The following is unedited, just typed out as it came from my within. Pardon typos and grammatical errors.
Nothing is worse than having someone make decisions for us that we neither asked for assistance making, nor welcome. But sometimes those decisions have to be made and are a part of a logical progressions of actions and consequences.
Last year in the early part of autumn, my father fell and broke his hip. Sadly this occurred during the night and my father was very much alone at the time. Daddy has a walker, as his legs are numb from neuropathy and he cannot feel his feet or a good portion of the legs themselves. I’m not certain of the details that resulted in him being up during the night, or what caused his fall, but he spent a long, painful and agonizing time dragging his body across the floor to a phone that he could pull down from a table to call for help.
Several family members had tried to convince my father of the need for a medical alert style necklace that he could push a button to get emergency help sent but he refused. For years we tried to convince him to sell his large, 5 bedroom house and move to an assisted living facility where he would still have his own ‘home’ but would have 24×7 care right there at his front door in the event he needed assistance. Again he refused. I’m not sure if it is pride, or just denial that his physical body was not that of the man 10 years prior who was coaching a high school golf team and out on the links playing himself, or working nights as a park ranger photographing amazing sights that can only been seen under the cover of darkness.
Daddy has fallen repeatedly over the years, with increasing frequency. Once was during the winter when he went outside to get his newspaper and he had to drag himself into the house after regaining consciousness, where he called my brother and it required an ambulance trip to be stitched up.
My dad is a retired cop and no doubt carries demons of the things seen over the years that no person should ever have to see. While he seemed to take it in stride, it is my personal opinion that there is some degree of PTSD suffered by all police and firefighters, and other emergency responders in this world. I believe that, as is the case for so many of them, is the reason my father drank heavily. If you didn’t know him you would never suspect a drinking problem. He could hold his alcohol quite well in his younger years, was never violent or obnoxious. In fact until I was an adult and out of the house I never realized that he had a problem at all. Growing up he was my hero! I was the oldest and I have a wealth of memories that I share with just him (another post to come). I thought my daddy was the best. But over the years after I moved out, he changed. The drinking increased, and in later years none of us (me and my siblings) were willing to answer the phone after a certain time of day because daddy would be slurring his words so hard and making so little sense. We didn’t have time for a hour long conversation while he strolled down imaginary memory lane where he shared tales we had all be present to see happen, only his new versions were nothing like what any of us recalled.
I began to see that what was happening was daddy was no longer feeling self confidence or worth. His children were grown and gone, he and mom had divorced, and while he tried to be that super hero to others that he had been to us growing up, there was something lacking. Perhaps this is what resulted in the stretching of truths to make himself feel like he had been and done far more than who he had been. Little did he ever know or grasp, to us he was everything a dad should be and he was special. But we had kids of our own, lives keeping us busy and moving that didn’t result in a lot of time to spend on the phone. For years we’d gather back at the family home for various events and during holidays, but over the years daddy slowed down and became a hermit of sorts. The windows were no longer opened, and little by little his smoking a pack-a-day-plus habit made the air in the house hard to breathe for even those of us who smoked.
My mother has earned her wings a thousand times over, and pure gold ones at that. Divorced for over 2 decades she still made sure he had what he needed as his health declined. She made sure we had him at family events or brought him over for dinner when I moved in with her, my sister and nieces in to the infamous “Diva Den”.
Since the night of the hip breaking, daddy did not return to his home. He couldn’t. The surgeon and doctors who cared for him said he could no longer live alone as the likelihood of another serious fall was not a matter of ‘if’, but one of ‘when’. The hospital would not discharge him unless it was to a nursing facility. Suddenly we all had to stop, sit down, and make some very serious decisions for my dad and his belongings that no child should have to make. First, my sister and mom were able to get him into a facility that is without a doubt the Taj Mahal of nursing homes. Having done my nurse aid clinicals in a few facilities I can tell you that it is beyond the nicest and best, it is nothing short of amazing. This was not without some string pulling and such but he is there and it is a very nice place. He has his own room, and as much of his furniture that can fit into a 12×12 foot room.
