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More Info On My Father - Things Falling Apart 
26th-Aug-2009 01:33 pm
It's a little disconcerting for me to have had him on my brain so much recently in conjunction with all of the coincidences occurring around me right now. I made that art piece about him just a few days before he tried to contact me for the first time in almost 2 years. Yesterday, after I collected myself and decided I needed some distraction, I turned on the stereo in my bathroom to listen to some music while I'm shaving and showering, and the song that was playing was Luther Vandross's "Dance With My Father".


I'm also facing a huge life change that I'm in no way truly prepared for, and it is major - but MAJOR. It's going to require a lot of energy and resolve and while I'm both frightened and excited, I'm mostly just overwhelmed. It's going to be fine, in fact I think it's going to be great. It's just the timing right now that I'm a bit dodgy about.

I spoke with my sister yesterday to see if she had any information on my father. I was curious and a little worried that he might be sick or worse and that was motivating him towards me. That might explain his effort to friend me on Facebook, as that action on his part certainly explained to me that his methods - however inappropriate or fucked up where I am concerned, are usually motivated by some manner of extreme duress. Mind you, I excuse him for nothing equating bad behavior, I'm just curious to know what I'm dealing with here and having that information makes it easier for me to decide what I'm going to do, what I need to do, and what I can live with where he is concerned.

My sister explained that in the past year my stepmother's illness has begun to take its devastating toll - not only on her, but on him as well. She was diagnosed 10 years ago with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Evidently the disease has been explosive and she is one of the very rare 5% of cases that the progression of the disease happens over a period of weeks and months instead of years. It also affects people who are generally younger than those with a normal Alzheimer's diagnosis. My stepmother is only a couple of years older than my oldest brother, who is in his middle fifties. She is a gentle, sweet, and incredibly kind lady who has only brought joy to my father's life, and he loves her passionately and completely. My father was miserable until he married her, and since knowing her has only ever been a much happier and gentle man 95% of the time they have been married.

She has regressed to the mentality and behaviors of a child. She flies into rages and becomes combative. She cannot remember who her children are most days. He has even told my stepbrother and sister that, while it breaks his heart to have to tell them, that if they wanted to spend some time with their mother while she may still remember them, they need to do it now. She tells him she doesn't love him and wants to go home to her parents, whom are long since gone. It is only a matter of time (and a relatively short time at that) before she will not be capable of normal body function control. This disease progression will result in organ failure and death. The medications and treatments she has been undergoing for the past decade have not staved off the majority of symptoms and in some ways seem to have accelerated their voracity. She is starting to fade very quickly and the next stages coming are only going to get more difficult and heartbreaking.

My father is normally quiet and reserved and it is not uncommon for my siblings to rarely get phone calls or emails from him. He is now emailing my sister multiple times daily, just to stay in contact. According to her he is now facing the reality that he has to get someone professional to work in their home helping take care of her. He's reaching his breaking point trying to keep it all together. This was never as evident as when she last told him that she didn't love him and wanted to go home. He drove her to her sister's house after calling her sister to explain what was happening, and inform her that she might need to have her spend a day or two there. He took her and got her in the house, sat her down and made sure she was comfortable, then took her by the hands. She never said a word from their house to this point, instead behaving petulantly. He said to her "I know you want to be back to what you remember of home, but your parents' house is gone now and this place is as close to that as I can get. But this is not your home, your home is with me. I love you more than anything in the world and I want you to be happy, and if this is where you want to be then this is where you should be - but I want you to come back home with me, to OUR home that we worked so hard to make. That is where you belong." Then he kissed her on the forehead and went to sit in his car in the driveway. Shortly after walking out she became upset and began crying for her husband, wondering where he had gone. He came back in, held her until she calmed down, and took her back home with him. It is like this every hour on the hour and it has just been the two of them until now, and he's in the process of getting some other professionals to come and help care for her.

