Wednesdays with Daddy

Please forgive the light posting last week, but we just got back from spending spring break in Arkansas with Mom and Dad. It was really good, in a bittersweet kind of way– but honestly, so very much more sweet than bitter. The sweetest part is that we’ve miraculously been able to enjoy yet another visit home. We don’t take any of these visits for granted. It was very low-key, just blessedly ordinary days filled with the usual eating, laughing, playing Nertz, fixing dinner, and hanging out. Mom is taking such good care of Daddy. She works hard to keep their daily routine as much like it used to be as she can, while making adjustments for Dad’s increasing limitations. She is firmly in the caretaking role now, and Dad is a very agreeable and cooperative ‘patient.’ She continues to gently push him to do the things he can, and doesn’t just step in and take over like I know I probably would. If he starts to move at all, I always immediately jump up and ask a little too brightly, “What do you need, Daddy? What can I get you?” Mom still requires some things of him, she asks him to help her do things that she knows he is still able to do, and it is good for him.

There’s a poignancy to their relationship now. They’re not gooey lovey-dovey with each other, that’s never been their style, but there is a sweetness between them– endless patience and good humor on Mom’s part, gratitude and good humor on Dad’s. Sometimes he reaches up and places his hand over hers as she rests it on his shoulder. Sometimes she pats his arm or holds his hand when they are sitting next to each other on the couch. It makes my throat hurt to see it, tears threaten to rise up out of the deepest part of me. Because the truth is that every day, in hundreds of big and small ways, they are starting to say goodbye to each other. It’s unspoken, but it’s there. They are 94 years old, and Daddy is fading. They both know how this story will end, they just don’t know how or when.

So every morning my Mom, that tiny white-haired force of nature, gets up and fixes the coffee and sits down with her bible to get her strength for the day. Then she pads into their bedroom, puts her (almost useless at this point) hearing aids in, shoos Pandy out and starts the slow, careful process of getting Daddy up and going, and then through sheer force of will she guides/nags/encourages/pushes him through one more day. And he smiles and lets her. It’s a gentler, softer, kinder version of the dance they have done with each other for over 70 years, and for better or worse, it works. Against all odds, thank God, it still works.

On Wednesday I went with Daddy to his physical therapy. He has been going twice a week for some time now, and they have been working hard to try to strengthen his muscles and improve his balance to lessen the chances of a fall. He, of course, unfailingly tries to do his best and the therapists, of course, just love him. This was his last session there for a while, my sisters are going to start doing the exercises with him at home now. Madi, bless her, took these shots:

**They start the session by tossing a ball back and forth.

**Then they work on strengthening his leg muscles. I told Daddy he looked like a Rockette.

**(He thought that was funny!)

**The therapists are working really hard with Daddy to improve his balance. He looks quite dignified for a man who happens to be sitting on a big blue rubber ball, don’t you think?

** No hands!

** We took a little break while the therapists finished making copies of instructions on exactly how to do each exercise for my sister Carolyn to take home.

**Then they surprised him with this certificate– way to go Dad, you ol’ A+ over-achiever, you!

47 Responses

  1. twenty9eleven

    What a wonderful smile! It’s special to see the joy on his face even as he goes through these exercises which can be quite humbling. What wonderful memories you’re building together!

    This past Saturday was the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing (and you left me a wonderful comment on my blog which blessed me from a mother’s heart). Your story brings back really special memories of my mom. Thank you!

  2. auburn60

    God bless your Mom! I have prayed as hard for her as I have for your Dad. I would so love to meet that ‘force of nature’. Every time I see pics of your Dad’s smiling face I know how happy his family must make him.
    So grateful you got another Spring Break with them. My heart hurts for the process you are all going through.

  3. tori

    twenty9eleven– Yes, you’ve definitely walked this road, already, haven’t you?

    auburn60– Thank you, my sweet friend.

  4. bucksome

    Were you in Kansas? That’s where my parents live (in Saline County).

  5. rachelbaker

    Your parents are an inspiration. I want to grow old with such grace and gentle dignity. Every time you write about your family it makes me want to know them, and your Dad’s smile must light up the lives of all those he meets. I am still keeping all of you in my prayers.

  6. tori

    bucksome– Nope, we were in Benton, Arkansas, right outside of Little Rock.

    rachelbaker– You definitely know what it’s like to have inspirational parents…

  7. karen48

    Your words bring tears to my eyes. You are so fortunate to have your daddy still with you. I lost my daddy when I was 8 years old and my mom never remarried. I was always kind of jealous seeing people with their dads and I could not have that relationship I so desired.
    I love your dads smile. He is quite the trooper. The love your mom and dad share is wonderful. And it is a blessing that she is able to take care of him still.
    Enjoy those memories and keep making more.

