Watching your family age is tough. Mother is gone, so I didn’t see her struggle with old age. My grand parents on both sides of my family are gone. An older brother and an older sister are gone (and a younger). And now Dad can no longer care for himself. So this past Monday, he was moved to a senior care facility. He’s still ornery as hell, wanting things his way and wanting it now. He wants to smoke when and where he pleases, eat what and when he wants, walk the neighborhood alone. He’s 80 years old, blind, and has had half a foot amputated, so I’m not too sure where the fuck he thinks he’s going. But in a care facility, there are rules, many of which he refuses to follow. It may not be the fanciest place in the world, but that’s what happens when you’ve blown your retirement savings on women and booze and your children live paycheck to paycheck. He needs 24 hour care and supervision that we’re not able to provide, so we’ve found an affordable place where he’s taken care of, has the company of others, fed three meals a day, has a bed to sleep on in his own room, and has trips to the senior rec center three times a week. So why do I feel so fucking guilty?
My father and I haven’t had the best relationship over the years. In fact, for most of my life, it’s been damn near non-existent. But he was the strong authority figure in the family, you see. Sure, he was a philanderer, a distant father, and not the best example to live up to. And he didn’t exactly follow the rules of the family, I suppose. But watching this man who, for better or worse, was a virile and commanding person to me when I was young and impressionable, become a feeble, old man, a ghost of the person that I knew all my life is still heartbreaking.
I spent most of my adult life angry at him for what he did and didn’t do. The act of his sticking his dick into anything that wouldn’t get out of the way fast enough, so much so that he couldn’t emotionally give his real family the bloody time of day. I simply couldn’t understand why he was not around. And like any other fat, gay, insecure teenager, I thought it was something I’d done (or was), when in fact he had another son with another woman. My entire childhood, I would have given anything for a brother so I wouldn’t be so lonely. But he kept that secret from me. I didn’t find out about Eric until a year after his tragic death in a car wreck when he was only 18. I had so many different layers of anger, I couldn’t possibly describe them now. I can’t say the anger has gone away, really. But the window for sharing my feelings and anger with him about the situation has long past. So I suppose it’s goddamned time for me to get off my ass and get past it.
Dad sometimes forgets things or remembers conversations that didn’t actually happen. I even thinks he momentarily forgets where he is at the care facility because I can see it in his eyes. It’s a flash of confusion/despair, fear/anger, regret/repentance. Then it’s gone, like a whisper in the wind. He’s only been there for six days and he’s already tried to run away. The nurses found him five houses down, without his walker, sitting on a stranger’s porch, having lost his prosthetic shoe. It was found the next morning six houses down in the OTHER direction. He was sorry when I got there at near midnight. He looked pitiful in his bed, all curled up, apologizing to me. I didn’t even have the heart to scold him.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t care. I wish I could stop loving him. That would be the easy way out, surely. But I do. I don’t want the man to be lonely with only his regrets to keep him company, or not be reminded that we’re still here and haven’t abandoned him, as he sometimes thinks. Isn’t it odd that I can’t be mollified that he’s now feeling what I felt 30 years ago. But I was near the beginning of my adulthood and he’s near the end of his. I simply can’t hate or stay angry or wish bad things on a broken, 81-year-old man who is well aware (mostly) of the consequences of his actions which led him to where he is today. What fucking good would that do? But I’ve made sure he’s in a safe place. It may not be the fanciest place in the world, but he has the company of others, fed three meals a day, has a bed to sleep on, has trips to the senior rec center three times a week. So why do I feel so fucking guilty?