I suppose the best thing (maybe the only thing) about a missing parent is hindsight.
Some days I miss my dad like crazy. Those are the days that I remember he was actually kind of cool. That he was the ‘doing stuff’ guy from visits to the beach to french cricket, bush walks, long long bike rides and spots of tennis.
My dad loved to do things. He loved to do things with his two girls.
But a day came when we thought the things he liked were pretty boring. He didn’t know what to do with us anymore and we didn’t get him.
I’m told that happens in many if not most adult/child relationships and often it’s OK because there’s time to cross over the gaping chasm of generation gap to the comfort of aged wisdom. But that opportunity doesn’t always arise.
Look, I could be coy about it but the fact is Fathers Day pisses me off. It does so because I WANT to sit around the dinner table chortling with my family. I WANT to finish off dinner with french cricket and belly laugh into the sunset and I WANT my kids to experience a grandfather that gives them the same good stuff that he gave to me as a child.
But dementia robbed our family of that.
Some days dementia sits in a nice tidy box where our carefully constructed care plan ticks boxes and follows a precise system. But other, unruly days it jumps out, smacks me in the head and reminds me that life is such a precious and time bound gift that we simply must love every possible moment of.
Yesterday I noticed that my dad had declined just a little more, just a little. Having dementia of the younger onset variety is, I’ll tell you a particular puzzle because he looks like he’s OK, he looks too young to live in a retirement home and it’s only once you’ve spent a little while with him that he’s somehow left the building while still sitting at the table.
I looked at his face, his skin and notice his presence. Could I just wake him up somehow? It’s been a long time now since I’ve given up that hope – but I thought… WHAT IF??? And went through in my mind again the possibilities of caring for him myself, of providing him with a better life outside of the institution.
Then I remembered. Oh, three kids, a business, mortgages, relationships and maybe having a life. I remembered that he actually feels very safe and OK where he is and I recalled him catching my attention on MANY occasion, giving an example of illness, misfortune or anything for that matter that took him away from being him. He’d look me square in the eye and say “if that ever happens to me, just shoot me”. Strangely that makes me smile and remember the other quote he’s well and truly lived out:
“I don’t get stomach ulcers, I give em”
Love you my dad.
And to my fellow sandwich generation-ers juggling between parent and kid care big hugs to you too x Some choices suck either way but you really must think of yourself in the mix too.
PS the image attached is on purpose – the tie, the spiky horns, the wild beast, NOTHING could be further away from the guy my dad was / is? But that’s kinda the point of the observation.
PPS – some time after this post. My dad passed away on 2 August 2018. I thought I was missing him before, I miss him like hell now. IF you still have yours, squeeze him, call him, take him for a beer. do it. Now.