As a reminder, I spent the weekend visiting my Dad. Yes, it was Father’s Day and yes that’s why I decided to go up. But it is also true that the last time I was up there was in November before Thanksgiving so it isn’t like I’m going out of my way to work in the visits.
Just for context, we don’t have a particularly close relationship. I’m not saying we grew up in a “children should be seen and not heard” household, but, since I had two brothers, he didn’t get into a lot of father/son activities. Also not the best at giving fatherly advice – when he did it would come out like his university professor position, a lecture that you had to just listen to. Emotional support just wasn’t his way. It just is what it is but growing up thinking that he doesn’t really care that much probably makes it hard to have a real close relationship. And it isn’t that he didn’t care – it is just that those things weren’t really spoken.
But with Mom gone, the weekends are tough and he’s wanted me to come up for a bit so I left Friday and came back today so I could spend two whole days. Did not stay in the house – he’s got cats and I’ve got allergies. Plus, he doesn’t have broadband anymore because he never used the computer and I’d have a hard time functioning without an internet connection.
I hate what life has turned him into. I’ve gone off on this before but the vision loss has been especially cruel. Not only did it keep him from reading which he loved but the inability to see means he can’t drive anymore and, since Mom died, he’s done very little because he can’t really walk around outside by himself. That has just caused muscle loss and weakness (its a vicious cycle). It leaves him with little to do all day but watch TV with the sound turned way up because his hearing is going as well.
We’ve had the conversations about moving to assisted living. He’s actually gone to check out a place and put himself on the wait list twice but backed out each time. This is another thing that has become common – he changes his mind constantly worrying about making the wrong choice. In this case, his reason is the three cats. They are perfectly welcome at the assisted living place but he’s worried because they come in to vacuum everyday and that would either scare the cats or give one a chance to get out. So he sits in his chair alone most of the day because he’s worried about the cats.
Part of it is probably a control thing. There is so much in his life that is out of his control that he clings to the things he can still control. Again, he spent his life being in charge and adjusting to having to rely on others is a difficult transition. So, while it isn’t much of a life, it is his and he can still feed the cats and make himself simple things like cereal or toast. In those small ways, he is still in charge.
One other thing he obsessed over was the calendar and dates and times for certain appointments. There were some he remembered and some he did not so he made me go over those multiple times during the weekend – including right before I left this morning. Part of me wanted to tell him that it didn’t matter because they were on the calendar and people would get him where he needed to go. But then I thought this was another control thing and maybe a way for him to try and work his memory.
My brothers have both visited more often than I have although they’ve tended to time their visits to be there at the same time. Or they have one of their kids with them so there is a buffer. I think that also gives them reasons to not spend a significant amount of time in the house. I think having someone else up there would be better. There are still too many memories in that house and in the town. Dad hasn’t done anything with Mom’s stuff and we’ve stopped asking because he doesn’t seem to want to do anything. So it is like she is there but she isn’t. Anyway, being there by myself just leaves me with way too much time to think about the happier visits and it just make me sad to see where he’s ended up. In part, that’s why I don’t go up more often which is kind of selfish but it just triggers too many emotions.
But this is just the way it is now. With his hearing and memory, we aren’t going to have a lot of real deep conversations. He asked about my job and my situation but then jumped to something else. He pulls random stories out to ask if I remember or to just tell a story. I think he liked having me around but I cut the visit on Sunday night short because I could also tell that having to interact with someone for an extended period of time was taking a toll. Hopefully, many of you had better Father’s Day. I wish I understood why growing old sometimes robs you of everything you were. It really doesn’t seem fair or right.