Archive for TV

Gaining even more respect for my father

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by macmystery

A week or so ago, after picking my kids up for the weekend on Friday evening in Columbia, we stopped for dinner at Lizard’s Thicket near the airport.

For the unfamiliar, Lizard’s Thicket is a small chain of meat-and-three style restaurants in the Columbia area. Like Cracker Barrel, Dylan and Ella are fond of their food.

As we entered, I noticed and elderly man and his wife – I assumed – sitting opposite one another in a booth near the front of the restaurant. There was a walker stationed at the end of the table, and the woman looked quite frail, leading me to believe it was her walker rather than his.

I took notice because he looked tired, like a caregiver. I recognize this from watching my father descend over the years as he cared for my mother. By the time my mother passed in 2012, my father was a shell of the man I knew growing up. He had aged 50 years in 15.

Though he tried, the smile wasn’t the same. He dealt with blood pressure issues and depression, and my mother’s situation, and stubborn streak born out of fear, contributed to the accelerated demise of my father’s professional and military careers.

But he soldiered on. I heard my grandmother tell my mother once that she was lucky. Most men would have left and my father did not.

Statistically speaking, she was right. Noted and bloated TV psychologist/talking head Dr. Phil says 100 percent of relationships where one partner is a caregiver end in failure. I don’t think that’s 100 percent accurate, but I’ve no doubt it’s close.

As I watched my father, the best man I’ve ever known, struggle, I was not much help. I just hoped the strain and stress wouldn’t win. Once when my mother was being particularly difficult about something, I told her that if she killed him before she lost her battle to the myriad illnesses that were slowly taking her, I would never forgive her.

I haven’t endured what my father did, but my divorce several years ago and, more recently, the end of a serious relationship have hit me hard. I deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep, and quite frankly, I’m admittedly depressed.

Almost seven years ago, a freak occurrence – my mother banged her leg on the pole under a table at a restaurant – led to a heart attack and, eventually, my mother’s passing.

In the seven years since, my father is again the man I knew when I – and he – was younger. He smiles more, talks more, and his wonderful, dry, sometimes dark sense of humor is back. Despite a knee replacement several years ago, he is more active than he was 10 years ago.

He was lucky. My sister and I are lucky. If my mother had lived another 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind that my father would not have. I’m not sure if that would make him among Dr. Phil’s 100 percent or not.

Back to the couple at the Lizard’s Thicket. Though their interactions went unnoticed to my kids, I watched. I do this often in public.

The woman was lost. She could barely feed herself and appeared on the verge of tears the entire meal.

He did things for her. But he was not kind. It troubled him. It was like he had somewhere else to be, something else to do and she was keeping him from it. He was annoyed. He once yelled at her that the potatoes were not hot.

Then, when it came time to leave, he stood and waited for her to get up, while holding her walker at the ready. When it took more time than he anticipated, he banged her walker on the floor repeatedly in frustration.

I wanted to cry.

As bad as a look as it was for him, I don’t blame him. I don’t know that he’s a bad person. It’s quite possible that he’s just tired. Beyond all human limits. He’s at his end, and the fact that’s he’s still going is in itself an accomplishment.

That didn’t make it better for her. You could tell she was struggling emotionally, not just physically. She just couldn’t “do” anymore. And like most people in this country, they likely don’t have the means to make things any better for themselves, to get care for her above what he can provide himself.

All of this makes me even more grateful for my father. I’ve never told him that enough.

He never bailed on my mother, though at this point in my life, I can’t say I would blame him if he had. He could have tried to make his life better. He instead tried to make my mother’s better. And is still trying to do the same for my sister and me.

If I live to be half the man my father has been, it will be an accomplishment.