A Catholic Girl Leaves Home for Sex
Caregiving Dad -- The Agony & The Ecstasy
MY ITALIAN DAD IN NEW YORK
LOUIS "LOU" SALVATORELLI
b. November 16, 1917
d. November 7, 2013
A loving, living memoir of my father &
my experiences as his caregiver.
Geraldine M. Salvatorelli
A Life of Yelling, Laughing ...and Hiding
GALLERY OF DAD
Click any picture for enlargement
Published in the New York Times, December 1, 2013
Dad getting a private serenade.
BY 2150 ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE PEOPLE
IN THE U.S. WILL BE OVER 60 YEARS OLD.
Click any picture for enlargement and more
FACT: 76 MILLION BABY BOOMERS ARE APPROACHING OLD AGE.
Whether out of love or guilt, adult children have been rising to the occasion to care for aging parents.
Children of veterans returning from the Iraq War are joining these ranks in large numbers.
There are 42 million family care givers.
See: NYT, The New Old Age blog, "We Are Everywhere" by blog founder Jane Gross,
and author of "A Bittersweet Season: Caring For Our Aging Parents and Ourselves."
At 90, Dad's last chance for love was Elly. She resembled Dad's Ex-girlfriend, Eva. Elly's last boyfriend was older than Dad. They met at J.J's funeral.
The "New Normal"
Geraldine (Daughter, 60) & Lou (Father, 91)
FACT: AMONG THE 65 MILLION CAREGIVERS
THE MAJORITY ARE CARING FOR SOMEONE OVER 50!
Killing Time at the Mt. Carmel "Italian" Senior Center
on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He said he wasn't wasn't going there for fun, dancing or the food "I only eat two meals a day," but because he wanted me to get a look at senior life. "This is what you have to look forward to."
"I'm too old for these places, I don't look it, everyone thinks I'm their age."
At 91 in the above photo he was "too old," and I was too young.
A BITTERSWEET SEASON: CARING FOR OUR AGING PARENTS
by Jane Gross
PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING: TURNING CHAOS INTO CONFIDENCE
BY Gail Sheehy
Fact: Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children. See The New Old Age blog. Jane Gross and Paula Span.
Dad, while Italian, was a great lover not only of Spanish women but of the Mexican guayabara shirt, a Mexican wedding shirt that is also worn at funerals. The shirt has long been a symbol of the working class it is a long-standing symbol of solidarity amongst Hispanics living in America.
On September 24, 2010 a powerful statement (about the guayabera as a Hispanic laborer's "uniform") was made by United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez.
Appearing as a primary speaker at a U.S. congressional Subcommittee hearing on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security, President Rodriguez wore a finely tailored guayabera.
It's appropriate Dad would have adopted the shirt as his official retirement uniform the way other men adopt velour since he's truly a Studs Terkel, Damon Runyonesqe kind of guy. Dad started wearing the guayabara when he was dating Celeste, his Cuban girlfriend and commuting to work from East New York. He owns about twenty guayabaras in assorted colors. He uses the pockets like drawers. Before he quit smoking, one pocket was for cigarettes, another for the lighter, comb, pens leaving the bottom two for tissues and ID card.
The Guayabara King!
Dad felt sorry for the actors who were paid millions to look coolby
smoking in the movies. Look at what happened to poor Humphrey Bogart.
AMSTERDAM NURSING HOME
He has matching p.j.'s but prefers the mismatched look. I learn not to argue with a stubborn, proud, eccentric Italian man of 94.
I think it symbolizes his marriage to my mother, they were mismatched.
Dead thirty years, he has not stopped rebelling against her.
Whatsamatta, I'm growin a mustache.
Mealtime at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home in Manhattan. Dad's a soup freak who attributes his longevity to a good diet. He has eliminated many carbohydrates and all beef, ham, pork, veal and meats from his diet with the exception of chicken, turkey and the occasional meatball.
Low fat, chocolatey cats, he eats these all day long like cat nip. I think they take the place of cigarettes.
Tippy. Dad's first roommate when he and mom split. Tippy was perched on top of the front seat of Dad's car and raised his paw at me when I tried getting in. I had to sit in the back. I was happy to see he had protection.
