Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's for D?

As a kid I fondly remember my dad's return from work. He would sweep into the house like a sudden spring storm. His energy was palpable as it permeated the house. He'd come into the house through the garage, taking two steps at a time and calling out, "What's for D, Ruth?"

Shortly after his homecoming we'd sit down to a Cleaver-style, sit-at-the-dining room table, discuss-the-day dinner. My mother was a great cook. Although most of our dinners were fairly predictable; chicken, meat loaf, pork chops and the dreaded chipped beef on toast, occasionally she'd throw in a zinger from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I think my mother had a secret yearning to be another Julia Child.

My dad never cooked. I have no memories of him grilling hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill in our suburban back yard. Oh wait, I do recall one time when my dad had to cook dinner. This was when we all had the flu. My mother had nursed my dad through it. Then, all three kids came down with it just before my mother gave in to the fever and aches. Dad returned from work and put together a memorable dinner that consisted of hot dogs (burnt), frozen peas (still rather cold) and applesauce (from a jar - can't damage that)!

When my mother died Dad was at a loss when it came to any of the womanly arts: laundry, cleaning and cooking. Luckily I lived nearby and could help him muddle through. He remarried and moved, so up until recently, none of this has been a problem. However, Jeanene has put the grandchildren ahead of my dad. She finds reasons to visit them and reasons to extend her stay. My dad prefers not to be with the grandchildren. He prefers to be at home and would prefer that she be there as well. Apparently they are both stubborn enough to have stakes embedded deep into the sand, so, Dad is once again trying to deal with planning and preparing meals.

Basically he's doing OK. Breakfast and lunch are pretty easy. They are the same each day. For dinner he does try to eat some vegetables. He is willing to have a salad that consists of some iceberg lettuce, some chopped tomatoes and a salad dressing that he likes. He readily eats this almost every night. We've also bought some frozen 'steam-in-the-bag' vegetables that he likes to do in the microwave. He loves fruit. He's been on a melon kick lately and will call me just to let me know that the melon I picked out for him is just perfect. It is the sweetest, most tasty melon he's ever had! What a guy! The protein end of things isn't great, but he does have some yogurt every day and he loves hot dogs. I try to help him get away from the additives in the hot dogs by suggesting fish or shrimp. He likes shrimp as a snack and he's learned how to pan fry Salmon or Halibut in a bit of oil with some herbs. So, he's lonely. He's having to prepare some food, which he hates doing, but he's not starving and he's getting adequate nutrition.

I tried to talk him into having me come once a week to prepare a meal and package some leftovers. He let me do it once, but after that said he'd rather take me out to dinner. Hmmm, so, maybe he doesn't like my cooking?! Actually, I think he just likes to get out so when I go I take some of our leftovers with post-it note instructions and leave them in his fridge. I have also learned that he likes me to write out a 'menu' for the week when we have gone shopping. I began to do this because he would hold onto things like Salmon for too many days before preparing them. It worried me that he'd get sick from eating something that was too old. When we shop I also put notes on perishable items saying 'Use or Toss by <date>'.

I have talked to a few home health services companies. I have mentioned them to Dad. I've explained that someone from the agency could come and prepare food, package left overs and clean the kitchen afterwards. He's not interested in getting help from this type of service. At least not yet. I'll continue to work on it!


  1. What a sweet blog about your dad. You are a good daughter. My dad did a lot of cooking when I was young; however I grew up on steak and frozen chicken pot pies. He also made fabulous spaghetti and beef stroganoff. But he forgot how to cook completely when he finally remarried. Then like your dad, eventually he needed help in the kitchen when he was alone and elderly. It's very special that you can help your dad like this. And very sweet that he enjoys treating you to dinner out.

  2. Thank you for sharing about your dad and his journey with Alzheimer's. He is blessed to have you help care for him, be encouraged in your love and service to him.



  3. My Dad ended up eating nothing but carbs; bread, chips, cookies, and pop. I think the carbs helped his depression and made him feel better. Good for you for trying to get some protein in your Dad's diet! This is a tough road, try to remember to take care of yourself first before you take care of everyone else.


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