Saturday, October 31, 2015

It's All Relative

My father fell.

Twice.

On the same day - about 14 hours apart.

He has no recollection of the first fall. It happened in the middle of the night and he has no memory of getting out of bed, of going to the bathroom, or why he fell, landing half in the hall and half in the bathroom. When he came to, he tried to reach the emergency pull cord to alert staff at his independent living facility but couldn’t maneuver himself in any kind of meaningful way to be successful.

So he laid there.

For hours.

The fire department came, once the aide who’d come to assist him with his compression stockings around 9 a.m. discovered him, got him on his feet, checked his blood pressure and made sure he could walk. He declined a ride to the hospital and insisted he was fine.

And then, just a couple of hours later, while another aide was there to check up on him, he fell again.

This time, he’d gone into the bathroom but was a little too late, starting to urinate before he’d gotten fully seated, so the floor was wet. When he tried to stand, his feet went out from underneath him and there he was, once again, on the floor. Stuck.

The fire department - same crew - responded again1. This time, however, they weren’t letting him off the hook. They insisted on taking him to the emergency room for a thorough work up. 

That was just over two weeks ago. He was admitted to the hospital for observation for a variety of reasons. His heart rate was elevated, his blood pressure was ridiculously low, and his kidney functions had skyrocketed...mostly because of the muscle breakdown from the fall trauma and lying on the floor, unable to move, for so long.

It became painfully clear, even in the emergency room, that the falls had impacted his ability to move or walk even a little. He was unable to stand on his own, urinate on his own, or even adjust himself in the bed without a lot of assistance.

To be clear, my father is a large man - weighing in at nearly 350 pounds. His mobility and balance have been getting increasingly worse for the last couple of years - due, in large part, to his weight - which is why we moved him to independent living to begin with...for his own safety. My siblings and I, along with pretty much everyone else he regularly comes in contact with, have been urging him for months to consider a walker.

He refused.

He would throw an absolute hiss over the suggestion, claiming he hated walkers because everyone at his apartment building is totally inconsiderate with their walkers and he wanted none of it. Forget about suggesting he could lead by example with his own walker. Foot down. NO.

And then he fell. Twice. In one day.

Hello, Walker.

Using a walker for the first, certainly not the last, time.

He was in the hospital for a total of five days (including day 0...his arrival in the emergency room). He met with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist that first full day and both immediately recommended rehab upon discharge.

And so now he’s at rehab (for falls, not the Amy Winehouse kind). Now that his heart rate, blood pressure, and kidney functions have returned to normal-ish.

And he ain’t happy about it. Not even a little bit. 

Frankly, neither am I.

There’s a reason why I don’t talk much about my dad.

Mostly, I don’t talk about him because I don’t really like him very much. 

There. I said it. 

He’s one of the most negative people I’ve ever had occasion to know. His locus of control is so externally focused that, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was my fault I was ever born. He’s extremely passive aggressive and controlling. He rarely has anything nice to say. 

Not about anything.

Most certainly not about me.

But that doesn’t matter. 

Based largely on proximity (my sisters both live out of state and my brother is 90 minutes away), I am his Power of Attorney, his Medical Durable Power of Attorney, his caretaker. When he is incapacitated, as he is now, I’m in charge. The Boss, as he likes to say.

That doesn’t sit well with someone who absolutely must be in control.

He doesn’t like it and, right now, I’m not sure he particularly likes me.

Especially when he found out that he couldn’t discharge himself against medical advice. Only I could as MDPA.

And I won’t. 

Because no. 

Because doing so means he has to have around-the-clock care and that’s not something I’m able or willing to do and I told him so. I told him that I would no longer provide any assistance to him if he even tried to get himself discharged before he was capable of caring for himself.

Hello, Boundary.

He’s not a fan of boundaries. He said, “Fine. Whatever.”

Hello, Passive Aggression.

My face when he said he was going to discharge himself against medical advice.


I’m not complaining.

Really! I’m not.

I’ve spent the last 30+ years in therapy, on and off, dealing with my feelings and attitudes toward my father (among other things). What would be hard for many people - the onslaught of negativity, criticisms, boundary pushing - isn’t particularly difficult for me. I figured out his number years ago, which is why we’ve been largely estranged for the last decade or so, so pretty much everything he does or says rolls right off my back or gets met with a solid boundary. 

CAUTION: DO NOT CROSS.

Mostly?

I just really feel sorry for him.


  • I feel sorry for him that he has no will to live.
  • I feel sorry for him that he has no hobbies or interests outside of game shows...and porn2.
  • I feel sorry for him that he has no friends despite the fact that he has the ability to make and keep them if he would just. Let. Them. In.
  • I feel sorry for him that he’s spent the last 7 decades assuming everyone was out to get him instead of realizing just how often it’s not been about him.
  • I feel sorry for him that, no matter what anyone does or says, it won’t be good enough to suit him because, in the end, he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough to deserve it.
  • I feel sorry for him that he has held on to something I said over 30 years ago when I was 13 (“I’m not the one who abandoned my family!”) and let it cause him so much pain for so long without even trying to let it go.
  • I feel sorry for him that he can’t even enjoy the simply glorious feeling of warm, autumn sunshine on his shoulders without complaining about how he might burn.

He said, "How do you want me to smile? Funny or normal?" I said, "So it reaches your eyes." Fail.

I feel really really sorry for him.

His life, if he’d chosen it to be, could have been so much happier!

Instead, here we are. Nearing the end. And he’s so very very sad. Has been sad. Maybe always. Just waiting. Waiting. Waiting to die.

He’s working with a therapist for the first time ever...at my insistence. He thinks she’s snooty. I think she’s brilliant.

He’s getting physically stronger every day.

He knows he’s got to earn his way out of this one.

He’s been told more than once that he’s lucky to have me.

Whether he believes it or not.

I’m here.

Not bitter or resentful or obligated.

I’m...Resigned. 

Compassionate.

He’s lucky.

So am I.

In spite of him.



1: The City and County of Denver’s fire department provides a free service called Lift Assist to help people who have fallen and can’t get up.

2: I recently discovered that he was ordering pay-per-view porn nearly every day in addition to having subscribed to the Playboy and Hustler channels on cable. *shaking head* The internet is FULL of free porn, Dad. Seriously. Welcome to the 21st century.

1 comment:

Word Nerd said...

My dad died bitter and angry, much the same way he had lived. Such an unfortunate way to be...to CHOOSE to be, year after year, decade after decade.

We took him in near the end. Not all the way to the end, as we had planned because, well, because it was just too freaking much. Not his physical needs, though they were significant. It was his bitterness, his seething anger at life, his determination to make those around him pay for his unhappiness, those were too much to bear. Our kids were small and I just refused to have his poison infect them. When I think of my dad now, it is with the hope that his next chapter has been kinder to him than this one was.