Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Movies I Will Never Watch Again: Psycho

My dad has another UTI. For you novices out there, that means Urinary Tract Infection. Welcome to my life! This seems to be the old man's constant companion for the last couple of years. I have been told to watch for them and take it seriously when the symptoms appear. Supposedly, they can kill a person. I let the nurse know that I had no doubt that was a true statement unless we are talking about Charles Casas. The man has been on Hospice twice, knocking on Death's door both times. He has also been kicked out of Hospice twice, both times for getting better. The nerve! In his own words, "I'm not going anywhere and if I do, it will be kicking and screaming." Thanks for the warning, Dad.

Anyway, Hospice ......third times a charm?.......had to come out to catheterize him. It's their way of checking for a UTI and torturing old people. Kind of a two for one special they were running that day, I guess. Having gone through this with my dad more times than I can count, I knew I did not want to be anywhere in the vicinity when they cathed him. Imagine my surprise when the visiting nurse said she would probably need my help so I better stick around. Excuse me!?!?! I had to politely albeit bluntly inform Nurse Ratchet that I had no intention of helping anyone do anything to my dad where naked parts would be involved. It's called the nether regions for a reason, for heavens sake!

My reputation with the Hospice nurses has probably taken a hit but at least I can sleep at night without naked daddy nightmares. I have never seen my dad naked and I plan on going to my grave still being able to make that statement. Oh sure, I've seen his backside and he's flashed me a few times whilst wearing a hospital gown but I can handle that with a little dose of denial. Anything beyond that and we are talking years of therapy. On the other hand, my dad has seen me naked. Yep, full on as a jaybird, that aint pretty, naked. No, I was not a baby. Getting the picture yet?

It had been a very long day with my dad. His dementia can be fun at times like when he thinks he's a jet fighter pilot and wants to go to Vegas to pick up chicks. It can also be not so much fun like when he wants to buy a new car because I stole his car and he is going to call the police and have me arrested. This particular day in question was a I stole his car day. After hours, and I mean hours, of listening to him rant, rave and tell me how worthless I am, I was finally able to get him to bed for the night. Bob and the kids were already in bed ......cowards! I locked up the house, checked on everyone and then went to take my shower.

That was truly one of the best showers I had ever taken. I stayed in there until the water went cold. It was such a pleasure to be alone. Nobody wanted anything from me and if the phone rang or someone knocked on the door, I would never hear it. Finally, I emerged from the shower completely relaxed and ready to melt into bed when what did I hear? "I want my car!!!!" There, standing in the doorway was my dad. Do none of the stinking locks work in this house!?!?!?! As I frantically searched for a towel while screaming at him to get out, he just stood there screaming right back. "I want my car!!!"

Yep, years of therapy.............

Monday, September 28, 2009

Falling In Love For The Second Time

When I was a little girl, I was completely in love with my dad. Everything about him, as seen through my eyes, was perfect. Charles Casas was a truly beautiful man to look upon. He was strong, tall and handsome, resembling James Garner to the point of being asked for his autograph by adoring fans. I might add that he always obliged and passed on telling them the truth regarding his true identity. Much like Superman and Clark Kent, I supposed at the time. This just made him even more amazing in my view. He was simply and in every sense of the word, my hero. That is, until I turned thirteen.

At thirteen, I learned some very unpleasant facts about my father. Nothing I will repeat here. After all, I am a parent and God only knows the damages I have inflicted upon my own children's lives. I can only pray they will show me the same mercy of silence someday. Anyway, everything changed for me the day I saw the other side of my father. Where I once loved and adored him, I now avoided him out of disappointment and disrespect. This went on for years. Even when I was older and married with children, I found it difficult to find any sense of closeness to my dad. I was decent enough to him, most of the time. I just couldn't stand him anymore.

Now, what I am about to say next will sound awful because in reality it is awful. I am going to say it anyway because sadly, it is the truth. There were times when I would comfort myself with the "fact" that my dad would, statistically speaking, croak before my mom. I had it all figured out. I was never his favorite kid so he would miss me no more than I would miss him. My mom, on the other hand, loved me. She and I had a very rocky relationship but at least it was an honest rocky relationship if nothing else. With apologies to Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often lead to your mother kicking the bucket first.

Three years after my mother died, my father moved in with me and my family. That was four long, grueling years ago. Let me be perfectly clear. From day one of my dad moving in, I have bent over backwards to make his life as comfortable and happy as possible. I have denied myself sleep, free time, friendship and even sex with my husband in order to take care of my dad. I have quit my job, allowed strangers in my home and cancelled vacations in order to put my dad first. Sounds saintly enough. Here's the rub, however. I have done it all with an angry heart. Up until now.

Somewhere along this journey, sometime in the last few months really, I have fallen in love with my dad for the second time. He is no longer a truly beautiful man to look upon. Now, he is a wrinkled, frail and oft times stinky, eighty-nine year old man. He has come to remind me of my boys when they were very little and frail and also oft times stinky. Oh, how I loved those boys then and how I love my dad now.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Butts and Ashes

No, I am not a smoker although I have given it consideration during times of great stress. I was bemoaning to a friend one day that my life seemed to come down to two things, butts and ashes. Having somehow been elected the family caregiver for the last twenty plus years, I can assure you, I have seen a great deal of both. The funny thing is, I don't think I would have had it any other way. I have come to realize what an incredible gift it is to love and care for someone from end to end.
I never intended to be the butt wiper of so many relatives. I also never intended to make so many funeral arrangements or carry so many ashes home in the back of my car. But then, I never intended not to either. The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus says intention is something that one hopes or intends to accomplish. Now here is the absolutely amazing thing about my lack of intention to be a caregiver. Finding myself in this role has led me to more than I could have hoped for. Being a caregiver has also accomplished more in me than I would have ever imagined possible.
In the past, I have cared for my aunt, my mother, my mother-in-law, my uncle, an elderly neighbor, my sister and now my father. Of course, this does not include our seven children I raised or my grandchildren. No, this blog is about caring for the people you never intended to care for. The people who cared for you first really. It's an entirely different kind of gig for those of you who have never had the opportunity or privilege to do it.