As many of you know who read this blog with any regularity, I had my mom living with me, and she had end-stage Alzheimer’s. It’s been a year this month that she passed away. And I still have my dad. He lives on the other side of the country. His wife and stepdaughter had him admitted to a memory care facility. And he is mad. I mean he is completely pissed off.
He called me – twice in 5 minutes – yesterday, pleading for advice for a problem he doesn’t have and only imagines. Delusions are a part of his daily living. He ranted and raved at me for 1 hour and 35 minutes. I barely got a word in. Entering into Alzheimer’s World is like Alice going down the rabbit hole. I have been down some amazing rabbit holes with my mom, to be sure. But she got kind as the disease progressed. She passed over angry right around the time she was diagnosed. She accepted things. It still made her angry, but in some odd way, as she approached death, she got quiet and comfortable with herself. And she was great to be around. Not my father. My relationship with him has been chaotic at best. So very stressful. And each time he would nose his way in, my family would suffer. Because he treated me so poorly and my kids and husband despised him for it. And as this delusional aspect of dementia has grown stronger, he is more and more difficult to deal with. And I have not seen him in over 20 years – he lives on the opposite side of the country and was always too busy for me and mine. But now that he is alone in a facility, he wants me, his oldest daughter, to make things right. Like I have any authority whatsoever. He signed all that away years ago to his wife and his middle stepdaughter. Because of Hippa – I have no rights where he is concerned. And he is mad I cannot fix things.
I tried to reason with him and finally got quiet. I had him on speaker on my laptop and actually played solitaire while listening to his rant. I didn’t bother commenting – it did nothing but fan the flames of his intense anger. It may seem strange that I am this bothered, but my dad has always been just out of reach for me. I never performed quite good enough; I was never thin enough; I didn’t become a doctor; I homeschooled my kids; we attended the wrong Church…it goes on and on. And my entire life I have tried to be the daughter that made him proud. Now, at 95 and in end-stage dementia with delusions, he tells me he loves me, he is proud of the life I have made, he thinks our kids are amazing adults, but he’s mad he has no relationship with any of us. His rant was pretty thorough yesterday. At one point he told me he never wants to talk to me again because I always make him so angry; in the next breath he says I’m the only one he ever wants to talk to because I challenge his intellect. *Sigh* It was a long, long, conversation.
I know he gets to me because I am still that 6-year-old girl trying to gain daddy’s love somehow. Dad was always working. And when he came home we were instructed to be quiet and not make noise or upset him. Mom had his gin-and-tonic waiting, all dressed and cleaned up, dinner cooking. Everything had to be clean and neat, because he was under so much stress. We had to be clean, dressed, and playing quietly, homework done, in our rooms. Dad was working most of my childhood on getting a man into space before the Russians. We lost that race; he had a mental breakdown. I was around 9 or 10 years old. Then we had to be really quiet! As my brother and I entered our teens, dad changed careers and had his own business. He was even more busy. Our lives were the dichotomy of feast or famine. LOL. We’d have lots of toys like boats and cars, and then we’d get food stamps. It was chaotic and nothing we could count on. We were forced to work at his plant on afternoons and weekends. It was all or nothing. And it still feels like that rat race when I speak with him. He is still on the treadmill… I wish he could have read, “Who moved my cheese?” It truly may have helped. I think dad is totally the “hem” character. If you haven’t, you should read the book!
And so how do I help a 95-year-old who has delusional dementia, and who lives across the country? *sigh* For me, I go back to my faith. I have no authority in dad’s life to make any changes, for better or worse. That is in stone. I live literally 1000s of miles away and have not seen him in over 20 years. We were estranged for several years until this past year. Our relationship is basically one where he rants and I listen. I cannot affect any change in our relationship. My brother says we can never get our dad back, nor have any real relationship with him, other than to listen. Soon, we both believe, he will forget about us all together. Maybe that will be a blessing. And then we would wait for that final telephone call. I’m not sure. But I know this – God is merciful. My dad needs abundant mercy. And so I pray for that. For him. For me. For my entire, extended, messed-up family. I came across these lyrics today, and they made me smile and feel the love of God in my life. I will end this reflection with them:
I dipped my toes into the water and got soaked to the bone; I turned my gaze to my Father, and suddenly I was home.
I gave everything away and I became rich, indebted to the abundance that You so readily give.
I became obedient and my freedom flourished like a bird; I became selfless and fell even more in love.
I dipped my toes into the water and was soaked to the bone; I turned my gaze to my Father, and suddenly I was home.Dipped my toes by kinnship