With BlogHer ‘14 looming, I decided to have business cards made up. Minimum order was 100, so damn if I know what I’m going to do with the other 98 of these bastards come next month, but I am enjoying how they turned out:
“They’re pretty crass. You OK with that?” My husband asked when he saw them, tone half-way between eyebrow-raised amusement and mental-health-professional check-in. “I mean, you’ll have to hand them to an actual person. Who you might want to impress.”
I love them. I’m uncomfortable as hell about it. Now the only thing to do is to go to BlogHer and face down my two biggest fears. 1) I won’t talk to anyone. 2) I’ll have to talk to someone.
Thank you for the insight concerning day care for my dad, and my mom’s reaction to it. It never ceases to amaze me that third-person insight can cast light that is impossible to create on my own. I have spoken to my mom since, but she seems to still be of the same mind-set as before.
Another part of what happened when I saw my parents was that my dad has gotten mean.
I mentioned the big blow out in passing last post: During Middle’s hospital stay, my parents and I were tag teaming visits to the hospital and childcare for Middle’s two-year-old. During that time, my phone died. Because my parents both had phones, my mom offered to give my Dad’s, so each team would have a phone.
Truth: This was a logical solution.
Truth: There are a lot of things my dad can’t do anymore, but he forgets he can’t do, so he gets angry when people act like he can’t do them. One of these things is using a phone. Another is driving a car. A third is operate things like baby gates.
Truth: My dad seems to read the emotional content of situations perfectly, even if they are filtered through demented thought process. My mom and I had the phone discussion right in front of him, with both of us understanding Dad’s phone was useless to him.
My dad was PISSED OFF. Rightly so, I’m guessing. I mean, we treated him like he was less than equal — a child with no say-so over his own possessions, or a piece of furniture, or well, like a demented person.
(Here’s where I have problems processing, because treating my dad less than equal seems ghastly cruel. He is still a human being. He is used to pitching in and being a valuable team player.
But when Mom treats him like an equal/rational adult, Dad will problem-solve things with solutions like, ‘Well, I’ll drive down there and do that’ which is not a solution at all, because he can’t drive, or run an errand on his own. Mom then has to hem and haw about why that solution (which would totally work if Dad was still his old self) won’t work, and Dad gets irate because if you buy into the lie that he’s still a functional adult, his solution is sound. To me, it feels all kinds of gross, perpetuating his dementia somehow, when the conversation takes on a weird dimension which is not based on reality.)
Anyway, when Dad called me and Mom out, I immediately started bawling. My dad, who taught me everything about being a good person, and I had slipped right into treating him like he was barely even there. It was so easy, too!
That evening, after I’d had a chance to think things through, I broached the topic again, saying, “You know, we had that fight this morning and…”
Before I could finish, this triumphant/angry smile lit up his face and he pronounced, “And YOU lost,” in a tone suggesting he was putting me in my place.
I was so shocked. My father has always been smarter/more powerful than me. Never in my whole life has he used a tone to lord a win over me, like some smug victory. In many respects, he was a harsh, perfectionistic, demanding parent, but his motives were always clear-cut — to lift me up into a better state of personhood, never to push me down.
My sister, Middle, is something of a brain specialist. She can explain in vivid detail the pathways in the brain affected by Dad’s dementia, and why personality changes are a function of vascular deterioration in different parts of his cortex – that his behavior is nothing more than the lights going out in the cityscape of his mind.
But I find myself wondering if his reaction was because maybe his life is all about being wrong now – the landslide of negative reactions from people, the confusion in their faces when he tries to express himself, the off-kilter feedback that lets him know he’s not smart anymore, he’s not really who he was. Maybe the way he tried to make me feel – small and wrong – is a cry in the dark, and expression of how he feels all the time.
Or at least, the way I made him feel when I took his phone.