Have you ever considered what it would mean to change? To really change? To look at your life, who you’ve been and who you are, and what you’ve done, and make the decision to be someone else from that moment forward?
My Dad has Parkinson’s. He’s been ill and declining for more than 10 years. It’s an ugly disease, one that robs you of your body and physical health generally long before your mind. And a couple of weeks ago his wife’s fear of a recent aspiration and pneumonia finally convinced me to drag myself out of my self-absorption, and go find my father.
We had circumstances that weren’t optimal. He lived in Edmonton, and my mom and stepdad moved us from Canada to Texas, then London, and finally Holland before I was done with high school. Living overseas and only seeing him summers didn’t give a father and son enough time or opportunity to learn how to be together, or relate, and so my memories are a rough mixture of long flights, great driving trips and unresolved visits.
I slept in the hospital with him for three nights. It’s a lot of time to think, for better or worse. But I think I’ll always be grateful for those hours. Because in that time some things occurred to me as I sat next to him that probably wouldn’t have if I had still been guessing at what it all looked like from Texas.
That he made mistakes. That parents make mistakes. That I’m a Dad, and I’m still making big mistakes. And the memories of my Dad’s mistakes were those formed by a kid’s brain that had no business passing lifelong judgment on subjective events. Especially now, as I catch myself, as many parents do, in moments wondering why anyone let me take a human home from the hospital. And once you wrap your head around the fact that you’re not perfect, and neither is he, the next steps SHOULD be easy.
Piece o’ cake, right? Grace. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Hell, APPRECIATION of people for who they are, in spite of their flaws. Their mistakes. Hell…BECAUSE of their flaws.
Piece of cake.
Doesn’t this all mean you have to decide to change? To be better? From whoever you may currently be, if you care about your kids, and in the time you have left here, don’t you owe it to YOURSELF, to your KIDS, to BE better? To BE happy? To let go of what you can’t control, to forgive the people who you can’t even begin to understand, and to just OUTWARDLY LOVE, for no other reason than it makes you feel good? Financial problems? Take the steps and fix them. Alcohol? Take the steps, and stop. Pain? Pain in your knee, pain in your head, your heart? Take the steps, fix it, let it the fuck go. Take the steps, look up, take a breath, move forward. MAKE THE DECISION TO CHANGE, AND CHANGE.
I know my Dad. I’ve seen him at several stages of his life, and so for me it’s even more pronounced having seen him without transitions. I’ve seen him happy, I’ve seen him worried. I’ve seen him sad, and angry. Proud. Helpless. But in that hospital, I saw him at peace. He can’t move much, he can’t speak his mind much anymore, but I watched him hold that rosary, and pray.
He couldn’t speak, but I promise, I’m hearing every word. You’ve lived a good life, Dad. Your wife, the saint that she is, is the greatest testament to the person you are…she loves you. And she’s there. You’re dealing with something no one deserves. I’d give you the whole “You’ve got this” routine, but it would be an insult to what you’re going through and the lack of control you have over it. It’s just a relief to see that you’ve made your peace with it.
Or as my irreplaceable friend Lisa says… Tear shit up.