Monday, January 07, 2008

"Thank You, Dad"

I've spent the past two days with my dad which I find very tiring. I'm not exactly sure why, when I just sit around either driving in the car or with him during our visits.

His instability on his feet, rampant forgetfulness and lack of any kind of social graces makes you feel like you're babysitting a 200-lb tipsy toddler with poor communications skills (because my dad forgets everything you say to him after approximately two minutes--no exaggeration).

And apart from just having to keep an eye on him all the time, I find a part of myself, hiding in the background, stands there pointing her finger in anger at the whole scene. I am never short or angry with Dad, but a part of me wishes I could speak to my pre-stroke father and just really give it to him.

"Look. See what you've done to yourself!" I'd love to hurl at the man who refused to quit smoking and started downing frozen Snickers bars like they were going out of style once he found out he was diabetic.

I'd really love to just smack that man who used to say to me, "When your number's up, it's up," when I used to implore him to take better care of himself.

"No, Dad, sometimes it's not up. Sometimes, you just lose your mind and your senses and leave it to everyone else to take care of you as you slip farther and farther away at a snail's pace."

I've been taking care of my Dad on and off since I was twenty. When my mom died and Dad refused to get out of bed for weeks. That was twenty-two years ago and I'm still looking after him. Now it involves frequent long drives to the nursing home, trips to the oncologist, dressing and undressing him and explaining the same things a million times over.

My real dad died a long time ago. The one I have left doesn't know how old he is or what year it is. He doesn't remember my husband's name or that I'm even married for that matter. And if you ask him if he has grandchildren, he can't tell you for sure. He's quiet now and looks perpetually lost. He says "thank you" a lot even when you haven't done anything to deserve thanks. And that's pretty much all he says unless he's asked a direct question.

I guess, if I'm truthful, it's the buried anger that tires me out. It's heavy to bear. I'm angry with my father for opting out of our lives in such a cowardly way. In refusing to take care of himself when he could, to make himself healthier when that was still an option, he gave up on us and didn't give a thought to the fact that we deserved a better father. One who wanted to be around. One who wanted to really participate actively in our lives for just as long as he could. It's worse than abandonment because the father we did love once is long gone. But this quiet, sad shell of a person is still here. And that man, he requires a lot of looking after.

"Oh, no. Thank you, Dad. Thanks a million."

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