-less, the mean streak in me wants to say it. Thank goodness, I have a healthy fear of God which makes it possible for me to sit here and just think it and not actually say it. Now before you correct my theology, I know I shouldn't be thinking it either but cut me a break right now.

My dad got up this morning looking for a fight. I understand he was a boxer, won trophies, World Hall of Fame, blah, blah, blah but 4516 Ryan Dr N.E. is not the ring and I am not Don King. Ok, my hair may look like Don King's most days but so what, I am still not him. It seems this is the way it goes with my dad. For the last eight years or so he is either hot or cold with no middle ground. One day, he is calling everyone he sees darling and sweetheart and the next he is taking swings at anyone who dares to deny him what he wants. Today was a come out swinging day. Is it the dang bell in the bird cage? Does he mistake that for the bell in the ring and think it's time to rumble? Who knows anymore?

So he was griping at just about everyone this morning, with that scowl he gets when he is in one of those moods. He didn't like breakfast, didn't like the juice, didn't like the temperature of the room, and on and on and on. After he called me for the fifth time in thirty minutes just to grumble, I told him I was done and unless he was going to be nice he didn't need to call me again. That's when Miranda stepped in.

Our daughter, Miranda, might only be eleven years old, but she has the patience and grit of Job when it comes to my dad. He can be brutal to her and she always responds the same way. It's either, "Oh, grandpa" when she laughs it off and just keeps loving him or it's, "Hey! You better be nice, Grandpa!", when she is concerned he has taken it a step too far and might end up in a nursing home or psych ward.

Ok, he just took a swing at the ER nurse for trying to put oxygen on him. When I told him to be nice, he told me to, "Get lost!!" I would so like to get lost right now. Like in Hawaii or Europe or even Oklahoma City. I am beyond ready for a day without being yelled at. Having an eighty-nine year old two year old is exhausting. I made a promise to my mother on her death bed. She made me promise I would take care of my dad. I promised, knowing full well he would never move to Oklahoma and always preferred my little sister. Do you think God ever listens to our less than sincere promises and then laughs knowing full well He is going to give us an opportunity to come through on them? I do!

Sorry, I got off-track. Shocking, I know. Anyway, so this morning when I left the room after my final warning to the old man, Miranda thought she would help me by giving him his pills that were still sitting there. Of course, he hid them in his pocket, flicked them across the table, tried to feed them to the dog and finally ..... finally, spit on Miranda! You read it right. He spit on my daughter. Hearing this from the other room, I turned into a roaring mother bear. I wagged my fat, fifty-one year old finger in his face and yelled,"Do NOT spit on my daughter!" Then I turned on my heels, looked at Miranda and we both burst out laughing. I mean, seriously, it had to be quite a sight. Short, squatty, middle-aged woman, still in her flannel gown berating the old guy who sat with his arms across his chest scowling that infamous Casas scowl. Maybe you had to be there.
So, I left before I said some of the other things that were boiling in my brain and that's when it happened. The old guy jumped up and decided to mow me down with his walker. In his haste for revenge, he caught his slipper in the back wheel and down he went with the walker landing on top of him.

I'm still pretty sure God wouldn't push an old guy down, even for spitting on a little girl. I cannot, however, speak for His angels.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

If You Can't Say Something Nice, You Might Be A Casas

My parents, sisters and I have a rare and strange disorder. We all love one another desperately. We would take a bullet to save the other. God help the soul foolish enough to treat one of us unkindly because the others will maul you without mercy. Having said that, why in the world do we show our love to one another through insults and put-downs? Yep, strange disorder, indeed.

Now, before I go any further, I need to publicly state this disclaimer. Not all Casas familia have this disorder. Truth be told, every aunt, uncle and cousin I know on my dad's side of the family are incredibly wonderful and kind human beings. I can honestly say, I have never heard an unkind word from any of them. As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. They are some of the sweetest people on the planet. Then there is my mother's side of the family.

Therein may lay the answer to this disorder. My mother's side of the family is loud, proud and obnoxiously fun-loving.… exactly like me! Maybe this disorderly love fest of put downs came about when my parents decided to marry and intermingle those Spanish and Swiss genes. The outcome ..... my sisters and I ...... have made for some very interesting history. Take for example when my mother was dying:

In the last week of my mom's life, she was comatose. It was really difficult to stand over her day after day hoping and praying she would open her eyes one more time, only to see nothing happen. How I longed to hear her say she loved me, she was proud of me, say anything, just one more time. I had moved into my parents home to care for my mom the last six weeks of her life. My sisters came daily to spend time loving and caring for her also. Whenever they would show up, things would always get interesting.

That last week with my mom, one of my sisters showed up early to find me standing over mom's bed crying. For reasons I am still unsure of, crying seems to be a sign of weakness in our family and is greatly discouraged by my sisters. The answer to a sobbing sibling has always been and remains to this day .... sarcasm. I admit, I am often the chiefest of sinners in the sarcasm department. That's correct. If you see your sister suffering, make fun of her. After all, it's for her own good.

