My sister, Liz, and I left home at 9:00 Monday morning to make the 3 1/2 hour drive to the Christmas party at the assisted living facility in PA where my father lives. When Liz told dad over the phone we’d see him at the party he gasped, surprised and thrilled that we would make the trip. The party was scheduled for 1:00, after lunch; Liz and I stopped at a local joint, bought two slices of pizza and ate in the car before getting to dad’s place.
No sooner had we walked through the door when Millie, one of the first residents to introduce herself to us when we moved dad in back in March, pointed down the hall, said “he’s in the other room.” There are only four or five men to the twenty nine women; Millie had her eye on dad but he nipped that in the bud early on. Still, she recognized us and directed us to him.
Dad was sitting in the back room, dapper in gray slacks and plaid shirt. He stood to hug us, told us he missed us and thanked us again for coming. He introduced us to some of his neighbors and staff and we sat and chatted for a few minutes before being called into the cafeteria. We were a large group, a nice mix of young and old family members.
A duo was hired to entertain us with music, holiday props, singalongs. We rang bells, wore silly hats, danced. Throughout the entertainment we were plied with one dessert after another. The staff came around with platters of blueberry pie, apple pie and cheesecake; a plate of brownies were placed in the middle of each table; dessert rolls filled with apricot, cinnamon apple and chocolate were offered next followed by another platter, this one topped with chocolate chip, macadamia nut and M&M cookies. We drank punch with pink and green sherbert, coffee and tea.
“These guys are going to be hopped up on sugar,” one of the guests at our table said. We nodded and laughed, joked that there’d either be trouble later or everyone would crash on their beds after they came down from their sugar rush.
Everyone I spoke with who knew my dad had nothing but nice things to say about him. He is a gentleman, my dad. He knows how to play the system too, always has. He takes care of the kitchen staff with chocolate; in return they make his eggs sunny side up while everyone else gets scrambled. The women at the bank get chocolate too and are happy to help dad with his banking. He’s polite to everyone, I never hear him swear, thanks everyone with sincerity.
We had a surprise visitor at the party, Santa Claus, who gave the residents the gifts we all had brought. We sang a few rounds of “Here Comes Santa Claus” while he distributed the gifts and wished us all a Merry Christmas. It really was a nice event, the staff worked hard to make it so. Dad made sure to thank them all as we were leaving.
After the party we went to dad’s room. He has several photos on his dresser of the four of us and my niece, his granddaughter. Tucked at the bottom of a framed photo of dad and the four of us from a lunch date a few years ago was a picture of me as a young child. I vaguely remember seeing it around but haven’t seen it for many, many years and had no idea that dad had it.
He also has a framed 8″x10″ picture of himself, probably his college graduation photo. He’s so young and handsome and only a year or two away from marrying my mom. We visited for a little while, shared some laughs (my father’s funny) and drove back to CT.
Dad will be eighty in March and is doing well but I see him aging. He’s being taken good care of, said he’s happier than he’s been in years, healthier too. His life is a simple one these days; he’s perfectly content with it and so am I.