I thought I’d feel sick to my stomach while making the phone call. For some reason, I didn’t. It actually was a relatively easy conversation, at least for what it was. It definitely was a quick conversation, although nearly all conversations, especially phone conversations, with Danny are quick. He doesn’t want to engage with me very much. He never really did on the phone, not ever. And why would he want to talk with me about this?
“Danny,” I said.
“Bob called me.” Bob is the Executive Director of the assisted living facility – the stalag, as Danny refers to it – where Danny lives.
“He said he knows you’re smoking in your room again. And that you have no more chances after this. You have to stop, Danny.”
“You have to stop or he’ll move you to a nursing home. And no matter how bad you think it is where you are now, a nursing home would be worse. Much worse.”
“Sharing a room with someone you don’t know. And people all around you dying or near death.”
“So stop, okay.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I have to say this. I love you and you have to stop smoking in your room.”
That was about the gist of it. Then we got off the phone. What amazed me most was that I wasn’t shaking. I wasn’t trembling. I wasn’t even really upset. Every other time I’d had to “yell” at him, or tell him what he could or couldn’t do, I had been upset. Very upset. Shaking and crying when I got off the phone upset. But this time it just was what it was.
I love my father. I really do. And it pains me so to see him so sad, and with such a miserable life. People remind me that he brought himself to that life with his choices, but still, it’s a very sucky life and no one should have to live it. Especially not someone you love. When Danny had his stroke, over six years ago, I wished for all my friends’ parents, and for myself when the time came, that they all just got old and then quickly died one day. Watching Danny suffer through his stroke was awful. Watching him continue to suffer through his life is awful-er.
I don’t begrudge him his cigarettes. It’s pretty much the only pleasure he has (other than talking to my daughter when she calls him). But he never was one with a strong impulse control, and the stroke in the left side of his brain killed whatever impulse control he ever had. So he keeps agreeing to not smoke in his room and then he smokes in his room (and denies it). Maybe the stroke killed his ability to remember that he really can’t and shouldn’t, or maybe he’s just being rebellious and stubborn. Either way, he’s lost all his second chances and if he burns one more spot on the carpet or leaves one more ash in the bathroom sink, they’ll put him in a nursing home. And he’s only seventy with most likely a lot more years to go.
These are the conversations one should not have to have with their father. Or any parent. I shouldn’t have to police my father. I shouldn’t have to yell at him. I shouldn’t have to remind him that he has to follow the rules. But he has to follow the rules.
I, unfortunately, have a call into Bob to learn more about the nursing homes, and the process of moving Danny to one, in case that’s what happens. Because even though I’m planning on calling Danny once a week to remind him not to smoke in his room, I think the odds are stacked against him. And me. I think that’s a path we’re going to walk down.
I hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m wrong.
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