My sister says that he has aged 20 years himself in the past year alone. He has become frail and haggard. He is constantly depressed and consumed with worry, and his only interaction with others from the constant care he provides her is the computer when she is sleeping or distracted. She did not begrudge me my feelings or my hurt, but reminded me that even if he made this ridiculous step on face book, even if it was a small and insulting step, it's still a step towards me. She offered no excuses for his past behavior. She made no attempt to guilt me into doing anything. She made it clear that she would respect any decision I made and reminded me that I don't HAVE to do ANYTHING I don't choose to do. It was essentially the same thing the close friends I've consulted have said. She told me that I could respond to him and explain that being Facebook friends was not the best idea, but that we could possibly communicate through email for starters. She reminded me that I'm in complete control of myself and that I'm not responsible for him or what he does. I told her that the next time she spoke with him to tell him that I love him, and we both cried.

I told him not long after her diagnosis that I knew what happened with this disease. I worked for several years in senior nursing care and my first 9 patients all died from this horrifying disease. I told him that when it got bad, that I would be there. When he couldn't take it anymore, I'll be there to help out and explain the progression and how it correlates to symptomatic behavior. When he needed support to cope with it, I would be there for him. Now he's trying to reach out to me in spite of what has transpired between us, because perhaps for once he needs me now as an adult more than I've needed him.

I'm going to email him. I have no idea yet what I am going to say. I don't have it in me to kick anyone when they're down, so I have no intention of bringing up old hurts and unsettled scores of any sort. All of that can wait in favor of what I think needs to happen. I don't know what it truly means to be selfish, but I suddenly feel selfish holding on to this hurt and bitterness as if it is helping me anymore. At least for now I'm putting it down.

Forgiveness is a really hard concept for me, one I'm almost always closed off to, and when I do consider it I make sure it is understood that one must earn it for it to be given. I have it in me because despite everything that has happened I do love my father. He is a complicated man and at times it is very difficult to understand him but that is all I've known my entire life so I've long since made peace with that. Who he is doesn't affect the totality of who I am. I'm my own man and my decisions and choices are my own.

If this were Damien and I, I would hope people could be big enough to put their personal things aside for a greater good - but I do not expect it. Of course my choices and the way I treat others would never result in a situation like this, but I just can't do this distance thing anymore now that I have the choice. I suppose that's where I am right now. I hope, but I have no expectations.
26th-Aug-2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
You are one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You are far wiser than you have a right to be, as young as you are.

I am so very proud to know you, Sweetie. And I am so very proud to call you my friend. What a lovely, wonderful man you are.
26th-Aug-2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
You don't have to forgive him in order to help him.
26th-Aug-2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
26th-Aug-2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was kind of thinking the same thing myself. But I think you're already doing this, setting the bad stuff aside for a while to attend to the necessary stuff.

Thoughts are with you during these difficult times.
26th-Aug-2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Reading this was hard. IT brought back the memories of both my parents mothers. Maw maw in 1995 and Granny in 2003. I know what he's going through, and so do you.

You're right, you do not HAVE to do anything, anything at all. But a step is a step, even if it's the wrong kind. Now that you know the circumstances behind his reaching out, you can move forward with whatever decision you choose.

I hope that you will be able to move forward with your father and form some kind of relationship. I know how much the past has hurt you, and still does to this day. Forgiveness is not easy, by any means. But it IS possible. I agree - it must be earned. Maybe you'll get to see something in his life that would count towards that.

I send you warm thoughts, peaceful wishes, and as many hugs as you can stand. I'll be thinking of you hon.
26th-Aug-2009 06:30 pm (UTC)

I love you, and ever so much more now for this.
26th-Aug-2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
26th-Aug-2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
You continue to amaze me. Just reading your descriptions, third hand as they were, made me want to help. I can't imagine being in your position, let alone being there and not responding.

For what it's worth, perhaps now your father realizes how it feels to have someone you love tell you that they don't love you, have never loved you, and don't want you in their life. It's possible that has made him think things through a bit, too. Not that it excuses anything, but there's always room for growth and change.

Hugs. Which seem so inadequate.
26th-Aug-2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
-hugs- You're a wonderful person, you know.

