What is love? I don’t call Dad anymore. The conversation confuses him and frustrates me. It doesn’t go anywhere. I was avoiding and delaying making calls, and thus not getting it done. Instead, I started writing to him. I try to write once a week. I don’t always succeed, but at least I often succeed.
What is love? I think about this every time I visit the nursing home.
I don’t want to go.
It is sad inside, and I am depressed when I leave.
Sometimes I’m glad when Dad is too sleepy/out of it to visit. Then I can leave more quickly.
I feel guilty for that.
But twice a year, I make a trip up to Chicago. I see him pretty much every day for the three or so days I am up there. I get to visit my friends too. I go, and I sit with him, wondering if he’ll remember I was there. I touch his arm or his shoulder. I hug him, and I tell him I love him. I worry about how he is doing.
Sometimes, when he asks obnoxious questions about my underthings, I remember all the ways he failed me as a parent, and many things that I don’t or didn’t like about him. But that’s water under the bridge now; that parent is gone, most of what he is is gone.
I cannot fix any of that. The only thing I can do is show up. Twice a year. For a few days. Even though part of me really doesn’t want to. Yes, I show up for him. But I also show up for me. Because showing up tells me who I am. That, in the end, I realize this is the only father I will ever have, and that he loved me, however imperfectly. I loved him too. However imperfectly.
It is my turn now to take responsibility for loving him now by showing up and by writing letters since those are the things I can do.