He has a look, lately. A hateful look, cold. No trace of love. No recognition.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I used to yearn so much for his love that I would have thrown myself in front of a train, just for a pat on the back. That is all I would get from him, on a good day. A whack that made my cheerios fly off my spoon, as he breezed past in the morning for coffee. I was surprised, actually, when he would take the time to do this, acknowledging my existence. I hated when he whacked me on the back like this, in fact, I did not like him much at that time.
My father had been the light of my life as a child, perhaps the way he withheld his love made me love him more. But those memories I have, memories of laying my head on his chest to hear his heartbeat, and him flying me up in the air on his feet, they put him in such a glow of adoration in my eyes.
I remember Dad at my basketball games, and softball, and taking my brother and I sled riding. He took me with him to play tennis on weekends with his friends, and taught me to love the soil, gardening, birds and clouds. It was enough just to be near him, somehow I felt like I was in on the joke, part of the fun.
But that was the problem with the way he loved. You were either in, and all his attention was on you-or you were on the outside looking at what you were missing. If he was loving my Mom, the kids were ignored, if he was loving my brother, then Mom and I were left out. It was a wheel, a merry-go-round of nightmare-ish fun. It must have been the way he was raised, the poison of co-dependency snaked through a long line of ancestors.
Thinking back, when I moved here after my Ex went to prison, I was the odd man out. Dad was not happy about sharing the house with me, he and Mom had settled into a routine. I upset that routine. I felt very unloved (by Dad, not by Mom), unwelcome, and misunderstood. But finally, as time went on, things seemed to smooth out. Until Mom and I were having fun- then he was angry. And round it went, the codependency wheel.
Then Mom died. And we died with her, for a long, long time. I knew Dad grieved, it was heartbreaking to see his pain. I think he suffered more in his denial, instead of recognizing their painful marriage- he remembered it as being perfect. They were dream lovers in some fairy-tale romance- not the rage-filled, cursing haters they had become.( The truth is they did find peace at the end of Mom’s life, she found it in her heart to forgive him, and herself with God’s help.) To Dad, Mom was an absolute angel. Then the Dementia/ Alzheimer’s kicked into high gear.
Mom became me, or I became Mom. These last years I have cared for my father as my child, as a doting, loving daughter. But the territory is not easy- the terrain is rough. I know he believes I am his wife now, and perhaps he is even forgetting that. He stays in bed all day now- getting more and more feeble. He has gotten so frail that a glass of coca-cola at a restaurant is too heavy to lift, he won’t exercise. I know he has been sick for a week, but he won’t tell me where he hurts. I try to care for him, but he hates me for it, and fights me at every turn. I know he is getting worse, much worse, and the day is fast approaching when I won’t be able to care for him here.
I am unwell myself, with Degenerative Joint disease, Fibromyalgia and a Pulmonary Embolism, and a hip that is scraping bone, so I can’t walk even to the corner without pain. Bless his heart, he tries to understand, but forgets before the words of explanation about my physical condition are even out of my mouth. And why tell him if he will just worry?And he won’t know what he is worrying about.
Today, when he looked at me with that blank-eyed hate, I knew we had turned over a new page in our journey, a page I have been hoping would never come. Today it came.
My father, Anthony, who I adore, does not know who I am anymore. Kiko has left the building, and has been replaced by someone my Daddy doesn’t know, doesn’t trust, and certainly doesn’t love. My Daddy is gone from me now. I am just some stranger in his house.
Bye Dad. You are magnificent, you big meanie. I wish you would whack me on the back.