Saturday, April 24, 2010

Taking Care of Dad - The Daughter Takes a Stand

Saturday April 24, 2010
109 days since accident
86 days in Colorado

Dad woke up in a cranky mood – he claims his heart is beating fast again, a little frustrated, I reminded him that he is having palpitations something the doctor told him he will get from time-to-time because of nerves (anxiety), but I was going to call an ambulance anyway to take him to the hospital. He looks at me and says, “I didn’t say I want to go to the hospital, what are you getting so upset for?” Before I could say anything Larry chimes in and says, “Nate, at your age you are going to have aches and pains, if we call an ambulance or take you to the emergency room every time you have some discomfort you are just going to spend hours being uncomfortable. You will be sent home with a bill (patient portion) from both the ambulance company and the emergency room. We should really save those times for when you really need to go to the hospital.

As a reader, you may think Larry and I are being insensitive to dad’s medical needs, but it is actually just the opposite. As a nurse I would call the ambulance in a heartbeat (no pun intended), but remember, I blogged about this last night, dad is a hypochondriac, for a man who keeps saying he wants to die; yet each time something hurts or he feels weak he panics and wants an ambulance. I have been in this situation with him more times than I can to admit.

Flashback Memory:
When my first child, Rachel was born back in 1987 dad started coming to visit once a year. When Rachel was five years old, we moved into a larger house. The guest rooms were in the (finished) basement. Dad had a beautiful large room, color television, his own bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and privacy. Anyway, before dad came out that year, I told him I was graduating from nursing school, so he could have an excuse not to come.

Side Note > Why do I say that? Because my dad never does well when he has to take the back seat, the visits had to be all about him – He didn’t do well at gatherings, he was very antisocial. It is sad, but oh so true. When I was a child, around seven or eight, I remember my parents going out on Saturday nights. They had a circle of friends from the old country, but after my mother died, the friends disappeared. Mom was the only reason they had so many friends, dad they merely tolerated.

Flash Forward Nursing School Graduation:
Nursing school was a tough gig for me. I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem and was sure that I would flunk out of school. Dad said I was not smart enough for medical school; I probably was not smart enough for nursing school either. Nevertheless, here I was, GRADUATION DAY! I made it – today I became someone special. Nothing was going to spoil this special day for me. Not even dad. Ok, well he was very capable of spoiling my day, he did it all the time, and each time I would say this is the last time.

I prayed the night before that dad would wake up in a good mood. He was cranky the day before, I was busy cleaning the house and preparing for the party, I didn’t spend much time with him. But he played with Rachel, took her to the park, I figured I didn’t need too. I was wrong – something was bugging him – I asked him what was wrong, and he said nothing. When he said nothing, it meant you better figure out what it is.

I woke up to a beautiful, slightly cool, and sunny day – perfect for an outdoor graduation! Dad was in a vile mood that day, I was so nervous that he was going to embarrass me at my graduation or the party, which was to follow later that day. No one really knew how to react to those mood swings of his. One minute he was fine, the next he was like a completely different person. If you tried to talk to him, he would snap and if you ignored him, he would snap. I knew at some point, that day a fight would happen. Right after the ceremony when the graduates were meeting up with families for picture taking, laughing, and congratulatory hugs my father decides to cop an attitude. I could tell he was stewing. Evidently, he was angry because I didn’t take any pictures with him. My friends all ran up to me to take pictures together, I figured we would take family pictures later, after all the pomp and circumstance. He didn’t get it.

So that meant I was going to pay for it – wait for it, wait for it…here it comes: My husband walked over to dad and said with a huge grin, “Nate aren’t you proud of Linda, I am so proud of her, look what she has accomplished!” My father looked at him and dropped the bomb, “Of course you are proud, you are just a truck driver!” There it was, the grin on my husband’s face turned into a frown, and I should have left it alone, but had to defend my husband – I immediately turned to my father and said, “Don’t you dare speak to my husband that way, you apologize to him right this minute! If it were not for him and his dedication to this family I would not have been able to attend nursing school!”

Well I just made it worse because now my father was going to be angry with me for sticking up for my husband. Dad just turned and walked away. Oh, I should cancel my graduation party – he is going to make me miserable – I just know it! That night about thirty people showed up to, help us celebrate my graduation. About ten minutes before the guests started to arrive my father announces that he is getting sick and has a fever. There it is, this is how it will begin – he is pulling out the “I am sick card,” which means you better drop what you are doing and take care of me.