Dad likes to talk and I enjoy making conversation with him and I'm lucky his mind while a lot slower is still sharp, lucid and full of observations and opinions. It was an adjustment to navigate my way around the slower way his elderly mind works and interacts with his brain and during that time I found the book listed below very helpful.
HOW TO SAY IT to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders
by David Solie, M.S., P.A.
And like many Italians, his thoughts are best expressed by using the hand.
Yup. You. I'm talkin' ta' you. When you reach my age you eat all the ice cream you want to! You follow me?
Grandaughter visits. Priceless.
Adrienne, Granddaughter, mother of 3 steals away from home for a G-pa visit.
Lou with great grandaughter Allyson (left) and her best friend Katie.
Yakking it up intergenerational style.
Morning of actor James Gandolfini a.k.a.Tony Soprano's funeral
at St. John the Divine's Cathedral. Dad had a bird's eye view of
the event from his ninth floor nursing home window that looked
straight into the top of the cathedral 's arch. Un-phased
by celebrity he wondered what all the
fuss was about.
Others were just taking the whole event in.
That's me in the beauty parlor mirror, special affects.
Dad's first nursing home haircut with hairdresser Sondra in the nursing home beauty parlor. I had to check her out to make sure she was nice and he would be well behaved.
In the Bronx, while Dad was still living at home, we went through four barbers exhausting almost every one in the neighborhood.
The nursing home beauty parlor is now his
favorite place. He hits the beauty parlor every Thursday, I never imagined when I signed him up.
He was driving nurses and aides crazy with his container alignment system for cookies and milk.
Bertha Hope, jazz pianist, member of the Jazz Musicians Foundation brings music to the Amsterdam House and other homes and assisted living facilities.
Bertha on piano & Kim Clarke playing the
Percy Brice, legendary drummer who played with Harry Belafonte, George Shearing & Sarah Vaughn to name a few
performs at Dad's nursing home, The Amsterdam House. In the background, Alex Layne on bass.
Bertha Hope and Percy Brice
Annette St. John, singer
Annette St. John, and Kim Clarke working it out on base.
LOU at 93 yrs. old!
Rare trip out of his room into main meeting hall at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home. Dad's just not crazy about leaving his room... he's always been a homebody.
Again, with the hands. He's telling me how the room is able to be identified according to the wallpaper by resident's with memory problems.
Dad chatting it up on one of his rare outings out of his room.Dad's increasing frailty and reliance on a wheel
chair discouraged him from hanging out in the main lobby.
Birds Stationed In The Lobby at the
Amsterdam HouseNursing Home.
Proof of Age?
1995 Retirement Party
During his retirement years, you can imagine my surprise
when Dad started working for Sister Annunciata, my
eighth grade teacher who made me stick bubble gum
in my hair.
Sister was a real mover andshaker who founded the Bedford
Park Senior Center.
Dad drove seniors around.
First days, in rehab, at the Amsterdam House Nursing Home, NYC. Dad, wearing sunglasses "don't tell anyone I'm here."
In the first weeks after arriving in the nursing home,
all I heard was "when you gonna get me out of here."
Then there were moments of adjustment and acceptance. This is a good place. You did good. I guess this is where I'm gonna die. I guess I live here from now on.
Nothing as joyous as Elisabeth stopping by with a piece of lemon meringue pie from Tom's. You remember Tom's from Seinfeld. Dad lives right up the block from Tom's. It feels more appropriate that I should be visiting him there and no longer schlepping homemade meals for him up on the D-train to the Bronx in my wheelie case as I had been 5 years.
Autographed photos of Jerry, Elaine, George & Kramer on the wall inside but when I spoke to the owners about the profits generated as a result of their celebrity, they didn't seem that excited.
Donald giving Dad his workout.
Getting a few laughs along the way.
No easy job getting Dad to move.
Dad being attended to by Dio his aide. Lunchtime at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home
Dio and Dad kibbutzing around.
Headed into space and to the heavens!
I find a beauty in Dad's aging.
Nobody touch my sugar packets while I catch a few winks.
