It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to put these words onto a screen.
Maybe it’s because life just feels crazy right now.
Maybe it’s because this stuff is difficult and I don’t like talking about it.
Maybe it’s because this is just a topic that no one really thinks they will be the one faced with head on.
The latter is me. Every time I sit with this topic and what I’ve been through these last few months I get angry. Sad. Frustrated. Asking why. I don’t even know where to start, except from the beginning, and before I even go there I want you to know that this is a complicated story to tell. You’ll have to hang in there with me over several posts as I continue to process and tell the story of what’s transpiring in my life.
I may have family and friends who might not know some of these details, so this had been an internal battle of how real I should be here. I even feel guilty about speaking the truth of our relationship….that maybe there’s things that should be left unsaid. However, I know I’m not alone here. I am not the only one dealing with a difficult parent. If I can give one other person a glimmer of solidarity, that you aren’t alone…..that this time in life is tough on someone else…and that there is hope….then every moment of this discomfort will be worth it.
As I said….let me start from the beginning.
My dad and I have not ever had what I would call a close relationship. Ever. He worked more than anything else that I remember as a child. He was hard to gain attention from, in any shape or form. I never could impress him, no matter the grades, the projects, or the achievements I brought home from school. On top of that, he was very particular about the cleanliness of our home, so a lot of messy, normal “kid things” were totally off limits. As one might expect, this bubbled over into my parents’ marriage, resulting in a lot of fights and turmoil in the home.
In 1997, my mom fell ill suddenly (long story, actually) and passed away. I saw in my dad some fight for his family I had never seen before. He made sure my mom’s care was the best until the very end. Once she passed, the familiar withdrawing from the rest of us returned and our contact became minimal in those next years. As time progressed after my daughter was born, my own marriage began to fall apart. With divorce looming, I reached back out to him in hopes that he could help me find my way.
He didn’t really see what I was going through through my eyes, and although he offered help it always came at an emotional cost. He was there financially for me as I began to navigate expenses as a single mom. I’ll never forget that as I am truly grateful.
There were fights….ways…..times that he would somehow make it all about him when it wasn’t. Even as the landscape of my life began to change and I remarried and changed careers, I still felt the ever-pressing need to prove myself to him and make sure that he knew I was worthy for him to love. I still do.
In the time since I have become his caregiver, the constant internal battle between the moral responsibility I feel in caring for him and the frustration I feel from years of an incredibly unusual relationship is present. There are days where I wonder just how I’m going to do it, but somehow I manage. Some days I just want to walk away, but I don’t. As I began outlining this series of posts, and put this first one on paper, I realized there is only one explanation that makes any kind of sense.
It’s love. Love wins.
After all, he is my dad. Maybe I can choose to remember the good times of being pulled on a sheet throughout the hallways of our house, giggling until my sides hurt and yelling “Again, Daddy!”. Maybe it’s because I keep some hope that things will change, even at his age of 81. Maybe it’s because at the end of the day we all have a need to be loved. Maybe it’s because I believe to my very core that love conquers all, as it can be such a powerful force in this world and we need more of it. It restores hope, gives strength, and covers a multitude of wrongs. Maybe someday love will change us both. As I walk through this period in my life and write more posts about it in the coming months, I hope we all are encouraged.