I’ve spent the past two months helping my mom take care of her dying husband. Being a nurse, it wasn’t hard. I’ve done it a hundred times. I kept him comfortable…keeping his lips moist, re-positioning him, administering medications, talking, listening…and getting to know him. You can’t help but bond with someone during this process. It’s intimate.
The other day, as I was brushing his hair, I thought of a dear, old friend of mine. We have a lot of parallels in our lives. The details are different, but similar themes. We both were sexually abused as children by family members, and we both ended up telling our families, once we got older. She told hers a long time ago. I told mine last summer. I can remember talking to her when I was thinking about telling. Well, I honestly wasn’t just thinking about telling. I knew I was going to tell, and was just figuring out how to get up the courage to do so. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s almost like the universe had its own plans for my journey, and I just had to figure out how to let it all unfold. Anyway, she filled me in on the fallout she endured after telling her family. She wasn’t trying to talk me out of it, but wanted me to know of all the possibilities. Telling her story resulted in a divide in her family. It sounds crazy, but really…many families just can not handle hearing this kind of thing, and end up putting it back on the victim, as they don’t have the tools to deal with such subject matter. That’s what happened to my friend. So, when the time came for her father to near the end of his journey, she was basically excluded. God, it was so sad to hear her tell this story. My heart ached for her, and I felt uncomfortable imagining it happening to me. Yet still…I told. I told because even though she felt pain from the backlash, she was free of her story. I won’t explain it more than that, because if you haven’t been there, you just won’t get it. There’s always a price for freedom.
At first, my family was extremely supportive. Well, most of my family. You see, I too have people in my life who just don’t have the tools required to process this heavy information. I get it. Hell, even I didn’t have the tools up until last year. It’s some heavy shit. Anyway, as time passed, and I finally started caring about myself and not letting the people in my life who cause me pain be involved with me anymore, the shift started. Because, some of those people just happen to be my family members. And just like my dear, old friend… I felt the distance start to grow between me and my dad. I can’t say it’s intentional. I think it’s just a byproduct of familial abuse, unfortunately. He loves me, but his tool box is empty. I think in order for him to truly process this story, he would crumble. As my dad, he was supposed to be my protector. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to find out this kind of thing happened to your daughter in your own home. Don’t get me wrong…just because I get it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
So, as I’m nurturing my stepfather, I’m thinking of my friend and her father, and then of me and my father. Our stories run back and forth through my mind, intertwined, as I wipe his face and rub lotion on his lips. I think of her, wishing she could have done this for her father, and I start doing it for her. I picture her running the comb though her father’s hair as he lies in bed, talking softly and smiling…enjoying the last intimate moments together. I turned into her, and my stepfather into her father. Then I think of me, and how I’ll most likely be right where my friend was, and I looked down and saw my own dad. I channeled all of us as I cared for him…all three men blending in and out of my dreams and wishes. It was sad, yet beautiful. I let my mind run with the imagination and for a few moments, it seemed real. I truly felt as though I was caring for my own dad, and that came as a comfort to me, knowing that this may very well be as close as I ever get to actually doing that.
My stepfather died last night. I was right with him as he took his last breath, and I cried. I cried for him. I cried for my mom. I cried for my friend and for her dad, and I cried for me and my dad. I mourned the loss of my dad, just in case I’m not there to do it when the time comes… and it felt real, I think. It hurt. I wondered if I would choose to tell, had I the chance for a do-over. Would it be worth it to not risk losing him? The pain I felt mourning a father who is still here was palpable, but yes.. I know things would go the same way in my do-over. Like I said, the universe has its plan and it’s my job to let it unfold. Plus, I have to keep reminding myself…it hasn’t finished unfolding yet…