  8. rodB

    Now WHY would you want to start my monday with crying? You’re so blessed to have such wonderful parents. It’s been almost 5 years since I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s. Would love to see that smile again :)

    Welcome home…glad you had a good visit.

  9. darrellaharris

    grace, strength, courage and peace to you all!

  10. DonnaMariePatterson

    Tori – What a beautifully written blog! And with awesome pictures. (thanks Madi!) God is so very good! He gave your dad the best smile in the world and it looks like he passed it on to YOU! It put one on my face too … with a few tears on my cheek. I’m glad ya’ll got to spend Spring Break together and make more wonderful memories. I love my memories with my dad. Thank you Jesus! Just think, we will have ETERNITY with them. ETERNITY!! I’m gonna come visit (when time doesn’t matter anymore) and share a cup of coffee and some smiles with you & your family. K?

    In my prayers! Love, in Christ – Donna

    p.s. are you gonna be at the Gaither Concert in Ashville next Saturday? I am and I’m soooooooo excited!

  11. ShowMeStGirl

    Tori, love stories like that are so rare. Seventy years together and taking care of each other like they have. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your treasured time with us.
    A lot we can learn from people that have been together for as long as your parents and mine (58 yrs).
    I was talking with my parents this morning about when my mom was in the hospital. She was in there 325 plus days and how my dad had to take on a lot of her care. The look on his face is ever embedded in my heart when the many times the doctors said she wouldn’t make it. She did, they did and she came from Nebraska to St Louis and made me my birthday dinner.
    Love your stories… Love the picture of you and your dad.. priceless!

  12. Tanya Sykes

    Such a sweet post. You’re so blessed to have your dad around. These are good days, savor each one. When you talk about your mom, I can totally visualize you just like her in 40 years!

  13. LindaB

    Dearest Tori,
    I love that picture of you and your dad sitting together and sharing a laugh! If I were you, I’d enlarge and frame that picture! It says volumes about your relationship with him, (and your family)—–sitting together with him, along with sweet Madi recording it in pictures, at physical therapy. That’s usually a mundane, humbling, time consuming drudgery, but you’ve made it a fun, laugh-filled, family event…..complete with pictures! And then a beautifully written blog entry!!! I hope your dad sees this one! He’ll feel so honored and special!

    I also love your account of your mom and dad’s relationship. It seems to me that after a couple manage to keep their marriage together for a number of years, a new kind of love and romance takes over. And it’s stronger, deeper, and sweeter than they ever thought it could be. It accepts your partner’s failings and shortcomings, their weaknesses and their mistakes and sees rather their humanness and their strengths and struggles instead. And maybe that’s because we are more aware of our own shortcomings and failures, and we’re more honest with ourselves. I love the story of your parents who’ve found this deep kind of love and it sustains them as they are going through this final struggle with your dad’s health with great courage and devotion. Thanks for sharing their story with us—–it gives us hope and inspiration.

    (Good job, Madi! You’re a natural photographer! And you’re an incredibly sweet and attentive granddaughter!)

  14. delightedabroad

    Thank you so much for sharing ! It’s so deeply touching to hear about this grown relationship. And DonnaMariePatterson already said what I thought at first sight: your Dad’s smile is like your’s (I should rather say it’s the other way around :-) )I didn’t have such a relationship with my “biological” father so I treasure the scarce times with my “father of heart” even more. And I guess this is what you are doing.

  15. GRITSinNC

    Tori, I was touched by every word. As I said on Facebook, you’re blessed to have the parents & siblings you do. I come from a dysfunctional family of sorts and I’m afraid I passed a bit of it on. Never knew my daddy well and would give anything to have had one like yours, though my grandfather (and grandmother) who raised me did the best they could and I love them to pieces, though I don’t think I knew how much when I had them.

    Your dad is totally precious. Such a beautiful smile and such a good sport about physical therapy. Don’t know them but I love them (and you & Russ & Madi & Char). Wish I could have the please Momma Lloyd & several others have had of knowing you all personally.

  16. Eldonna

    What a poignantly beautiful blog, Tori. And your Daddy’s smile is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us.

  17. LindaB

    I just realized your dad’s diploma says “for enduring 22 hours of PAIN AND TORTURE”! ROFLOL!!!! Ain’t that the truth!

  18. swerchon

    This was such a sweet blog.
    Enjoy the time with your sweet loveable parents. You truly are blessed.

  19. belinda

    Love the pictures, great job Madi! You do have your Dadddy’s smile. My favorite one is the one of both of you sitting there with a big smile on your faces and yes you should frame that. Priceless!

    Reminds me of my parents. My Mom has arthritis and my Dad is always in there helping her do whatever she needs help with and no grumbling and complaing but with much love. Such great examples we have before us Tori.

    Love the blog and so glad you were able to have yet another visit with your parents. They become more and more valuable as time goes on. Your parents are in our prayers daily.