2011 Westy Award Recipient
Marion Gambardella, spiritual leader, and ordained minister at the prestigious 2011 Westy Awards where she was a recipient for her outstanding leadership in the area of caregiver stress.
Marion runs Caregiver Stress therapy meetings once a month in Manhattan, helping those of us who were sinking badly from it at one time or another.
Coincidentally, Marion's husband, the famous opera singer, Giuseppe Consiglio is a resident of The Amsterdam Nursing Home with my Dad.
DAD'S PRE NURSING HOME DAYS
Early Winter, 2010
Rocking it out at the Sedgwick Senior Center, 2010.
Bob, Florence and Dad
Florence is an award winning painter. Florence and Bob
are responsible for helping me get Dad out for his final
appearances in the civilian community before entering
a nursing home. They made my life better too with
their humor, wisdom and talent.
Dad, holding court on Mom's famous love seat.
Briggs Avenue, Bronx, NY.
The piano used to be in that spot.
Getting bread ready to feed birds on his fire escape.
The birdman of Briggs
I don't think there were enough legal, rent paying tenants left in the building to complain. Photo in background with great granddaughter Julia at her Holy Communion party. My brother wouldn't attend if I was there so I missed that one too. I have been banned from the majority of family gatherings in involving his children. Tsk, tsk. I must be a terrible person.
Lou, at bus stop on way from Bailey Avenue Senior Center about to soon be closed due to lack of attendance. We had to take two buses. He loved to torture me with these arduous trips.
He spent many years frequenting the center in his younger old years and wanted to reminisce. So we went a few times one of those afternoons he got a chance to reunite with cook a tiny, cute Hispanic woman named Rosa I think Dad had a crush on her.
He met his primary care doctors at this center now it has become a bit of a senior wasteland with a huge flat screen t.v. where on one of those afternoons we watched the Michael Jackson funeral then decided to no longer return there because it was too depressing. He used to know some of the Hispanic people who lived in the senior building upstairs from where the center's main meeting rooms. We read about the closing in the New York Times and never looked back.
Shortly after our last trip to the Bailey Avenue Center, Dad had to stop traveling by bus. It had become too exhausting and stressful not just for him.
St. Philip Neri Church where I received my first Holy Communion, Confirmation, graduated and attended High Mass in Latin and sang with a powerful pipe organ in the background along with the Welch Chorale led by John Welch who was murdered years later in the lobby of his building. Dad attended the senior center located in the basement below until there was a serious fire in the church and the center had to be relocated. That's another story.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD
Celebrating 92 Birthday in Mc Donald's on
204th Street, Bronx, NY
Dad thinks he's spotted his ex-girlfriend Eva who lives
nearby. Florence invited Eva to join us but she declined.
Dad when he realizes the woman was not Eva just someone who looked a lot like her.
That's when he started doing what we all do in situations of unrequited love -- eat a strawberry ice cream sundae.
Florence a good friend, award winning painter celebrating her birthday around same time.
Florence was a free lance sketcher at Vogue magazine same time Andy Warhol was free lancing. When she heard he was being paid more she demanded to be paid same thing and she got it.
Another day older. He says that
every year on his birthday.
Bedford Park Barber Shop. He went through about four barbers in one year. And refused to shave so once a week we had to venture out to barber shops where he'd find fault with every one.
That's my shadow behind Dad who is leaning against fence on Mosholu Parkway, Bronx, NY, my childhood park and his favorite, peaceful place to be.
Being a caregiver starts to feel
like being a god. That's what my shadow looks like cast over the balding grass where I used to sleigh ride when I was a child.
Caregivers are definitely a godsend to the elderly who are challenged by combination of emotions -- frailty, loss, fear, pride.
There were days I went to ridiculous
lengths to cheer him up.
And there were days he let me know straight out there were certain things that were not going to change like his aversion to the telephone and computers but never to cake .
Last time Dad wore that jacket.
It's p.j.'s now all day all the time.
The Yankees stink this year.
Dinner ritual at 3001 Briggs Avenue, Bronx, NY.
Medical Village, Pelham Bay, Bronx
Where's the *#*# doctor already.
I'm waitin a half hour.
Oh, Hi, Dr. D.
