My father slumps over to the left side of the new recliner. His head and body tilt in a way that looks uncomfortable but still he sleeps. He’ll tell anyone who asks that he prefers unconsciousness rather than deal with the pain he’s in. I wonder about that as I watch him snoring contentedly. Clearly, he suffers. No one who sees him would think otherwise, but the uncertainty lingers whether this former alcoholic and drug addict has found validation for his pharmaceutical dependency with his broken body and spirit. I know I don’t walk in his shoes but it’s hard when he’s tripping over his own feet and landing on my doorstep.
This new move to be closer to his family, which is me, my brother and my mother, his ex-wife of nearly 35 years, has been years in the making and years in the breaking. The two bridges between us allowed him to live somewhat independently and allowed me to somewhat believe that he could. But now that we have crossed over, there’s no going back and there’s no more pretending.
Large windows brighten the living and bedrooms of his new apartment and the scent of fresh paint lingers. There’s a new couch, television and media center. His hoard of books, tapes, papers and the clutter of a million misaligned brain cells have been left back in New Jersey in this hope for a fresh start, this last attempt at happiness. But seeing him lying there half unconscious with the garden burger he fell asleep while eating hanging limp in his hand; a small clump of mashed grains, corn and peas probably still waiting in his mouth to choke him or be swallowed, it looks to me like the same problem nicer chair.
When my mother and I test drove the dark brown cushy recliner in the store, we giggled as we pushed a button to gently stretch us back while lifting our legs up, immediately luxuriating in relaxation. It was perfect, we assured each other, thinking he’d love it but not realizing he’d barely leave it.
Now only weeks in, it bears the burden of his physical and mental weight; food staining the arm rest, crumbs resting in the crevices, urine dampening the seat. It is as sullied and doomed as this well-meaning but misguided attempt at a new life.
Back home in my office, I wish I could also just push a button, recline and hide in unconsciousness as I shuffle through papers and field calls from doctors and agencies, all trying to help me help him. The process is arduous, tedious and a little maddening but every conversation hopefully gets me closer to securing a doctor or a home health aide or benefits. It is a puzzle with a million pieces and he sits in the center.
Through the window I watch my boys on roller blades, their newest obsession. My 7 year old has discovered some old bubbles on the porch and blows spit at the stick as he skates around like a puppy. Every so often a cluster of bubbles emerge startling him, flying like rainbows through the air. He delights in his creation, beaming with wonder, and his brothers join him, scooting around trying to pop them. The sun shines, the grass is green and I hope their bubbles never burst.
Thanks for the reminder to check on my own father today.
I remember these feelings when I first started taking care of my mother full time. You worry and struggle, you know that there are other important things that you need to be doing, and sometimes you even feel angry that now you have to give up some of your already stretched to the limit time. Welcome to the sandwich generation, Trying to take care of kids while taking care of our aging parents as well. It’s a world of constant time restraints, guilty feelings, sympathy and anger.
I can deal with the business of doing and getting stuff done, I can’t deal with emotional energy that he’s sucking from me. It’s overwhelming. Thanks
This is so sadly honest. I know people with this type of history are a burden for themselves and others but it shows wondrous strength when everyone hangs in there. I admire your courage and commitment and sends great hugs of comfort. xox
thank you so much. i find strength in your words.
Excellent, excellent writing. You make it look so easy– the writing and the walking through a new stage.
I feel guilty sometimes writing about it but it’s so therapeutic for me that I have to. Thinking that it actually is good writing makes me feel like at least i turned something bad into something not so bad. thank you for saying so. xo
I know this more on the level of my grandparents and I am not seeing my own father beginning to decline, as well in the last year or so. This is never easy when we become more like the parent than child. It is definitely heart wrenching and overwhelming, too.
it’s not easy to see. you get used to it on some level but you’re never truly prepared. thank you.
Beautifully written. The circle of life …
Dealing with aging parents is so challenging, both emotionally and physically
So true. It’s wiping me out!
Wishing you strength
Thank you! I’ll take it!!
This is such incredible writing. Sending you lots of love and strength as you navigate this next chapter.
Thank you, Sam!! I really (really) appreciate that! I don’t know how this book is going to end. It’s not looking happy. Ugh.
I am fortunate that my father, has never had any major medical issues and is still very independent and will hopefully remain so until he just dies in his sleep one night. Thanks for sharing your story via #mlblvd…beautiful, poignant, bittersweet for sure.
thank you so much. health really is the only thing that matters.
There are so many struggles involved when taking on an aging parent. It is draining and stressful but also very rewarding and gratifying that you can take care of someone who has cared for you. I am always looking online for article to help assist with the care of my mother. I sometimes get so frustrated I want to give up but it is so reassuring to see that others are going through the same exact thing and share such valuable advice! I recently came across a phenomenal book that has helped me immensely during this process called “The Caregiving Trap” by author Pamela Wilson (http://pameladwilson.com/book/). The author speaks from experience and helps with really difficult situations such as setting up boundaries (it is so easy to get burnt out from this!),she helps build confidence in yourself again for taking on such a monumental task, and she explains all the personal, financial and health risks involved. She even gives scenarios (many that I could relate with) and realistic options of what to do. I can’t recommend it enough. I hope you will give it a read. Stay strong!
thank you so much for thoughtful comment. i wish i could find the rewarding aspects because at this point i’m not seeing any. i’m going to check out the book you recommend. thank you so much. good luck and strength to you as well!! it ain’t easy.