Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Drama

Sigh.  The battle goes on.

Some of my readers may remember that I wrote a few months ago that my father's doctor suspected that he had contracted Alzheimer's disease.  This diagnosis has since been confirmed.  After much struggle, we were able to get my father into a proper long-term care facility, where we expect that he will be for the remainder of his life.  He moved into this facility on Monday.

He managed to come to the wedding, but it was clear to most of the family who hasn't seen him in the past ten weeks that he had come down a long way, both physically and in his mind.  On the whole, the emotional response was shock.  I felt some of that myself.

Starting on Monday evening and ending yesterday, my sister, my brother and I, along with my daughter and her husband, have taken turns to walk through my father's house and see what is salvageable.  My sister has had more opportunity to do that; she came to live with my father about two weeks ago; unfortunately, she also withheld a lot of information from my brother and I because, well, my sister is living in denial and has trouble expressing herself when in an emotional state.

As such, we didn't discover that my father got rid of all the beds in the house about four weeks ago and has been sleeping on the floor.  We didn't know that mice had proliferated in the basement and have now gotten to the point where lyme disease is a real danger.  We didn't know that the contractors who were to come in and make the house ready for sale were set to fumigate the house today, so that instead of having two weeks (as we had been told) to deal with things in the house, we only had two days.  We didn't know that my father has been steadily demolishing the house, doing so right in front of my sister, who was so distraught by this that she simply kept it to herself.

My parents bought the house in early 1967.  My first memories start later than that date, so I don't remember a time when they did not live in the house.  Throughout my father's life, he has steadily rebuilt and renovated the house, regularly replacing the siding, repainting, updating the plumbing and the wiring, rebuilding sections of the house, expanding it three times from its original form, making it into something wholly unique.  Four years ago, when my mother passed away, the house was pristine; both my parents were high-strung, fanatical clean freaks, keeping the 3,100 square foot house neat as a pin.  As of yesterday, while picking over the devastated remains of the furnishings and fixtures, while cleaners were stripping everything off every wall and out of every closet, the house is a shambles.

My father has apparently thrown away thousands upon thousands of dollars of porcelain, artworks, collectables of every kind, including about 1,000 vinyl records dating from 1948 to 1962, a hundred hours of 8 mm film, stamps collected by my grandfather up to 70 years ago, first edition books owned by my grandmother and only the devil knows what else.  We shared notes and searched for things that have simply vanished.  We know that before losing his ability to drive that he was regularly making trips to the city dump, to "simplify" the house, we were told.

The whole thing is a bloody tragedy.  There are no words for it.  My brother and his wife were able to save some of the most valuable furniture and tools, table-saws and drills, on the whole worth about $10-12 thousand new.  I don't like my brother but I don't begrudge him these things and I'm glad he was able to find a place for them.  My son-in-law preserved some as well.  My daughter has rescued four royal Dalton porcelain dolls from the 1960s; my brother's wife and my sister shared three others.  I don't know what else my sister took before my father was moved to the home.  My father was not able to completely destroy the record collection ~ about half of it remains.  I found a few of my lost, deeply adored treasures from my childhood, but most everything was gone.  It was tremendously hard to feel motivated to dig too deep into piles of garbage, cans of paint and oil and such, seeing evidence of mice chewing, so no doubt some things were missed.

I feel sad.  I still feel in shock.  And angry ~ dreadfully, bitterly angry.  I know it is the disease, and I know that the final appearance of the house was due to that.  But my father was also an intensely selfish person.  He had plenty of opportunity years ago to request help in organizing his home and his life, but instead he adopted a "self-reliant" pose and in the process, managed to abuse his children one more time for good measure.

At least, this is done.  One more rock turned over and the pestilence redressed.  There's just one more miserable act in this miserable drama, the one that comes on the day he dies.

10 comments:

Jonathon said...

I'm so sorry, Alexis. There's not much else I can say.

Jomo Rising said...

