Monday, May 29, 2017

I'm Fixing a Hole Where the Rain Gets In



I called my dad today to basically acknowledge him as a veteran.  That's the sort of mixed up I am around these holidays. I'm clear now that you pay your respects on Veteran's day and this is the day you honor those we have lost in wars.  However, when your dad is a veteran and 94, you don't want to just let the day go by.  Anyway, I called him.  So you'd have to know our whole family to get that this isn't as heartbreaking as it sounds but I call him up and like always, he hears my voice and says, Oh. sigh. Hi Andy, real slow like. As if it's a big disappointment that it's 'me' on the phone.  Instantly I feel like a piece of stepped in shit.  Having spoken to my sisters about it though, I realize he does this to everyone.  I'm not sure who makes him happy when they call but I'd like to meet that person.  So we all have our own methods but I've developed a way to throw back my own bitter pill that I'm such a huge bummer to my elderly father and plow on, try to get the conversation turned around.  And honestly, it usually works.  If I make him stay on for a few minutes, let him talk, he stops telling me ultra dreary truths and begins to perk up.
This time I was taken aback by what he told me when I asked him how my mom is doing. My mother, who has survived so many procedures and doom scenarios yet still wakes up each day.  My mother with dementia and who struggled greatly with depression herself.  But he says, we're just waiting around to die.  Really long pause. I'm just waiting for God to take me and your mom.
Good Lord I need to get a vice right after this phone call.  And you know the whole time I'm partly yelling since my dad can't hear so after that, I had to bring it back up.  All I could hear were my own thoughts. I've been dying to ask him how he really feels lately.  Is he scared?  Does he think about God?  Does he believe in anything?  Does he want people to know certain stories? I want to understand what it's like to be 94.  But all I could say was please don't say that dad.   He said, well it's true.  Then he went to say they just lay down alone in their room a lot and there is nothing really that is left that they can do.  He means together.  He still drives.  I recently sent him some CD's for his truck.  My niece's husband put in a stereo for him.  My dads been super lucky actually.  He also has been telling me my mom's on her way out for the last 15 years, which is not a lie but he could be a lot more positive about her condition. On the other hand who am I to tell him how to be at that age.
After that I let him speak a bit more.  He went on to say that sometimes he sits and tells my mom stories.  She always recognizes him.  I chime in and say how special that is that she's never forgotten him.  He recalled all the family road trips and adventures.  Then he says, I guess we did have some fun along the way.
It didn't hit me until later that night that after he stopped drinking, my dad was probably always a depressive personality too.  That's why he was so reliant on my mom and us kids being 'up', which we hardly ever were.  And that now that he can't rely on her or booze, he's with himself only.  I can imagine that is really hard for him.  He comes from the era where men don't talk about feelings. You only know they're unhappy by the level of misery they try to inflict on you.  A little 70's dad humor there.
Way deeper than I wanted to go here, but the jest of the story is that growing up I always thought my dad was super upbeat. Probably because he was a happy drinker.  He made jokes and laughed twice as hard as everyone else.  And he drank a lot. He told long ass stories and liked to set the good mood with food and music, comedy shows. He surrounded himself with all his interests, like westerns and war movies.  We ate what dad liked and bought the pop that dad liked.   He worked his ass off at his restaurant business and when he wasn't going full force he was asleep.
I need to tell him that as a person, he gave me loads of inspiration and whenever I'm really happy in the kitchen I think of him.  Like today, I made a nacho bar, which I thought was genius until I remembered I got this from work in our staff cafeteria.  P likes sparse nachos and I like to load them up but don't like soggy chips.  I put everything out so you could make your own little plate.

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