Packing for Camp

A couple of times each year Papa travels alone from the East Coast to the West Coast to be able to spend time with all of his family. Papa doesn’t like flying, but he needs to travel by air to be able see his children and grandchildren. We book nonstop flights with wheelchair assistance from DC to LA or San Diego and while he won’t admit to being nervous we can see in his behaviors that he is relatively anxious to fly alone. He even starts nervously scratching and will then blame the itch on the rain, or the sun or one of his medications. We try to make everything as easy as we can and this week created a checklist to help reassure Papa that he is healthy and cleared to travel along with making sure he is well packed and prepared for his adventure. Getting him ready reminds me of helping our kids to get ready for swimming or baseball camps, without quite so many doctor visits. Nana used to do all of the coordination and packing so even though Papa assisted us the last time it is not something that is engrained in his mind.

shoppingShopping: Although he has lost a few pounds and he often says, I am watching my figure some of Papa’s clothes just don’t fit like they used to. We took him shopping not only for several new shirts and shorts but a fresh supply of undershirts, shorty pajamas (boxer shorts), and socks for his trip. Papa typically does not like shopping but hat 3on this trip he was picking up things off the racks and asking us what we thought and didn’t once mention he wanted to sit down. It was a very successful shopping trip, even if he decided against a new hat. Check.

ultrasoundDoctor: Papa had a pulmonary embolism on a previous long distance flight and is now concerned he will get another one. He had a small amount of swelling in his feet last week so we scheduled an appointment to reassure Papa he is good to go. He also had a pre-emptive ultrasound done to make sure his legs are clear. He is clot free. Check.

ENT: While Papa was at his primary doctor he mentioned he was dizzy which led to an Ear, Nose and Throat referral. Papa has mentioned I can’t do that, I am dizzy for years; in fact he has had sporadic bouts of dizziness for the past 40 year since he was in a car accident and had a major head trauma. I notice that he seems to mention it if he is worried or anxious, or if he doesn’t want to go for our daily walk. Interestingly enough I still make him walk and as soon as we change topic his vertigo seems to resolve itself. But we took him in for this appointment just to make sure it was nothing new. It wasn’t, he is clear. Check.

Dentist: The dentist happened to have an opening for a cleaning this week so we were able to get him in before he travels. This created an Endodontics referral, but we let him know we have scheduled this follow-up for after his return. As long as he has clean teeth and is in no pain he is good for the trip. Check.

Subway: Papa said he was hungry and asked Doug if they could make a quick stop at Subway after they left the dentist. Doug wondered why he hadn’t eaten his lunch at home before they left.   What, you can’t eat before going to the dentist. Doug laughed at that and said it isn’t like swimming, Dad; it is ok to eat before you get your teeth cleaned. Huh was all Papa said before he ordered his turkey sub.

Foot Soak: Papa likes to periodically have a pedicure and his nails trimmed. He calls it his foot soak and was happy to have this done yesterday so he would not have to worry about asking someone else to take him while he was on vacation. Now if we could just figure out an easy way to put on his compression socks… Check.

FullSizeRenderHaircut: The barber shop is located next to the nail salon. Papa not only had a quick cut, he also had his eyebrows trimmed; it was truly a “Pamper Papa” day! He cleans up great! Check.

VO5: Papa says he has been using VO5 since the mid 1950’s, and because this is the part of his memory that is the strongest I believe it. Is it just us or is VO5 hard to find? After looking at several stores without success Papa’s granddaughter Christina took him shopping today and they were able to find it at their third stop. Perhaps we should go back and get a few extra boxes. Check.

Medications: All of Papa’s medications come through a mail order pharmacy, except for his eye drops which we pick up locally at our Target Pharmacy. I had ordered ahead and prepared weeks’ worth of his meds for the trip, however the eye drops can only be picked up every 30 days. Even though Papa has a 30 day supply he does not understand why he cannot pick the next bottle up early if the doctor has already sent in a prescription. I went to the pharmacy with him on Monday and we picked up one of the drop prescriptions and explained that for insurance he has to wait to pick up the other one. He asked Doug to take him in on Tuesday and this time the pharmacist explained he had to wait until at least Friday to pick up the prescription (Papa leaves Thursday) but he can go to any Target Pharmacy after that for pickup. Today he was running errands with Christina and had her swing by Target to check once again and hopefully the third time is a charm and he remembers he has enough drops for several weeks and can pick that last bottle up in California. Check.

