It astounds me sometimes that I come from snus-chewing, John Deere loving, gun-toting rednecks. Not that I don’t exhibit a bit that charm still, lucky you. We all grew up with strange and inappropriate colloquialisms that we do not realize are truly awful. Until one day we say out loud and then think: “OMG, THAT is so no appropriate!”
I spent over a week with my dad last month and let’s just say with our best southern accent, “Sweet Jesus, who raised him?” As we age, our boundaries become a bit less stringent, and sometimes – perhaps – it would be better to be politically correct. I truly feel like someone who came from different parents. I suppose we all do.
My grandparents, dad’s folks, would have been – and likely were – appalled by his inappropriate responses, except for the racist ones. Perhaps this gave him a tiny degree of power in a family that was stringently Christian and all for “spare the rod, spoil the child”, and “President Reagan is our 6th cousin!!” as if that was a thing. My dad has memories of being beaten regularly just on principal.
But now he is likely in his last decade and struggling through various health ailments. He has not lost his crass, embarrassing, and sometimes silly sense of humor. Thank God. I pray that will follow him to the very end. Even though it can really offend me. His life and living aren’t about making me comfortable. This truth is so hard for me.
Funny memories from those few precious and painful days:
- I drive off 10 boxes and bags of magazines and newspapers to recycling – with permission from Pops (hallelujah!)
- Day after:”Where are my magazines??” (from Pops after I did indeed dump them.)
- “Where did you put my car keys?” (I show dad twice, tell him 3 times where they were. At the time he says, “great – I probably won’t need those for a while. No one has cleaned in that cabinet for 7 years!”
- Text from brother 2 days after I left: “where are dad’s car keys??” O.M.G. Really?
- Recently from dad: “I need to drive again.” Me: “yeah, I bet!” Dad: “I let my driver’s license lapse. Do you suppose I could get an international driver’s license?”
- Me: “hard to know.” Translated: no possible way.
- A day or so ago: “Since you cleaned out the cabinets, I need to go buy some more food!” I say: “why don’t you eat what you have and then buy some more?” I text him a photo of the 1 cabinet of canned food I have. Silence.
As a kid I felt like I was “of another tribe”. Farm life stressed me out. I hated working there. No air conditioning and dirty old trucks with mice living in them. My poor philosophical, Jesus -loving mind and heart did cartwheels in on itself. My parents drank and smoked. Later I learned I was the only kid who realized at the time that it was probably not the healthiest. (So, yes, if that was the definition of super-sensitive, count me in.)
But I loved walking through the fields with my dog (one of the 14 we had growing up, may they rest in peace). I loved riding bikes to meet Jill at the bridge and picking wildflowers (ie. allergen weeds) for bouquets. I loved learning in a small high school where I had opportunities to not be a “brilliant child”. But still smart, focused, and heart-driven. I loved my friends, my mom, my music teacher, my little evangelical church, and Shakey’s pizza.
We lost mom 10 years ago. And now dad is on the downward slope. His heart, vascular, lung, kidney, and sugar functions are a big mess. Any one of them could get too out of shape and we would be planning a funeral.
In the week I was with him, I attempted to help him dig out of the stuff he couldn’t seem to get rid of. Magazines from 2013. Food from 2011. He had over 20 “cheater” glasses in the kitchen alone. SMH.
And I attempted to make an emotional connect with him.
Dad is a sweet guy, but not so able to think beyond himself. He lived through a volatile father; The Depression; and developed a tiny problem with collecting (cheap) shit. He attaches to pieces of wood and plastic and clothing like they hold his life in them. Sometimes it feels like, without the “things”, he thinks he would evaporate (at least to himself.) Perhaps if he expressed this as a “missing of people or times”, it would make more sense to me. But he doesn’t have the ability to talk about his emotions that way. At least not with me.
I don’t know exactly why I am writing this, except to give myself a place to tell my story. Anne Lamotte says that is what we are here for, to tell our story. (Thanks Annie.)
Aging is tough work. It is spiritual and emotional and life work. Just as our early formation, there are themes and developmental needs, and processes that need worked out. And I suppose that is why I write.
Wishing you all extra mercy for yourself and your loved ones as you walk through the stages of life. Stay in touch.