Sunday, September 27, 2009

Change in Others

This weekend I've been thinking a lot about the change we see in others, and how we - how I - deal with it. And it seems to me that it might be harder to deal with change in others than it is to deal with the change we struggle to create in ourselves.

My father lives in a nursing home, and he hates it. I don't blame him; unfortunately I don't have a better solution. He wants to stay in the rural area where he's lived most of his life, and the services that might have kept him living at home just aren't available.

So he's angry, and bitter, and I understand that and I hate the fact that I can't change it. But this weekend I realized something else: the sense of humor that has always been so much a part of him - a dry, subtle sense of humor that most people don't even see - it's gone.

It may not be gone completely but that twinkle in his eye that says "got you again!" has become very rare. Understandably so; who makes jokes when you're unhappy?

But I realized today that losing that part of my father really hurts. It's as though my real father died, and I'm left with this shell that looks like him, but isn't really him at all. And I also realized that not only does this change in him make our relationship difficult, but my refusal to deal with who he is, rather than who he was, is not making things any easier.

I need to work on my view of him - and my own sense of guilt for his being in the nursing home in the first place, which muddies the water even further.

If I still loved my mother when she was deep in the grip of terminal cancer, can I not still love my father when he is deep in the grip of a painful old age? I need to let go of wanting him to be my father; he is done with that. I started trying, a couple of years ago, to accept the fact that I can't make him happy. The best thing - maybe the only thing - I can provide for him now is companionship, and in order to do that, I have to stop wanting him to be who I want him to be - the Dad of 10 years ago - and accept who he is now.

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