Wednesday, December 23, 2009

William Ashley Chapman Turns Ninety

There have been many days in the last year, that I seriously doubted my 89-year-old father would survive to celebrate his 90th birthday. But amidst all those worries, never did I imagine that it would be my mother who would miss the celebration. Since that is what happened, we invited family and friends to the nursing home on Dad's birthday so her absence would not be as obvious to him. He had a wonderful morning.

Dad in his Christmas sweater marking his three-days-before-Christmas birthday.

My sister Kimberly and her youngest daughter Lena, pose with Dad and his birthday cake.

We put pictures of him from previous decades on the table in the nursing center's library, and he laughed to see photos of him when his hair was its original dark brown. Both of his daughters--me and my sister Kimmy--joined the party, along with his son-in-law Dan, his granddaughter Lena, neighbors, church friends, and even his favorite neighborhood dog Sunny. Sunny is fifteen, and, as my sister pointed out, that is pretty close to ninety in dog years.

Neighbors Donna and Mickey P. brought their dog Sunny to visit Dad on his 90th. What a kind thing to do.

Sunny looking up for a treat as my beautiful niece Lena poses with her grandfather.

We know that each day with Dad is a gift, and though his life isn't easy these days since he can no longer walk nor feed himself, we're doing everything we can to make sure we don't waste the remaining days. I have been the chief instigator of events like this one, and they are events my engineer father used to think of as silly. But nowadays, he survives them with good humor and seems to enjoy seeing the familiar faces. At this event, he recognized everyone.

At right is my Dad, almost 90 years ago, in a photo we set out at the party. "I remember I was crying that day," he said. "I think my diaper was wet."

"No need to ask who planned this," he said with a sigh, looking a me, as if he's been worn down, having spent a lifetime trying to put a lid on my hyperactivity. "It had to be Robin." So I reached out to hug him, and as I did so, he turned to his nurse Alem and said: "And now, I suppose, I am going to get hugged." Which he certainly was and I certainly did. I think he almost smiled.

Postscript: I learned twelve hours after I completed the above, that my father's Los Altos, California, flying buddy, Ollie Frasier, has passed away. The two met at the Palo Alto airport one day and discovered they were both from Birmingham, though Ollie attended the University Alabama, and my father was an Auburn grad. They managed to set aside their differences to spend many happy hours together in the air. They discovered later that my father's sister was in Ollie's sister's wedding, proving once again, that six degrees of separation is far too separate for most of us. RIP Ollie Frasier.

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Devon C. said...

What a great party. Do you think that animal visits would be beneficial to Pa? I've read about them doing that kind of thing at nursing homes and some patients really respond well. Just a thought.

Robin Chapman said...

I think it is a good idea and they do have dog visits at the nursing home. We just need to figure out when they are, and get Dad there. He had so much fun--for him at this time. We sang to him at breakfast and they sang to him at lunch and dinner so he had a really big day. Plus, I'm amazed he made it to 90!!

Florida Beach Basics said...

Well done.