Sunday, December 14, 2008

I drove away

The first few days at my parents' house went well, perhaps the best of any visit I have had with them. Dad enjoyed the birthday dinner we had with him. My brother and nephew were able to be there also.

On Tuesday evening I was able to do some language research with my father. I recorded a number of words from his first language.

I helped clean things around the house. My brother and nephew did a lot of cleaning when they were there on the weekend, also.

The lady who had been coming to help Mom bathe had notified Dad that she was limited on time because she has so many children to take care of. So I followed up by calling some agencies that a local doctor had suggested might be able to provide help. One of them had an in-home care worker who did not currently have any clients. The lady and her supervisor were happy to come for an evaluation and interview time Wednesday morning. Before they came Dad started getting tense, saying that he didn't need help, even though everyone else knows he does and he often tells us by phone how difficult it is for him to take care of Mom. The appointment went OK. Dad agreed to help one day a week. He paid the required two weeks in advance.

Not too long after the ladies left Dad exploded in a rage. It caught me off guard. It was like his rages when I was younger. He swore saying all the resource people could "go to hell." I instantly decided that I did not want to listen to any more of his raging. I quickly, quietly packed up my things, told goodbye to both Mom and Dad and drove off. I cried for miles, wishing that Dad would not have raged again. I cried wishing that things were different. I was able to cry, something I could not do when Dad raged when I was younger and when he beat me. And this time I could set a boundary for myself and leave. It hurt to leave, but I did. And I knew, somehow, that I had done the right thing.

I called one of my cousins who knows my story and who has experienced spousal abuse for many years and told her what had happened, and cried with her. She was the first person to tell me I did the right thing. What a good thing to hear even though I felt so sad. My cousin asked me if I had planned to leave if my father had raged and I said no, but that I had had a number of dreams in which I had wrestled with what to do when my father was raging. Perhaps that wrestling, as a recovering adult, had helped me so that when the bad time came I was able to leave.

It took me more than four hours to drive the wintery roads to get to my brother's house. I got to talk to my wife by phone. She cried with me as I told her what had happened. She, also, was totally supportive and told me I had done the right thing.

I still feel sad, but I feel freer. My father may think I am mad at him. Anger is how people in our big family system tried to control each other. But I'm not mad at him. I feel so very sad for him. He is missing out on getting better help to deal with the difficulties of taking care of Mom and their house. I wish I could change him so that he would take the help, but I can't. I'll continue to try to get him help, but I'll continue to try to do it in a way that he feels he is in charge, making decisions. That seems to be very important to him, not losing control. He has already suffered some big losses, losing his driver's license, Mom not having the mind she used to have anymore, her losing continence, their house being dirty and smelly from urine (but he has lost much of his usual keen sense of smell so he doesn't think their house is in bad shape). When the point comes that they actually are in danger from having such a bad living situation, we'll have to intervene, even if he rages. Maybe doctors will have to give Dad something to calm him at that point.

Life is sometimes difficult. I don't feel great about how my trip ended up. But I still think I did the right thing driving away, quietly, but resolutely. And if that's right, I progressed a little more on this trip.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

cold and trip feelings

I've got a cold in my larynx. I'm starting to cough more. I'm thinking of calling the airlines tomorrow to see if I can postpone my flight to visit my parents this weekend and next week. Sunday will be Dad's 91st birthday. Dad doesn't like anyone coughing around him, or blowing their noses. There's so many things he doesn't like.

A couple of nights ago as my wife and I started eating supper I told her that I had just had a session of emotions that felt like the dread of anxiety I get before public speaking, which, if not treated with my little meds, turns into a panic attack. As I explained what I had felt I started crying, a hard cry, like I haven't cried in a long time. I told her I didn't want to visit my parents. I didn't want to have to walk around on pins and needles all the time trying not to upset Dad. Then in that transparent state I switched to childhood and told her it was too much of a burden to bear for a kid, getting treated so badly by Dad. My wife cried with me. I think it was good to cry, cathartic. I think maybe I'm getting the focus of my grief and anger on Dad, where it belongs, rather than on other people who I've dumped on sometimes.

I hate to write these things because I'm afraid some might not understand and will tell me I shouldn't be angry at my father or, after all these many years, shouldn't have a feeling of not wanting to visit them. I hate being condemned by others. I've lived with it all my life, getting blamed for so much by my father and then it was so difficult to accept criticism from others.

I do love Dad, so I have mixed feelings. I want to help him have a happy birthday. But I don't enjoy having to be so careful all the time not to upset him. I would like a freer life, the kind of life I have most of the time with my wife, children, and grandchildren. I like my new life.