Last night, prodded by my mother and her relayed messages from my brother that my father was not doing well (my parents have been divorced since I was a teenager), I called my dad. He’s almost 84. I hadn’t talked to him in a year, maybe two, and haven’t seen him since 2005.
There are many good reasons why he & I stopped having a relationship years ago. A few days ago, through a very circuitous route, I wound up telling Rhiannon about her Grandfather, and why she’s never met him. This led to a lot of introspection, and a lot of dredging up of old memories, old pain. Those details are password protected, because my mother is not comfortable having all the details out there for just anyone to read, and I’m respecting her wishes. If you’re a friend, and want to know, just FB message me and I can give you the password.
My father used to be a scientist, a physicist, and oceanographer. Now, he apparently can’t be left alone at home or he does things like putting metal cooking pans into the microwave to cook.
Talking to him has, perhaps, done what my mother wanted it to do – change my residual anger and pain into compassion and pity. How can you be angry with someone who tells you the same thing three times in a 35 minute conversation? He knows he has short term memory loss – he remembers that he does. He told me that he used to be a great inventor and scientist and they said he’d made important contributions, which I don’t doubt, but now he can’t do those things. He “can’t do differential equations in his mind” any more.
He talked about his body as systems – his “mechanical system” was doing pretty well, although he has had 7 stents put in and needs more, but it was his “memory sub-system” that was really giving him trouble. He told me he’s being treated at the VA, as well as through other doctors covered under Medicare… twice. Apparently, he gets regular injections of something, he couldn’t tell me what, that “help bring his memory sub-system back online.” But that it’s not Alzheimer’s. He wasn’t sure or couldn’t remember what the problem was, exactly.
An almost child-like happiness filled his voice through the conversation. He thanked me repeatedly for having called, said it was so good to hear my voice.
I don’t know how I feel about him now. Before I called, I thought I’d let him go, because he stopped acting towards me the way a father should a long time ago. He was no longer a presence in my mind, had not been for a long, long time.
That was a lot more comfortable than this.
Rhiannon pointed out to me last night that one of my biggest concerns for my own health has to do with the memory loss issues of chronic Lyme, CFS & FMS. I’ve always made it very, abundantly, clear to her that if I start really slipping, beyond the general lack of a sense of time passing, and the relatively minor loss of many memories of conversations we’ve had, but which usually come back if prompted, that I want her to let me know.
If I ever was to slip over the edge we’ve grown used to, into the world of Alzheimer’s level memory loss, where I would become an even bigger burden on my family, I’d want to end it before it got too far. While I was still capable of saying goodbye.
I’m somewhat thankful that I’m his adopted daughter, not his birth daughter – apparently these memory issues run in the family. But we know nothing at all about my birth family and their medical history.
I pity my father. He knows what he’s lost. I think. He knows he can’t do some of the things he used to do, because he doesn’t remember how. But he said, “All in all, life is pretty good for someone who’s almost 84.”
So, I guess it is time for me to hold him in my heart with compassion, to understand that he did what he did, said what he said, in the long ago past, simply because he is human, and we are all of us flawed, all of us souls growing and learning through this life… and into the next.
Namaste, Dad… the Divine Spirit in me recognizes and honors the Divine Spirit within you.