27 June 2020

"Leggi almeno, tiranna infedele"

Let me tell you about a man I have known all my life. He is stubborn, harsh but fair in his judgements, very intelligent, unforgiving and steadfast. He loves a debate, any good argument, provided it is presented with conviction, knowledge and a decent sense of humour. He abhors smooth talkers, smart alecks, shower offers, fools pretending to be clever. He has no tolerance for dawdling. His sense of direction is excellent. He can name the constellations in the sky without hesitation and recite Homer's Iliad until you ask him to please stop it, that yes, you get his point. Then he will grin. Like a schoolboy.
If asked (but who would dare to) he would name as his principles, decency and punctuality. If asked, you would need to know and recite the five steps of the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiment, confirmation) without hesitating. As regards music, music is for listening, never background noise. He loves opera despite or maybe because of the fact that it puts him to sleep.

He hated the lockdown and as soon as the restrictions were lifted, he picked up all his regular habits. Lunch every weekday at the Italian restaurant, no more meals on wheels in his lonely kitchen. On Sunday a nice drive to the country inn. Shopping every Wednesday (sourdough bread, cheese, fruit, coffee and tea, dark chocolate and shortbread).

His difficulties walking, he claims, are due to being lazy and occasionally, he sets out exercise regimens. On paper only.

On his last shopping spree, with a supermarket shopping cart as his walking aid - as usual -, he found that the lift back to the underground carpark was out of order and since stairs are not an option, he decided to push the shopping cart down the spiralling downhill car ramp. The loaded shopping cart. The shopping cart that has no breaks which pulled him faster and faster down the ramp until he fell and fractured his left leg in several places.

He is stubborn, I repeat myself, I know.

He convinced the people who ran to his help that he was ok and no, there was no need to call an ambulance. With help, he made it to his car and when someone offered to drive him home, he accepted. Reluctantly. Some kind people did that, drove him home, parked his car for him, brought him indoors, unpacked his shopping and reluctantly left him there to walk back to the shopping center car park.
Alone at home, he was scared for a while. (That is my interpretation.)

His biggest fear is illness, he faints at the sight of blood (it's not his fault or weakness, it's called vasovagal syncope) and in any case, in his opinion, doctors these days are too young and uppity.

But he felt weak, physically that is, and in pain and also, what about dinner. He picked up the phone. Eventually.

He is now recovering from surgery, a metal plate in his leg, no standing or walking for at least ten weeks. After 48 hrs of confusion and disorientation, he is now furious with everybody and everything. And to demonstrate his fury, he has removed the venous access, the painkiller infusions and all the other useless stuff.

By the end of next week, he will be transferred to temporary geriatric rehabilitation in a newly built assisted living facility. We continue to stress the word temporary, although we fervently hope it will become permanent.

Currently, he is not speaking to any of us.

Last night, unable to sleep I was fighting waves of pity for him and of course, my fear of finally losing his affection and acceptance forever. By the time the birds started to sing, I realised that in my place, he would not hesitate for a second to pack me off to the next care home around the corner.


Linda dev said...

Ahhhh, this is achingly sad. Although highly intelligent, I think he may have missed so much as his protective ego kept him sheltered from some of the more wonderfully tender parts of life. Like unconditional love (maybe more for himself than anyone else).

I wish you peace as you have to make this walk. I wish you the immense acceptance and self love that he didn’t have to offer.

I hope I didn’t cross any boundaries. If so, I beg your forgiveness.

am said...

"Read at least, unfaithful tyrant,
In this leaf streaked with tears,
My faith and your cruelty.
And even if you are still cruel to me,
constancy remains for me a great pride,
and insults you for your impiety."
(Domenico Lalli)

There is so much that you have mentioned today that I remember learning about your father. Grinning like a schoolboy.

In my mind is that photo where he is holding the hands of you and your sister, taking you on a walk. Steadfast. And recently, his love of music that is at least 200 years old. The certainty you have about who he is and who he is not. Sending much love to you and your father in his fury/fear/vulnerability.

ellen abbott said...

your father sounds a lot like my father was in many ways. my sister and I never quite measured up to our potential as far as he was concerned. our brother though, well, he was the shining example. anyway, our father had the good grace to stroke out one night. it was our mother who lingered, being as disruptive as she could be. anyway, I'm surprised they are saying no standing or walking for 10 weeks. a neighbor's mom fell and broke her femur, had a metal rod inserted in her leg and they had her up like the next day.

I'm sorry you have to endure your father's anger. I suspect he's not really angry at y'all but at his frailty, at the indignity and injustice. just try to focus on the nice things he said last week or so. as his stay increases and he finally realizes no one is going to take him home, it will get worse. our mother, after she went to the family home because she needed 24 hour care, never stopped telling us she wanted to go home and a friend's mom who was in an assisted living place, every day they would go visit and every day she had already packed her suitcase ready to go home. it was my mother, not my father, I craved affection from which I never got (she didn't really like children and didn't like to be touched). I might have told you this before, when she died I cried but not for the loss of the mother I had but because now any chance of having the mother I wanted was gone. don't forget you have a lot of support here.

Anonymous said...

I do hope your father can be convinced to get the care he needs. He sounds like he struggles with the situation he is in and in his inability to actually understand that he needs help. Must be a life-long battle of his. He is lucky to have such persistently caring children. Take care there, and I hope it all works out well for all.

Ms. Moon said...

And all of this is one of the hardest things a human can go through- watching the slow weakening of a vibrant, formerly quite strong parent, knowing that there is probably not much that is going to be resolved from here on out.
Be gentle with yourself, dear woman. Please. And at the same time- be strong. I have no doubt that your last sentence is as true as the fact that the sun rises in the east. You are wise to remember that.

Secret Agent Woman said...

It's hard to watch your father decline. Mine did, slowly, with Alzheimer's and he had always been wickedly smart. It's just tough.

Steve Reed said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear that happened. That must have been (and must continue to be) terrifying for him.

Roderick Robinson said...

I thought to come at this from left field, to transpose things fictionally. A ripe feuilleton emerged. I had actually copied/pasted it into your Reply box when I read the other replies and realised something I'd missed, it was your father. The piece wasn't in any sense critical but it had enormous potential to be misunderstood. And cyberspace, more than anything else, promotes misunderstanding. The sad thing is I can't recycle it with reference to my father because it just doesn't fit. Sarky Brit has second thoughts. For what it's worth you sustained a good narrative.

37paddington said...

He gave you scientific rigor to go along with your poet’s heart. This is beautifully written and heart wrenching.

My life so far said...

I'm sorry. It's so hard watching your parents decline and equally as hard for the parents I imagine, losing independence and then becoming the child. I hope he gets better and back on his feet, so to speak:)

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