So there I was, standing on the left side of the bed, crying over my comatose mother, when my sister, who was standing on the right side of the bed, starts harassing me about something or another in order to get my mind off the situation laying before me. When I started to argue with her, telling her she was wrong, my sister says, "You're a big, fat liar." I immediately countered with, "I am not a liar!"

What I am about to tell you is 100% the gospel truth. At the very moment the last word exited my mouth, my comatose mother opened her eyes, looked straight at me, and clear as a bell said these words. "Well, you are fat." She then closed her eyes and never uttered another word.

Now, I understand for normal people, these last words would be a devastating statement regarding a mothers disdain for their child. Not so, in my case. To be slammed was to be loved in my house. We might not have had the kindness thing down but we could go up against Seinfeld any day of the week. My sister and I, upon hearing those last words of our mother's, looked at each other and burst out in hysterics. We still laugh about it today, almost eight years later.

My dad, for some strange reason, has been very kind to me these last few days. It's beginning to creep me out. Yep, a very strange disorder, indeed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Big Fish And Other Lies My Father Told Me

Have you ever seen the movie, Big Fish? It is the story of my dad's life. Ok, maybe the writer didn't actually know my dad and didn't mean to be writing about him, never-the-less, that movie says it all about CFC. When my oldest daughter, Rachel, first saw the movie years ago, she began insisting I see it. She kept saying, "Mom, it's just like Grandpa." Maybe that's why I put it off for so long. I felt I already knew all about G-Pa. Did I really need a movie to prove my points? So I have seen the movie, a few times now, and I love it. It’s really about a man that dislikes his father for a variety of reasons, one of them being he believes his dad is a big, fat liar. Come to find out, the dad is a big, fat, liar sort of, but not really. I started out hating the dad and ended up loving him by the end of the movie. Sound familiar yet? Go back and read my previous posts, it will.

To say my dad was a liar would not be totally accurate. He was more of a storyteller. God help me, I think I am seeing a connection here. Anyway, my dad could tell the best stories and people loved him for it. If there was any type of get together, it would always include Charlie Casas giving a speech which could bring people to tears or have them howling in hysterics. Even at eighty-nine years old, the guy is still pretty dang funny.

People never seemed to question if the stories were true or not. They were just so much fun to listen to coming from Mr. Master-Of-Ceremonies. Not only that, but to be a friend of Charlie Casas’ meant to be entertained and included and loved. He was so good at making people feel all three of those things at once. It was amazing to watch my dad in action. He’d walk into a room and whether there were three, thirty or three hundred people, he would work it like Frank Sinatra in Vegas in the 1960’s.

He could also get just about anybody to do just about anything for him. It was like he could cast some kind of magic spell over people with that charming personality of his. It would have been creepy, spooky if he had been a Jim Jones kind of guy but he wasn’t. He was very much the opposite. He wasn’t looking for followers. He was looking for opportunities to do amazing things for other people in a way that made it fun for everybody. He was and still is all about having a good time.

Believe it or not, I have had friends ask me if my dad was in the mafia. Maybe because he had the look; dark, brooding eyes framed by a head full of jet black hair and pearly white teeth that made you need shades from all the sunshiney, bright smiles. Then there were the perpetual business suits he wore. Other dads dressed “normal” but not mine. No, he had to be beautiful all the time, dressed like a Kingpin. He also never, and I mean never carried a wallet like other dads. My dad had a big, fancy, money clip always stuffed with a wad of big bills to go along with his diamond pinky ring...... which he still wears, I might add. Then there was Vegas. The guy loved Vegas and made regular trips there with his buddies and my mom when he could talk her into it. Also, he never actually denied the mafia thing but rather took great pleasure in keeping the mystery alive with those dang stories of his.

Do you have any idea what happens when you are a little girl attending Catholic school and you repeat one of your dads stories to the nuns? Like the one about the hole in your dads t-shirt that came from him taking a bullet to the heart but how he survived and went on to capture three hundred of the bad guys ……. barehanded……..with a bullet in his heart……..still looking good the whole time.

Dear Sister Mary Immaculate,

If you’re reading this, please watch Big Fish. It will explain everything.


Marla Casas

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Shall We Dance?

Bob installed our stereo system today. It is so awesome to have music in the house again. Of course, one of the first things he did after completing the install was to put Glenn Miller on. There is nothing like Big Band music. Well, except for Mariachi music, or Swiss music, or Jazz or Country, or Classical or ....... ok, so we like music.

Bob and I are definately not great dancers. We are not even good enough to be called bad dancers. Have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode where Elaine dances? It really looks more like she is having a seizure. That's us. Do we care? Not even an ounce. We love to dance with each other. We dance in the kitchen, in the living room, in the backyard and in the barn. You name it, we have probably danced there. When I heard Glenn Miller, I literally ran into the living room to dance with Bob. Naturally, Miranda and her neighborhood friends were mortified and ran screaming out the back door. However, as we twirled through the room, I did notice about five little faces plastered to the window giggling.

