I spoke with my dad, Danny, today. As many of you know, he’s in a nursing home, and too young to be in a nursing home. And as many of you know, he’s basically a pain to be around. He’s (understandably) cranky and cantankerous. He’s (as always) inappropriate and exasperating. He’s (justifiably) self-centered and self-focused.
Conversations with him are not fun.
Visiting him is generally not fun. Taking care of him is generally not fun. My oldest child says it’s easy, but also admits there’s no past baggage creeping up into the relationship. Years ago, when Danny first had his stroke, my mother-in-law commented that I had to take care of him. When she read the draft of my book, she commented that I didn’t.
In many ways I don’t owe Danny anything. Yes, he is my father, and yes, he took us in when my mother left. But living with him was never easy and he was never easy. He still isn’t easy. But as I explained to someone recently, I wouldn’t be okay if I didn’t try whatever I could to make his life a little better.
I am blessed with compassion.
I could be so filled with anger at Danny from all the past harms that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be willing to have a relationship with him now. I could be defined by my past and living in the scars of what happened, and feel, or be, too wounded to maintain my equilibrium around him. He requires a certain sort of boundary, a sense of having my guard slightly up at all times. I never really know when he’ll scream and curse at the attendants in the nursing home. Or at me. I know his life is sad and painful and that at times it erupts out of him, but he never really had impulse control before the stroke, and the stroke affected the impulse-control portion of his brain. In order to be safe around Danny, I need an internal (and sometimes external) shield, and to be on alert.
I am graced with the ability to do this.
I am grateful for my compassion, and for the buffer I can put between him and me, because this allows me to be with him. To take care of him. To ease the sting when he’s brusque or unappreciative. To enjoy him and our relationship as much as I can.
Thank god for my compassion.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!