I ran upstairs to get a thermometer and some Tylenol – his temperature was completely normal. His skin was cool to the touch and he looked fine. He had a little bit of a scratchy throat, but he gets that every time he comes to Colorado – he is not used to the dry air. I set up a humidifier in his room and brought him down a pitcher of water and some hard candies to help moisten his throat. My father refused to come up during the party, my husband brought him down some food, which he refused, we tried several times to coax him up stairs, each time he said he just wanted to be left alone. So we left him alone.

The next day my father had a fit! He began yelling at me, “What kind of daughter are you to leave your sick father downstairs in the basement like a dog, with no food, no medicine, nothing, while you are upstairs having a big party!” Well there you have it – his next victim was going to be me – I was going to be the daughter in the spotlight for the next six months – everyone would be told what a lousy daughter I am – he would ride that story and throw it in my face for years to come.

Flash Back About Two Weeks Ago:
Two weeks ago dad drank 12 oz of vodka and was so intoxicated that he didn’t understand English! He slurred his speech and I was afraid he was going to die that night. Well not on my watch – I was going to do whatever I needed to metabolize the alcohol – we walked, we drank coffee, we ate small bites of food, we talked, and he fought me the entire time to let him sleep. An hour later, he was becoming more lucid and was no longer slurring his speech. I was not happy, not one bit - My teenage children had to witness their 89-year-old grandfather falling over drunk! Once he sobered up, I let him (verbally) have it. What was he thinking? What kind of legacy did he want to leave for future generations of our family? What kind of role model was he to his grandchildren? Yada-yada-yada!

Dad had fire in his eyes – he was red faced angry! “Don’t you talk to me that way, I am your father and you will show me respect,” he said. “Respect? You get respect when you also give respect – you have no respect for me or this family!” I replied. For two days he would not speak to anyone, all he did was lie in his bed, come to the table for meals, and then return to his room immediately after he finished eating. Finally I could not take it anymore and told him things were not working out, he was obviously not happy living with us, and we were going to look into nursing home placement. At 50 years of age, I was finally going to take a stand – he was not going to ruin this family – make my kids nervous, and instigate fights between Larry and I.

I let out all the stops – No bullying, no sulking, no dirty looks, no abuse, what-so-ever was going to be tolerated in this home. All we have done over the last 86 days is bend over backwards to make him comfortable, include him in all of our family activities, and try to make him happy. And so, it began, I told him how I felt - “You don’t want to eat, don’t eat, you want to lie in bed all day, lay in bed, I don’t care anymore!” “We do not deserve this, I was the only one who came forward to help you and I have been doing my best to do just that, but you don’t appreciate it and I am done – I am especially tired of you accusing me, Larry, or the children of lying when we say something that you don’t want to hear.

Inner Conflict:
I went to bed that night feeling awful, like I failed. All I wanted to do was help my father, and all I ended up doing is making him angry with me. This is not how I pictured things to be. Maybe my sister was right, I should have just found a nursing home in Brooklyn – “No, I shook my head, he would have been alone with no one to visit him, take him out for dinner, and he would die a lonely and dejected man.” If he had to go into a nursing home, here would be better – I would visit and take him out frequently. Still, I felt like I failed – I wanted this to be perfect, I wanted my children to have a grandfather. However, if I back down then my father will win – the manipulation and abuse will get worse, because he will have control.

The next morning I awoke feeling like my body was used as a punching bag – I ached all over (I have fibromyalgia and stress is a trigger). I didn’t want to go downstairs and face my father. What would I say, worse, what would he say? As I walked down the stairs from my bedroom I overheard Larry and dad talking – it sounded civil, I stopped and tried to make out what was being said – Was I hearing it correctly? Dad was apologizing! “I know you have been good to me, and my daughter has been so good to me and she loves me. I am an old man and I get cranky sometimes, I don’t mean to give you any trouble, I am sorry and I promise not to give you anymore problems.”

I want to give him credit for coming forward as it had to be difficult for him to admit he was wrong, but the cynic in me only believes that he did this as a means of self-preservation. He knows he has a good thing here and doesn’t want to go to a nursing home. The pay-off for him was far greater than the sell-out.

I want to know who kidnapped my father and put this pod-person in his place.

Closing Comments:
As for the Spring Festival – it was wonderful! I have been looking forward to the showcase of student talent. Dad had a huge grin on his face the entire time – even after each run to the bathroom because he had the r-u-n-s! We were out until 9:30pm as soon as we got home my dad took off his clothes to expose his pajamas and he was in bed within 30 seconds flat! Good night to you too dad!

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