Dad—who would’ve believed? This man had his first heart attack in his 40s, triple bypass at 60, a brain tumor in his 70s and a stroke in his 80s. The guy was stubborn (meaning grumpy), full of existential angst, who didn’t know healthy boundaries (as we’d say today).
Today my dad is 91 years old, confused, barely mobile—and happy! Nothing ruffles him, except occasionally Mom’s incessant complaining. He has no worries, unless Mom is in the hospital. My parents are joined at the hip.
Dad sits in the same chair -his chair, hour after hour, with a silly half-grin on his face. Sometimes he closes his eyes—we think he’s dozing–until he pipes up in a conversation he’s been following all along. Maybe tuning out the visual helps him concentrate.
My dad used to tell stories of his childhood, then they got jumbled together. Now it takes some prompting and the stories make even less sense. It’s too late to get a reliable family history.
I think he genuinely feels loved. He welcomes our greetings with an upturned countenance, innocent of our ambivalence, the wounds we carry into the room of his past, inappropriate behaviors.
He knows he’s a short-timer on this earth. Does he yearn for heaven? If so, he waits patiently, content to sit, nap, and read for short periods at a time. His one great joy—eating! Who would have believed?
Is this the “real” Dad, released from his own woundedness at last?
I’ve heard it said that those attitudes we nurture in earlier adulthood—be they love or hate, contentment or self-pity—are magnified as we age and the self-censoring center of our brain declines. Is Dad the exception that proves the rule?
This gives me pause for my own old age. Who knows what I will become? Will I be a saint or a tyrant? Lord, have mercy on us all.