Friday, August 7, 2015

Letter to Dad, III

Dear Dad,

Yep, it's me again. AGAIN. I know, I'm like the mold that grows in a dark basement. So difficult to get rid of, aren't I? Well, it's been a while since I've written, and based on our most recent conversations, I thought it would be best for me to express myself in writing. Maybe that way, you'll actually hear what I have to say.

Let me recap what's happened over the last few months. You fell. You went to the hospital. You went to rehab. You checked yourself out of rehab AMA (which, by the way, is against medical advice). You recovered (thanks to your three selfless daughters, one of whom is not against self-promotion). Because of all the medical issues going on with your body, we convinced Mom that you needed to be seen by a senior health specialist and that she should go, too. Mom visited the doctor first and was ultimately diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer's. You're doing okay, but you also have mild cognitive impairment as expected with your age. The doctor has told you both that you can stay in your house, probably about a year, but that you should think about alternative plans.

You with me? I didn't add a bunch of details, like how difficult it was for Gina, Tara, and me to finagle all the things we did for you even though we have kids, jobs, husbands, etc. It's a good thing we have free long distance, because if not, I'd be sending you a bill. All three of us still try to manage your lives from three different places. And why do we do that? Because you aren't managing your own life well. Or Mom's life.

Case in point: You called me to make some appointments down here with different living communities. "I can't rely on my friends," you said. "The only people that matter are family." My first thought was for you to call up a few communities yourself and make those appointments, but I didn't. Instead, I took time away from my kids (again) to go look at several places, made follow-up appointments with two of them, and let you know of the dates. Then, when the two of you drove down to go to the appointments, I went with you again. (I'm not asking for the world to play me the tiny violin. I said I'd go with you because that's the type of person I am. It's the type of person you raised. And goodness me, you've raised three of them.)

I thought, since you were open to looking at communities, that you were finally, finally going to cave. That the end was near. That you were attempting to make a good decision and manage your own life and Mom's life in the proper manner. And yes, I realize that independent living, assisted living, and nursing home communities are expensive. But you can afford the two places we looked at.

After we visited the two places, you seemed to be interested in moving, in making the change to help mom. Who I might remind you is your wife. The woman you promised to love IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH. The woman who cannot take care of herself anymore. Because must I remind you that MOM HAS ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE. SOON ENOUGH SHE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE BATHROOM ALONE. NOR WILL SHE BE ABLE TO BE LEFT ALONE, AS SHE MIGHT WANDER. A continuum of care community is ideal for you to look into and think seriously about.

If you need more proof that you should be looking into a new place, I'll tell you (again) what happened while you were here. Mom tried to heat the coffee cup in the toaster oven. And her daily frozen waffles? She put those in the microwave. She's not well. She won't be getting better. The Exelon patch she's on? That patch can help slow the deterioration, but IT WILL NOT MAKE HER BETTER. (As you can tell, I like caps. I find them very useful in this forum. Very cathartic.)

But a few days ago, when I inquired what you were thinking about, how close you were to making a decision about moving, and how you were doing in general, you said, "We're not moving. I've been pushed into this, and we're fine." I heard rancor in your voice and pulled the receiver from my ear. Had I heard you correctly? Were you implying that I pushed you into looking at those places? YOU CALLED ME, Dad, to make those appointments. YOU CALLED ME.

So guess what Dad? I'm done. I'm done doing your legwork. I'm done trying to find a place for Mom that will treat her well and give you time off from being caretaker. I'm done with everything and anything that involves you both. Because as you always said, "Trying is a busy way of doing nothing." And damn, if you weren't right. I tried so hard, and because of you, I've done nothing.

But here's the catch. Because you've always said you're going to die first, you better do it. Then, you won't need to see Mom when she no longer recognizes our faces, when she cannot understand how to use her spoon, or when swallowing becomes impossible. And if you do go first, we'll move her down here and place her where she needs to be.

I have to tell you, though, that if Mom goes first, you are on your own. You're physically pretty healthy and guessing by how your older sister is doing and what your mom was like when she passed away, I think you'll have your mental faculties for many years to come. So I'm cutting the ties. Wiping my hands of the situation. Playing the tough love card.

By the way, you recently asked how writing is coming along. If you've read any of this blog, you'll know that I've been wrapped up in helping you so much this summer, that writing has been put on hold. Meaning that querying is out. But I blog every day to keep the words flowing, and I've kept up my duties at Literary Mama and The Plot Sisters. I've also been really fascinated with new words. My new favorite? Shitastrophy. It's a "word used for massive mess ups, fucked up situations, and epic fails." (I can't imagine why I like that word so much, can you?) Listen to the word as it rolls off your tongue. Shi-tas-tro-phy. Appropriate. And beautiful, in so many ways.

Speaking of beautiful, I found this quote yesterday.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
You know who wrote those words? Elisabeth K├╝bler Ross. Yeah, I know who she is, as I'm sure you do. But I'm not here to focus on the five stages of grief, although maybe we should. Because I know you're grieving and that might be the ticket: you need to get to the fifth stage, acceptance, before you can move forward. But as I said, I'm not waiting around. Instead, I'm challenging you to become a beautiful person.

And with that, I've said enough. As Tara says, be well. And make sure Mom is, too.