I’m free! I’m elated, but also, oddly apprehensive. Or at least I was last night. I fell asleep while watching YouTube, per yooz, but this time, I slept for an hour on the couch. Which made me think maybe I could go back to sleeping on the couch. Once I woke up, though, I was completely awake. I could not fall asleep again. I reluctantly went to my bed and still could not sleep.
You see, I was tense because I was waiting to hear my father yelling at my mother. It didn’t happen every night or even most nights, but it happened enough to have me hunching my shoulders and waiting for the ire. She didn’t tell me the worst of it (but she made sure to tell me that there was a worst of it), but what I heard was plenty bad. I only know that because of what my mother tells me because they only argue in Taiwanese. One of the endless discussions with my mother and brother is about how much of what my father does is a conscious decision and how much is his dementia. My mom thinks the delusions and paranoia are part of the dementia because they’ve gotten steadily worse. I think they’re controllable because he doesn’t do it in front of outsiders and rarely does it in front of me. My mother’s response to what I said was, weirdly, relief. I was freaked out because to me, him doing it on purpose was worse. She was relieved, however, because she said it was really scary (that’s when she told me there were worse things than him just thinking we’re all trying to steal his money) and it was less scary to think he could control it. Which, I can see why she would think that, but it would make it infinitely crueler.
He’s called my by the wrong name several times and has thought that I was my niece. He’s also thought my brother was my mother’s younger brother, and he’s asked my mom what her parents were doing right now. Her parents have been dead for decades as has his.
One of the hardest things about dealing with him is that you never know how he’s going to react to anything. 90% of the time, he’ll overreact to some perceived slight. Or ruminate over something that matters not a whit. Take yesterday for example. First, I have to say that my father just jumps into these conversations full-stop without any context because he expects you to know his every thought. My mom does it, too, but in her case it’s because she has a running commentary in her brain.
My father was doing some of his rehab exercises which meant he was lying on the floor. He suddenly said something about the problem with buying sleeping pills. Keep in mind that we hadn’t been talking at all about sleeping pills. It took a few seconds to realize he meant Dramamine, which I had mentioned was good for flying because it helped with dizziness and knocked me out for entire flights. I slept all the way to Taiwan once because of it. It’s not a sleeping pill; that just happens to be one of the side effects of Dramamine. I tried to explain this to my father, but he either couldn’t or wouldn’t understand what I was saying.
Side note: They found out that he could hear 96% out of his right ear when he wore his hearing aids, so he has no excuse not to wear them. He still didn’t wear them all the time, though, because that’s just his stubbornness.
I explained once again that Dramamine was to help with his dizziness and that the sleeping thing was just an added bonus. He clearly wasn’t listening because he started rambling about how it would be embarrassing to buy it from the pharmacist who would probably think he was an old man who didn’t want to live. I mean…WHAT? How the hell did we get from ‘helps you sleep’ to ‘suicidal old man’? It’s because in his mind, any perceived weakness is a blow to his masculinity. And needing a sleeping aid apparently is a weakness.
That’s another exhausting thing. Never knowing what will offend him and what won’t. The idea of taking sleeping pills–offensive. Walking around with cotton balls stuffed in his ear (soaked with medicine), not a blow to how he’s perceived. He’s so concerned with face, but has really strange ideas as to what harms it and what doesn’t.
Anyway, I tried to remain calm as I explained yet again to my father that Dramamine was over-the-counter and you didn’t need a prescription for it. It’s so common, in fact, you can buy it at the airport because they know that many people need it to fly. He ignored everything I said and repeated his worry as to how it would look if he bought Dramamine. Putting aside the fact that it would be my mother buying it, not him, his narcissism is on full display here. I told him that no one would care about him buying it because it’s so common. I didn’t say this, but in my head , I added that no one would care because no one cared about him. In that incident, I was referring to the very specific event of him buying or not buying something. I once complained to my brother that our mother was telling everyone and their sister about my hospital stay. I didn’t want her to do that because it was my story and she was dropping it in inappropriate places. He said that they would forget about it by the time they got home because ‘no one cares about you’. That stopped me short and he was right. The Lyft driver wasn’t going to think about me past dropping me off at my destination. The housecleaner is only going to ‘care’ about me in so much as she gets paid for cleaning my house. It was the perfect thing for him to say.
I admit I was terse when I snapped at my father that no one would care if he bought sleeping pills (which, again, Dramamine isn’t, but I could not convince him of that). It’s a common thing to buy and no one would think twice. And, as my brother pointed out, even if the pharmacist did say, “Oh, ugh. That doddering old man is buying sleeping pills. He must be seriously depressed”, so what?
The ugly truth is that my father thinks people are viewing him like that because that’s how he views other people. He has to find ways to put them down in order to feel better about himself. And he has to do it constantly because he has no core.
This is probably the last time I’ll see him. When I think about that, a feeling of relief washes over me. The last two-and-a-half months have been really rough. You’d think it would be because of the pneumonia, fainting, two cardiac arrests, one stroke, a week unconscious with a breathing tube down my throat, and another week in the hospital after I woke up, but oddly enough, that’s been a piece of cake compared to dealing with my parents.
The thing is, I knew from the moment I opened my eyes and saw them that it was going to be hard; I just didn’t realize how hard it would be. There were times when I wish I had stayed dead rather than deal with them. And it didn’t help that my mother would tell me that my father was saying he wanted to die or that it would be ok if he died because he was worthless. As someone who actually died twice, that offended me to the core. Don’t toss around dying like a threat. And my mom tearing up when she said this might be the last time we get to see my father.
You want to know my immediate thought when she tried to guilt me with that at the three weeks to go mark? (She was telling my brother and me we should show more respect and love to our father without specifically stating how.) I hope to fucking god it is. Which I did not say to her, of course, but I felt it with every fiber of my being. My second feeling was one of anger–at her. For trying to manipulate me, yes, but also because we had three weeks left. Oh, and on that same day while we were walking, she tried to say how much she would miss being together and all the things we wouldn’t be able to do–which we weren’t doing, anyway. Like going out to restaurants (hello, COVID). That’s my mother, though. She would prefer to spend the three weeks bitching and moaning about how sad she was going to be to leave than actually enjoy the time.
My relationship with my father has always been terrible so it couldn’t get much worse during this visit, but what has is my relationship with my mother. Granted, it wasn’t great to begin with, but she showed such an ugly side of herself in this last visit. How desperate she was for my father to be normal, she was willing to sacrifice me and my brother at that altar of futileness. She has told me more than once that her heart is with me and my brother. I told her that didn’t matter since her actions said otherwise. She couldn’t deny it as much as she wanted to.
Words are cheap. I say that as someone who adores words. But it’s easy to say that she’s with my brother and me; its’ much harder for her to back that up with actual deeds. When she blames me for my father’s bad behavior, that’s where I draw the fucking line. Especially when I was defending her at the time. Which she conveniently ‘forgot’. Which is her MO. ‘Forgetting’ the negative, especially if it portrays her in a bad light.
Still. Despite all that, I am ecstatic that I have the house to myself again. It snowed last night and has stayed on the ground. It’s maybe an inch, but it’s enough to boost my spirits. I went for my morning walk and didn’t have to brace myself for the ‘you must be cold’ bullshit. (Speaking of which, I cranked the thermometer to 62 during the day and 60 during the night, down from 72 and 65, respectively!) I could walk at the pace I wanted without a second thought. Now, I’m on the couch with Shadow fast asleep on my legs. I’m sipping my coffee and eating gluten-free/dairy-free ‘Oreos’ (brand glutino) as I listen to Kate Perry belt out my personal anthem, Firework.
Life is good.