Our father

I was talking to my sister the other night regarding our father’s current invisibility level. We are in total agreement.
Emotionally and conversationally, there’s nothing there.
Alzheimer’s has taken everything that once belonged to our father and left us with an undeniable reminder; his body and his blood; a sacrificial offering of sorts, albeit an unrecognizable version of the original.

Maybe it’s faith that allows us to continue caring and loving him as we did with no thought whatsoever given to the hopes of an actual returned response.

I sit with him these days and wonder if he’s really in there.

People say, “He knows you’re there.”

I truly wonder if he does. It’s so damn hard to know.

There were the small and seemingly insignificant moments that I shared with my mother, mystical fragments of time that occasionally appeared before me—subtle tests of my faith. We shared many sacred moments that transcended the earthly trappings of time and space, dissolving into an amazing kind of grace.
There will sadly be no magical moments like these with our father.
I’ve fruitlessly planted numerous seeds of hope knowing full well that life comes not from barren ground; thy will be done.
The bitter pill of disappointment has been swallowed time and time again but somehow faith lets the thinnest sliver of light bleed through the crack in the door.

His nurse tells me they take him to mass everyday, his daily bread.

If it offers even the slightest bit of respite for his tired and puzzled mind, it’s more than worth it.

I find visits with him these days to be somewhat devoutly symbolic when I realize the only thing he has left to offer me is his body and blood.
Do this in memory of me. . .

Perhaps, in some small way, he is ultimately teaching me how to rediscover my faith, my life.

His condition demands that I inspect my own lack of belief, a frail and dilapidated spiritual bridge I occasionally find myself unable to cross.
The other side seems so close yet my soul is still so damn far away.
In my mind’s eye, I see my father’s silhouette waiting on the distant shore and in my heart blooms a whisper of a prayer that one day I’ll make it all the way across.

~m

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12 thoughts on “Our father

  1. it’s rare i struggle to find the words for something like this so i find myself in unfamiliar territory michael. everything i think of sounds hollow in comparison to the pain you obviously feel. the only thing that comes to mind is to hold the memories of your father, as you knew him, close to your heart…nothing else seems adequate…i know you often say the reading means the most to you, not the comments, but i like to let people know i’m thinking of them when they’re hurting…it doesn’t help the pain, i know, but there can be some (small) measure of comfort knowing others have you in their thoughts..i’m not a big one for the type of faith you speak about for many reasons, but i do hope you find that special place you seek

    I thank you, ZN.
    This piece was actually written several months ago.
    Not sure why I didn’t post then but I didn’t.
    Much of my writing is fairly emotional and of a darker nature and the last thing I want is for people to focus on the problems in the piece rather than the outcome.
    A post like this is hard to comment on and anything you say is greatly appreciated.
    That goes for all those that comment here.
    I thank my lucky stars so many caring folks take the time to actually listen.
    Be well.

    ~m 

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  2. Even if he has no recollection of you being there. It’s just the right thing to do. To nurture. I bet you don’t remember the days after your birth when your parents cared and nurtured you. But, it made you who you are today. You will do what’s right. I’m sorry this is so difficult.

    My life story actually begins after my birth when my sister and I were adopted.
    I think that’s one of the major reasons I feel the way I do.
    Destiny is a funny thing sometimes, huh?
    And yes, to always try and do right. . . daily.
    Thanks, Carn.

    ~m 

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  3. Michael, I really feel for you and for your dad, this must be doubly hard because you’ve travelled this road before and know what is around the corner. I think it takes amazing strength to do what you do, and even if he doesn’t know your there, YOU do, and that’s just as important isn’t it?
    Miss you buddy.
    Hugs and Kisses
    Kelly

    The knowledge of what is to come does irk me constantly while the ‘when’ of it is anyone’s guess.
    Someday maybe I’ll find the answers to all my questions.
    Maybe. . .
    Thanks, Kell.

    ~m

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  4. This post was an especially tough one. I am reminded of all those times I sat with my Dad, sitting right beside him and yet aching for him and missing him so much. My dad was always such a state of the art problem solver. His Alzheimer’s was one of the only problems he couldn’t help me solve. Some days I just wanted to lay my head on his shoulder the way I did so many times when I had a problem, and say “Dad, I have this horrible problem”…but the problem was him or rather his health.

