Dealing with my dad can be challenging to say the least. It is becoming harder for me to spend time with my dad. I feel like I don’t know him anymore. These past five years of health issues and chronic pain has changed him in some very significant ways.
My dad was always a very patient man. He taught me how to drive and I learned to drive on a manual transmission. I remember once taking about 45 minutes to go 50 yards. The reason – I wasn’t getting the “feel” of letting the clutch out and pushing the gas pedal down. I kept killing the engine. Dad would patiently tell me to keep trying. I was so frustrated and wanted to quit. I kept telling him I couldn’t do it and he was insistent that I could. I finally did learn to drive that old ’48 chevy pickup and loved it. I still love driving a manual transmission over an automatic to this day – because of my dad. These days if one does not respond within a nano second of him making a request/demand, he almost instantly goes to anger and/or barking more orders. Sometimes I can bring some humor into the situation and diffuse the anger. Sometimes I can’t.
My dad was the encourager in the family. He always had a kind word or a way to encourage you when you were frustrated. My dad is frustrated a lot these days and does not always like to hear what he needs to. He does not respond to encouragement and generally tells me to shut up when he doesn’t like what I am saying. It is hard to continue to be loving and kind when one is treated badly over and over.
My dad does not like being at the long-term care facility. He wants to come home. He does not seem to understand that he has not demonstrated the ability to take care of himself. He says that he can, but he continually asks for help whenever someone is in the room. I have begun to say that until he consistently over a period of time demonstrates that he can take care of himself, he won’t be able to come home. He wants what he wants and is not willing to listen or work towards getting it. Mom is still recovering from her broken hip and surgery. She still has her days when she can’t do much and tires easily. She is not in any position to care for him and dad can’t see that. He thinks that since she gets around fairly well, that she is ready to take care of him again. When we explain that she can’t, he insists that he can care for himself. Again there is no demonstrated track record and the doctors won’t release him to come home.
Thursday was an extremely difficult day with my dad. He had an appointment with his neurologist in Omaha. My dad heard a lot of really hard things. There was a moment in time – a split second when the light seemed to come on and he was beginning to understand what was going on with his body. The look on his face was something I will never forget. Something akin to a frightened animal being cornered with no way out. It was frightening. His first question after that look was, “Why should I live if there is no enjoyment in life” I loved the doctor’s response. “There are many things that one can enjoy, even if you are limited by your physical body. You have a great family and your mind is still sharp. You need to find things that you enjoy given the physical limitations of your wheel chair.”
This was not easy for my dad to hear and on the way back to the long-term care facility, my dad began to ask the hard, yet really good questions. He asked these questions over and over again. It is not always easy to continually give the same answer as I know he is wanting to hear something else other than the truth. His perception of reality and what his body is capable of does not match with reality. He thinks he can still do a lot of things and do them well and yet he continually asks for help with simple things like dressing.
Things got pretty intense once my brother was dropped off at his place and it was just mom and I. Dad was insistent that he get out of the car and walk. The ground was uneven. We didn’t have the walker – it was not safe. He got very mean and ugly and said things that were very hurtful and unkind. He began to physically hurt my mother. It took 25 minutes to get my dad restrained and start to drive. Once on the road, he continually tried to open the car door – he said he wanted to throw himself out of the car. Thankfully, the car doors were locked and he doesn’t have the fine motor skills to work the lock. He continued to fight and threaten my mother all the way back to the long-term care facility. What gave me a bit of grace was that I told my dad if he laid a hand on mom, I would take him to the authorities. He knows that I will keep my word, but he pushed every button he could think of. Once I parked the car at Tabitha, he totally changed and became compliant and did exactly as I asked him to do and went back to his floor to eat supper.
In talking with my brother, we both think it was a power play and he knew he could not over power my brother – he is physically too strong. But once it was just mom and I, he thought he had the upper hand. Thankfully God gave me what I needed exactly when I needed it and my dad backed down, after a very long and intense battle.
Today is another day and I will be going back to spend time with my dad. The facility is having a family picnic. My mom does not want to go. I think she needs to go. Time will tell
I don’t understand my dad anymore and he does not react the way he used to. But I know someone who does know and understand him and I trust that as I continue to love my dad, His love will shine through and point the way to a lasting relationship through one who loves him much more and better than I ever could.
Thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning.