In the morning I am off to see my father, a four and a half hour drive from here to coastal South Jersey, the little seashore town where I grew up.
I have mixed feelings.
The family mythology is that my dad and I are very close. We even have a flower... daisies. My mom informed me of this special flower, my dad's and mine, when I was 21 and we were choosing flowers for my wedding bouquet. "OK," I said. I had no memory of our having a special flower.
Throughout the years my mom encouraged this story, of my dad's and my closeness. But I don't feel it. I am not sure why.
I saw a side of my dad, while my mom was dying, that I wish I didn't know about. Their relationship was troubled, and my dad seemed to think my mom's physical weakness, as she grew more and more gravely ill, was a direct assault on him; that she was helpless to spite him or trap him in the house. Mom said very directly that the best part about dying was that she was finally getting away from him. She made her great escape in February.
In June, I was called away from a retreat I was leading because my dad had collapsed in a supermarket parking lot, and was seriously ill with double pneumonia. The doctors in the hospital prescribed steroids to treat the inflammation of his bronchii, and he reacted badly to them. He became psychotic. For about 36 hours he was belligerent, coarse, paranoid, and delusional. He believed he was being held prisoner (which, in a sense, he was; he had to be restrained at times). He didn't sleep. He lived out scenes from his entire life, his youth, his marriage, his days in the liquor store (he owned the business). He tried to climb out of his bed; he had no sense of modesty. Intermittently throughout the psychotic episode, as a kind of entr'acte, he made apple pies. His hands mimed peeling apples, and rolling out pie crust, and he talked tenderly of the delicious smell of the pies baking.
I saw a side of myself, while my dad was ill, that I wish I didn't know about. I was angry with him. I was harsh. I was unforgiving. I was tired, and I just wanted him to sleep, but for 36 hours he didn't. When I left the hospital, they called me back in the middle of the night to watch him.
My dad has been through hell the last two years. He was sued by the estate of a former business partner, a suit that finally settled in October. My mom died. His health has deteriorated rapidly, and he has pretty significant cognitive losses. I love him. I pity him. He is alone, more alone than anyone should be, especially when they are so helpless. But he also refuses to come to stay with me or with my brother and his family (in Wyoming). He seems to be embracing his solitary existence. "I don't have much longer," he says.
So I am going to be with him. My children will be with the former Mr. Mags and his GF. My dad shouldn't be alone. So I will be with him.
Prayers are appreciated.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.