Redemption Lost

I have to go see my father tomorrow. It’s time for a visit but I’m not looking forward to it as anyone who loves someone suffering from dementia will tell you. It can be maddening, heartbreaking, laborious, or exasperating. Sometimes it’s a mixture of every one of those. My father doesn’t know who I am when I visit, though I see a vague recognition in his eyes whenever I speak to him. He is also non-verbal so having a conversation with him can be quite the task. He was my hero as a little girl but he left the family when him and my mother got divorced when I was thirteen. My sisters never really knew him but I connected with him quite often over the years. One day he just started to lose his mind and I have never seen such a rapid descent into lunacy before or since. The last decent conversation I had with him was in 2007 when I got married. My sisters never made peace with him and there are times when I struggle with forgiveness as well. Some of you will never know the heartache of mourning someone who is still alive. I wrote the following story as a way to work through some of that pain.

Redemption Lost

Spittle formed at the corner of his mouth as I sat there trying to feed him his dinner. Puréed sweet potatoes today. Everything was puréed these days. He lost the ability to swallow properly months ago and they couldn’t chance him choking on even a small bit of food. They, as in the doctors and nurses in this foul place. I stared down at the rusty orange slop in the bowl and felt a wave of nausea wash over me unexpectedly. Or was it really? I had come to take nothing for granted and that each visit was different in ways I hadn’t previously thought possible. Like the first day he had asked me who I was. I laughed and said “You know who I am, Daddy. I’m your favourite daughter… remember?” But as he stared back at me with that blank gaze, I felt the smile slip from my face and a cold knot of dread form in my stomach. I placed my hand on top of his and he jerked it away so forcefully he knocked his glass of juice to the floor where it shattered, sending shards of glass everywhere. Startled, I bent down to pick up some of the pieces but, in my haste, I clutched the glass too hard and blood suddenly seeped down my arm. He stared at me with such terror that I dropped the glass and reached out for him. It was then my father started screaming for help.

****************************************************************************************************

I watched the sun rise again today like I do most days. Can’t sleep. Who can sleep in a dump like this? I just want my own goddamn bed. Colder than a witch’s tit in here too. Christ, you’d think we were in the middle of winter up North rather than the middle of July in Southern Ontario. I sigh and reach down the bed to pull the heavy blanket she gave me over my chest. I wonder if she will visit this week. I look forward to her visits just as much as I hate them. I remember the little girl she was, looking up at me like I was some kind of fucking hero. Now she mostly looks at me with confusion and pity in her eyes. I want to reach out and tell her it’s okay but I can’t find the words. It’s like they’re all stuck in my head and can’t find the way to my mouth. They float around up there and once in awhile something comes out in a low mumble. She doesn’t understand, she just smiles and pushes my wheelchair down to the lounge where we can sit in uncomfortable silence. Maybe watch an old western like we used to do. Mostly I just stare at her and marvel at what a beautiful young woman she turned out to be despite the shitty life I had given her. Thank God for small miracles.

****************************************************************************************************

They found me under the willow tree in front of the nursing home still clutching a snotty wad of Kleenex. It felt soggy and wet in my hands, overflowing with mucus and tears. My father had gotten confused and angry again because I was trying to help him get dressed despite his claim he could do it himself. After several attempts, I reached over and started to button up his blue pin-striped shirt. The sudden movement must have startled him because he grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. One of the male nurses had to intervene and was able to get him to calm down and release me. My father had always had a short temper but never with me. I was Daddy’s little girl. After the incident, the doctor had been notified and asked to speak to me. He said he had been thinking of upping my father’s dose of Risperidone. “More drugs?”, I say. “What does it matter?”, I think. The days where he can recognize me are getting few and far between. I feel lost and alone because my sister doesn’t really care what happens to him. She has never forgiven him for leaving us all those years ago. I’m not sure I have either as I taste the salt my tears have left on my lips. I toss the Kleenex to the ground and head home.

****************************************************************************************************

The other man in my room is snoring and groaning loudly in his sleep again. Jesus, he looks almost dead already, his skin is so pale. I look down at my own hands with the skin stretched so tight you can almost see through it. Blue veins criss-crossing along the back like some sort of road map. I turn them over and look at my palms, trying to remember what my daughter had told me about what all the lines mean. Lifelines and all that other shit. She came to visit again the other day but I didn’t recognize her at first. She did something different with her hair or something. Once she started talking to me, I knew who it was. I wish she wouldn’t cry. It makes me uncomfortable. I squeezed her hand but that just made her cry even more. I wonder where her sister was. She never cries, that one. Just sort of babbles about the weather and eyes me with suspicion, like I’m going to jump up and bite her. I chuckle to myself, remembering the stupid game we would play when she was just a little girl. She’d try to stick her finger in my mouth and I’d snap my teeth at her. She’d just giggle and keep trying. That was before, though. Back when she didn’t hate me. After I left, she told me I’d end up a lonely old man. Well here I am. Old as shit, waiting for her to visit. The nurse comes in to give me my pills and take some blood. They take so much goddamn blood, it’s a wonder I’m still alive. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t.

