Florida Trip n’ Novella

Trip to Florida September 2011

Last weekend, Nancy received a call from her Dad asking that she come to visit him at his Sarasota home…he needed her.

We hurried to book a flight, schedule vacation time and prepare for the task before us. Scheduling vacation time is not as much an issue for me as it is for Nancy.

The manufacturing world requires a week or so notice and little planning on my part, while Nancy’s world of education requires coordinating a week’s worth of lesson plans, copies…preparing as much material as possible to sustain a poor unsuspecting substitute teacher to step in, filling in for a week, causing as little transitional disruption as possible, while Mrs. Pettitt is away vacationing on the beach in sunny Florida.

Flying from Arlington, Texas we arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton airport Saturday afternoon, rented a car, programmed the GPS and headed off into the unknown.

It’ a short drive from the airport and aided by turn by turn instructions from “Miss Direction”, we pull into the drive at Mr. Dyer’s home. Walking through the unlocked door while announcing our arrival, we find Nancy’s father, Bill, sitting in his chair watching television. Greetings and hugs exchanged, the sound of running water lures Nancy to the kitchen. The faucet is running.

Mr. Dyer looks well considering his advanced age. Next weekend he/we will celebrate his ninetieth birthday.

It’s been at least twenty years since I last visited here, but March of this year, was Nancy’s last visit, meeting up with her sister Esther, who flew in from Dover, Delaware to a connecting flight in Atlanta where the two sat together on the remaining leg of the journey.

After settling in, we visited with Bill who has recently found himself living alone. His wife of over twenty years, Yvonne, herself advanced in age and suffering from what as Bill describes sounds like dementia.

Telling the story of their recent separation is upsetting to Bill and the anxiety of not knowing Yvonne’s whereabouts ratchets up the level of anxiety to the point that it seems best to change the subject briefly, allowing the levels to plane out before continuing.

As best we can tell, Yvonne’s care has been taken over by her daughter and given the circumstances, may be in her best interest.

Early evening is approaching it is decided we will all go to dinner at the Tennis Club. A sports bar located within the Meadows, the Tennis Club offers a casual environment, simple menu and relatively quick service allowing us to continue our earlier conversation, talk about old times and share pictures of our new granddaughter, Bill’s great-granddaughter Cassidee.

It’s been a long day for the three of us and after discussing breakfast plans, it’s early to bed…tomorrow’s going to be a long day.

Breakfast plans changed once everyone is up and about and it was decided that there were groceries in the refrigerator and pantry to allow a home cooked meal. However, after Nancy began to prepare breakfast and the discovery of a few bad eggs it was decided venturing out for breakfast wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Mr. Dyer insisted on driving us to the restaurant. A demonstration of his driving skills, control issues or easier to drive than give directions? The same prayer used as the airline taxied onto the runway runs through my mind…something I’ve always done after handing my life over to the pilot and crew as I cross over the threshold boarding the plane. Our Father, who art…

Breakfast sitting at the counter was as you would expect from Evan’s. Consistent, casual…simply breakfast.

Arriving home from breakfast it was time to go to work. As it was Sunday Nancy was unable to make the necessary appointments that were mentioned in earlier discussions so it’s going to be a work day.

Nancy tasked herself with cleaning out the refrigerator while I spent some time time cleaning the kitchen out by the pool. Indoors was relatively clean…not spotless by any means. Bill employs a cleaning service that comes in once a week so the house appears in good condition. The lawn is maintained by the association so outdoors is well maintained. The pool is serviced weekly. The kitchen area out by the pool was another story.

Vermin…rodentia, have made a home in the cabinetry that makes up the kitchenette.

This is going to require some supplies. Nancy’s clandestine project is nearing completion in the kitchen. Completely empty the contents of the refrigerator, making ready for the updated replacements. She’s gone so far as to take pictures of outdated frozen products so they may be replaced with with fresh frozen product…I married a secret agent! Oh my, If she can keep this secret from her own flesh and blood, what secrets is she hiding from me? No time for that…I’m driving the getaway car. Off to Lowe’ for cleaning supplies, trash bags and dust mask…oh and nitrile gloves, a must.

From there we head to the grocery store for the rest of the necessary supplies required to complete the mission, referring to IPhone photos to insure exact duplication of frozen goods and then back to Heatherwood Lane aided by the precision guidance of Miss Direction. After unloading groceries I take my cleaning supplies and suit up for the miserable task before me. I’ll spare you the details, but I was there for hours. Nancy completed her mission and tackled cleaning the bar area out on the lanai. A formidable task in itself, the bar area looked to have been in need of attention and ignored since Nancy and Esther’s visit in May. I finished cleaning the kitchenette, swept the pool deck and then hit the shower by 4:00pm, the established work deadline and approach to the cocktail hour. Nancy and her Dad took a dip in the pool as a shower appeared overhead, showering them with rain as they shared great stories about the boating days of old, when the Dyer family was young and full of adventure, traveling to the far reaches of upstate New York’s Cayuga Lake to Canada’s Thousand Island region. It has been a productive day and we are all tired.

