Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Visiting Santa Fe

We have been in New Mexico for 5 days and it has been good to be with family. 

In January of 2011, my dad, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) Disease.   For the past few years he had been feeling more and more ‘run down’ and found it necessary to sleep a bit more and schedule in a daily nap in order to make it thru the day, but otherwise he seemed in pretty good health.   He began working part time in 2003, and he visited his doctor more frequently during the past few years, always suspecting something wasn’t quite right, but his day to day life was not drastically altered really until last fall.  

Since we saw him a year ago, much has changed.  Last summer Bill flew to NY to pick up my sister Rachel and together they drove across the country to NM in a car with no A/C.  That was an adventure and a fun memory for them both.    Our whole family met up and spent time together in Alamogordo, New Mexico before my brother and his family moved out to England with the Air Force.   We went to White Sands, NM and had a picnic, took family photos, and went to the (Holoman) Air Force Base pool with Uncle Dave.  We went up to the mountains, had a camp-fire.  We had easy late night conversations and played games together.
We hung out at White Sands last summer

But as summer the summer of 2010 ended and fall came along, my dad’s health began to decline more significantly.  At times his speech would slur in conversation and that prompted more doctor visits.  Something was certainly wrong.   Tests were run and specialists were consulted.  In time, the numerous symptoms left no room for doubt in anyone's mind that my dad has ALS.  

This summer everything is drastically different.    Now his speech is slow and he is very difficult to understand.  It is a labor for him to communicate.  His fingers are curled and no longer useful.  His walk is slow and unsteady.  His neck muscles struggle to hold up his head. He has lost significant weight.  He can no longer button his shirts or zip his pants.  Though the disease has progressed much in the past 6 months, there is still a lot Bill is able to do.   We are grateful that his is still walking!  He is still able to feed himself with the use of a special grip on his utensils.  We praise the Lord that we can still communicate some.  Bill has a good sense of humor and has joked that his speech is a new “foreign language” for us to learn.  We love to see him smile and hear him laugh at our stories!  Just this morning we took the kids to nearby park today to launch rockets and Bill joined us.  He was able to walk there on his own and got to enjoy his grandkids run around.  We are grateful for each new memory we get to make, and keenly aware that each day we have is a gift.

Shaving is difficult, so when we showed up, Bill was sporting a nice white beard.  I helped him shave it off the other night.  We called it "manscaping".

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