Sorry man. I've heard stories like that from my dad, who, when he went off to the Army, had his golden age comic books and 1940's baseball cards discarded by his parents. My mother had a collection of dozens of Joe DiMaggio autographs that she personally received, discarded.
I don't think I can fully understand your pain as my entire family lives within 10 minutes of my 81-year-old folks. Our sibling animosities are in the past. That said, my sister has a lot of pent-up anger toward my parents and has been too passive to deal with it.
It strikes me that this is in contrast to your last posting, where we would have a chance to deal with regrets, by having a do-over, or recognizing that the opportunity to deal with things is now. Digging through physical stuff doesn't feel good when there are hard memories attached. Do take it easy on yourself.

Scott Stringer said...

Feel your pain Alexis. You have my condolences. My mother has Alzheimer's. It's never easy and things usually spiral out of control despite the best intentions of the family.

My brother wrote this article (among others): http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/7877488/Mum-dementia-and-a-lot-of-love

Reach out if you need to.

Scarbrow said...

Writing is therapeutic, isn't it? I've lived through some of that (although, from what you say, your case was much, much worse) while cleaning out my grandparent's house. A task in which I had little help from the rest of the family, but luckily I had two full years to take on that gargantuan task. Doing it on just two days and with the remainders of a very ill person living there still... I can picture it enough to shudder. I feel for you.

No soothing words for you today, except "this, too, shall pass". Old sayings still have some power, you know. This will take some time to sink in, to assimilate. Losing the house you used to live in, where your parents lived all of their life... feels like the floor being tugged away from you, from behind your very feet. Not entirely unlikely losing your parents themselves, I must say, and that I say by direct experience. The shock of the experience only makes it worse, but in a certain way it's better, too. Shocks are things that our nature is equipped to bear and survive. Useful psychological mechanisms are already working to help forget, to create emotional distance. All of a sudden, shocking experiences are way easier on our nerves that prolonged struggles, although at first it doesn't seem so. What I mean is: take your time, take it easy, let it flow, and don't despair: it will pass.

You know where to find me if you need to talk.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

My word. That's a total 180-degree turn from your weekend's activities and emotions. Good luck, and take care of you and yours.

Matt said...

I hope the end of all of this comes quickly for you. I think there is little that is more draining than loosing a family member, but having to wait through the torturous years before they finally pass.

Good luck. I hope you are doing well through everything.

Dani Osterman said...

I'm sorry, Alexis. My grandmother has Alzheimer's, and we went through some of what you have gone through. I'm glad you were able to find some of your treasures, and I'm glad that this stage is over. I'm so sorry.

kimbo said...

Hey Alexis,
Oh man that is crushing... strength to you to carry on through. I have something similar lurking just a few years from now, both sides of the family... i see it happening before my eyes in slow motion a step at a time, unable to do anything about it.
K

Alexis Smolensk said...

Assimilation is the issue, no question.

It may seem callous, but I am in a better position than you are, Dani, with your grandmother, or you, Scott, with your mother. For twenty years now I have become more and more estranged from my father; I have struggled with and managed the emotional abuse (with some physical) that I received from him as a boy and reconciled myself emotionally with the reality that I had a bad parent. Some do. I've found myself in arguments with some people, very often strangers, who insist vehemently that I "must" love him because he is my father ~ but as it happens, much of the love that I have for others, the way that love manifests, comes out of the way my father did NOT love me, or any of his children. We were possessions, not people. We were things that were brought into the world to make him proud, not to make ourselves happy. It has taken a lot of insight and patience to see that this is how it was, without all the propaganda of television and movies that insist on glossing over the simple fact that some parents are not good parents.

But things I assumed would remain true haven't. I never imagined that a place I identified with stability and constancy would be destroyed in such a manner. It is like the cabin that I watched my father build and rebuild for 30 years, that I worked on as well, only to have it sold callously without a word so that it could be demolished. It is like a hundred other things like it. It takes time to assimilate these things, to say in our minds, okay, this is reality now. This is what is.

Thank you for the response. I'm going to settle in and write a positive, meaningful post this afternoon, something constructive, something meant to help us build better games in the future. Not another post like this.

Vlad Malkav said...

Hello Alexis,

I don't know what to say to soothe whatever pain you feel, but your post made me think about my mother, her house where I lived for so long (both far away from my current home), and all associated memories. Good, most of them. And slowly, time is nearing when I'll lose a lot. Time is short, pains follow.

Thank you for this reminder of life, brought some tears. Selfish, eh ...

I wish you well.