Audiologist: Papa got new hearing aids months ago and this week we noticed he was saying Huh or What quite frequently. We asked him if his hearing aids seem to be working ok. I think the treble is out. He also says this when he is stressed, but to be on the safe side we wanted to make sure his hearing aids were correctly calibrated for his trip so we schedule a quick visit to the audiologist for an adjustment. Dr. Winehouse also supplied him with several months’ worth of batteries and filters for his hearing aids. Check. Check.

packingSuitcase: I don’t know what I need, Papa said in frustration. Doug and I pulled out what we thought he might want to bring for the trip and placed it on his bed and hung what we thought would be comfortable for the plane ride and asked him to check. After exchanging one pair of jean shorts for another he decided everything looked pretty good, except for shoes; we had one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals and his slippers. What do you think, should I wear my white shoes? These shoes are his most comfortable only because he has worn them the most and they are conformed to his feet. They are 1 ½ years old and even though he convinced his sister on the last trip they were at least 10 years old and he needed new shoes he always chooses this pair first. We have since been back to New Balance to get several additional pair of 11 ½ EEE shoes in both black and tan so he has shoes in various colors and for all occasions. We told him to wear whatever is most comfortable. Shouldn’t I bring more shoes? Sure, what do you want to bring Papa? What do you think? Can’t I just put more in my suitcase? He doesn’t have a magic bag like Mary Poppins but we fit the tan shoes in his bag along with the sandals and slippers. Check.

shopping 2Snacks: Papa has an early flight but we want to make sure he has some snacks for the plane. We packed a bagel, a sandwich and a piece of fruit, he always carries a PowerBar or two with him, and of course something chocolate flavored for dessert. Chances are he won’t eat this apple but he will have some Chips Ahoy or Brownie Crisp crumbles on his shirt when he lands. He won’t go hungry. Check.

Bank: We provided Papa with a summary of his accounts and their balances for his wallet so he knows what is where and his response was the usual what do you want me to do with that? He went into the bank today and withdrew cash for the trip and then proceeded to spend some of it on his VO5 and other items he picked up while shopping almost as if that money was going to catch flame and burn a hole in his pocket. Christina diplomatically reminded him that he might want to save his cash for the trip and use his debit card for his last minute local purchases. But he has cash ready and tonight we will make sure he has a couple of smaller bills to tip the wheelchair driver at the airport. Check.

ROMEO: Papa was able to fit in a Retired Old Men Eating Out (ROMEO) breakfast with his church pals this morning before he flies. There is nothing like fellowship and a big breakfast at Bob Evans to curb the nerves. Check.

It has been a busy week. We have fit all of this in along with a couple of trips to Nat’s Park. Papa is exhausted from all of the preparations and he isn’t even there yet.   Doug and Christina will take Papa to the airport bright and early tomorrow morning for his flight to San Diego but I have the feeling it is going to take him a couple of days to settle in and get used to another house, another bed and different channels on the TV.   After that, he will have a great trip, and packing to come home should be much easier.

Independence Day

Papa has been to 23 games at Nationals Stadium so far this year, and numerous games last year.  He loves going to games.  We have a routine how we enter and leave the stadium and stick to it for every game.  Every single game.  Even if Papa suggests we walk a different way we explain why we can’t and stick with our given route.  We have always told him that if he does not see us for any reason to follow the crowd to the gate and make his way to his seat and never to leave the stadium.  If we are separated after a game we rendezvous at  the flag pole in center field and watch Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight broadcast the post-game report until we are all together again.

July 4, 2015
July 4, 2015

On Game days Doug drives Papa into the South East section of DC and drops him off at my office on M Street where I meet him downstairs in the lobby.  Together Papa and I walk over to the stadium while Doug parks the car in a garage on the Washington Navy Yard.  Last year Doug and Papa parked together and came up to my suite on the 8th floor, but this year Papa does not want to walk the block from the Yard or take the extra steps across the lobby to the elevator, or perhaps he does not feel comfortable coming up the elevator by himself, but whatever the reason is we will do whatever works best for him.  Papa knows the security guards in my building and they let him sit in a chair until I arrive and the two of us will then leisurely make our way over to the Ball Park following the same path we always take and wait for Doug in our seats.  Typically we arrive in the stadium well before the rest of the crowd and are able to sit and relax as we watch the visiting team take batting practice.  Papa likes to sit and relax.

