Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cat's in the Cradle

What a mixed up set of emotions.

I usually take my father to the barbershop for his shave on Thursday mornings.  On Monday afternoon, he called and asked for me.  I was not home and Joe explained that I was working, filling in at my chiropractor's office.  His response to that, laughter as if it was the most foolish thing I had ever done. Working?  Me?  How very funny.  I'm not sure if it is his dementia or is it just that same old story.  I get laughed at a lot by my father, never taken seriously.  I often wonder if my mother and he had many a laugh at my expense in that sun-room that they treasured so much. The one I'm going to bomb after he vacates the house permanently. I honestly don't know why they thought that I was a good subject for ridicule but ridicule they did.  I think maybe it had to do with the seriousness with which I approached life.  Because they limited my ability to think myself able to do great things, I had to fight hard to get to where I got.  I held a job that should have belonged to someone with a much higher degree than I ever achieved.  I conquered fears and got myself to New York City, competing with the best of them in my field and I captured the flag.

Naturally, as the good daughter that I am, I called him as soon as I got in the door and agreed to take him to the barber the next day.  I didn't question it.  I just did it.

The next day was one of those torrential downpour days.  Not only was it raining, it was cold and miserable.  It did not set the mood for daughter-father-delight.  So, when I arrived at his home and he was seated in my nice warm car, I asked him why he had to go to the barber today instead of waiting until Thursday.  His answer?  "I had nothing to do".  My blood pressure? It really went through the bloody roof.  I had lots to do and driving through the wrath of God wasn't on that list.  I felt bad after explaining to him that this wasn't his best idea, he apologized, and said the words that I so rarely hear from him.  "I appreciate it"

No, I do not enjoy elder care.  I do not enjoy having to tell my 95 year old, adult parent to change his clothes, take a shower, and brush his teeth.  I know it is humiliating for him and it's tiresome for me.
I've raised my children and they are nowhere to be seen.  I'm in this alone.  My brother, when I appeal to him for some respite, sends me funny texts, telling me ridiculous things to tell our father as if our father has any sense of humor.  My brother doesn't spend enough time with him to realize that the part of his brain that would find some of this funny, is spent.  Gone with the winds of old age.

So, I exercise compassion.  I do what I have to do.  I get the job done and I feel guilty every minute of my life.  I wake up guilty and go to sleep guilty, wondering how other people escape this torment.
And every once in a while, I pull in the reins and a little song goes through my head, and I try to understand for just one minute that behind all that dementia or whatever you call the distortions of a 95 year-old, there's a loving, breathing human being who took care of me as a child.

Oh, times have changed.  Mine is probably the last generation to give a damn about parents and their needs as they age.  Joe and I are pacing the floor, talking about our options for the day when we both are "free" as if we were waiting for our kids to go off to college.  We both have elderly parents and we have no timeline on that next step in their development.  We're not looking at college catalogs. We're not planning vacations.  We're just waiting.

And at least once a month, we're told by one of our kids that they don't have any "time".......

Thank you, Harry Chapin

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