Tuesday, November 9, 2010


"Every day at the chiropractic office where I worked I would get a call on my cell phone around four o’clock from Dad, checking in.
“This is Joy”
“Hi, its Dad.“ Hearing his measured tone, deep voice, and careful pronunciation reminded me of Sunday mornings when I was little, sitting on his lap and listening to him read all the voices in the Sunday comics to me. Comparing that man with who he was now made my heart hurt.
“Hi, Dad. How’s it going? Did you do anything fun today?“ I always tried to put him in a good mood.
“Fun? No, not really. I walked around the neighborhood and down to the beach to watch the ducks. Had some lunch.“
“Okay, Dad. Well, I’m at work so I have to go, but thanks for calling. Take care of yourself, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.“
“Okay. Am I supposed to call you tomorrow?“
“Yes. Put it on your calendar and give me a call in the afternoon.“ This type of exchange became all too familiar; phrases and questions repeated, answers immediately forgotten. I would come to understand that this was the litany of dementia, an exchange of love marred by disconnection. Emotionally, I was having problems with the situation. Like my father, I was denying what was happening, only in my own way. I wanted him to be my parent, opinionated, authoritative, and able to care for himself like a normal adult. The reality, of course, was that he was ill, even though he denied it. He had become disoriented, depressed, and unable to manage his life.
But I still needed him to be my parent. He was the last one I had and I was not ready to let go of that. I was completely unprepared to parent him. I was so angry with him, it felt as if he was escaping from his life, escaping from responsibility. I would have no choice but to care for a man who had not cared for me at certain times in my life when I had most needed it. I was bitter at the thought that I would be required to use my limited energy and time, and perhaps exacerbate my chronic illness, to look after this evasive, exhausting man who wouldn’t even acknowledge that there was a problem. I could not face switching roles."

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