Yesterday afternoon my wife and I went with my oldest sister to see my dad in the nursing home. We wanted to take him his own TV so he'd be able to watch whatever he wanted in his room. We also assumed he'd want to watch the NFC and AFC championship games, both of which were on yesterday.
When we walked into the facility we saw my dad sitting in a wheelchair in the dining room, where quite a few of the residents and some workers and volunteers were getting ready for a musical program of sorts. Since my dad was occupied, my wife, sister, and I decided to go to his room and hook up his television before letting him know we were there. It was just easier for us to get that out of the way ahead of time.
After we connected the TV, the three of us proceeded to go back to the dining room to visit with my dad. I have to say, I was not prepared for what I was going to experience.
My dad was sitting in his wheelchair with his head down. He was awake and his eyes were open. He was just very out of it. When we told him we were there, it almost didn't even register with him. While most of the rest of the people in the room participated in the group singalong, my dad just sat there with his head down.
On a few different occasions, I asked my dad if he wanted to go back to his room to watch the football game. Each time I asked him, he started into a long conversation about football and baseball and advertising/sponsorships. He said the people in the room were getting ready to take a vote and he had to be there for that. I had no idea what he was trying to explain to me. It seemed to make sense to him, but it was total nonsense to me.
The whole time we were in the dining room, I either stood or sat next to my dad and had my arm around him, gently massaging his upper back. I also either cried or struggled mightily to hold back my tears the whole time I was there. It was just so heartbreaking to see him that way. Totally lost, in his own little world. At one point I asked him if he had eaten lunch. I don't remember what his answer was, but it had nothing to do with the question I asked him.
The one bright spot came when the group was singing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" and went around the room from person to person, replacing the lyric "the whole world" with each person's name. When the room started singing, "He's got Gilbert in his hands," my dad smiled and waved to everyone. That was touching.
Aside from that one moment, though, the visit was incredibly tough for me. My dad was sitting right in front of me, but he wasn't "there." My sister told me a couple of times to remember that it's more painful for us than it is for my dad, because he doesn't know what's going on. That helped a little bit, but I still felt awful.
After the musical program was over, we left.
I'm cautiously optimistic that part of my dad might come back. The last time he was in a rehabilitation facility, this past summer, he went in in pretty bad shape. But over time he started to regain some of his faculties. I just don't know if that will happen this time or not, given the fact that he had a stroke.
What I do know is that I'm eternally grateful that I was able to let go of all the resentment and hatred I felt towards my dad. When that happened that one day last summer, it changed my life for the better. Seeing my dad the way he was yesterday is hard; but it would've been even harder had I still been carrying around all the baggage I carried for so many years. People, listen to me: If you are holding a grudge against someone you love, let it go. Just be strong and let it go, before it's too late. Life's too short, and hanging on to negative things from the past just isn't worth it. It took me about 40 years to figure that out. I'm just glad I did it in time.
After the nursing home visit, my wife and I came home and I decided to make some comfort food for dinner. I really needed some nutritional comfort, so I made a turkey meat loaf--stuffed with some Havarti cheese--and my wife made mashed potatoes. I must say, it really hit the spot.
A few hours later is when the smiles finally came. My son was on a date with his new girlfriend last night. They went to the Detroit Pistons-Boston Celtics basketball game because she is a huge Celtics fan. (My son surprised her with the tickets.) Anyway, during the game the cute couple posted some really sweet photos of themselves on Facebook. It was so nice to see my son with someone he really likes, smiling and having a great time. In fact, seeing that was enough to take the pain I had been feeling all day long totally away.