Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Temper, temper. Wednesday, January 5, 2011.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” –John 4:16
I haven’t talked to you much in a long time. Since I went through my really hard time, I haven’t been so sure that you’re there. Other times, I feel like you’re there, but that you don’t really like me.
I pray to you at church, but mostly I just feel sad when I do. I try to pray at work or before bed and my mind just goes blank. I’ve heard of “the dark night of the soul,” but I don’t know how long it’s supposed to last, or how to get out of it. Maybe you can help me.
I’m praying to you now because I feel really bad for losing my temper with my Dad a couple of days ago. You know that I’ve been trying to make arrangements for him to be able to stay in his rest home, and there’s been lots of paperwork and financial stuff involved. You know that he’s autistic, and so it’s been hard to communicate with him all my life. And you know that on top of the autism, he’s developing dementia.
So I promised myself as I was driving over to the home that I would keep his autism and dementia in mind and that I wouldn’t get frustrated with him. After all, he’s a tiny, 85-year-old man in a wheelchair. He’s sharp as a tack in many ways, but in other ways, he’s clueless and can’t help it. You know that, and I know that too.
But Lord, a half-hour meeting turned into a 5-hour, complicated mess, and Dad is resentful of me taking over his affairs. He doesn’t comprehend that I’m trying to keep him from being evicted for forgetting to pay rent, and that I’m trying to protect his health by letting the rest home take over his blood pressure and cholesterol medications. He’s not cognizant of the fact that he is forgetting whole conversations a few minutes after they happen, or that he’s too confused to keep track of his checkbook.
Instead, God, he’s pissed. He thinks the County and the doctors and the rest home are just nosing into his business. One minute, he’s asking for my help and thanking me. The next minute, he’s resentful and angry and he’s shouting at me. Finally, I lost my temper and shouted back. I shouted so loud I’m surprised that the nurse didn’t come running!
I told my Facebook friends about what it was like to have an autistic father. Lord, you know better than anyone that my feelings about my dad are really mixed up. I don’t know if I love him, or hate him, or both.
When I feel angry at him, I’m not just angry at that immediate situation – I’m angry about all the times he hurt my mom and me, even though he never meant to. I’m angry because I learned a lot of dysfunctional things from him, and it’s taking me decades to unlearn them. I’m angry that I didn’t have a “normal dad” who would have been there for me when I needed the reassurance that only a father can provide. I’m angry that I have to parent him when he really never parented me.
Lord, you know all of that – and you also know how terribly, terribly guilty I feel for being mad. My father loved me as best he could, especially when I was a little girl. He provided for me. Unlike many fathers, he never laid a hand on me. And he can’t help being autistic or having dementia. Being angry at him for not communicating or for being confused is like being angry at a rock for being hard.
I have a sense that he won’t be around much longer. Only you know when that will happen, God, but it seems we fight every time we talk, and I’m so scared that he will die and our last conversation will have been an angry one. I don’t want that to happen. I need your help.
I’m going to try to talk to you more often, God. I hope you’re listening. I really miss you.