  20. LindaB

    Delighted? Did you have your test yet? How’d you do?

  21. delightedabroad

    LindaB, no not yet. It’s tomorrow at about 10.15 your time. And I’m almost going crazy… though the most important thing for me is to refuse thoughts of doubt. Nervousness is ok, my teachers know about it and try their best to help through.

  22. KellyBurton

    Naturally, lovable you writes about your parents in a way that makes me love them. I can picture the hand atop a hand and all the years and tears and smiles and kids and grandkids that symbolizes. What a love story you’ve been able to witness…thanks for sharing it with us.

    Also, I, too, adore his smile… and his hat!

  23. delightedabroad

    To make it clear: I meant 10.15 AM your time !

  24. ginnh

    Tori – once again your writing is beautifully done and really hits home. We are going through something similar with my husbands parents and I have found that the hardest part is letting them do what they want to do. It takes hard work to realize that what we want for our parents is not necessarily what they want. Although our hearts are in the right place, we have to step back and try very hard to look through their eyes. Looks like you and your family have it all going the right way and I hope we will be able to follow your lead.

  25. jonny


  26. LindaB

    What? I’m here.

  27. LindaB

    Ba ha ha ha ha ha!!!!! Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

  28. jonny

    Girl, I’m just gonna have to pray for ya even harder now!! “Out, evil taunting ADD spirits, OOUUUTT-TAHh I say!!!”

  29. jonny

    Oh yeah, I should’ve smacked you so hard on the forehead on the word “say” that it instantly knocks you back on your properly cushioned whoop-bottom!! *rolls eyes in a most innocent, angelic looking rock star fashion*

  30. jonny


  31. jonny

    “Love the pictures, great job Madi! You do have your Dadddy’s smile. My favorite one is the one of both of you sitting there with a big smile on your faces and yes you should frame that. Priceless!”

    Agree about Madi and the photo shooting job she did, but I personally like the other shot of the two of you better. FWIW, I’d frame that one.


  32. jonny

    “Love the pictures, great job Madi! You do have your Dadddy’s smile. My favorite one is the one of both of you sitting there with a big smile on your faces and yes you should frame that. Priceless!”

    Agree about Madi and the photo shooting job she did, but I personally like the other shot of the two of you better. FWIW, I’d frame that one. good be a guy thing, though.


  33. jonny

    What!?! It double posted on me!!! Normally it prevents me from doing that! Sorry about being such a Say it! hog!! Oh, and the ending to that last one should have been, of course, “Could be a guy thing, though.”


  34. delightedabroad

    Did you hear me shouting “Yippee” ???
    I’m mow allowed to introduce myself as “certified translator for english” ! According to my teachers I did an astonishingly good job if you take my health status into account.

  35. delightedabroad

    It should be “I’m now allowed” :-/

  36. jonny


    But you do realize, of course, that the reason you did so unbelievablly well was because you are a part of this wonder drug, miracle of a blog, don’t you!?! Taking your health status into account and all that!!

  37. rachelbaker

    Yay!! Well done Delighted. We knew you could do it :-)

  38. jonny

    Oh, and it probably also hangs on the fact that Someone is, and can only be, Good…

  39. delightedabroad

    Oh, I forgot to begin with “PRAISE THE LORD” !!!!

    I’m soooo grateful for all your prayers and support, as jonny said it has helped a lot :-)

  40. delightedabroad

    Please forgive me; I’m still on adrenalin :-)

  41. jonny

    Keep goin’, girl!!! = D

  42. jonny

    Or should that have been, “You just keep goin’, girl!”

    Oh, and LB and myself have are responsible for funkin’ the place up with our off topic posts, probably more me than her, so no worries. I believe we may have already broke a lot of ice here for you = )

  43. LindaB


    “..and LB and myself have are responsible for funkin’ the place up with our off topic posts” — Jonny

    Gee, you scared me there for a minute, Jonny!!! Whew! ;)

  44. jonny

    Yes, I know, I’m slippin’. I accidently typed an ‘are’ in there instead of ‘our.’ My bad!


    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…………….I miss my Daddy! I remember those days of therapists, doctor’s appts everywhere from Chapel Hill to Johns Hopkins for whatever tests/procedures might help in his fight against AIDS. He was always jolly & humorous, too – making all the nurses fall in love. Cherish these times, chick, as I see you are already doing. They are gold – pure gold.
    Me and my new teeth are headed back to bed! they hurt!

  46. Meredith

    HAHAHAHA!!! I love the “Pain and Torture” certificate! :) Sooo true! Madi takes amazing pictures too. What a precious gift to have both your parents around for such a long time. My grandparents just celebrated 60 years of marriage this last summer and both just turned 80 since then as well. I can see them in your descriptions.

  47. bettyrwoodward

    Well done delighted you deserved it. Your english is amazing.

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