Lately it feels like it's a nonstop conversation about which of our parents is in the hospital, between my brother and I. Now it's Mom, again to have fluid drained out of her, again to have batteries of tests. She was weak and unwell again, so back in to the IU Med center she went. Liver failure is one hell of a thing.
My mom is trying to get on the transplant list, and I'm cautiously hopeful it can happen. When they've had her in the hospital and gotten her drained, she sounds like herself, like my mom. When she sounds like my mom, relief washes over me. Things are better. I continue to hope.
My dad though, my dad is a different story. If liver failure is one hell of a thing, dementia is it's drunk, bastard uncle. He can be belligerent. He can be childlike. He's sad a lot. He almost seems to be in a fog, I wish I knew what was in that fog with him. I'm hoping it's not despair and loneliness. I talk to him nearly daily, probably every three days is the longest stretch I ever go unless he's in the hospital. Add to it a host of medical problems of varied, nebulous nature. It's not a good combination.
Our conversations are often very short, but usually I can engage him in at least one or two real things. He likes to hear about my kids, and I tell him the simplest version of whatever we are talking about as he struggles with his attention span. He asks me about my pool. He is enamored of the fact that my brother and I both have a pool, this was always a dream of his. He asks me if I am traveling, he likes to hear about where I am. I tell him if we are doing anything special. I tell him happy things.
Today I talked to him about Mom being in the hospital, and I assured him I had JUST talked to her and she sounds great. I tell him they drained a liter off her lung and she feels much better. He agrees that this is good, but his voice is weak, distant. I ask him how he is today, and he says "I'm pretty far down." I ask if anything is going on that's wrong and he says no. I tell him I have a flight to come home next Friday and I will be coming to see him, and he says "Ok we'll see if I have time."
Ominous portent or dementia? Or both?
I'm glad I made up with my dad. Over five years ago we had a terrible confrontation. I realize now that even then, dementia was taking hold of him, as he was irrational. He had told me I was dead to him, my children weren't his grandchildren and other sundry, horrible things that no parent should ever say to their child. It was so crazy that I was terrified for my mother at that time. That was his response to being asked not to say racist stuff. That was actually the second time we'd had that SAME confrontation with him, and each time after being asked not to say racist stuff he would explode in this absolutely insane rage, exploding with hatefulness at me and kicking me out of my own family.
I forgive him because as I look back, and see how irrational it all was, I see it as steps on the path to where we are now. I forgive him because when I was little he took me to ride my Big Wheel at the college where they had huge long sidewalks. I forgive him because when I was 5 and inside the Jaycee's Haunted house, I became afraid and went and hid - and they had to shut it down and send my dad inside to fetch me - and he did & wasn't mad. I forgive him because he would go on Brownie day trips with us, and sing "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley" loudly in the back of the bus. I forgive him because he was the President of the PTA, and made sure we got new playground equipment. I forgive him because he punched a guy in the face who called my grandpa a crook the week after he died. I forgive him because he's the one who told me our baby died, and he's the one who told me my grandpa died, and he's the one who told me Grandma Daisy died. I forgive him because my entire life he felt bad that he didn't let me go see Shawn Cassidy when I was six like I really really really wanted to.
I forgive him because he's my dad. I forgive him because children of alcoholics accept the unacceptable,but also mostly just because he's my dad.
So I'm gonna fly home next Friday. I hope he's got time on his calendar to see me.