As the nation pays tributes to family patriarchs everywhere on this day, many families in Southwest Louisiana are celebrating their fathers in unconventional ways as COVID-19 continues to hold its grip on local areas.
For one family in Rosepine, an early celebration at the Rosepine Retirement & Rehab Center this week allowed them their first close-up glimpse of their beloved family member for the first time since the pandemic began.
Heather Goins said she was all too happy to participate in a special Father’s Day drive-through celebration on Friday at the retirement center where her father has been a resident since 2015. Valiantly battling against sundowners alzheimer’s and other debilitating conditions have left 82-year-old Don Lucius bedridden and too vulnerable for close contact for the past several months. Goins said she and her four siblings have been left with the only option of offering their father a friendly smile and wave through his room window.
“With there being five of us, we are used to being very involved in my father’s care and his well-being so this has been a big adjustment for all of us,” Goins stated.
On Friday, however, her father and the other residents were wheeled into the outdoor sunshine by the center’s caregivers to welcome their families as they passed by and shouted words of love and admiration from six feet away. Don Lucius held up a handmade message declaring his love for his children and grandchildren, and Goins said the moment was the best that the family has been able to enjoy in far too long.
“It was the first time I’ve seen him without a window or a screen between us. It affected me more than I realized it would. I started crying and could barely talk after I saw him,” Goins recalled.
A military veteran and then a retired minister, Lucius helped to build and pastor at churches across the U.S. as he and his wife, who passed away in 2018, raised their family. Goins said her father has always been a hard-working man who has continued to keep his positive outlook on life and love for a good joke.
One source of joy for Lucius now has become the flock of birds who gather outside his room window at the birdfeeders his family keeps filled for the animals he lovingly refers to as “his birds.”
“The birds keep him company, and that’s pretty much all he has had these last three months.
He loves those birds and insists that we always take care of them. It’s nothing to drive up there and see 20 birds all over the feeder on any day,” Goins stated.
For the foreseeable future, Goins said she and her siblings and family will continue to feed her father’s birds and are taking advantage of every opportunity to video chat with him and wave to him through the window until at last they can hold his hand again. Until then, she said they continue to be immensely grateful to his caregivers at the center, and his Heart of Hospice aides who can be there for him while they cannot.
She said her heart continues to ache over the “new normal” families like hers have to adapt to as the world tries to restore itself to its previous routine.
“Life may be getting back to normal for most people, but it’s not for nursing home residents. My life may seem like things are getting back to normal, but this aspect of it is not. It’s not normal to see your dad and not get to hug him,” she stated.
For now, Goins said her family will continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and the return of the “old normal” way of life, when they can finally hold their father’s hand again.