This I Believe

Deborah - Bowling Green, Kentucky
Entered on August 9, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family

This I believe.

I believe I am learning, still learning at this stage of my life. When youth has escaped me, mid-life eludes me and things to come frighten me. But I believe I am learning an important lesson as a 50 year old daughter.

As I watch my 89 year old father teeter back and forth from reality to fantasy and then back to history, I am learning. I see someone who was once strong, who feared nothing at all, now being afraid of a shadow, a loud noise, a bath. He enjoyed success with an eighth grade education, he fought in World War II then later trained soldiers for the Korean War just as he had started a wood pallet business from nothing more than sawing trees on a wooded lot behind the house where he grew up. He was tall. He was strong. He was my dad.

Today, he is a person I do not know. He cannot find his glasses, his shoes, his watch. This giant of a man whom I feared but still loved is some sort of bent over, mixed up being who is lost in the space between life and death. His mumblings are barely audible. He speaks most clearly of “going home.” He murmurs of my mama as if she still lives. He searches for Poppy and Granny, his sisters and brother too. I rub his back and smile, rendering agreement when I do not even understand a word he speaks.

Some days he knows my name, other days he kindly thanks me with no recognition for the offer of a milkshake. He still smiles, even laughs on a good day but he fears as well. Even the slightest wrinkle on his bed worries him. I have learned not to wake him from sleep. Agitated behavior takes over his being so that no one can humor him. So I let him sleep, then return at another time.

They call occasionally, his attendants call every now and then to report an incident between my dad and another resident. “Everyone is okay” they say but each call rips at my heart because this person, my dad, has caused pain to another. This cannot be the same gentle man who was my dad. He is a person I do not know.

I believe I am learning, I have to believe this for that belief is the only answer which makes all the pain bearable. What I am learning, I cannot be sure but it must include patience and understanding and mostly, of not having the ability to control life. Some things just happen for which we cannot explain. This I believe, ever so strongly, I believe God is teaching me an invaluable lesson and I am still learning.