After showers and clothing changes, cocktails were made preparing to settle into a nice evening visit outdoors on the lanai.

That changed quickly when Mr. Dyer went to the freezer for ice.

The ice maker’s not working…

The frozen goods are not freezing!

What had happened to the…

Wait a minute…

The clandestine mission.

What could possibly have gone wrong?

Mr. Dyer became obsessed with the freezer.

Nancy rushed to the store for ice and while she’s out, might as well go by Starbucks for a pound o’jo for tomorrow morning.

Where could she be?

Why had she left me alone with Mr. Dyer?

Finally she’s home, ice in tow. Finally…

That helped a little, but the obsession over the freezer continued into the night and wee hours of the morning. Awakened at around 3:00am by rustling in the kitchen…tapping Nancy awake to let her know that her Dad or Mr. Dyer was fiddling around with the freezer and she might need to go check on his welfare.

When I awoke the following morning around 7:30, I ventured downstairs for a cup of coffee. Calls had been placed to the Service provider, scheduled service was tomorrow morning and an additional call to the service provider was made necessary because the washing machine had now failed and required service. What else could go wrong?

As the washing machine had filled with water before it failed, it became necessary to seek out the local laundromat. We now must embark on a new mission only to learn that should we venture out alone we must be accompanied by Mr. Dyer, who followed close behind in his car.

We arrived at the laundromat safely, aided by Miss Direction and the chaperone following close behind.

After some time Nancy convinced him we could find our way home and he went home.

Mr. Dyer’s driving ability seems to be a huge point that he feels he needs to make.

He insists on driving us wherever we need to go. For a 90 year old man he does remarkably well and is a very accomplished driver with an impeccable record, but where do you draw the line?

It’s amazing how fast modern laundromat equipment gets the job done. Nancy decided to give her Dad a call to make sure he made it home safely and was able to calm him down a bit while on the phone. It’s sounds as if he must have been confused about the

scheduled appointment time, thinking it was 11:00am instead of 3:15pm.

Laundries done…

The dryer at home works fine, so we load up the laundry and head out. Nancy has scheduled an appointment later this afternoon to see Bill’s physician, so aided by Miss Direction we drove to the office to familiarize ourselves with the area and while we’re at it program Miss Direction for our next mission.

The afternoon went by relatively quickly and as we readied to head out, Nancy informed Bill that I would be driving. He seemed fine with that. Everyone is loaded into the car and we head off on our mission to see the physician. Along the way there seems to a competitive air with Miss Direction as Mr. Dyer gives directions in advance, beating

Miss Directions state of the art guidance system. She seems fine with a little friendly competition.

After some time Nancy and her father appear and are loaded into the car…details of the visit follow soon enough.

The news is what we expected and certainly not what Bill wanted to hear.

Given his advanced age and obvious physical instability at times, the doctor has asked hime to consider relocating nearer to family, either in Dover, Delaware with daughter Esther or Texas with daughter Nancy…

and at you need to stop driving.

All of this at once would be overwhelming for anyone, but it seems he is taking it all in stride. Immediately the conversations turned to the possibility of moving to one or the other. Later, sitting out on the lanai we all discussed what should happen next, contacting real estate agents, visits to the lawyers office, financial advisor and so on, all perhaps a bit premature but necessary, none the less.

It’s getting late and we’ve not had dinner so it was decided we would head off to Carrabba’s.

“I’ll drive”, he said…

“Please don’t take everything away from me”, he pleaded

Our Father, who art…

The original agreement was that he would drive there and I would drive back home.

He broke the agreement.

Our Father, who art…

The next morning I awoke about 5:00am, Nancy not far behind… It was actually the first night I had slept well. Bill had been up a while and at 6:00am came upstairs to ask if we would like to go to breakfast.

Our Father, who art…

And on the way the conversation was Kervorkianesque.

Dr. Jack Kervorkian gained notoriety as Dr. Death, performing assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, later to die at the age of 83 of natural causes, ironically choosing life over death in the end.

“Darkness there and nothing more…

Quote the Raven…nevermore”

Throughout the day the conversations centered around assisted suicide and the slow spiraling nose dive that age presents.

Empathetic as I am and as close to the situation as we are Nancy and I are at a loss to disagree or condone his current train of thought. He has been dealt quite a blow over the last few months.

Bill’s wife of many years, Yvonne, herself advanced in age and currently in the custody of her daughter is away and receiving the medical care she needs.

