Dad’s Day

I got to speak to my father this morning. That means a lot to me to be able to speak with him and wish him a Happy Father’s Day and to have him know who I am. I was not that fortunate on his birthday back in April. He doesn’t usually hear his phone ringing, but he checks it and calls you back.  On his birthday, he didn’t know who I was and he hung up on me. I got to see him in May when I visited him and he thought I was his grandson until my sister corrected him. So today was a good day. For him and for me.

It’s been just over three years since we admitted him to the senior center. He went there for physical therapy after falling and breaking his pelvic bone in a drunken stupor. That’s when we also discovered he had canceled his insurance to give himself more spending money, probably to buy beer. The senior center was the only place that would take him. They helped us get his insurance started again.

Dad had previously been diagnosed with alcohol-induced dementia when he was in a car accident.  And yes, his BAL was over the legal limit during that accident. Thankfully, no one, including Dad, was seriously hurt but his behavior brought us great shame and disappointment. Before having to go before a judge, he fell and broke his pelvic bone and more than one person told us that was probably the best thing to happen to him. He probably would have served jail time. Instead, we surrendered his drivers license and decided to admit him as as a full-time resident at the center.

It was difficult at first. His behavior there was very inappropriate because he didn’t want to be there and thought he could get himself kicked out, and they were also trying different medications with him to improve his mood and cognition. He also got physical therapy on a daily basis and was around other people, and he couldn’t drink. But the dementia has still slowly been getting worse.

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He’s also stopped walking. After a double hip replacement, another accident thanks to alcohol, and then breaking his pelvic bone, he didn’t walk well and now refuses to walk at all. Some days he refuses to even get out of bed.  We hate to see him in this condition but we have to accept the fact that at least he is safe and is getting proper care.

It’s not so bad now, but in the beginning neighbors and friends would always ask about him and were quick to judge us for the decision we made to keep him in the center. Some people even said, “I’d never put my mom or dad in a home.” It hurt. It hurt a lot. We didn’t want to put him there either, but had no choice. I live three hours away. My brother and sister both work and have families. And none of us have the money to see that dad gets the daily care and attention that he needs.

My sister got so tired of hearing this that she started saying to people, “Well, I’m glad that you don’t have to work or take care of your family. I’m glad that you have the time and the money to be able to give your parents round-the-clock care and attention. Some of us aren’t that fortunate.”  It made people think.

Prior to my parent’s divorce, my dad and I were not very close. I’m not sure why really. We argued a lot. We didn’t talk to each other. When he left my mom halfway through my senior year of high school, I resented him even more and wanted nothing to do with him. He was a womanizer. He was an alcoholic. He was a thief. But at some point in my life, I started to forgive him and we started to speak by phone every weekend.  It was never a long conversation. Just checking in. But it was still something. We made up for a lot of lost time during those years.  He still called me every weekend for about the first two years since he’s been in the center. Now the phone doesn’t ring as much.

Years ago when Dad was still lucid and could walk, he always wanted to drive out to the cemetery every time I was in town.  So we’d go and visit his dad. It was Christmas Day when I took the photo of him above. Dad is standing where one day he’ll rest eternally, next to his dad, something he was always quick to remind us of and point out every time we went there.

For now, I’m glad he is where he is, and still here in our lives.  Like I said, he’s safe. He gets good care. He eats. He can’t drink. He’s probably ready to go. He’d definitely leave the center for good in a heart beat if he had the choice. Today, he remembered who I was. I told him I loved him. I do love him. He’s my Dad, and the good outweighs the bad. And not everyone can say that about their dad.  But I can. Today is Dad’s Day.

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