Alzheimer's is... such a horrible disease. My paternal grandmother had it, and I used to take care of her when I was in my early teens. I decided way back then that if I ever was diagnosed, I would carefully watch the progress, and as soon as I noticed a downward slide, I'd kill myself. I just.. can not deal with that. I can't put my family through that. The sad thing is, I don't think that I would notice the downward slide. -sigh-
26th-Aug-2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Having a very not-so-nice, unrepairable relationship with my own father, I feel for you. I admire you for being so open to even talking to him, while I've had a letter written for months to my own begging him to never come to my house again...a letter that I have yet to get the nerve to mail. I've read it a thousand times, but I just can't send it, and I'm not sure why.

But I think your sister is right. You're not responsible for him. I wish I could...no, I don't, actually, wish I could say I loved my father because I never have and never will.

You're a good man. Strong, passionate, and you have a good heart. I have no doubt that you'll do the right thing, no matter what that is.
26th-Aug-2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
this was a great post from a great guy. i'm really glad that i could read it and that you could write it.
26th-Aug-2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
I see your thought process as clear, rational, and emotionally healthy for all involved, especially you. You are a responsible, caring person, and I think that because of all these things, that everything will work out. xox
26th-Aug-2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for sharing all of this. After having read it, I think you're making the right decision. Please call or email if you ever need a moment to chat. I'm always here for you.
26th-Aug-2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Can I offer a suggestion? I'd ask what his expectations are. If he wants a shoulder to cry on then okay. If he wants to repair your relationship, then great. But I would think that question near the beginning might be a good thing for your sanity and his.

You know... Cover thy butt. *grins*

Thanks for sharing your post. I agree with the other reader. You are way wiser than your age.
26th-Aug-2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
So it's MUCH worse than I expected.

And you are a brave man.

26th-Aug-2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
This is one of the most loving, wisest things I've ever seen written on LJ.

When my father was dying, my mother would have been entirely justified in leaving him on his own, because he'd been so hurtful, so disloyal to her. But she decided to stay through to the end, and she explained how she thought through her decision, and how her integrity required that she be loyal and kind even when it wasn't earned, wasn't deserved, because that's who she is. I'm hearing you acting from a place of love, not because he deserves that, but because you deserve to be a truly loving soul, no matter how often the world tries to get in the way.
26th-Aug-2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
This is one of the most loving, wisest things I've ever seen written on LJ.
I'm hearing you acting from a place of love, not because he deserves that, but because you deserve to be a truly loving soul, no matter how often the world tries to get in the way.

Both of these. Eleventy-gazillion times over, both of these.
27th-Aug-2009 02:56 am (UTC)
This is just awful.

My mother has been in slow motion Alzheimer's for years, and still seems pretty normal to someone who doesn't know her well. I can't help but be horrified by the fast cases, having seen it with a family friend.

You have my sympathy.
27th-Aug-2009 03:04 am (UTC)
Love you.
27th-Aug-2009 04:11 am (UTC)
There is one thing I always remember about forgiveness and it's this definition: giving up hope that you can change the past.

Wish I could be there to talk to you in person. You are such a wise and living human being. You may think you don't have your shit together sometimes, but trust me, you do.

27th-Aug-2009 01:34 pm (UTC)

My late mother and her mother my late grandmother both had it. Physiologically, it hollows out the cerebrum, leaving empty space which fills with cerebral-spinal fluid. It literally destroys the brain from the inside outward.

Your know your mom apparently needs to be in an assisted-living facility or perhaps even a full nursing home. Your dad needs to understand this and that it will be better for both of them the sooner she enters a care facility where she can get the medicines and supplements which slow down the process and support her physically. He can't handle this, and even with your experience, you don't want to be handling it without other help, either.

I am so very sorry for what you and your family are enduring right now. I know it's more difficult still when they -- I infer -- weren't accepting of who you are.

28th-Aug-2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
I'm terribly sorry about your stepmother's deteriorating condition. If you follow your heart with your father, no matter what you do, it will be the right thing.

Thinking about you,
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