My dad, Henry Kolodziej, cares for my mom.
In September, 2010, my mom had surgery related to post-stroke complications. The surgery was intended to prevent risk of a future stroke by destroying an aneurysm in her belly. Tragically, there was a poor surgical outcome, and while the procedure destroyed the aneurysm, related complications pushed my Mom into kidney failure. Over the ten months that followed, Mom has been incredibly strong. Unfortunately, she was further challenged during her recovery by a C. diff infection caused by the risks of multiple hospital and skilled nursing facility stays. Miraculously, Mom continues to gain strength and is getting back to “normal” life.
I experienced c-difficile with my mother during the last two months of her life. It is very difficult to get through, for both. Sandra is right in saying the “greatest generation.” At 84, Henry shows his devotion and love for his bride everyday.
Mom and Dad have been married for 51 years. I am the youngest of four children. Mom and Dad were depression-era children who have that rare grace and strength characteristic of The Greatest Generation.
When you experience the gift of reaching a lengthy adulthood with one’s parents, you can be fooled by the routine of senior relationships. I don’t discount for a second that my parents are an American rarity, staying together 50+ years. Still, before Mom’s illness, and looking in from the outside, I perceived a mutual independence. Mom and Dad shared the home that my three siblings and I grew up in while life went on at the comfortable pace of retirement and each remained steadfastly committed to our family.
Once Mom had her life-threatening surgical outcome, I would say that “Dad showed up.” Despite his own illness, he only missed one day of visiting Mom during her inpatient recovery. Even then, he kept up his computer skills and “Skyped” Mom from home to her hospital bed so they could comfort each other.
Henry does more than just “show up.” Yes, being present is important and how you begin in any relationship; but, according to his daughter’s description, Henry is always “in the moment” with his wife, always trying to be present to give her what she needs and wants (which may actually be Henry!). His actions are totally selfless and very loving.
Family Caregiving Counselor
Dad works hard as a caregiver. As a family, we never talked about what this phase of life might look like; I still don’t know if Mom and Dad ever did. None of us like to think about such life changes.
Rather than dwell on it, Dad has taken on his caregiver role with extraordinary dedication. He jokes about being the laundry “manager,” drives Mom to and from dialysis three days a week and makes endless trips to the pharmacy for inexplicable, partially-filled prescriptions that only end up requiring more return visits. That’s just a fraction of the routine work of how a caregiver must show up.
I was struck by the long and loving nomination itself. “I don’t know how to ‘document’ the art of the caregiver with doing full justice to my Dad’s example.” He is 84, they’ve been married 51 years, and he continues to express his love for her through caregiving while setting his own feelings aside. “Rather than dwell on it, Dad has taken on his caregiver role with extraordinary dedication.”
Former caregiver to in-laws
I smile to think of the way Dad watches my Mom. One time, as she was feeling better, the telephone rang and she quickly got up from her chair to answer it. Mom wasn’t three steps out of the room when Dad turned to me and said, “Did you see how your Mom sprang right up? Oh, she’s one strong lady!”
Being witness to a loved one’s health gains (or set backs) is equal parts thrilling, humbling, terrifying, and exhausting. Caregivers are hyper vigilant with hope and Dad is no different. As a caregiver, Dad showed up with his heart. Seldom a man for emotional expression, he beams at my Mom’s incremental achievements and tells her about the strength and progress he sees.
Henry’s love and devotion to and for his wife is a life lesson for us all. I hope I measure up just half as well when my time comes to serve.
Nursing Home Administrator
Out of nowhere, Mom and Dad each ended up with new, full-time jobs in their retirement: surviving a serious, chronic condition in our complex and imperfect health care system. Well-intentioned health care providers speak their own language too quickly and too quietly and still my Dad does everything to stay by my Mom’s side. Dad tells Mom she has strength when the often-faulty design of our health care system makes her feel otherwise.
As my Dad’s youngest child, I grew up being teased for being his “pet”–his favorite. Maybe that’s the perk of being “the baby.” Whatever it is, for all the time I have spent by my Dad’s side while he’s adapted to my Mom’s condition, at no time in my 43 years has he more been my hero.
I don’t know how to “document” the art of the caregiver with doing full justice to my Dad’s example. At 84 years old, he’s doing more than he should and yet wouldn’t have it any other way.
The daughter painted a remarkable picture of Henry that was endearing to read. Loved the whole story about Henry’s total devotion to his wife. I think he is very deserving of being recognized.
Director of a caregiver resource center
Thanks for the chance to tell you a little bit about him. He’d never consider himself meriting such attention and it makes me feel good just to even try to describe the man he’s been through these major life changes for our family.
Nominated by daughter Sandra Larsen