The Third Third

After the Fall

My dad says it was my fault. If I hadn’t called him that evening, (I call almost every night), he wouldn’t have tangled his feet in the throw rug in front of his chair and fallen, busting open his head and damaging his eye. Go figure. The problem is, I agree. It *is* my fault. At least that’s the way it feels: it’s my fault he’s living alone in Florida at 83, that he passed out after dinner because he drank at least two vodka tonics (probably three) beforehand, and that the wireless phone next to his chair hadn’t been working well for weeks. It’s probably my fault, too, that he forgot to (or refused to?) use his security alarm to call for help and instead crawled into his bedroom, and then pulled himself into bed, fully clothed and bloody, to await morning. As falls go, it wasn’t the disaster I’ve been expecting. No broken bones, no crippling hip or spinal fractures. The force of the fall simply ruptured the cornea he’s had transplanted several different times in a now-failed effort to keep sight in that eye. After surgery, and one night at a bridge partner’s home, he was back in his own house, exactly where he wanted to be. The next day, he drove himself to the grocery store just to prove he still could. I admire his stubborn independence. I really do. But I can’t respect it anymore. If I do, it’s really going to be my fault the next time he gets hurt. And it’s just a matter of time before it happens – another fall, a car wreck, a stroke, a heart attack. Ironically, my sisters specialize in care of the elderly. One is a physician, board certified in geriatric medicine; the other is a doctoral level physical therapist who works with stroke patients. I’m a journalist. None of us can convince our father to accept the difficult reality that it’s not really safe for him to live alone at 83. I don’t have the words; and they don’t have the programs. More to the point, none of us has the relationship. We don’t talk feelings (ours -- sad, frustrated and guilty; or his – hostile, scared, lonely, and proud); we never have. Every time he’s had the option of living closer to us, he’s rejected it – and us. It’s clear spending time with his daughters (he says he loves us and he’s very proud of us, but. . .) isn’t at the top of his list. Still, you’d think he’d trust us to take good care of him. Or that, at the least, he’d think we were better than nothing, which is what he’s got now. But no. It’s a non-starter. He refuses to hire help, or let us hire help. He refuses to entertain moving to a senior community in either Florida or Dallas. And for that matter, he refuses to talk about it anymore, calling my sister “Bitch” any time she brings it up and angrily reprimanding me for being so upset if I do. Can we call that absolution? That is, are we absolved from further responsibility? I don’t think so. But – Exactly. But. . . . Perhaps you have/had rational, reasonable parents. Perhaps they made good, healthy choices. Or maybe, just maybe, you have a better idea we might consider.
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