Christmas 2008, Lou posing with a health care worker at the Bethel Senior Center on Bedford Park named after Sister Annunciata, a major proponent of the Meals on Wheels program. Sister Annunciata taught my 8th grade class.
A mover and shaker who knew how to get things out of talk stages and into action. She also seriously overstepped her nun boundaries when she made me stick bubble gum in my hair.
MT. CARMEL ITALIAN SENIOR CENTER
Bob drove everyone around especially to shops on Arthur Avenue. He'd wait patiently as we darted in and out getting our favorite Italian delicacies.
Marie (on the right wearing the cap)
bakes the meanest cakes in the east.
Femme Fatale of the senior circuit. Nicknamed "the predator."
This one had all the men wrapped around her finger and the wives and girlfriends carrying rope.
How can you fault any woman who can make
your 90 year old father smile like that.
Or lean a few new moves. I mean who says you can't
teach an old dog new tricks.
Yup. The woman sure had a way.
At the Mt. Carmel Senior Center on Arthur Avenue
Love Was Always in the Air!
Charlie in the middle is the
American Bandstand star on the senior set.
TANGLE WITH THE TANGO AND YOU'LL TANGLE WITH HIM
Singer, pianist, driver, father, husband, grandfather, ladies man
Look Lou how many times do I have to tell you
I Don't Know the Words to Honeysuckle Rose.
Made me cry.
The Harbor Inn, City Island, Bronx, New York.
Dad with his best man, Cousin Paul's, wife Suzie.
You never know who is going to be left in the end.
The Broken Denture
& The Neighborhood Dental Lab out of
Sanford & Son.
Owner, dental lab, technician, mechanic, and cat lover.
Dad had hardwood floors in his bedroom where he dropped his dentures late morning, breaking them in half. It was in the first few minutes after I had arrived and I often spent that time relieved to learn that it was not him lying on the floor injured.
Those initial hours after arriving in the Bronx, no matter how often I repeated the ritual were inevitably mixed with annoyance, culture shock and my recollections from Thomas Wolfe's classic, You Can't Go Home Again and the vexing question, how much longer will I be doing this.
"I got this guy right in the neighborhood," Dad says. And we bundle ourselves up and take the walk to Jerome and 202nd Street. "This guy does all the work for the dentists and the dentists get paid the big bucks. He told me to come in anytime I got a problem."
So there we are in a store that doesn't look like it has ever seen a good cleaning with boxes and solutions piled up everywhere with a cat meandering around it all.
Dad sharing a laugh with Patricia my best friend from high school.
He was still young and at it.
Grand Children, Brother and Sister, Louis, Jr. and Adrienne
and G-pa Lou!
On the way out to celebrate at Bistro 1018.
2013 Family gathers for Memorial Luncheon
one week before Lou, Sr.'s 96th Birthday.
Bless you Dad. Rest in Peace.
Great Grandson Nicholas, Great Grandpa Lou, and Grandpa Lou
Dad never looked this strong, virile or determined -- standing up that
straight or staring straight into the camera for anyone else in the home
than he was doing here for his son and great grandson.
Son, Louis Anthony, Father, Louis John, Great Grandson, Nicholas
And the 4th generation, Louis, Jr.,
Louis, Sr. and Louis
Dad at 94
Another "son" Dio, Dad's Nursing Home Aide, or CNA.
This was a match made in heaven.
Dio & Lou
As good as it gets. Days after I had Lou returned to The Amsterdam House Nursing Home for palliative care, Dio washed and shaved him, and said, "Come on Lou, I gotta clean you, you look a mess I can't take you out looking for women like that!" Dad smiled and it was his last laugh.
Dad's addiction to "reduced fat" Nilla wafers. The last six months of his life he devoured a box a day. It became cheaper to order them by the case.
He acquired a nickname, the "cookie monster" for his insistent routine of getting back into bed every day at three with a box of Nillas.
At one point he claimed the cookies were sending him messages.
He never specified exactly what was contained in the messages.
d. November 7, 2013
A Catholic Girl Leaves Home for Sex
Caregiving Dad -- The Agony & The Ecstasy
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Copyright ©2013 by Geraldine Salvatorelli