Bittersweet Symphony

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I have returned from a weekend visit to see my Dad. My sister and I both agreed that coordinating our visits was a good thing. It was nice to see her and get some time to visit and we kind of were able to tag team dealing with his requests.

Dad’s vision continues to get worse due to the macular degeneration and his hearing is also not the best. And he gets cold but refused to do things like layers or blankets. So the heat is cranked up and the TV is at max volume.

We watched many sporting events this weekend but that also becomes a bit of chore because his short term memory isn’t the best. Couple that with hearing and vision issues and he’d have to be reminded multiple times who had the ball, what the score was, etc. And we’d have to explain things the announcers were saying.

Every visit just brings out a range of emotions. I get angry because so much has been taken away from him. It all seems totally unfair to strip him of the ability to do practically anything. I’m not going to go super religious on you but how could some higher power that is supposed to be merciful treat leave someone like this. What’s the purpose in any of this?

We never really dealt with any of Mom’s things. I suppose that would have been better but I don’t think he’s been ready for that. So every time we visit, there are just so many reminders. I keep expecting to hear her voice or see her come up from downstairs but that isn’t going to happen.

I’ve said many times before that we didn’t have the “sit-com” type relationship. It is what it is. I mean we all carry scars from our childhood and they carried theirs. But he’s still my Dad and it just makes me incredibly sad to see what he’s turned into. Latching on to the few things he can still control. He doesn’t want to leave the house but he’s also aware enough to know that it is a struggle to remain.

And then there are the things he says that just make me ache inside. He was a stamp collector for most of his life. The stamps were a link to other places and people he studied because history was always something he loved. With his vision failing, he really couldn’t do anything more with it and somehow Mom convinced him to sell the collection. He still gets catalogs from various places and one came in the mail while I was there. He asked me to read parts of it to him – to talk about the various stamps. Then he said he wished he hadn’t sold his collection. Dagger to the heart.

Most of our conversations were him talking about the past and how much we remembered about certain events. Mixed into that were things that suggest he lives with regrets. I may have told this story before but when I went to college, I went to a school in a state far, far away from my high school. Far enough away that I had to fly down. He took me to the airport and just put me on the plane saying “see you in December”. Again, I was so far away that even coming home for Thanksgiving was not an option. Anyway, he brought this up in June and again this last time and both times ended with a statement about how he didn’t say anything comforting.

To be honest, I can’t really go back in time and remember how I felt. I don’t think I was really all that scared. Again, with the way we grew up, there was an expectation that we’d be independent so it was kind of an adventure to go to school so far away. To be living in a place we had only visited a few times. I was probably a little nervous about it. Maybe he remembers me looking scared or just feels he should have said something. I suppose a sit com Dad would have.

Which is why this becomes a struggle. He’s my Dad. I love him but I’m not close to him. Growing up, he wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around at times. I don’t know if he wants to reverse time but that’s just not possible. Listening to stories and old memories is tough. To some extent, we probably all like viewing the past with rose colored glasses. Remembering the good times and fuzzing out the bad. And, as a family, we certainly did have a lot of good times. But things he brings up often trigger other things that aren’t so good and that makes me wish he had been different.

Mostly, I just feel sorry for him. But I also get a little irritated with him. I don’t know if he’s had his hearing checked or even though about a hearing aide. I know he stubbornly refused to accept the truth about his vision until it became obvious that nothing could be done. I think there are things that could have been done to make the transition easier but he refuses that type of help. Its a seriously mixed bag of emotions and it just leaves me drained.

I know he’s happy to have company so, in that respect, it was good to get up there. And we’ll leave it with that.

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