Papa enjoys the games and our season tickets have been great because he knows where “his” seat is.  Once he is in the stadium he takes a shortcut behind a clothing vendor over to section 110, flashes his Nat’s Access card to the attendant, walks down to Row S and sits in Seat 5 for the duration of the game.  Other than standing up for the National Anthem, and God Bless America in the 7th inning Papa truly does sit.  I believe that his logic is that he paid for that seat and he is going to use it, but Doug may have another opinion.  Papa quietly roots for our team, and may never understand the excitement of the crowds as they stand and loudly cheer for our team much of the game.  Why does everyone keep jumping up and down?  In his mind he would not stand up if he were home sitting in his brown recliner, why should he make that effort just because he is sitting outside in a blue stadium seat surrounded by 30,000 to 40,000 Nat’s fans.  Standing is a disruption that blocks his view; it is as if someone changed channels on the TV during an exciting moment not allowing him to see what is happening.  Yesterday the first pitch thrown to our leadoff hitter was a home run, batter two hit a double into the deepest part of center field missing the top of the wall by inches, and our third man at the plate hit a two run homer, all against one of baseball’s best pitchers and the reigning World Champions.  What happened?  What is going on?  Papa was already annoyed that the crowds were on their feet so we quickly moved him over one seat so he had a young child sitting on front of him.  He as then happy to be able to remain sitting even if “junior” and the other 40,000 + fans were on their feet.

Some days we bring a picnic meal into the game, some days we stop at a neighborhood market, and some days we enjoy a stadium half-smoke from the infamous Ben’s Chili Bowl.  Papa typically has a PowerBar as his pregame snack, enjoys his meal at the start of the game and by the 7th inning he is generally snacking on popcorn or a curly W pretzel or recently a scoop or two of chocolate gelato.   It is all a routine; it is the same every game.

Papa worked at a Sinclair Station when he was 13.
Papa’s first job was at a Sinclair Station when he was 13 years old.

Exiting the stadium is identical except the crowds are much denser.  We slowly head up the stairway from our seats, which are close to the field, and across to the nearest restroom as Doug jogs ahead to get the car.  Papa and I walk out of the Center Field gate, make a sharp right and head down N Street for a short block to the corner of New Jersey Avenue.  On hot days Papa buys a second ice cream from a local street vendor on this corner who knows us as repeat customers.  We continue along Transportation Walk, the shaded area behind the two Depart of Transportation (DOT) buildings, discussing the old gas pumps, Sinclair was the first gas station I worked at, or the bicycles, I always thought it would be neat to have a three-wheeled bike, or the many other items displayed.  We cut in-between the two DOT facilities across a courtyard to the corner of 3rd and M Street where we wait for the light to change and he imitates the cross walk voice wait, wait, wait, walk light is on across M Street.  Papa always jokes that he wouldn’t mind that job; all they have to do it tell you when to walk.  Once we have crossed the street we wait under the canopy entrance to my building which takes up the entire block until Doug arrives with the car.  Our walk is less than ½ a mile, or if we were counting in steps 1035 for me and approximately 2070 for Papa.

The early morning game on the Fourth of July was no different.  After a big Nat’s win Doug took off to get the car, Papa went into the men’s room where I reminded him that I would be standing in exactly the same place centered between the entrance and the exit of the bathroom, and I waited.  I waited watching the crowd exit the stadium and the grounds crew working on the field.  After 10 minutes I texted Doug to tell him we would be later than usual today.  I continued waiting as I monitored both the entrance and the exit with periodic glances over to the flag pole.  No Papa.  With my mind thinking the worst, I asked a gentleman to see if Papa was still inside and quickly described him:  red t-shirt, white hair, and my height.  Knowing I had probably just described thousands of fans I quickly yelled into the restroom that his name is Wayne as he was walking into the facilities to look for Papa.  Nothing.  After waiting 15 minutes I texted Doug again, who by this time had arrived at our pickup location.  The stadium had almost completely cleared and I asked a second person to check the men’s room.  Nothing.    I was very worried by now and turned towards the deserted flag pole and Papa was still not there.  I was asking for stadium security when Doug called to say he saw Dad making his way between the DOT buildings and waiting at the corner to cross.

