More than anything else this weekend I really wanted to go out and visit my parents at long last.
Although I’ve kept in touch by phone what with one thing and another I haven’t actually seen them in person for six months, and during the four solid months of lockdown they not only both celebrated birthdays, but Dad actually spent five weeks in hospital with a chest infection and urine infection – thankfully not Covid after all, but with his spiking a high temperature and developing a bad cough, for a few worrying days we were all so scared we might lose him.
My Dad is 84 years old and has survived four strokes, and he now also has vascular dementia so not only is his mobility not great any more, but he also has good days and bad days memory-wise. Mum and Dad live in the beautiful Scottish countryside in the back of beyond, miles away from the rest of the family. So today was the first day since I went back to work three weeks ago that my husband and I could manage to go out to visit, and we all had such a great day together.
Dad walks indoors with a rollator, but struggles to keep his balance outdoors so a fortnight ago he was given a wheelchair to use outside – but he wouldn’t use it, he resisted all Mum’s efforts to get him out for a walk and refused point-blank even to try. Up until about five years ago Dad was always fit and healthy, easily walking several miles a day for pleasure, but since then sadly it’s been one thing after another for him health-wise and his walking world has shrunk accordingly.
However I’m very much my dad’s daughter, I have inherited his stubborn temperament and can often find just the right thing to say to get through to him when others fail. And so it was today – thankfully a good day dementia-wise, too. About five minutes after I learned that Dad had a wheelchair, he was in his jacket and hat and sitting comfortably, ready to go out for a walk. Mum chose to stay at home, and although my husband came with us, I pushed Dad in the wheelchair.
It felt so good to share that experience with Dad. We didn’t go far, but went along a well-known route from the past and Dad thoroughly enjoyed having a good look around to see what had changed since his last proper outdoor excursion (last September, also with us, just before the cold weather set in). We chatted and reminisced and he soon got over his initial emotional discomfort at being pushed in a wheelchair – I pointed out to him that he used to push me often enough in my pram when I was young, so it’s only fair I push him in return now he’s growing old.
To me this is the stuff of life that matters, these are the precious moments that count the most. My husband took a few lovely photographs of Dad and I together while out for our walk, and I’ve shared my favourites above. I feel so lucky at my age to still have my Dad, however old and infirm he becomes. He is, and always has been, my hero, and to be able to do something so simple for him that brings such a huge smile to his face brings me nothing but happiness wrapped up in a lifetime of love ❤