99 years, you had a good run Vince and will be missed.....
The Community Blog
Several months after I moved to Wise Acres, David and I brought his 99 year old Dad to live with us.
Despite heart problems, near blindness, incontinence and a lot of confusion, Vince was still walking
around and playing the piano and he wanted to live with family. One of his daughters had been taking
loving care of him for years in an assisted living home but she was exhausted and burnt out; we decided
it was our turn, and stepped up.
Having Vince living with us in our home was one of the best and hardest and things I have ever done,
right up there with running a marathon and starting an organic farm. There were many sweet moments
and times.. sitting on the front porch together in rocking chairs soaking up the sun,; Vince playing piano
while I made dinner, including Christmas carols in August.. watching him play "Kings in the Corner"
with the kids before Community dinner; Vince riding his red scooter down to the garden with me to
get veggies for dinner which he carried back in his basket; his 99th birthday party attended by the
Community, neighbors and many of David's musician friends where people dressed up in 1920's and
1930's attire and Vince played piano with "a band” once again. Coming down at 3:00 am to ask Vince to
please not play piano until morning and finding him, fully dressed, sitting at the piano, eyes closed, with
a huge grin on his face. Tucking him into his LazyBoy chair every night with his James Bond movie and
squeezing each other’s hand with our nightly ritual of "See you in the morning for coffee, Mr. Dad." The
sweetness of seeing Cory, one of our younger community members, lovingly helping take care of Vince
to earn money for his trip to Europe. The way our dog Maggie made Vince smile every morning when
he would pet her, feed her morning treat and sneak her bits of bacon and omelet off his plate. Vince
smiling when we our little neighbor baby Oliver came over on Friday mornings.
There were many moments and incidents that were absolutely hilarious; we found that finding humor
in the situation helped us cope when nothing else did. I took to calling Vince "The Dad", partially since
I couldn't quite bring myself to call him "Dad", partially inspired by The Grampa on the Simpsons, and
partially due to the large amount of psychic space Vince and his frequent sighing and complaining
seemed to take up in the house and the need for some emotional distance in dealing with him. We also
took to calling him "The Snollygoster" or "The Snolly" for short, a word which means person out for their
own self interest, due to his habit of stealing quarters from us and hording them in a handkerchief in his
top drawer and his persistence in trying to get me to leave his son and run away with him to Florida. He
told the Hospice Chaplain long tales about traveling to China and Europe and working as a spy during
WW2 that seemed to be a mixture of James Bond movies and David’s travels.
There was the night I heard the familiar cries of "Help Help" and rushed downstairs to find him fully
dressed, sitting on his bed in the dark, yelling "I need more insecticides". During another early morning
incident he insisted that I had to take him to the emergency room immediately, that he was "next in line
to have a baby." We had coffee together instead.
There were exhausting, grueling moments, days, and weeks when I wasn't sure I was going to make it
and my only goal was to keep from going crazy and to maybe try to get in a little nap, which was usually
interrupted by Vince yelling up the stairs wanting to know what time it was.
There was the night I threw the TV controls across the room after he had complained for the one
millionth time that nobody had ever shown him how to put on his James Bond movie when we had
gone over it with him over and over and over. I stormed up the stairs in a menopausal snit, leaving
him to pound on the walls and piano in frustration until David finally went down to help him. When
I apologized the next morning The Dad smiled sweetly and said "It’s okay Dear; I know it wasn't really
There were the days when he had woke us up repeatedly in the night, playing piano, yelling up the stairs
for some emergency such as wanting to know the time or desperately needing different socks or maybe
a little snack. These "emergencies" were usually preceded by loud cries of "Help Help; "Please Dear
God Please Help Me" which he had figured out got me rushing down the stairs , adrenalin pumping,
anticipating a heart attack or worse. Exhausted, sleep deprived, dragging myself through the day trying
to accomplish small goals like finish Vince's endless loads of laundry or just get the garbage down to
the dumpster; these were usually the days when his brain would click into one of his seemingly endless,
dementia-inspired tirades on favorite subjects such as why we were so unreasonable as to not let
him travel by himself across the country on a plane in the middle of winter to visit his girlfriend, why
wouldn't I take him to the Dr. immediately to do something about his eyes, why was his family scattered
all across the county and he never got to see them, or where was all his money and he wanted all of the
records on all of it immediately; subjects that we had answered over and over again in great detail but
he never remembered the answers.
There were the times he would talk on the phone with his girl friend across the country about how
he was being held captive somewhere out in the woods with nothing to do by some woman and her
husband who he didn't know and had never met before. Sometimes I had the patience to explain it all
yet again. Usually I had to pour myself a strong drink first; which seemed to both help calm my poor
menapausally fried nerves and put me more in tune with the Dad. Sometimes, totally beyond the end
of my rope, I would snap "That’s ridiculous", take my drink and go upstairs to my sewing room leaving
him to fret and stew by himself.
Like all of us; Vince was a mixed bag. Despite his negativity and complaining he also had a sweet streak
and we loved him dearly…there were many times he would tell me how much he appreciated all I did
for him and that he felt he was “treated like a King.” I never knew what to expect with him…one minute
he wouldn’t be making any sense at all and the next minute he was sharp as a tack, making perceptive
comments and obviously right there.