    My dad’s faith was strong and simple to explain. When Mom was so incredibly ill last year, Dad’s mantra was “God is in charge and that’s all I need to know”. They had those words posted on their frig all the years I was growing up and when he needed them, even in the midst of his AD, he called it forth. FAITH–believing in something we cannot see. It’s a toughy. But one thing I know for sure, is that to have faith, we have to practice it. I think of it as faith muscles. It’s like all our other muscles. If you don’t have the opportunity to practice faith, you can’t strengthem it. Like I’m an expert or something. I know sometimes I just want to say “Yea, I’ll have faith if you’ll just let me know how things are going to work out”. Hmmmmmm.

    I pray for you and your Dad. And it’s hard to know exactly how that works. But somehow I just feel more at peace when I lift you and your dad up in prayer. I can only imagine how difficult your visits have become and yet it’s difficult for me knowing there will never be another visit with Dad. At least from this side of eternity.

    thinking of you. laurie

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  5. Michael,
    I think what makes the loss of a parent (whether literally or figuratively) is that we come into our lives looking to them for guidance, love and protection. When that changes, epecially in such an extreme way, as happened with your mom and now your dad – we simply don’t have the instruction manual on how to feel or react or respond. Of course, since you are a good and loving son, you do the right thing – you remain loyal and give the care and love that is the essence of you.

    I have no idea if you will have that communion of the soul with your dad – I suppose no one does. But I do know that love has such power and meaning in this world, despite all things, love has and does transcend almost anything. For some reason I think of your father in a soundproof room – he’s talking to you but you can’t hear. But still, I think his heart hears you, knows you and always will.
    Annie

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  6. I loved what “writer chick” wrote and I think you should claim it: “Your father heart hears you and knows you and always will”. What a beautiful and comforting thought. Laurie

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  7. M, I feel a short introduction is in order. I too am an F2K alum, having had the good fortune of meeting WC there and establishing a bond that has meant a great deal to me over the years. I also lost my father to Alzheimer’s & complications. His struck early; he was diagnosed at 47, was forced to retire with disability at 52 and died at 61. I guess another major difference is that he divorced my mother and left our family when I was very young and I never enjoyed a close relationship with him. So while I had to deal with some fear (I’m 53 this year – whew) I can only imagine the emotional trauma you and your family are experiencing through this journey. I am sorry for your pain, thankful for your memories, and hopeful that in good time there will be peace and resolution to bring you comfort.

    Crisco-
    All I can really say is “thank you”
    Sounds like the road you’ve traveled has been no bed of roses.
    Should you ever want to chat, email me. I’m always available.
    Thanks again.

    ~m

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  8. Michael, your sadness is palpable, as it should be. While I have not yet reached this stage with my older loved ones, I know it is not far off, and it is depressing as hell. I do not know why this world was made in such a way that it cannot contain joy without also containing suffering. All I can say is that there will come a day when your father will be liberated from the prison that his body has become, and he will know you once more. Please believe me when I say that my own (admittedly unorthodox) faith has often pulled me through some bad times. I sincerely hope it can be so with you.

    Not much more to say except ‘thanks’.
    It’s the understanding that means so much to me.
    ~m

    ps. miss me? 😎

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  9. Michael–Your post has me thinking. There are so many things that we still want from our parents, and which ours can no longer even pretend to give us. You are so right–we have to examine ourselves and what we believe in. I’ve always had a big problem with a God who dispenses favors to those who say x number of Hail Marys, or who has a secret plan for us. There are some things we just cannot understand or control the way we want to–I think you have to leave yourself open to it all, which is what you are doing so eloquently by sharing this with us. I love your last sentence!


    Thanks for reading, Deb.
    Difficult post to write, as they all seem to be.
    Neccesary though.
    I really liked that last line as well.
    Prayer really is the quintessential ‘whisper’, yes?
    ~m

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  10. Michael,

    I’ve been meaning to stop by your site and finish reading over some of your posts about your dad. Sometimes, though, it’s almost harder to hear someone else voice the same thoughts and feeling that swirl around in your brain, because it makes them that much harder to ignore, but today I decided to crawl out of denial.

    I obviously can’t relate exactly, but I do understand what a hideous thing dementia is. It gradually morphs someone you love into a stranger, and eventually, a shell, and the slow, long process is heart wrenching.

    A few days ago, my dad gave me a card as an early birthday present. He’d tried to write “Happy birthday. Love, Dad” on the inside, but he wasn’t able to figure out how to spell all of the words in his short message. It was like a cold reminder he’s gone, but even though he’s gone, there’s still a long road to walk down.

    Your post is beautiful.

    How old was your dad when he was diagnosed?

    ~Kelsey

    I replied via email.
    Thanks, Kelsey.
    ~m

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