My dad has had a tough few days with his dementia knocking him out of reality further than I have ever seen before. As I danced unashamedly this afternoon with my husband, I thought of how much my parents loved Glenn Miller. Then the idea hit me. Bob and I ran to Dad's room and got him to come into the living room with us. Once settled on the couch, Bob cranked up the music .....In The Mood, to be exact ..... and away we went with our own rendition of 1940's swing. As I glanced at my dad, I saw a slight grin creeping onto his face. By the time the song ended, Bob and I stood huffing and puffing as old, fat people do after making fools of themselves. When I looked at my dad, he had the biggest snaggle-toothed smile on his face. He was literally giddy. Bob put another song on and sat down to sing with the old man while I went into the kitchen under the guise of making lunch.

The truth is, I had to leave the room and have a good, long awaited cry. I remembered how much I loved watching my parents dance. Man, could they ever dance. Nevermind that they might not have spoken for days over who knows what. When the tension in the house would build as tensions do, I in my childish, unknowing way, would put on In The Mood and run to beg my parents to dance. You know what? They always would. Speaking or not, they danced. Happy or sad, they danced. Hopeful or desperate, they danced. It was amazing. I am not sure why, but as a kid, I would always cry when I watched them dancing together. Maybe because it was so beautiful, so perfect. They knew exactly what to do and when to do it, and they always ended up smiling. Even if they wouldn't or couldn't look at one another, they smiled.

As I stood at the kitchen sink, sobbing, missing my mother, wishing desperately she was here, wishing I could see her and my dad dance just one more time, I did the only thing I knew to do. I went back into the living room and I danced. I danced with my husband and I danced with my father ....... and I smiled.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn

Last night was brutal. We were up at least four times with the old man. Seems he decided to throw a party. Yep, that's right, a party. The first clue came around 1:30 am when I heard him yelling. I sleep with a baby monitor right next to my side of the bed so I can be sure to hear him. Good idea? Well, it seemed like it at the time. He was screaming profanities. You haven't lived until you wake up to an old man's profanities in your ear in the middle of the night. I literally shot out of bed, my heart pounding so hard I thought my head would pop off from the pressure. I ran down the hall knowing my poor, old dad was surely being accosted by an intruder. No matter. I am a Casas woman and I was ready to take down anyone that would dare enter my home and assault my dad.

Upon arriving in Mr. C's room, imagine my surprise to find him sitting on the edge of his intruder to be found anywhere...glaring at me.

"Dad, what the heck! Are you alright?"

"Can I get a drink around here?"

"Can I get a drink around here? You're screaming profanities in the middle of the night for a drink? Open your fridge, man!"

At this point, I am tired, now crabby and ready to go back to bed. I get him his drink, and no I did not spit in it, and headed back to bed.

An hour later, what do you think happened? The old man is banging on our bedroom door, howling at the top of his lungs. Bob and I both jumped out of bed and ran for the door.

"Bob, there's a bunch of damn ghosts in there! They're having a party. I can't even get down the hall there's so many of em."

"Dad, you had a nightmare. There's no ghosts. You're ok."

"Bob, don't say nightmare. You'll give him ideas."

"Ideas? I think he already has ideas!"

So, Bob went back to bed, I led the ghostbuster back to his room, got him tucked in and headed back to my room.

Over the next few hours, I was summoned to King Charles' room twice more. Once to tell "the guy" standing outside he did not want to have a drink. He was tired and wanted to sleep. The last time, to discuss why all those damn people kept coming into his room to party. He wanted me to know he was especially disgusted with the old movie stars that were showing up. In his words, "I know these people, and I didn't like them then and I don't want them here now. You can tell them that for me!"

Now, I don't know about you, but if old, dead, movie stars kept showing up for a party in my room all night, I would not be as understanding as my dad.

Clark Gable, you have been warned!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's All About ME

I just got off the phone with a family member that is quite disturbed by my postings. It seems they feel I have betrayed family confidences and disrespected my father by “alluding” to “possible” things he may have done that caused me to not like him when I was younger. I was also told that “other family members and friends” were calling saying the same things. Please allow me to set the record straight.

No, my father was not and is not a child molester, pervert, murderer, thief, degenerate or anything else you think I may have unintentionally “alluded” to. What my dad was then and is now, is human. He was and is a father that loved his children and did the best he knew how to do at the time. He was and is a man that made mistakes and bad choices once in awhile. He was and is a person needing love, respect and forgiveness. He is no different from me, or any of you for that matter.

I thought I made it clear,….but obviously not clear enough …. this was and is about my need for a changed heart, not my dad’s need for anything, well other than clean clothes and food. This blog is about caring for my dad and the changes it has made in me. This is about ME! Caregiver = ME

The conversation also included my need to seek therapy instead of writing about things for all the world to see. Since I am writing about ME and I am ok with the world knowing the ugly truths about ME, I think I will continue to write about ME. If that’s ok with you.

As for the “alluding” part; I have never and will never allude to anything. I will just say it so you won’t have to guess and I won’t have to wonder what you might be guessing.

Finally, for those “other family members and friends” who were calling, so concerned about this, please take this with all the love it is written with. If you have a concern about me or something I have written, said or done, please call and talk to ME about it. Calling others to talk ABOUT ME is called gossip and that is not kind, Christian or Buddhist for that matter. It’s just plain ugly.