Monday, September 6, 2010


The past weeks have been filled with roller coaster emotions, brain-numbing road trips, and endless analytical phone calls as our parents have endured the breaking down of body parts and the necessary hospitalizations and after-care. CA's mom's successful second hip replacement and the ensuing care interspersed with helping Aunt Margie get into assisted living and dispersing most of her worldly goods, then my dad's declining health and subsequent collapse.

Aunt Margie loves her new home--just one small room with a shared bath--in a clean and lovely care facility. She tells everyone that she's loved it since day one. Thank you, God. CA's mom, Gigi, is 90% back to normal and loving life in her independent living community--back to playing bridge several times a week and driving her friends to dinner and club events.

My dad is happily ensconced in a skilled care facility rehabbing from arrhythmia and related bodily failings. For a few weeks we've thought he would continue to fail, but he's gained a bit of ground and is rehabbing and again eating normally. His spirits are encouraged and he, too, loves his caring environment. This is a temporary solution--if he ceases to progress or when he's reached his limits he will be sent home or we'll seek other arrangements.

My dad is married a second time and has been for 10 years. They've done well together, but her health is fragile and she's stated frequently that she can't care for him at home. As he's gaining strength, she might change her mind, but it's seemed that he'd rather not go back home and she'd rather not have him.

But, this weekend I noticed an affection between them. When we delivered her to his room on Saturday afternoon, they seemed happy to see each other and then segued into gentle bickering. Might end up being a case of can't live together, can't live apart.

So, dad's current state is stable and improving slightly, whereas one week ago we thought he would tumble downhill gently or abruptly. I lived in a state of nerves for a couple of weeks. I like to know what's coming and then deal with facts. No one knows what's next for dad or how soon or how much. He's happy and somewhat optimistic, and so are we.

I wonder how reflective he is and how real his faith is to him as his body fails him. I've struggled with the reality of my faith and with half-remembered feelings and hurts that he's inflicted over the years. Forgiveness is daily and I have to seek it often. I know that my affection for him is shallow and my attention to him is a lot of "Honor thy father..."

I always say that he's been a piece of work, and he is. I know that my trust issues are traced to his fathering. I know that he's had his own demons to vanquish. Self-awareness is my generation's thing, and his generation's thing was survival. He was a child of the Depression, a WWII non-combat vet, and a parent before the pill or reliable birth control. My mom's mental health issues also shaped him, as he shaped her.

I had a moment of clarity last week when I realized my tension was more related to navigating the rest of his life with a presumed roller coaster of health issues and less related to actually experiencing grief or loss when he dies. I'm not proud, but that's honest. And, I'm fully aware that as I realized with my mom's death 12 years ago, I've spent a good bit of my adult life grieving the loss-lack of parenting and stability and unconditional love.

One of my sisters used to say that they did the best that they could. I don't think so. At the base of each parent's personality is-was a self-centered immature focus. As Christians they had the Bible and God's teachings on how to love and his offer of guidance and wisdom. If you seek God's wisdom and direction, he gives it to you. My mom prayed without ceasing, but mostly she was praying for her own peace of mind and heart. (I profoundly regret that most of the effective drugs for depression and anxiety did not exist in her lifetime.) I don't know about my dad's prayers. I'm guessing he prayed, too, but I'm really clueless about how he lived his faith.

Yet, I cannot complete these ruminations without acknowledging that they took us to a Bible-believing church and they taught us to pray. There are six siblings and we all actively worship and follow God.