When I admitted Mr. Harris into the facility, I didn’t know a great deal of his personal life or history. I could tell something wasn’t quite right, based on how his son behaved. At first, I assumed that maybe the son was just not close to him, or maybe they just had never gotten along. The son signed all of the documents, and seemed hurried to leave.
I moved through the admission process as quickly as I could. The continual tapping of the pen on the desk caught my attention.
” I am sorry, but cannot help but take notice of your nervousness. Are you sure you are comfortable with your decision to place your father here? Are there any questions I can answer to make this more comfortable for you? ” I asked. I explained how difficult these types of decisions are……but before I could finish….his son cut me off.
” Difficult? You think this is difficult? Listen lady, I am do what needs to be done. Nothing difficult about it. You think this man gave a cuss about my mother or my brothers or I? Hell NO. Listen, I am doing right by him even though he never once did right by us, not as kids, and certainly not as adults. Is it in his paperwork anywhere that describes him as a monster? That’s what he was, and still is. You can sit there all day long and tell me about how he doesn’t remember the past, well, whatever. Guess what lady? I do remember. I remember it all and don’t think for one minute that I will just have to understand that he doesn’t know what he is doing. He sure as hell knew what he was doing when he would beat us. He was an abusive father and just because he is old and demented doesn’t make it excusable. So, no, I am not nervous as you think. I just want to get away from him. So can we speed this up?”
Wow. Just wow. The anger in his voice; the look on his face and the way he pointed his finger at me, all indicated to me that certainly wasn’t anything I could say other than, ” Okay.”
We completed the documents, shook hands, and off he went.
His father, Mr. Harris has severe dementia. He is not aware that his family does not visit. He spends his time talking about fixing cars, deer hunting and going to work. He is quick to hug anyone, willing to accept his act of kindness.
” Well good morning good looking lady! How are you doing today? Have you seen my car? I know I need to put brake shoes on it, but I don’t feel up to it right now. Look here darling, can you get me something to snack on? I don’t think I have had a bite to eat all day. I was deer huntin’ most of the day, and I am worn slap out”…… his voice trails off as his thoughts change. I give him and hug and carry on.
His son is right, whatever his past behaviors, mistakes, poor judgments or just plain old mean streaks were, they are not excused by the diagnosis of dementia. But at the same time, until his son can find it in his heart to forgive his father, he himself will forever be held captive by the past.
I have a friend who is almost 50 years old. Recently he sat down with his dad, and told him all the things that bothered him throughout his childhood. His father was a workaholic, and never home. This young boy grew up on his own, with an absent father. 50 years later, he wants an apology from his father……which I assume took place….I don’t really know. The point is, for 50 years, this guy has harbored whatever animosity towards his father because he worked too much . Hmmmm. If Mr. Harris’s son is waiting on a similar apology, how will it happen when Mr. Harris doesn’t remember?
I know the two stories are very different circumstances. I am in no way meaning to compare an abusive parent to a workaholic parent. But I think at some point , we ourselves , must let go of the past for our own benefit. Mr. Harris will never be able to remember what he did or didn’t do, or be able to verbalize his feelings…..so where does that leave his son?
What will happen to Mr. Harris as his health declines? Who will make the right medical decisions for him? Will ever decision be made quickly, in haste to hurry to get away from his father?
There is an old expression, “As a man soweth, so shall he reap….”. Does that apply to Mr. Harris? He has long forgotten the hurt, yet his son has not.
I don’t know how this story will end. I just wish there could be a fairy tale ending……………..