I chose the image above from the Exiles series for this post because it just seemed to fit so well. They were painted in pure emotion so whenever I am dealing with hard emotional things, I tend to go to this group of paintings for some reflection.
There has been a lapse in the blog this past week, as regular readers may have noticed. It’s been a very, very tough week.
Now I’ve had a number of really bad days in my life. A few bad weeks. One or two very bad months and I even think there was one entire year that was fairly rotten from start to finish. All were basically the result of my own bad decisions or perceptions. Self-inflicted, you could say.
This was not self-inflicted. I wish it were. It would be easier to find blame for it within myself. That I can do.
No, there is nobody to blame as we’ve been dealing with our father’s declining condition due to his Alzheimer’s. It culminated this past week with my siblings and I heading to Florida to retrieve my father after his longtime partner and caregiver broke her hip, making it unlikely that she will ever be able to provide care for him again. Caring for him was already too much for an 82 year old with health problems of her own living in an area where neither of them had family to fall back on.
It had been a couple of years since I had seen him. The weekly few minutes on the phone had been reduced to a simple script that he followed that was all about the weather, his physical health (which was always “okay”) and asking if I had spoke with my sister or my aunt. Most other subjects were avoided or made short work of when they were brought up. It always ended abruptly with a “If you get any real news give me a call.” Three, four minutes, at the very most.
So our first day with him there was a shock seeing him in a very reduced state and we struggled with just what direction this could go. It was painfully evident he needed real care that we could not provide and that we needed to bring him home to a location near us. The trick was convincing him that this was the best thing for him. I say convinced but it amounted to tricking him, playing with his memory deficits to get him to agree to go with us, trying to avoid getting him upset and even more confused or angry.
That sounds awful, I know, but I think those who have dealt with this disease will understand. Myself, I didn’t have any experience dealing with this and for a day or two it was terrible doing this deception, even though it was benevolent in nature. But it had to be done and this was the only way that would accomplish it. Even so, I found myself crying every night as I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to sleep on his couch while he slept fitfully in the room next to me.
Every day posed a new mountain to climb and each new mountain seemed taller than the one before it. When the time came to move him, it looked like there was a series of ever increasing peaks ahead of us. It came down to a three day road trip with my brother and I escorting him north. It felt like three months, every moment spent trying to remind him where we going and that, no, we weren’t taking him to his Florida home. Everything was difficult and the constant emotional strain began to take a toll in the form of a bone-tiredness and mental fatigue.
Even as we turned into the parking lot of my sister’s apartment, where he will be staying for a short time, I had to calm his agitation. The same thing happened when I left to come home a bit later. I’m glad that I have a calming effect on him but it takes a toll every time I have to make him look at me and listen as I tell him that I am looking out for him and that everything will be okay. Internally, I feel like a shit and a liar because I know that it won’t be okay, that he won’t ever see his Florida home again and most likely won’t see his longtime girlfriend again.
We have even bigger peaks to scale in the days ahead and I am filled with dread. But they must be climbed. That’s all there is to it. There is no choice to be made here. Regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of this man–and there are many– we know we have a responsibility to him that we can’t discard, There is only path through those mountains.
I probably shouldn’t be sharing this on this blog that is primarily about my work. But I have come to view my life as my work and my work as my life. They seem interconnected and inseparable. The emotions in my life feed the emotional part in my work so this will no doubt seep into my future work. That is the one thing in this whole thing of which I am sure.
So, I’ve got to put on my gear for the day and get climbing. There’s a mountain out there waiting…