When I was about 16 years old I was searching my dad’s office for something, I can’t remember. I open his roll top desk, open all the little drawers inside and then opened a side drawer. He used to lock this desk but for some reason it was open. I was innocently looking for something office related. Instead I found a letter in an envelope. For some reason I pulled it out, I don’t remember why. This was 27 years ago for me. I read the letter and it was a note that said, “I wish I was a better dad. I wish I was a better husband. I wish I made more money at work. I wish I was a better looking man. I wish”…and it was a list like this then went on the full page. At the end “I don’t know how to do better. I am not good enough.” At the end it said “I want to kill myself”. It devastated me. I quickly folded the letter and put it back so that no one would find out that I accidentally found it. I never told anyone that I found that letter. It scared me down to my bones. I was in a panic and was thinking, “when”. I still have time to tell him that he is enough, he can change anything that he is unhappy about and that I love him. I was dedicated to being his friend and help him find happiness.
We lived in a big house but we often hung out in the small sunroom in the corner of the house. We had a hammock hanging from the walls and a hammock chair swing overlooking our yard. There was a tv in the corner of the room. My dad was often drinking beer, I think it was Old Style. I would sit back in the sunroom with him and talk about life. I would ask him lots of questions about life, what to major in, where to go to college, etc. He would tell me how unhappy he was. My father suffered with depression for a very long time. Most of his adult life. He always seemed sad to me. He told me that life was cruelly lonely. I was thinking, how can that be, you got me, my brothers and mom. At this time, my brothers were starting to fight and get into mischief. I was up to my own shenanigan’s but I was better at hiding it. We move to a new town when I was 15 and they were 11, 11, 13 and 18. He was frustrated and said he had no control over them and didn’t know what to do. He was unhappy with my mother. They used to have terrible screaming fights. When I was younger, I remember my mother calling the cops on my dad. We spent hours talking about how unhappy he was. I didn’t know it at the time but this is called “emotional incest”. Emotional incest is when a parent looks to their child for emotional support or treats them more like a partner than a child. The problems that he was going through were too heavy for me to deal with, I was just a kid really. I was dedicated to making my father happy so that he wouldn’t kill himself. The fear was real for me but somehow I blocked it out and never talked about that letter.
To make matters worse, my mom would sneak around the door of the sunroom and hear my father complaining about his marriage to me. She would get furious and would scream at him to “go hang out with your other wife”. It was devastatingly cruel. I couldn’t tell her what I was worried about and now I didn’t trust her. I really should have been talking to an adult about what I was going through but clearly not either of them. I felt fear for my father and betrayed by my mother. My mother did work super hard and she expected everyone to help. Specifically I remember her coming home with groceries and if we didn’t stop and help her right away then we were screamed at. Now that I’m an adult, I understand why she was tired and needed help. I just didn’t see it as a kid. I just saw my mom as someone that I couldn’t trust because I never knew when she would turn on me. Of course she’s my mom and I loved her. She has a very likable side to her and I often wanted a better relationship with her than I did. I graduated at 17 years old and was off to college shortly after this incident.
The reason that I think of this now is because my dad is very sick and I keep having all these flashbacks. I also want better relationships in my life and I am doing some self inquiry on where I seemed to be stuck. My ex-husband was depressed most of the time that I was married to him. I think I thought I could save him too. Maybe his sadness is what attracted me to him. It was so familiar. I was thinking about this because even though I have a lot of people around me in my life, I somehow found myself feeling lonely tonight. Maybe it was just the first time that I have been alone at night in some time. Lately my mom is here or my children. My mom is in Chicago and my kids are at their dads and I got to meditate for the first time in awhile. As I meditate I have these panicky urges to do something. I resist them because I know that doing something is just distracting me from dealing with myself. I want to go clean my house, go check out this new/used bedroom set for my girl, visit my dad, hang with my ex and kids. Instead, I do nothing. I just breath and tears roll down my face. Sometimes I feel like I did all this spiritual work on death and I’m ok about my dad’s situation but lately I feel sad. It seems to come and go in waves. You never really seem to get over it. It just seems to hurt less over time.
I’ve been able to visit my dad alone at his Assisted Care Facility, Crain’s Lodge. When I see him, he is so docile and weak and I never saw him be aggressive. I don’t doubt it if the care facility says that he has been. When I am with him he is tenderly sweet. His speech is so disoriented but it sometimes ends with, “this is what you have to do. See?” He is still trying to parent me even though he is sick with Alzheimer’s and can barely sit up or stand up. He talks in a really soft kind voice. When I see him lately he is hunched over really bad. When I come in, I crouch down by his feet and tell him about my day or I try to move him to the couch or take him for a walk. The other day I helped to feed him soup because the spoon kept going on an angle and spilling the broth everywhere. He was hungry. I plan to ask the facility what his medication is because when I first moved him there he was moving around a lot better. I must be coming right when he gets his medicine or they up’ed his medicine. Either way, I talk as nice as I can to him and I often hug him and tell him I love him. I know he can read my energy even if he can remember me. He seems to remember me but he can’t say my name. I often remind him, “I’m Amy, your daughter”.
I am reading a book called “The End of Alzheimer’s” and this book gave me some hope. Sometimes hope feels like a wicked thing but it’s all we have. This book talks about how switching to a mostly plant based diet, can help stop or reverse Alzheimer’s. No dairy, no soda, no fatty treats like cakes, cookies or ice cream, no trans fats or fried foods, no alcohol, or processed foods. Basically eat clean. If you do eat meat then this book recommends that it only be a condiment. I personally recommend getting off of it. If I agree with everything in this book or not, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that they were specific case studies of people who reversed or stopped their Alzheimer’s. I got a glimmer of hope. I know I can help my dad if I can take him home with me. The only thing is that I need help with him. He needs 24 hour care. I feel like this is his only hope. The assisted care facility, Crain’s Lodge, feeds everyone a basic Standard American Diet, SAD diet. The use white bread, desserts and sugary drinks. It’s all typical American fare. He’ll never get better there. If I bring him home then I also have to deal with my mom’s own eating addictions. I think she’ll give him whatever he wants. She doesn’t believe me.
I can’t help but to wonder if his condition can improve with diet change. I can help him improve this significantly. I feel like at this point, he has nothing to lose, everything to gain. He will still be a handful so I would have to hire help on care.com. This hope that I feel is the same hope that I felt with trying to help my dad when I first found his suicide note. I can help but I also need help. I would have to add combination locks on my doors and hire a caretaker. I still can’t help but to feel like I can’t give up on my dad. It’s his life. He is young. He deserves better. He would do anything for me. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. He is robbed of everything that is him. When he is loved, then he is absolutely the kindest, most gentle person I know. He needs help eating, dressing, bathing, going potty, everything. His disoriented speech is a big thing that I notice. He wants to talk but he can’t seem to get it out. He also wants to walk, all the time. I would have to walk him everyday. I just worry about being stuck to my house.
After my meditation I was reflecting on how I would talk to my dad as a kid and try to “help” him by being his friend. I was thinking that despite all my efforts to make him happy, I now realize that no one can make you feel anything. He had to find happiness all on his own. Besides, thinking back, my advice that my adolescent self was giving him was terrible. I often told him, “just get divorced”, problem solved I thought. What was nagging him was his soul. His soul needed to be healed. As I realize that he had to find his own happiness, so do I. I am searching somewhere deep inside and breathing. You know, it is nice to be alone once in awhile. I feel better already. Thank you for listening. I love you all. Peace. Pray. Love. And please eat more fruits, vegetables and get 15 minutes in the sun for vitamin D as much as you can. It’s in the book:)