I swear one of the hardest things that I’ve been dealing with is trying to find a happy medium between spending time with my dad and trying to avoid spending time with my mother. Who am I kidding, I’ll take any medium at this point, happy would be just a bonus. That guilty feeling just keeps nagging at me because I’m not yet at peace with where my relationship with my dad is. He is being negatively affected because of the mother wounds that are still painful.
My mother is trying to use him as a pawn to raise feelings of guilt. The struggle of fond memories being enough or not, is real.
I basically feel like it’s me against the family on this one. Like that feeling hasn’t ever happened before!
I have fond memories of my dad, we spent a lot of time together when I was little. We did typical dad/son stuff like going to the river, catching crayfish and minnows, walking, target practice hitting cans in a creek, all that kind of stuff. He was also an assistant coach and Umpire for the little league baseball team I was on. Even though he was a way a lot working second shift he always found time for me. He was supportive and encouraging too, always spoke softly but with conviction. I remember his nickname for me growing up was, “champ”. To this day I’m not sure why he chose that name but I liked it.
He’s 82 now, onset of dementia, and doesn’t have much short term memory left. He does have a pretty fair amount of his long term memory still from what I can tell. I know he wants to spend all this time with me, he calls me all the time asking if I need groceries, or I want to go for dinner or something. When I do see him he will ask me multiple times during my visit, “how are you doing?”, “how is work going?”, “they keeping you busy these days?”. It’s heartbreaking but I’m always kind and polite and just enjoy talking with him.
However, it’s a stressor for me because I feel like my good memories of him are being replaced with the ones where he doesn’t remember much anymore. I’m not even sure he remembers the last time I saw him, no matter if it was just yesterday or last week. I want to remember my dad for all the fun stuff we did, the guy who was full of life, enjoyed driving and walking, and able to do all the stuff we’ve always done. So why is it not OK to just want to keep those memories intact and not see him as much now?
Is that selfish? Perhaps…at least it feels like it.
J and I have been talking in sessions about how to best figure out a way to deal with this. Ultimately it’s up to me to be at peace with whatever decision I come up with regardless of how much backlash I could get from the family.
My sister and brother, my mother all are of the mindset of spending as much time as possible with dad and her while they are still around. Those 4 have a different kind of bond together than I have with them. Oh, I know my parents love me and my sister and brother too, I get it. Like I said though, it’s always been different with me and I have a feeling that both my sister and brother have issues with how things are with my parents and me. They haven’t ever said it but knowing them I wouldn’t doubt it.
I would imagine they think I am ungrateful and selfish for not being on the same level as they are with the reciprocal affection exchanged between them all. That does bother me some but honestly I don’t lose sleep over it. I’ve never been close to them anyways; we are just worlds apart in most every way. Still though at times it bugs me but I’ve gotten pretty good at radical acceptance when it comes to my siblings.
Even years ago before my dad’s memory began to diminish we didn’t spend that much time together anyways. Life gets in the way, they travel to visit relatives and friends, and have their own schedule of things. There is a myriad of reasons, or excuses, that come into play. I didn’t have this issue of working through feelings of guilt during all that time before. So again, what’s changed?
It’s extremely hard for me to be at peace with a decision that I make that is controversial between family or close friends. In this healing journey I’m working on that though. I am my own person and I have my reasons for what I decide to do or not do. Being able to separate what I’m comfortable with, not letting myself be influenced by the words or actions of others, is not easy but it is necessary. Why should my mindset change if I’ve come to grips with a decision, just because it’s different than what my family thinks?
It shouldn’t change, I am my own person. I love my dad and I always will. I want to remember him how he and I were before and just being ok with that.
Shout out to a good friend who sent me a comment via email. A very heartfelt personal comment as this topic is close that person’s heart. Thank you for sharing and thank you for the encouragement.
I see much of what you have written in my husband. His mom is in a nursing home full-time now with dementia and needs round-the-clock care. His upbringing was beautiful and filled with many of the memories you describe here; a childhood filled with happier times helps him now. He struggles with some of the same feelings you have described here. I can see him wanting to cultivate love and make new memories with his mom, but it does invariably turn into brief phone or FaceTime calls with few words coming through our speaker. He finds solace in the fact that he made loving memories with her for 40+ years. That feeling of loss does not go away, but he is finding that he needs to choose to look at his mother’s situation from 30,000 feet, rather than up-close in order to see the grand scheme of her lifelong journey. I wish this time were not so painful for either of you, my friend… I am confident that over time, you will indeed come to find peace with this and so many more areas of your recovery journey. You are a bright light in this community. I am thinking of you and sending you peace.