Then began the process of literally flipping his house. Years of sealed windows and doors, and all of that smoking meant there was a lot of work to be done. Daddy wasn’t a hoarder but he did hang on to a lot of things he hoped would be of value to us someday. One such collection was a bookcase of classics that would have been a wonderful thing to have. Sadly, there had been a leak from a second floor bathroom at one time, through the ceiling into the family room. When we began to pull the books off the shelves to box them up, they were mildewed and moldy. There was no way to salvage them. Everything that could be kept was indeed boxed and is now stored in the homes of all of us until it is determined what will become of these items. Unsure of what would happen next, we each took home something that is special. For me, that is his badge and ID from the police department, along with a stack of letters my grandmother had kept from my dad when he was in the seminary for high school. When I find myself missing the man he used to be, I pull one out and read it. These are treasures to me. Daddy once made a creche and ceramic figurines for a nativity set, it was a part of Christmas in my family since I was a child. My one brother had that proudly displayed over the holidays in his home. Each of us has something that we didn’t allow to be boxed. We MISS the dad who raised us.
The dumpster behind the house that my father fears holds all those precious items, only held a lot of old carpeting and things that could not be salvaged. I think there might have been more of my sister’s personal items than anything of my dad’s. When she had moved back to Cincinnati from Missouri she had stored a LOT of stuff at dad’s on the second floor. About 99% of which ended up in the dumpster.
It was a very emotionally difficult experience for us all. No one wants to accept that their parents are aging, especially when you had a great childhood and the memories flood forth as you are pulling and having to decide if things will be kept and stored, delivered to the nursing home, or simply need to be tossed. Knowing that he will leave this world while residing there only adds to the sadness and pain of making those decisions. But they had to be made so that the house could be repainted, and fixed up to get the most money we could from the sale so that daddy could stay in the nicest place possible.
Now, we have the pain of watching him rip us all apart on his Facebook page. Saying unkind and untrue things to anyone who will listen, that he sees his personal property for sale on Craig’s List because someone stole things from the dumpster that we threw away. Nothing could be further from the truth unless they are selling my sister’s old country music CDs that were scratched and tossed out there, or the old shredded carpeting that we tossed. If there was anything of value it did not land in the dumpster. His clothes were so stained from nicotine smoke over the years that we could not get them clean, so we had to toss most and mom purchased all new clothing for him out of her own pocket. We did not discard his things lightly, we had no choice. He accuses us of forcing him into the nursing home and selling his home out from under him. We did what had to be done. We could have gone ahead and put him back in that house and left him there to try to make it on frozen dinners that he could barely stand long enough to cook in the microwave. His housekeeper had to load and unload the dishwasher as he couldn’t stand long enough to do it himself. No, we could not have put dad back in his home, it wasn’t possible. And that hurt all of us to accept that not only years of drinking had changed our beloved father into someone very different, but to know that we had no choice in what had to be done. Now we get to deal with the hurt of his wrath on Facebook, the mean lies he tells the world about it all.
When he first was being placed there my son took my grandchildren to see their great-grandpa. I stopped in too. I thought finally he is safe, and in a place we can come visit frequently. But all the spewing of unkindness and lies on his Facebook make it too hard for me to even consider going to see him. Yes I know he is hurt to have to be where he is, dependent on others when he was once fiercely independent and active. And of course it is us he lashes out at when he knows deep down that this was by his own choices 15 years ago when doctors told him to stop drinking or his legs would get worse to where he is now. He knows we had no choice but for now he is in denial and lashing out at us through his social media, eating up the sympathy from those who do not know the truth behind it all. And we hurt because we miss the man who raised us, miss the dad he used to be and the one he could STILL be.
One day soon I will suck it up and go visit him, but it will have to wait for now. I have to get passed this hurt, and find it in myself to forgive him and then find what it takes to honor my father as I should. But for now I am just too hurt and angry to that.