By Carol C. (a Member of EASE Meditation). Note: This is a continuation of the first blog article seen here
It has been 15 weeks since my father died. I have thought about him a lot during that time, It’s the strangest thing – I realize how much space he took up in my thoughts every day. I did not spend a lot of time with him. I didn’t want to spend time with him, spending time with him always involved a lot of complaining, ranting and a lot of “what? what did you say? You know I’m hard of hearing and I don’t hear very well” As though it had somehow escaped my notice that I could barely communicate with him. he never really liked me anyway. I always found it strange that he specifically couldn’t understand anything I said. Which was extremely tiresome as I was the one who had to run his life for him.
By the time he died, my Father had extremely advanced Alzheimer’s disease. the disease began to manifest itself in his 80s after my mother’s death. I believe that my father ended up with Alzheimer’s because of his constant unhappiness and his eternally simmering rage. This opinion is supported by science, anger is an adrenaline producer and it harms your brain if you have too much of it.
Caring For My Father
Trying to take over running someone else’s life is horrible enough but trying to pick up after someone with Alzheimer’s disease is just exhausting. I didn’t know much about his affairs because he had never discussed any of it with me, so I spent a lot of time playing detective and working things out. Every now and then a new crisis would crop up – the Provincial government called in a $18,000 leaky condo loan because my father could no longer live in the apartment he owned because he needed to be supervised. Sometimes his pension payments from South Africa would suddenly stop – dealing with South African bureaucracy is challenging at the best of times. I would find someone who responded to my frantic emails and then about 3 days later they would disappear, literally, the email would come back undeliverable, so I’d have to start at the beginning again with another bureaucrat. I could go on and on…
At first, the burden seemed as though it would overwhelm me with frustration and the injustice of it all enraged me. I say injustice because, somehow the universe had handed me this, thing, that I didn’t want in spite of the fact that I had put so much effort into overcoming the experience of being his daughter and living in the same house as him. Literally hours and hours of therapy to try and curb my resentment.
Help Through Meditation & Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness helped me find a way to overcome the negativity that was poisoning my life, well, that and the fact that my father deteriorated to the point that he forgot who I was. One day out of the blue he said “Where were you born?”, “In, Umbogintwini” I replied. “Oh, then I must have known you”. I felt as though I had suddenly become unmoored. I was no longer connected to anything because my father didn’t know who I was! I wasn’t sure if I was devastated or ecstatic. On the one hand, yes, terribly sad and disconcerting – but on the positive side I no longer had to worry about whether or not my father was happy!
Which brings me to this, why had I decided that my father’s happiness ever was my responsibility? This begs the question, do I think someone else is responsible for making me happy? It was quite a revelation and it fundamentally changed the way I saw the situation – instead of feeling victimized by it, I realized I was in control, I always had been, I just didn’t see it. The anger and resentment fell away, if I wanted to be happy I could be happy, nothing was stopping me but my own negativity.
Growing Through Difficulties
It also affected other parts of my life in a very positive way. I saw that the barriers I had created in my relationships were entirely of my own making. Being angry with those you love because of misplaced expectations is so unnecessary and exhausting. I could embrace all the eccentricities and quirks because those were the things that made the people I know who they are. My father was also a living example of how not to be in this world. All the bigotry and judging that filled every part of his life, prevented him from seeing any of the joy of being part of a family, of being a part of humanity. I will always remember something he once said when we took him to see the Rockies – “once you’ve seen one mountain or one forest you’ve seen them all”. Really?