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.