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Tag Team Sisters

by Ferida Wolff

My sister and I are looking after our father. He is in an assisted living residence because neither of our two-story houses is suitable for an old man with a walker and poor balance. But that doesn’t mean we don’t see him. We tag team each other; she goes to visit one day, I go the next.


We do this because even though his basic physical needs are taken care of, his emotional health is of concern to us. He knows that his memory is failing and it is distressing him.


We know how much he has lost already and every day we see his memory worsen. I gave him a photo album with pictures of relatives and friends from his past. My sister brings photos of her grandson so that he will be connected with the future.


Dad doesn’t have much interest in doing anything, not even the paintings he did a short while ago that are hanging on his, my sister’s, and my walls. So we keep him company and watch the game shows with him that he usually watches on television. We know he doesn’t understand much of what is going on but my sister makes conversation about the contestants and the prizes and I try to get him to talk about subjects he might remember from his life experience.


It isn’t easy for us. We look at our father and remember the vital person he used to be. We take comfort in the shared childhood memories.


My sister and I take our vacations at different times so that one of us can always be available to visit, to sit with him in the dining room, or just drop in for a quick hello. One of us is always around for emergencies, should they arise as they sometimes do, so that he doesn’t feel abandoned in a hospital room. One of us is there to help transport him to the rehab center or back home when he is discharged.


But we aren’t always tag-teaming. We take him to his doctors together. We go out to lunch together. When there is a special program — a holiday party or a musical event - going on at his place, we are there together, too.


The receptionist at the front desk sees us and says, “Here are the sisters.”


We smile and feel good when she says that. Having a sister is deeply satisfying. Sometimes only a sister can know where your heart is aching or why you laugh when what is happening in your life is anything but funny. People looked at us askance when we told them that, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, our mother cursed us. But we knew laughter was keeping us sane. And now with Dad, we see the pain in each other’s eyes and hug; we don’t need to say a word to understand the other’s thoughts.


“What would I do without you?” my sister asks.


I couldn’t tell her. Life without her is unimaginable for me. Occasionally we hear of sisters who don’t get along, who aren’t speaking, and we can’t believe it. It is like an unopened box; they are missing out on a true gift.


We had a 90th birthday party for our dad last weekend. We divided the tasks. I picked up the platters; she picked up the paper goods. I hosted the party; she picked up our dad. We think he had a good time but we can’t be sure. We think he remembered most of the guests, who were relatives, but we aren’t certain. We do know that we held the celebration to honor our dad and to share a milestone. Today we did it together. Tomorrow we will tag team each other again.



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