(read about Layli Long Soldier here)
My father is sinking deeper and deeper into some netherworld of dozing and mumbling. I have only the reports from my siblings and the odd picture they sent me. The latter quite frightening, a very old man unravelling, sunk low in his wheelchair, head forward almost on his chest, eyes closed, mouth in a bitter snarl. His waking times, so the reports, he apparently spends being angry, unwilling or unable to cooperate in whatever efforts of personal hygiene are provided to him, drinking and eating sparingly and only because of the threat of an iv feeding tube. Apparently, in one of his awake moments he ordered the nurse to leave him to die in dignity, whereupon she, while picking up the used tissues and cutlery and papers he, according to my sister, purposefully, drops here and there without any care, replied that to get there he first has to behave with dignity. Ha! As if he could!
I know I have to visit him, see if he recognises me, if I can reach him, meet my siblings, who have great hopes that I can talk some sense into him. I don't think my visit will make any difference. I am not expecting anything. But I wonder how he feels, maybe even helpless, lost, and a small part of me hopes that my presence, silly me of all people, could make a positive difference. This of course is a foolish thought. In the world of my father, I am just a daughter and a distant one at that.
When my brother cleared out my father's home, the drawers of his enormous desk, sometime last winter, he found a box of letters, written by quite a number of women, in German, French, Danish, Swedish, the languages of my father, love letters mostly. Adoring middle aged women he probably invited to the opera or an exhibition in Hamburg or Stockholm or Paris, a weekend in a fancy hotel. Imagine, my brother said with a chuckle, he had several lined up at the same time.
When I visited my father earlier this year and asked about the other residents of the retirement home, he scoffed, old biddies, ugly as hell, and a couple of old forgetful posers.
And yet, I am scared. Not of his death, but that he may have already
forgotten me. That he will look at me and see nothing, none of my glorious achievements, nothing to be proud of. Sixty-five years on, I am still hoping for his approval. Searching for whatever it is I can be thankful for.
So sorry for your poor father. He must be such an unhappy man. I hope when he sees you, that bitter snarl changes to a smile of recognition.ReplyDelete
I keep forgetting that Google seems to have "cancelled" me!ReplyDelete
I hope he recognizes you, his beautiful accomplished loving daughter, as soon as he sees your face. I hope his days are calm and easy, that whatever time he has left here on earth will soften his nature, and that he finds his peace. Take care there, Sabine.ReplyDelete
Layli Long Soldier, like you, writes about obligations and grief from hard-won experience. Sending love to you and your father, Sabine.ReplyDelete
Whether he recognizes your grace and your accomplishments this time around will not diminish them in any way. You are still his daughter, holding love and hope regardless. That has more power than anything. Let it be whatever it is, and take only the good meanings to heart. Dying can be such a hard passage.
It sounds as if it is time to let him go. My wish for you is that you can do that in your heart and in your mind. If my experience with my mother taught me anything, it is that being near death does not always change a person. The last time I saw my mother alive it was so horrible that I left thinking, "I can never see my mother again." I did see her again but only after she had essentially died and was taking her last breaths, already well on her way in that journey.ReplyDelete
I can understand your anxiety. I have the same ambivalence about visiting my mother, who has also descended into a twilight world of her own reality. She seems to still know me but it's hard to be sure what's going on in her mind. All we can do is be there, I suppose.ReplyDelete
If he's in his right mind he will recognize you. If not, it will hurt, but you will find a way to forgive that particular slight. When my mother was dying, she was unresponsive for a week, well mostly. At one point I thought I'd sing her a song from the 1940's. When I was done I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I'll sing it again." As I started she slowly put her hand up to make me stop. Ha. You just never know what the a person who is actively dying can understand, or hear, or feel. So say what you want to, and hope for the best.ReplyDelete
Oh Sabine. I truly get your sincere desire to have you father look at you finally and smile and see you and all you have and do accomplish and tell you how proud he is of you. And here I am at my bluntest...it won't happen. He is who he is, unhappy and angry at life but his unhappiness and anger is not your fault. It all originates within himself. I have been where you are. My relationship with my mother was contentious at best because I wanted a mother that she could not be and when she died I cried, not for the loss of her but because now I never would. My husband has been where you are. His father turned his back on him refusing to see or speak to him, giving my husband zero credit for the business we built up together. Every family gathering Marc would dutifully go speak to his father who would just turn and walk away. There might have been regret on his father's part as he was dying but when Marc went to see him, his father could no longer communicate. I relate all this so you know your experience is not uncommon and it's not your fault. Your father is a mean man and here on his deathbed he has distilled it all down to that. He can neither give nor receive kindness. Steel yourself and don't let the barbs hit.ReplyDelete
What astounds me is that such a man had so many women sending him love letters!
I am closer to your father - in age and in physical decay - than I am to you. However the situation is happily reversed when it comes to routes of communication. I've just written some verse about my present state and the first comment (from Anon) admitted I'd depressed him/her. I explained, sometimes the subject choses the writer; perhaps I felt purged, perhaps not, I can't remember. Was it good verse? I am no judge. The previous post, about a Duck Race, was comical and elicited a comical response. What, I asked myself, are my obligations?ReplyDelete
Perhaps it's past time to let go of the expectations that even if your father has moments of recognition of you he will ever respond in the way you desire. From my professional experience the subtle, even slight, neurological changes that can occur in the brain do alter individual's personalities. Family members and friends often fail to realize they are no longer interacting with the person they once thought they knew even though that person does exhibit recognizable behaviors. Family will say, "he/she was always like that, just worse now." The reality is family is interacting or speaking with a different person.ReplyDelete
It's not uncommon for elderly people to stop eating and drinking, especially as death gets nearer. Perhaps your father has had enough of life. He's quite elderly, I think, can't remember exactly how old.ReplyDelete
We all our parents to love us unconditionally and to be proud of us, not matter our age. It's what we need from from our parents but few people ever get that I think. If I'm honest, and I try to be, I didn't give my children unconditional love either. Fortunately I still have time.
I watched an amazing documentary today, The Wisdom of Trauma with Gabor Mate. I would highly recommend it. There is a charge to watch it, by donation, and it's well worth the $8.