****************************************************************************************************

I keep the windows down as I drive into town to visit him today. It’s a beautiful day with the sun out and a slight breeze blowing every now and again. It’s the kind of day he would have taken me down to the lake and we would have went fishing. I used to love those days when it was just the two of us. Not a care in the world. Before the drinking, before my parents fought every day, and before he got sick. The shrill blast of a horn startles me out of my thoughts, causing me to jump and spill coffee on my brand new cream coloured pants. Apparently the light has turned green. I don’t swear. I just stare stupidly down at the rapidly spreading stain on my lap. The car behind speeds around me as the driver gives me the finger. I set the remainder of my coffee down in the cup holder and turn right to get off the busy street. Pulling over, I get napkins out of the glove compartment and try to clean myself up… but it’s a pointless task. I just want to go home and not deal with this today. Pretending to be the happy girl who sits with him doing puzzles or watching TV. Feeding him pudding, because he can no longer hold a spoon. Sighing, I look up and realize I’ve parked beside a cemetery that I never even knew was here. I start to cry. How do you mourn someone who isn’t even dead? Sometimes I wish he was.

****************************************************************************************************

I stare down in confusion at the picture she has placed in front of me. This strange woman who claims to know me from somewhere. I don’t know who the fuck she is but she says we’ve met before. Says the picture is us from a long time ago. I frown and shake my head. I try to say no but it just comes out in a rough kind of grunt. I try harder and fail again. Oh, fuck it then. She hands me another picture of another girl that I don’t know from Adam. I don’t want to do this anymore and I shove the pictures off my little table. I’m too tired for this shit and it’s making my head hurt. I wish she’d just leave me alone. I don’t know why she’s here anyways for Christ’s sake. Suddenly I grip the sides of my wheelchair. What if she’s one of those doctors that they use to say you’re crazy and ship you off to the nuthouse? Well that’s what you think you little bitch. I put my feet on the floor and motion for my cane like I’m going to get up. She smiles and hands it over. I give it a good swing and miss her by an inch or so. She reaches towards me and I slam the cane down on her knuckles. I want to hit her again but those goddamn busy-body nurses are running in the room yelling. They all want to kill me, I know it. They’re holding me down somehow and I feel the bastards stab me in the arm. I remember nothing after that.

****************************************************************************************************

I was out gardening in the warm spring sunshine when I heard the phone ring inside the house. I paused for a moment to wonder if I should go answer the call but decided against it. It was probably my sister again. She had been harping on me relentlessly about going to visit our Father. I never knew what to say to him, this stranger with my eyes. Mostly just small talk about the weather and work. My sister tried to make me feel guilty about my reluctance to see him. What the hell did I have to feel guilty about? The man had left a long time ago to start a new life without us. Oh, he had tried. That’s what he said, anyways. But there was always something, wasn’t there? Some excuse he would make as to why he couldn’t make it that weekend. Seriously, did he think we were stupid? I guess so. Stupid enough to think he loved me that’s all. What kind of man abandons his own children for someone else’s? Well, fuck him. Why should I care now after all these years? I learned to drive without him, got through my high school AND college graduation without him, and I’ll get through the rest of my life without him thank you very much. I sigh heavily as the phone rings again. I trudge through the yellow roses and steel myself for a lengthy conversation with my older sister. When I pick up the phone I can only hear silence. I am just about to hang it up again when I hear my sister utter two words: He’s gone. I am surprised at the tears that spring to my eyes and roll silently down my face.

****************************************************************************************************

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I was gonna kick the bucket in my life, I would have been able to give my girls a better life. I chuckle a little to myself, thinking of car accidents, bar brawls, liver disease, and three heart attacks. The Ol’ Grim Reaper kept coming at me but Big Bill kept hitting back. I was somewhat of a legend back in the day. Except one day I woke up and realized I had pissed all my good luck down the drain and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Booze had gutted my insides and I had lost the people that mattered most to me. I fucked up big time and ended up old and alone in that shitbox little room. Spent my last years full of misery and regret but I deserved it. Christ, I could barely remember my own name in the end. Couldn’t even take a shit without help. I could see the hell I was putting them through and still I asked them to stay. I couldn’t say it with words, I could only silently beg for their forgiveness as all the memories faded away into nothingness. I remember everything now though. Death has a way of making everything crystal clear and I know it’s time to pay the piper. I am no longer cold as I feel his hot breath on the back of my neck. My tears burn my skin and the flames turn the life that I had known into ashes. Go to hell, she had said. Well I’m here baby girl.

Daddy’s home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s