In about 2008, my husband and I added a one-bedroom apartment as an extension to our home so my parents could move in. We did this for a few different reasons.
My father’s Parkinson’s was worsening and taking care of their home was becoming too taxing.
My mother was lonely.
They both were starting to decline and needed support for doctor’s appointments, prescription management. By the end, we were doing meal prep, etc.
In 2016, my brother moved back from Arizona to Atlanta after a 20-year absence. He immediately started to help with my parents.
Also in 2016, Dave and I decided that since our kids were grown, he should not endure a long commute in the ridiculous Atlanta traffic. We decided to sell and move closer to his job. My parents could not come with us for a variety of reasons. That was okay because my brother was willing to take on their care.
In case you didn’t do the math:
My parents lived with me for 8 years. My brother took care of my parents for 2 years. Admittedly, they required a lot more care the last 2 years. By the end, my brother was living with them. His patience with my mom is the stuff of legends.My oldest brother is not mentioned because he was not around unless we begged.
My dad died on a Sunday. On Friday he had a few minutes of semi-lucidity. I was trying to give him the scheduled morphine. His eyes popped open and he looked at me with hatred. He tried to thrust my arm away and said, “What are you doing? Leave me the hell alone.” Now, dear reader, you need to know that my dad had been unable to speak in an intelligible manner for months. But these words were crystal clear.
I explained what I was doing, and his anger only increased. “I don’t want that. Leave me alone.” I stressed the importance and my unwillingness to withhold this medicine. He looked at me and said, “Where’s Skip. I want Skip.”
I am glad my parents had Skip. I didn’t have enough patience or respect to keep taking care of them. But still that hurt. Even as I write this, tears form (which I can’t let fall b/c Dad taught us crying was for pussies – his word, not mine). I had taken care of them for eight years and he wanted Skip.
To Skip’s credit – he said, “I’m right here and she’s going to give you that medicine.” He then turned to me and said, “You know he didn’t mean it that way.”
Actually, Skip, I think he did.
One of the hallmarks of bi-polar disorder is that the emotional brain has a louder volume than the rational.
My rational brain knows that he was in pain, he was scared, he was unaware of what he was saying or doing. My rational brain keeps telling me to shake it off. My rational brain’s volume is at 2.
My emotional brain is devastated and hurt and angry. Where was the credit for putting up with my mom and my dad’s stubbornness for years? Where was the acknowledgement that while my personality was wildly divergent from theirs, it was my personality that made sure things happened? (My brother was good at this too, but I was better when bitchiness was required.) The emotional brain’s volume is at a 12 (out of 10).
Again, I so appreciate all that my brother did in those last 2 years but still, I was there for 8 years before.
I know it’s not true (rationally) but my father’s look and his words just reinforced how much he didn’t like me. I was too different, too vocal, too independent. I was too much. I was a disappointment.
I don’t want those words and those eyes to be my last memory. I don’t want my last memory to make me angry and hurt my feelings. But, alas, I don’t get to choose, and the deed is done.
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