Those two utter strangers who for some inexplicable reason decided one day it would be a good idea to take an alien life form in the hopes that some day a responsible and productive member of society will emerge and metamorph from the crystalline cocoon in which the alien wraps itself upon entry to its second decade of existence.
Those odd beings who spend hours teaching their offspring to talk only to regret that decision a few years later.
Those people who are filled with wisdom, love, knowledge, and though they age they do not get old.
Or aren’t supposed to.
While the rule is a parent should not outlive their child, a parent isn’t supposed to get old much less die. That’s the rule, too.
Parents are supposed to be immortal. They are super heroes who are the smartest, strongest, wisest of all beings. Parents never weaken. They are the ones who swing you around, play cars, attend your tea parties, hold you when you’re scared, and comfort you when you’re hurting.
They are supposed to always be there.
Today a decision I had to make only a few days ago will be completed. Dad is transferring directly from the hospital to a nursing home. It is a short-term rehab facility but he has the opportunity to transition to the long-term facility should rehab not go well.
Today will provide the evidence of my failure. I am not strong enough to care for my dad at home. I am not knowledgeable enough to care for him at home without assistance. I am not strong enough to lift him when he falters, to not lose my temper when he becomes needy, to not feel the rage that rises at my failure.
Families are supposed to care for one another, not shuttle them off to a nursing home for others to care for him, strangers to care after him. When a family member can no longer live alone at home they are to move in with another family member or a family member is to move in with them. I was selfish – I stalled at the option of moving in with him until it was too late. I’ve passed him off to a facility to care for him, an institution to watch over him and see to his needs.
Parents are supposed to stay where they built a home out of love, a home they shared with their soul mate, a home where they raised their children. Parents are supposed to stay in their home forever, even when their souls are with God.
“That’s where your great grandaddy grew up and over there is where your grandaddy grew up.”
How many times have you heard this while on a drive with your parents? How many places are still known and referred to by the families who once resided there?
“Follow that road until you get to the old McBride place and turn left into the lane. Once you get to the old Smith farm you will only be two miles from your destination.”
“Oh, you’re moving into the Johnson’s house? You’ll love it there. Mrs. Johnson made the house so warm and welcoming.”
No, I failed at my job. I failed Dad. I failed in my duties as a daughter. Dad will no longer live in the home he and Mom created for my brother and I. He will no longer sleep in the room he’s slept in for the past 45 years. No, he will be living in a cold, sterile institution surrounded by strangers. Strangers waiting to die.
I want my Daddy back. I want that Daddy who taught me to throw a ball, who attended my ball games, who held me close and called me his Little People. I want my Daddy who would walk on his hands or toss me into the pool and made Sunday nights fun when the youth would come over to our house following church. The Daddy who taught me the books of the Bible in Training Union and made it fun.
That man is gone. The man who is here is still my Daddy. But now he is the metamorphosis of my Dad. There is a difference.
I’ve had to take control of his care. I’m the one who signs his papers, pays his bills, communicated with his doctors, administer his medications, deposit his checks, does his laundry, and scratches his back. I’m the one who strokes his hair when he’s upset or holds his hand when he’s confused and frustrated. I’m the one who has to make the difficult adult decisions.
I’m not ready for that. Yes, I’m almost fifty years old but when it comes to Dad emotionally I’m that adolescent who worships her Daddy, who loves being called Little People, who plays catch after supper in the front yard.
The roles are reversed. I’m now the provider, the comforter and protector. I’m now the grown up.
I hate being the grown up.
I’ve hard decisions to make now and more to make in the future. I can only hope and pray I’m strong enough to make them. I can only hope and pray I’m strong enough as I watch my Daddy slowly die in front of me. His heart is so weak and he is so frail. Yet he will tell you he wants to “live to be 120 and shot by a jealous husband.”
But I’m not ready yet. I never will be. I will never be strong enough or prepared enough to say goodbye to my Daddy. He’s my Dad. I’m his Little People. This is a fact and a truth that will remain unchanging throughout eternity.
He’s my Dad. He’s my Big People. That will always be.