Yesterday was such a difficult day. I could no longer avoid the truth. Dad has dementia. Dad has made a miraculous recovery from where we could not understand a random word he was saying, and where he was unable to do anything for himself following a series of strokes.
He now sits before me in a nursing home chair, as a nicely dressed and clean man, with a lovely smile. Half the skeletal frame he once was and the oldest 72 year old you will ever see. A lifetime of ‘who wants to live forever’ and bluster against healthy eating and exercise have seriously taken their toll.
Dad resigned himself to a widowed life a decade ago and despite being prime suspect No.1 in his wife’s murder, before the ex-lover killer was apprehended and convicted, he never once felt sorry for himself. He just got on with his solitary life. I will always admire this quality in him.
A difficult man who never wanted friendship, Dad has always been better in his own company. Proud of ‘speaking as he finds’, his racist and homophobic rants have been hard for my gay sister and I to bare over the years and caused many a heated exchange.
Life was not easy with him; an often violent younger man with a terrible and quick temper, a cutting and vicious tongue. A father whose method to control his teenage daughters was to convince them they had no value to anyone therefore completely eroding self-esteem. When our Mother left him, and us, halfway through our teens he literally broke down. His mental health and dependence on prescription sleeping tablets exacerbated his anger and confusion. My sister and I were left picking up the pieces whilst coming to terms with our own abandonment.
Years of estrangement from him followed during which my Sister turned to drugs and alcohol for her solace and me to a long stream of misplaced love and marriages. We were replaced by his new Wife and her young girls. Both our parents have proved us easy to replace many times in their lives. Our scars run deep but are covered well enough.
But at the end of last year Dad needed us. My Sister, despite years of verbal abuse and contempt from him, has been utterly selfless in her efforts to move him from hospital to the Nursing Home near her home. Anyone who has yet to go through this with their parent, PLEASE get POA while you can, as Deputyship (in absence of mental capacity) is so much harder and expensive. She has borrowed money to enable this to happen and is stressed by the burden.
I continue to struggle with my feelings for him. Where my Sister had years of counselling and therapy to become the amazing woman she has and can be an awesome carer, I buried my feelings: life after my teenage-escape continued to deal me severely hard knocks. I find it almost impossible to confront my thoughts, except through writing, afraid of opening the box. My Father is now fragile and tiny, not the mean, vicious ogre he once was. He was ill and afraid during the early part of the year but a further stroke has left him in a happy but dementiad state.
He did not recognise me yesterday. Not one bit of recognition in his eyes. He thinks he is my age and I in my 30s. Being only 50 allows Dad total licence to flirt nauseously with his young Carers, one in particular he felt compelled to talk about during the whole visit .
“I am so lucky to have my girls” he told me yesterday, “they are so so good to me”. My heart melted, I smiled and said my sister and my name. Confused he replied with his carer’s, “they are so lovely”. He then proceeded to tell me Karen was after his money, I am Karen I reminded him, hurt and disappointment within me at his confused and ungrateful state. “I’m so lucky with my girls” he smiled, a beautiful and real smile.
Dad and his real girls.