When I told dad I would present my final masters research (with some bad-assery) in ten days, all the terrible anxiety and fear vanished from his face. He smiled.
He is in the final, non-verbal stage of dementia, frustrated beyond imagining that he has no words and only emotion, no time, only an endless Now of waiting.
He aches for contact and love, is willfully strong in his child-like, impotent rage at the hospital and nurses and pushings around; time to get up now, time to eat now, time for your bath now, time to brush your teeth now, come one now, you can do it….
Complex, these relational family stories, aren’t they.
I’ve just moved my work and my life to the city where he grew up – a twenty minute walk from Delta High School where he was a young football hero, the much admired alpha-male athlete, scholar and master of ceremonies at assemblies, funny, smart, beautiful in body and strong in integrity. He was a dreamboat.
So often in my life I’ve been astonished by his empathy for those who struggle, his wrathful impossible judgement of people from cultures not his own. By his blind reliance upon others – mostly my mom- for the simplest of human requirements – laundry, house cleaning, the facilitation of travel, trips, makings-so.
He has uttered bone-headedly hurtful things to me without a hint of awareness or remorse. He has offered, with infinite tenderness, a perfect, graceful insight at the precise moment it was needed.
He wrote poems to us, when we were small. The Keira Lynn flower’s the one I love best… (i.e., more than petunias, snapdragons, and pansies). When things were sometimes difficult, we communicated in carefully considered, written notes. In these, he always, always told the truth.
He cried, every time I played or sang. I do this too, without restraint, when I’m moved.
In the past week I’ve visited him four times, six hours return from here. Each time, fewer words, more frustration. Each time, more moments of peace, and grace.
He smiles because he knows that even though it was never my role in our family to be the academic one. Nevertheless, I will present this final bad-assery of a masters capstone in ten days, and it will be good.
It will be better than good now, because I have his chairs with me to write in, his lamps, for inspiration. He is helping me.
My dad is an artist, these are his horses.
Thanks for your help, Dad, it’s perfect. I love you.