I am not good at something I want to be better at.
I am not good at seeing my dad in a wheelchair, in a long term facility, in a diaper in a room with silence. In that after -lunch- room everyone is either sleeping or picking their nose or moaning a terrible moan.
People once elegant and beautiful, vain and ambitious, strong and stubborn, lovely and headstrong are draped limp in chairs with all of these most cherished traits sucked out of them.
I am not good at sitting with him with a cheerful, strong voice trying to entertain him. My old tricks don’t work with him. The tricks I had for my whole life that always worked so easily- the trick where I could always make him laugh and always make him smile, is gone. The trick where he and I understood each other without speaking, is gone. The trick where I could go to him for advice on anything and he could give it, has vanished into thin air.
Sometimes quietly- because I know it is half absurd, I ask him a hard question, a big question of life, just to test, just to see if maybe the essence of him is still there. Today he could not answer my questions. But ridiculously I still am looking for answers from him.
My dad is sitting in this room most afternoons with the sun coming through the window, staring- a blank stare.
What is he thinking?
What is he feeling?
Is he lonely?
Is he sad?
Does he know we love him?
Does he know the impact he made on all of us?
I fear that there is nothing there.
I fear that there is something there but it is trapped.
Everything gets better with time – death, divorce, loss, sadness, and grief, all get better with time. Someone fading slowly from your eyes and your life does not get better with time.
You are not at zero yet.
Life begins so beautifully- with its innocence and tenderness and grace. This kind of long slow ending is very confusing. I cannot find any beauty or sense in it.
I no longer easily remember who he used to be. All of who he was is up on a far away shelf and I have to stretch really hard to the back of my mind to reach it and find it. He has been less and less of who he was for so long that I cannot remember the enormity of his personality anymore.
When I leave him now I find I am very upset. I cried the whole way home. He said he loved me today but was not able to say my name.
I am not good at it.
Thank you for reading and commenting. It is good to have a place to put these feelings. You are all wise and clever with what you have said and I subscribe to all of it. Every once in a while it is just too sad, though.
I do believe as you all do, the way we honour those that are gone or unwell is to be our best, try our hardest and love deeply and live fully.
Judi Tullio says
Dear Nancy – thank you for your lovely piece entitled, “I Am Not Good At This”
While my mother is not quite where your father is at present…we are all aware this is the the beginning of the end. For the past few weeks (and on the advice of a wise friend) I have been trying to “shower her with love and thanks” by noting all the terrific things she taught me (or tried so hard to) over my lifetime with her. Although we can all be hard on our parents – at such a time – I realize how very many positive things I learned from her about anything and everything…as well as the gift of a healthy body and mind.
My daughters and I are going home this weekend just to be with her. Of course, I have been trying to plan something to do but it is all about being there as Sara said above…I am sure your father knows you are there and that he is loved. I hope that gives you some comfort and strength.
From past experience and maybe a few regrets…..just be there because he may just know you are.
Nancy – you summed this up so beautifully but I wish you didn’t have to write it. There is no beauty to it at all….you’re right.
Sadly, I see it as a trade-off. I sat with my grandmother for 10 long years waiting for her to let go. That room…my god, you describe it perfectly – I hated that after lunch room. But for those years …she got her 60s, 70s, 80s, and some 90s of a quality life. My mom left quickly…almost 60. She didn’t have to lose her dignity for too long (although one day is long enough). But for that she missed 30 years.
He knows you’re there Nancy – and sitting there, your presence alone is a comfort to him. And you don’t need to be good at it – you just need to be. And drive home and cry – I did it for years….but then wipe your tears and go on to your life outside of where your dad is there. Because, and I hope this isn’t harsh sounding, but my mom’s friends would always call me and say ‘she lived her life sara and it was a good one and you have to live yours.’ So the time i was with her at the home was hers…the time when I wasn’t there was mine. I know it’s 100 times harder because this is your dad…but just be with him…without expectations…and know that he loves you and you had a wonderful life. And he wouldn’t want you to be sad…. ugh – does this make sense at all????
Oh honey… le sigh. These are the hard parts. The “no fun” parts. The crying parts.
I’m so sorry… I send you hugs, lady. Focus on the good.
Nancy, your words are heartbreaking and beautiful. I can’t offer any advice or any deep thoughts, but I can tell you that I hope at some level that you do know your father’s in there, that he knows you love him, and that your visits bring him some type of joy. I’m so sad to hear that you, a woman who I think finds beauty in most everything, is having trouble finding it now. Though I can’t image you’ll ever find sense, I hope you do end up finding the beauty.
i can so understand…the one sided conversations, their struggle to speak but can’t. my MIL had MS and hated going out in the later part of her life since she couldn’t communicate but people talked to her like she was an idiot…really loud and really slow.
just take that “i love you” and remember that forever and ever! it will be the most precious thing you’ll own.