Hats Off to Dad

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A salt-and-pepper speckled tweed hat sits perched on the top on a file cabinet in my home office. The hat once belonged to my father, who wore it regularly on family hikes. I remember these hikes fondly … Dad would lead our little group, my two sisters and I would follow, and Mom would bring up the rear. Mom’s explanation was always that she wanted to admire the wildflowers; however, I suspect now that she followed us to corral any stray children.

It’s been a long time since our family hiked together. Mom and Dad are now gone. Leukemia took my mother and Dad, in his later years, was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and could not remember the mountain trails, the current day of the week, his career, or even me as his own son. Along with losing memories, Dad also lost a great deal of personal strength and stamina. Tackling a steep trail became out of the question; he could barely walk a few blocks without tiring.

In his final years, I became Dad’s co-caregiver (a job I shared with my two sisters). I helped move Dad three times, shuttled him to and from doctor’s appointments, served as his banker, and was appointed the jobs of Joint Guardian and Alternate Trustee. Dad’s final home was a secured unit suitable for Alzheimer’s victims (who can be prone to unsafe wandering). I was a regular visitor here and did everything I could to provide for Dad, to promote the best quality of life possible, and to keep him safe and comfortable.

Caregiving is often portrayed as a difficult task. Caregivers can be described as over-stressed: emotionally, mentally and/or physically spent, and scrambling to find a healthy balance between helping an aging senior and managing their own families, careers, and lives. Yes, numerous demands were placed on me; however, caregiving proved to become one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Dad, as an only child, lost his father at a very young age and had trouble emotionally connecting with me (and even my sisters …). Due to Alzheimer’s disease, Dad’s protective “walls” were knocked down and I began to better know my father. I realized that Dad had provided me the best care that he could.

Since my father’s death, I have returned to the mountains to hike the same trails I did when I was a youngster. With doing so, I frequently recall our own family processions and smile. Until I next pack my hiking boots, I will always keep Dad’s hat handy as a reminder of those trips.

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About the author ~

Rick Lauber is a published book author and an established freelance writer. Lauber has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (both published by Self-Counsel Press) as valuable resources for prospective, new, and current caregivers. He is also very pleased to have been twice-selected as a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul (Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas! and Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat). Lauber has also served, on a voluntary basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.

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