Mom died in M arch (see Farewell Mom). In 24 hours Dad was separated from the love he knew as a husband of 56 years and moved from the life he knew in his house of 40 years to a residential care home.
It was not easy to make it through the ensuing details. My siblings and I completed the funeral arrangements (Dad was dependent upon Mom for everything since his heart attack and brain damage of ten years earlier and he had been deemed incompetent to handle affairs). We shut down the homestead. We grieved a tangible loss.
Counselors advise “Comfort My People.” When you learn “many things can contribute to make a person susceptible to clinical depression” does this assume we have a 100% complete clinical study and diagnosis of all disorders? In my freshman year of college I was classmate to a girl whose mother developed breast cancer (this was 35 years ago). The girl dropped out of school and my circle of friends lost touch with her. My own wife developed breast cancer (in 2003) and although understanding of “statistical treatment needs” for physical illness changes there is no significant difference between the abhorrent abandonment encountered by the family and close friends of patients, resulting in various degrees of mental illness for all concerned.
I endeavored to improve dialogue by creating a better translation for caregiving responsibilities (see Caregiver’s Manual for Men- http://caregivermanual.blog.com/caregivers-manual-for-men ). There is no rhyme or reason to justification of the consequence of tragedy—real, perceived, or imagined.
But back to Dad. We barely exchanged words those ten years when I came to town for visits. Rarely would he acknowledge my inquiries and ultimately I spent the bulk of phone conversations talking with Mom. This was not a radical deviation from previous communication levels. Sadly at some point we had just quit trying to get along. That was probably the real reason my relationships with siblings were rejuvenated and improved during the process of providing increased support to Mom. I began checking in with her and was no longer a stranger.
But with Mom gone, his home gone, and virtually every memory trigger stripped from his life, Dad became a sure target for dementia. Something made me re-initiate those weekly calls “home.” About two months later I even managed a “surprise” visit. The first revelation was that I had secretly shaved my head. There are no words to describe the startled smile that landed on his face when I removed my cap. Secondly, I asked the nurses if I could share a beer with my Dad (some meds are prone to interaction with alcohol). They said “Okay” (Dad had been in a Hospice program several times). Again, no adequate expression of my joy can be made for seeing the satisfaction Dad took from drinking that beer. Third: I brought in “snackies” (Twizzler candy, pretzels) and shared them with everyone–residents, employees, and visitors alike. For one gleeful day I was just Dad’s son enjoying a beautiful afternoon together.
Mom died and 3 months later Dad died. We knew Mom and Dad couldn’t live forever but the losses were real. Linda got cancer and we didn’t know how she would survive. The losses to personal security and well-being were also real although intangible. The mere act of survival seemingly sanctioned others with the ability to pass judgment and make claims of “perceived” as to the severity of our misfortunes. When a doctor examines suicide and says “The best response is to suspend judgment, to stop trying to assign a motive and just be as sympathetic as possible to the survivors…” is the shock here any greater than other tragedies? Does everyone know this recommendation should become general instruction applied to giving better care to all?