The Child becomes the Parent

dad at homeI had some down time to decompress. The company I work for shut down for Christmas and reopened the second day in the new year. During that time I wondered how I became the parent and my dad became the child in our father/son relationship.

My dad came from a poor family in North Carolina. Leaving school to help the family make ends meet, he did odd jobs until old enough to join the military.  After serving in the army, he made ends meet working for a local contractor. Picking up the business quickly, he made a name for himself and was able to start his own business.

In time, he met my mother, who was divorced and had 3 children. He loved her, married her, and took on the responsibility of a blended family even before I was born. As a child, I never heard him tell me he loved me. The fact was, it was obvious he did. When times were tough, I never missed a meal and always had a stable roof over my head. I remember having a fenced in yard to ride my tricycle, my own room with a huge black and white television that made the noise dahummm….when switched on.

I walked to school and back home alone. There was no need for family presence or numbers for safety. My only worry was remembering to bring my lunch to school. Child Protective Services did not exist and was not needed in our home. My life was plain vanilla.

Like most children, I wanted to be like my dad. He had his own business, so I thought Id be able to tag along on light contracting jobs. But, his impatience and being a perfectionist kept me from developing the relationship I thought we should have. A friend helped me get into the corporate world, and I’ve been there ever since, on my own.

Our relationship changed when my mom passed away from breast cancer. My dad lost his love and life companion. He started to call me sometimes, a first for him. When he asked why don’t I stop by to visit, I had no words to express. My mind kept thinking about that song “Cats in the Cradle.” After all, I got married and had a son of my own.

My dad eventually remarried and began to enjoy life as he had before: having a partner after the kids were grown, and shutting out everybody else.

Unexpectedly, my dads new wife also passed away after a few good years together, dementia being the culprit. My one marriage, not as rock solid as his two, ended in divorce. It comes in 3’s they say. I took a small studio apartment while my son stayed with my dad until he got his own place.

Enjoying life as a bachelor, I visited dad once or twice a month, thinking he is strong and doesn’t need me. But the visits turned into picking up prescriptions or stopping off for groceries. I noted that little things around the house was being ignored. What about the big things? How was his health, really? I got my answer recently when a bleeding issue caused a trip to emergency services.

Having the possibility of  a job layoff, and seeing my dads failing health, I decided to move back home. As it turned out, my company signed a five year contract that included me. Wonderful news! And my dad was released from the hospital a week later. Great! He is back home cooking and cleaning for himself. He actually cooks enough for us to share meals together. (mostly bland salt free food so I pass sometimes)

We rang in the new year going to my dads cardiologist, urologist and hematologist. I prepared a list for all of his medications. The name, milligrams, dosage, and who prescribed them. Address, telephone number of primary physician and pharmacy was listed. Medical history for the past ten years too. All the things that the doctors and nurses interrogated me about while in emergency, I now have on a spreadsheet that I can use for quick answers if under pressure or stress.

I’m working on an emergency  “go” bag. It will have supplies needed for an unexpected hospital stay. Included are non slip socks, reading glasses, mobile charger and a light robe to keep him modest. (Nobody wants to see an 87 year old mans ass out) As I vacuum my carpet, I finish in his room, even though he did not ask. Its the same for everything else. If I see it needs to be done, then I do it. That’s how I got my answer. This is when I realized I became the parent instead of the child. I also wondered if I should tell my dad I love him. Then I thought, “He knows…. Isn’t it obvious?”

Next Blog Post – Friday, February 2nd, 2018

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