After 8 months of “The Dad occupation” several family members and friends asked us why in the world
we were putting up with him; that he belonged in a nursing home. Why were we doing it indeed?
Frequently he didn't seem happy or grateful; he spent quite a bit of time complaining and plotting his
escape. He certainly didn't "earn it"...he had never been a model Dad and certainly wasn't there for his
kids in the ways they would have liked him to be.
What we came to realize was that taking care of Vince at home in his last days so that he could live
with family, surrounded by Community, just simply felt like the right thing to do. It was a value, along
with growing our own organic food in the garden, sharing, consensus, and raising healthy confident
children with a strong sense of belonging, that we felt was important in the Community. Louisa set an
example when she took care of her father, Wyman, at home during his last 5 years. She inspired us and
made us feel that we could do it. The Rains are fortunate enough to have Nil's mother Ursula living with
them and we saw how "Oma's" presence as an elder enriched the Community as she brought her skills
and presence as a pediatrician and elder.
We believe in the importance of having all ages in the Community, from babies to elders. We believe
in allowing the children see old people lovingly cared for at home rather than abandoned in a nursing
home. We were touched to see Violet rubbing "The Dad's" shoulders before dinner and watching the
kids playing cards with him. We realized that all of us at Wise Acres, including ourselves, would be
growing old eventually and we wanted to nurture the model of having our elders cared for at home if
possible, surrounded by the loving arms of the Community.
The day before The Dad died was especially sweet. All day Monday he had been driving me nuts and
trying my patience, complaining that he never saw any family, nobody was "on his team" and he was
all alone, lost in the world. I was feeling at the end of my rope. He had gone to Community Dinner
Monday night with Cory in the red scooter David had gotten him for Fathers Day, and seemed to be
feeling fine. That night Vince began having some trouble breathing, we gave him extra morphine and he
slept sitting up in his recliner.
Tuesday morning we had our coffee together as we did every morning and he ate his breakfast; he was
quiet and subdued. He picked at his lunch and only ate half of his ice cream. That afternoon Vince
began to have increasingly labored breathing, we gave him more and more morphine, and I realized for
the first time that he was beginning his journey out of this world.
An interesting energetic shift happened at this point ...Vince became increasingly happy and animated
which was unlike him and the energy in the house shifted into one of joy...a change I attributed at first
to the morphine but I later realized was also the door between the worlds beginning to open and its
light shining in. David and Judith Weinstock came over to see him when they heard he was starting
his journey and he seemed delighted to see them. David successfully convinced him that he was part
of our team , and that he didn’t have to worry about that anymore. When the Dad quizzed him about
“which organization” he worked for, David convincingly described two world-wide organizations he was
connected with (Peace Dojo and Non-Violent Communication). The Dad was then laughing and talking
about how he was so happy we were" all connected again" and "on the same team".
After they left Vince said” all he had to do now was to find his wife" to which I replied that I was sure
she was waiting for him at the next place he was going which made him really happy. His joy and delight
increased, along with a sense of giddiness as he told me his wife (who had died last year) was upstairs,
then that she was in the bathroom...it became more and more clear that at least one of his wives if not
both were here with us to help him in his transition.
The next morning when I went to wake Vince who was sleeping in his lazy boy, he wouldn't wake up
although he was still breathing in a very labored manner. The Hospice chaplain arrived, prayed with him
and told me we were probably very close to the end. We called Vince's daughter Gaile who lives close
by and who rushed to be there. Cory arrived, we called Vince's other children who were able to say
their last good-byes into his ear by phone.
David, Cory and I sat with Vince for the next several hours, holding his hand, singing, crying, and telling
him we loved him and that we were glad he had been with us. David played music for him, Cory rubbed
his head. We knew he could still hear us because he would squeeze our hands. We sent out an e-mail to
the Community; people responded that they would join us as soon as they could get there. Louisa came
by to sing to him and Ursula came to wish him well on his journey. Vince stayed with us long enough for
his daughter Gaile to get there to say good-bye, the Hospice nurse came to check him... Vince's death
was as peaceful and beautiful as one could hope...he just stopped breathing and slipped away to join his
wife, surrounded by a circle of love.
As timing would have it, the day Vince died we were scheduled to cook Community dinner. I sent out a
community e-mail requesting help....somewhat dizzy and overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, grief,
relief, and surprise that it had all been so quick I threw together a modified dinner...chopped kale for
salad that Ajay had picked....dressed Persephone Farm greens gifted to us by Rebecca...forgot to put
any salt in the soup...put too much in the salad dressing, decided to skip dessert, while David, Vince's
daughter Gaile and the nurse dealt with the funurel home, coroner and other legalities of death. David
and Judith Weinstock came over and provided loving support and council, Oma and Judith helped
me with dinner...finished the soup, brought homemade cheese, helped me set up. Neighbors arrived;
brought dessert, flowers...in death as well as life we were held and supported by the loving arms of the