I have to say Thank You to all of you who read my blog post last night and reached out to me, as well as those that I saw reached out to my siblings. A lot of you expressed that you wished there was more you could do. Don’t worry. Just reaching out is enough. Seriously. Knowing that I have so many people in my family’s corner is enough. So again, Thank You.
So, my brother, sister and I went to visit Dad today. While it was a difficult visit, it wasn’t a bad one. He was conscious, and he seemed to appreciate the company even if he didn’t seem entirely sure who we were or why our being there brought him comfort. We all sat with him outside his room in the hallway lounge area watching Forrest Gump and chatting. I held Dad’s hand a lot and kept hugging him. I figured if we can’t have quality conversation, which was the main way in which we used to show love, at least I could let him know I care by touch, you know? Every now and again a word or two would escape his lips. It was as if we only got to hear select words from a converation he was having in his head.
After a while, my brother and sister left, and I was waiting for Robin to pick me up, so I just sat for a while holding my dad’s hand. Just sitting there. I told him how my writing has been going, and I hope that some of it got in there, as I think it would’ve made him really proud.
The visit didn’t become difficult until his nurse came over to talk to me. She mentioned the fact that every time he talks about his children, he always mentions a little girl, and that he “seems like a Daddy’s Girl kind of a father.”
And that’s when I kind of lost it. Well, I didn’t lose it exactly, but I did start to tear up…because she got me talking about the kind of father he is. And about the fact that he’s really intelligent, and how much I hate it when people talk to him in a patronizing baby voice when he has a fucking Master’s Degree that he earned, in part, at the Sorbonne. He’s trilingual, and made it a point to learn 4-5 basic phrases in, like, 30 languages just so he could make polite conversation with people in restaurants or on the street and brighten their day. He’s written three plays and a book of poetry. He used to read the New York Times every day and finish the crossword puzzles. I told her that if he mentions traveling around Europe, or being in the Air Force, or anything of the sort that it’s not just crazy talk. He actually DID travel in Europe, and he WAS in the Air Force, and a lot of the things he continually goes back to aren’t just things he’s made up, they’re memories. It’s really important to me that people know that. She made me feel better by saying that she knew he was an intelligent, educated man the day that they talked about Jamaica, where she’s from, and he was telling her things about Jamaican history that she didn’t even know! She looked them up later and realized he knew what he was talking about. I was so glad to hear her say that…
Because right now that’s my biggest frustration. The fact that, even though the body is the same, this is not my dad. He hasn’t been for a while now, and that sucks. The nurse asked if we’d ever taken him outside the home for the day, and I told her that we’d taken him out to dinner once but it wasn’t exactly the best idea ever. The thing is, my dad was always really proud. He never even told us (well, me – I don’t know what or when he told my siblings) about any of his health problems until well after the fact, because he didn’t want to “worry us.” He is someone who would never admit he needed help until he absolutely needed it…like when he admitted to my brother that he should probably be taken to the hospital, which was huge. So, I wouldn’t ever want to take him out to a function or to a restaurant even if he were healthy enough to go outside…because he would never want to be seen like this, and I wouldn’t want to do that to him. People coming to visit him in a place where he can get immediate care is one thing, but I wouldn’t want to parade him around like this. I think he’d hate that.
More than anything, I miss being able to TALK to my dad. I used to talk to him about everything, and as I got older, our conversations got more interesting. It broke my heart that I’ve had so much good writing news in my life recently, and I can’t even really tell him about it.
So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my Real Dad. The dad who was lucid. The dad with whom I could talk about theater, and books, and my artistic endeavors. The dad who would take me on trips. The dad I used to argue with all the time about everything from politics to why my “being a girl” has nothing to do with how late I should be able to stay out. The dad who, despite that way of thinking, was a hugely feminist influence in my life, because he never doubted that I could do anything – from being a nuclear phycisist to being a writer – and he always made sure to get me dolls AND chemistry sets.
The dad who insisted on jumping off a lifeguard station at Lake Ronkonkoma just to prove to me that it was nothing to be afraid of. I can’t remember if I jumped that day or not, but I know that any assertiveness I have at all comes from my dad. And if repaying him for that means visiting him more often to hold his hand as he’s wincing in pain and struggling to form words as he’s lying in a wheelchair, then that’s what I’m going to have to do. Difficult, or not.