So, Nancy and I sat and explained the latest developments regarding Yvonne and the rest of the afternoon went much better than expected.

When Nancy and her Dad left to visit with the lawyer, I stayed to attend to service people scheduled to arrive to repair the the refrigerator and then the washing machine and measure for additional guttering around the pool.

Dinner was pleasant enough, shepherds pie from the local butcher shop. Very tasty. Bill helped Nancy in the kitchen and set the table out in the courtyard off the kitchen. Very pleasant dinner.

Tomorrow, we are scheduled to go to breakfast, get a haircut (Bill), take the car in for service and then to the financial advisor.

More to follow…

Wednesday September 21

The IPhone alarm went off this morning around 5:30 allowing Nancy and me time to have a cup of coffee before we all set off on our next mission. This morning we have a tight  schedule. Drop Bill’s car off for service, breakfast, haircut and an appointment with the Financial Advisor.

Following Bill’s direction…Miss Guidance was taking the morning off, we pulled into the parking lot of the hole in the wall restaurant where Mr. Dyer stated specifically where I should park, giving specific direction with an increasing level of frustration that exploded into shouting, at which point became confrontational and ended with a clear Alpha Male response that saw Mr. Dyer settle into Bill’s persona. Enough is enough…I’ve got to find a place on the beach or reschedule my flight, returning earlier than expected and leaving Nancy to finish up the remainder of business here in Sarasota. The trip here was rather expensive given the last minute arrangements and I find myself at a crossroads with my decision to drive the cost of this trip even higher.

Quiet breakfast, Bill’s haircut and then to the Financial firm. A high rise in the middle of downtown Sarasota, the trip was an easy drive from  the hair salon, once again aided y the direction of Bill, who sat in the backseat bemoaning his seating assignment. “Everything looks different from the back seat.”

Can’t argue with that. However, when I find myself in the back seat, I settle into my assigned seat and enjoy the fact that I can look around and enjoy the sights I seldom get to see…because I’m driving.

We arrive at the high rise, park in the parking garage at a very specific, of course much less specific than before and enter the building. Nancy and her Father seat themselves in a small cafe, located within the building and I’ll just go and sit in the courtyard and read

the latest ebook on the IPad.

Arriving back at The Meadows, I decided we might be better off staying somewhere other than here, considering today’s events.

I know the situation Bill finds himself in is not one I would wish on anyone and also realize how stressful it is to have guest in your home, always feeling you are responsible for entertain your guest…it’s too much for anyone.

So I went online to see what was available.

Expedia led me to several hotels on Lido beach and then one out on Longboat Key that was much better rated, so I booked us a room.

When the call came in to pick up Bill’s car, the luggage was already loaded in the car. We assured Bill that we would be a phone call away, we can still go to breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are still planning on attending the Power Squadron Meeting with him tomorrow at lunch and take care of business that is scheduled within the next few days.

After checking in at the hotel and Nancy warmed up to the place, we agreed we should have Bill out for a day at the beach.

It’s not far from where he used to keep his boat, he knows the way and there’s no way he’s going to allow us to drive him out here and back.

The evening was intense with mixed emotion. Leaving her Dad alone was tough for Nancy. There’s no way we could possibly do enough for him in the short amount of time we have here in Sarasota.

The best thing for her now is to leave footprints in the sand…so we changed into swimsuits and went for a long walk on the beach. There is nothing better, nor more relaxing than walking on the beach, leaving all of your troubles behind, albeit temporarily.083

The beaches here in Longboat are nice. Not as nice as the beaches in the Caribbean or Bermuda on the Atlantic side of Florida, but nice…after all, we’re here not there.

The sand here varies from the softest white sand, so pleasant to walk on…to short stretches of crushed shell that feels like walking on, well…shards of shell, followed by a mixture of coarse black sand and crushed shell that when walked upon feels like walking on coarsely ground coffee.

After our walk, we stopped at the wash station to wash the sand from our feet and then a dip in the saltwater pool. Just the right size, large enough to accommodate quite a few people or laps in the pool when you find yourself the only one there.

We finished our swim, showered and dressed for dinner at the hotel restaurant.

The restaurant was quaint, convenient and reasonably priced.

The next morning we gathered our laundry and headed into Sarasota, first to Marina Jacks for the Power Squadron Meeting, continue on to our clandestine appointment followed by The Meadows to do laundry and anything else that may arise.

We’ve tried to  keep some distance, allowing Bill to get used to the fact that we will not always be here for him, but still available for this week. That seems to have helped his demeanor regarding outside help.

He seems willing to accept help in certain aspects of his life, others not so much.

