My father is becoming increasingly less verbal. During our call this morning he was trying to tell me about something but could not describe it. He kept saying vague things about something that was happening but I had no idea what he meant. It was even more frustrating than usual because at first, he said it was a bad thing and that I “know about it.” He thought I had something to do with it.
Over the last week, he has been in a bad mood–kind of angry and combative. He isn’t usually this way. Yesterday he was talking about “people fighting with me” and when I asked him how he was he said, “not good.” He said he’s cold all the time. He can’t get any coffee. No one will help him. People are mistreating him. And so on. He was holding his head in a strange way and I asked if his head was hurting. He said he was holding it up. : (
It’s so hard because I don’t know how much of it is his disease and how much could be true. I can’t really check on the staff because I’m not allowed in the facility, and I worry that things may have declined due to the lack of accountability.
Yesterday was our birthday. He turned 88. I had an outdoor visit scheduled but the facility canceled it due to a storm that came in right before the visit. I did speak to him by phone, so I was able to say happy birthday. He forgot it was mine too but that’s ok. He hasn’t remembered for a few years, so I didn’t expect anything.
It was the worst birthday I’ve ever had. I did nothing, felt nothing. My stomach hurt all day. I couldn’t eat. It could’ve been any other day. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or do anything. My husband and I had dinner reservations but I told him I didn’t want to go. I just felt so incredibly sad and alone. I couldn’t stop thinking of my dad and the birthdays we used to have together–the shared cakes (his half and mine) and smiling pictures.
My father looks so frail over FaceTime. His eyes look distant, his face drawn and sad. I can’t remember the last time I saw him smile. I have a birthday gift for him but he doesn’t really react to anything now. I gave him a Father’s Day gift last weekend when I saw him. I don’t think he even knew it was Father’s Day. At the end of the visit I prayed for him and he cried. He said I was “his baby” and I felt my heart twisting inside me. Twisting and hurting so much I could hardly breathe.
Every day he seems further away from me. Every day I feel sad, some days so despondent I don’t even want to get out of bed. It is as if my dad’s anguish and hopelessness have seeped into me. It is my father who is dying, yet I am losing something too. I cannot remember fun, joy, anticipation, hope, excitement. Those feelings seem so far away. What is close is despair, loneliness, and malaise.
My therapist tells me I am grieving, that grief begins before the actual death. I’m grieving the father I once had, the one who has faded into someone I don’t recognize. I’m sure she is right but that doesn’t help me. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t lessen the impact or give me hope. In fact, it makes me wonder how much worse it will get.
I feel drained, depleted of anything. There is little holding me together, hardly any reserves keeping me going. Where do I get what I need to keep moving forward? To help my father when he’s desperately lonely and feeling abandoned? Where does it come from? My tank is empty.