The guys waited as I walked to their location and I am sure Doug and Papa had a long discussion as Doug explained how worried I had been standing outside of the men’s room while the stadium completely cleared.  As soon as I got in the car Papa said, I am sorry Sandy; sometimes I don’t listen too well.  I didn’t see you.  I went to the flag pole and then thought you started ahead of me.  I don’t really know what I was thinking.  He felt terrible and could not understand why he had left the stadium.  We could not understand it either.

Memory loss is terrible.  His short term did not remember where I was waiting for him, but his long term memory, due to making the trip so many times, was able to pull the correct route back to my office and our pickup location.  Papa says he was not worried when he didn’t see me, and I hope that is true.  I wish I understood what he was thinking as he walked out of the stadium.  Was he looking for me as he walked up the road?  Did he buy an ice cream?  Did he make the same jokes to himself as he walked by the antique gas pump or did he mimic cross-walk talking?  Papa doesn’t remember.

I will keep reminding Papa that we are always there for him.  Always.  I do not leave Papa alone in a store, I will not leave Papa sitting in a car when he doesn’t want to go on an errand with us, and I would never leave him in a stadium with over 40,000 fans wandering around.  Never.  Thank Heavens he was able to safely find the way, and we were able enjoy the rest of our 4th of July with a barbecue and fireworks.

July 4, 2015
July 4, 2015

My View

This morning there was a suspected “incident” at the Washington Navy Yard.  While I am not stationed on this facility I work across the street helping to support our Government customer and I access this base frequently.  At about 7:30 a.m. I heard a siren which by itself is nothing new for Washington DC and continued my phone conversation to our corporate headquarters.   Moments later I heard two or three sirens coming from different directions and overheard several employees in the hall  discussing their first hand knowledge that a serious incident was currently in progress across the street.  I hung up the phone and looked out of my window to see the street lined with police and other rescue vehicles from numerous agencies and more vehicles pouring in.  Kudos to Washington DC’s first responders for quickly arriving to today’s crisis, not knowing exactly what was in store for them.  To everyone in the area it appeared to be a deja vu of the horrific attack that happened in the exact same location less than two years ago.  Everyday work stopped and we began thinking about our friends and coworkers who had commuted into work this morning hoping to take off early and enjoy the long holiday weekend but now visualized them quietly hiding under desks in a locked room and trying to safely evacuate both the building and the base. I will not begin to suggest that I know the fear these people instantly felt.   

My View - 7/2/2015
My View – 7/2/2015

Our building was immediately placed in a lockdown status with all employees preparing to shelter in place for an extended period of time.  My first thought was to help account for any of our employees who may have made an early morning visit to what is affectionately known as “the Yard”.  A handful of coworkers and members of our government support team were able to escape and safely make their way to our facility.  I started texting several friends who I knew would have been working inside the building in question to make sure they were out of harms way and received messages from many of my friends who were checking in with me.

Papa.  I thought about Papa and was torn on what to do.  He is the man who continually worries about his family and their safety.  Do I wonder if he has seen the news and call him to tell him I was OK?  Or do I assume he is watching WGN Chicago, ME TV or perhaps a rerun of yesterday dismal Nat’s game and doesn’t have a clue as to what has happened today?   Will calling him be alerting him to a worry that he would not have otherwise had?  Will I be able to answer his questions if he asks me how or when I am coming home?  I decided not to call. 

After several hours of hearing numerous rumors on TV of gunman, great escapes over the historic Navy Yard wall and large amounts of blood in the building it was determined to be a false alarm and we were given the all clear to leave the area.  I arrived home early in case Papa was worried and found him quietly standing in the garage door looking up the street.  As we walked inside I asked him if he had watched any news broadcasts today.  Papa sat down in his chair, tuned back into The Riflemen on ME TV and calmly said, yes, what happened?  I saw your building on the news.  I was happy he recognized my building and assured him I was safely locked in my office all morning, Yea, I was thinking about calling you but I saw a lot of other people walking by the news cameras so I figured I would just keep looking for you.

Fortunately nobody was hurt in what now appears to be a false alarm at the Washington Navy Yard.  I am grateful for hundreds of first responders who quickly arrived and were prepared to assist the many people who work inside this base.  I am thankful for a long weekend but realize that one extra day is not nearly long enough for employees on the Yard to feel safe again in their work place.   I am grateful for the many friends who checked on me today.  And while Papa says he didn’t worry too much, I noticed that his phone list was lying on his table with the phone on top of it.  He was ready.