Saturday, September 09, 2006
My father used to have this wisecrack he'd trot out whenever someone asked him for the time.
"It's time old dogs are dead," he'd say, "aren't you feeling sick?"
That phrase has been running through my head a lot over these last few days as my father's mental state has taken a downward slide.
It started late last week when he went berserk with George, his home healthcare attendant from the Veteran's Administration, butted heads with my sister, and got to a point where my father and I squared off in the dining room ready to start punching each other.
Yes, it's been a hell of a week.
Let George Do It
We'll start off with George, a nice, mellow African man who has been with my father for the last 2 1/2 years. He's soft-spoken and conscientious and seemed to get along with my father just fine. They used to go for walks together or have coffee in a local diner.
In the last year, however, the old man's become increasingly hostile with George, snapping at him and complaining about everything the guy did. It got worse recently as my father physically pushed George out of his way a few times.
Then things went off the deep end. George called me from at work and said my father refused to get washed and would I please talk to him? Fine, I said, put him on the phone.
But my father would not get on the phone. Instead he screamed and cursed at George to get the fuck out of his house over and over.
"You take orders from me," he shouted, "nobody else!"
I could hear all this, but even though I shouted for the old man to pick up, he wouldn't do it. Finally George came back on the line and I told him to call Mary, my dad's aide, and get her to come over to the house.
Mary did just that and ordered my father to get into the shower, which he did without a word of protest. I thought it was over, but then Mary called me a few hours later with some shocking news.
"I don't know how to tell you this," she said. "But George wants to quit."
I was stunned. I didn't anything could anger George. Whenever my father abused him and I apologized, George would smile and say, "it's the disease," referring to the old man's dementia.
But finally even he got fed up. I called him at his home that night and he said he was not coming back. He pointed out that other aides would have just walked out when the old man told them to, leaving my father without food or medication. He, however, would never do such a thing.
The problem was George was too nice and my father picked up on that. With my mother gone and his children grown, George was the last person on earth my father could bully. And now he was taking off. There are plenty of old people in this world. Why stick around with this old lunatic?
I miss George; he was good man, did his best, and, on the more practicle side, he knows his way around the house, so I don't have to show him every little thing.
"We used to get along," he said. "Why does he have to be so horrible?"
I've been asking that question for years, George, and I still don't have an answer. I guess because my father is so good at it.
We had a young girl come in one day this week and my father made disgusting remarks to her all day. I reminded him that this woman was the same age as his granddaughter.
"How would like someone to talk to Kristin that way?" I asked.
As always, my father's hearing tends to get worse when he doesn't like the question.
I was out late Thursday and my sister offered to watch my father until I got home. So I was standing on the train platform at W.72nd Street when my cell phone goes off. (I should get rid of that thing, since it only seems to convey bad news.)
My sister asked me to hurry up and get home. And then she started crying. She and my father had gotten into a terrible fight as she was taking into him back into the bedroom.
I came home and explained to her that it was okay, he was always very difficult and the dementia just made it worse.
"You should just walk away," I said, sounding like Marcus Welby. "You can't reason with him."
Close Shave, Comrade
And then it was my turn to face the beast.
The next morning I had to break in yet another new homecare aid. For some strange reason, the young woman who had come the other day didn't want to work with my father anymore.
Gee, I can't imagine why. Do you think it might have had something to do with him asking her to kiss his penis? Just a thought.
The new guy, Alex, was this very loud and rather dense Russian fellow. But things seemed to be going okay as he prepared to shave my father. He stripped the old man completely, sat him on the toilet, and lathered my father up.
I thought it might actually work out, but my father kept shifting his body, and finally, he jumped up to his feet while Alex had the razor against his neck.
"What are you doing?" I shouted, concerned he might sever his jugular.
And then he was in my face, shouting how he had a bad back and couldn't sit anymore. My father's been yelling at us for a long time and I just couldn't take it anymore. I started yelling back, and we were in each other's faces.
"Fuck you!" I finally shouted and walked out of the bathroom.
My father follows me out of the bathroom--stark fucking naked, mind you--screaming and cursing, saying he's going to break my fucking jaw.
"Don't you dare," I shouted.
He actually tried to hit me, the scumbag, but I picked it off. Imagine fighting with your naked 85-year-old father--it's image I'll take to my grave and I'd gladly have a lobotomy to remove it from my brain entirely.
"I was trying to help you," I said.
"Some help," he replied, rolling his eyes.
I started screaming that he could get his favorite son--the one who never shows his face around the house, doesn't do shit to help us, but somehow remains Daddy's little darling.
"He's nuts," the old man says to Alex, who witnessed this nightmare.
"May God strike you dead!" I shrieked, like some raging Puritan.
Finally--finally--I took my own advice and left. I walked for a few blocks, thinking about how much I hated my life. I'll be 50 years old in May 2007 and I'm still under this bastard's thumb.
I was mortified that I had lost control in front of a total stranger, that the neighbors must have heard the brawl, including our white trash tenants who have a screaming match every day of the week.
When I calmed down, I called Mary, told her what happened, and asked to go take care of the son-of-a-bitch before I killed him. Then I went up, got cleaned up, and went into work.
It's been a day or more now and I'm barely speaking to him. I know arguing with someone suffering from dementia is pretty demented in its own right, but I couldn't stop myself.
Something has died inside of me. I don't care about my father anymore. I'll do what is required of me as one of his children, but, frankly, he could drop dead tomorrow and I wouldn't bat an eye. I guess I'm like George. I've had enough.
We're taking my father out for his birthday tomorrow and I really don't want to go, but he doesn't have many left so we should at least go through the ritual. But I'm not getting him a present, as I believe that fact that I refrained from the beating the shit out of him to be a very nice gift in its own right.
I'm tired of this guy. Mary says he belongs in a nursing home, even though she'd lose her job if he did. He shouldn't be around people, certainly not me or my sister. I'm going away next week for a vacation in the Berkshires and maybe I'll feel differently about my father when I get back, but I doubt it.
What time is it? It's time old dogs were dead--isn't he feeling sick?