The Power Squadron meets every Thursday at this restaurant and I’m interest to see what this is all about and meet some of Bill’s friends. Mr. And Mrs. Cook , a British couple, sat across from us. Mrs. (Cook), Katie, a very sweet lady with the most delightful British accent was very nice and engaged Nancy and me in conversation, making us feel right at home. To their right was Mr. Bob Rosenthal, a very gentle looking man, advanced in age  and seemed to be enjoying retirement very much, living in a high rise out on Longboat Key and being driven everywhere he needed to go by one of several young female drivers, all arranged by his two daughters who obviously cared very much for their Father and worried about him driving himself, just as Nancy and I worried about Bill driving himself to this vey meeting. He wouldn’t hear of us picking him up to escort him to this meeting. “It’s so far out of the way” Everywhere in Sarasota is within 30 minutes of our hotel on on the beach.

The meeting was a formal one, with lunch served before the talk of business, followed by a guest speaker from Hann Power Boats, a local manufacturer that produces high speed boats for the military and law enforcement agencies.Hann Powerboats

As soon as the  guest speaker was finished the meeting was adjourned and we were up and out of there just in time to make our appointment with the owner of “Take Care”, a local home care provider recommended by Bill’s physician. Susanne Wise, owner and administrator of Take Care met with us for about an hour as we talked about Bill’s personality, needs, obsessions, abilities and disabilities. It was a very productive meeting and as we closed the meeting it was decided that our meeting should remain clandestine and from Bill’s perspective we will meet for the first time tomorrow morning. We left the meeting and headed towards

When we arrived the house the thermostat read 86 degrees. I checked the thermostat control and it was set on emergency heat. I changed it over to A/C, set the temperature for 78 degrees and gave it an hour or so to come down to temperature, or at least attempt to move in that direction. No change. I asked Nancy to make the call and she was able to schedule an appointment for the following morning.

The next morning we slept in a bit. The air conditioner repairman is scheduled fairly early, but we’ve time for breakfast before he arrives.

The repairman arrives, greetings all around, I explained the circumstances that initiated the call and he goes about his business. After some time the repairman reappeared, assuring us the unit was in working order now and should cool off soon.

Much better, thermostat set at 78 degrees, room temperature 78 degrees.

Mrs. Wise called to say she was on her way, slightly lost, but would arrive shortly.

Greeted at the door by Nancy, whom she’s never seen before, humph…Bill, dressed nicely, not far behind, we all settle into the living room for the interview.

Bill seems okay with the process, listening carefully to the questions posed by Susanne, responding in kind. On occasion I found myself holding Nancy back, allowing this interview to be between just the two of them while we chaperone, taking notes and sitting quietly.

As the interview comes to a close, it is agreed that one of Take Care’s aides will visit with Bill on Monday morning to assess his immediate needs, concerns and requests and  should any questions arise to give her a call any time.

A very pleasant outcome. Wow, that went better than I expected. Maybe, Bill was intimidated by her beauty, she is a very attractive lady…regardless, at the very minimum, we now have someone to call Bill every day…check on him at least once a week and report directly to Nancy and her sister Esther on a weekly or as needed basis.

Much better than we had anticipated.

And Nancy and I played heavily on the fact that now he would have pretty girls drive him anywhere he wanted to go, just like Mr. Rosenthal. He smiled.

We asked Bill if he would like to spend Saturday at the beach with us and he thought that would be nice.

Bill insisted on driving his car to Longboat Key, but Nancy wouldn’t have it, insisting that we would drive hime out there and bring him back when he was ready to return. Immediately his anxiety level peaked. Everything he needs is in his car, he said. Nancy retrieved his cane from his car and we were on our way.

He seemed to settle into “Passenger Mode” and commented that as a passenger you see a lot of things never before seen…between houses and businesses, side streets and people.

It was early enough that the sun was still rising in the East and shouldn’t be too harsh for a little time on the beach, as long as we have an umbrella. The mention of an umbrella set him off into a tirade about his car, he has an umbrella in his car…sun glasses, insistent that it was ridiculous that we insisted in driving him out to the beach…and on…and on.

The hotel provides beach umbrellas for $15.00 per day and upon hearing that we brought Bill to the beach for his 90th birthday, comp’d the umbrella.

A squall was forming on the horizon and appeared to be heading our direction so we headed back to our room and not long after back to The Meadows.

We made it back to the beach and enjoyed an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing and when another storm approached, we retreated to the pool for a swim and then drove in to The Meadows for dinner with Bill at the Pub in the Meadows, then cake and ice cream to celebrate his birthday.

Tomorrow we return to our lives and take comfort in the fact that we have done everything we’ve been allowed to do on this trip and that in two weeks Esther is scheduled make the trip from Dover in hopes of returning with Bill on the auto train…the car. It’s always about the car.

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