Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lest We Forget

My father was a veteran from World War II. He was stationed in London, England for four years. He said he was one of the lucky ones, since he enlisted, he was given a good position, and didn't have to fight in the front lines. He worked in the Sargent's Mess and took care of the officers. He didn't see a lot of fighting, but there were the air raids that plagued London. He didn't like to talk too much about the war, or his part in it. I believe it haunted him to some extent. As a young girl I remember hearing him talk in his sleep, or more so scream. When he would be awoken, he would say he was dreaming of the air raids and the bombs in London. I could never imagine my father holding a gun, let alone pointing one at another human being. I was happy to know that was not his role in the war.

My father was a lot older than my mother, and was almost 60 when I was born. I loved him dearly. He retired before I even started school, so I grew up with a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. Pretty forward thinking for the 70's. My dad would get me up for school and drive me there every day. Often would pick me up after school as well. My friends thought he was cool because he wore blue jeans and runners when their own much younger fathers would not. He was soft spoken and gentle. I was his little girl.

My father was not without faults. He suffered from depression. Something that was not readily diagnosed back then. He missed his family. All but one of his siblings had passed away young. His younger brother died the year I was born. He was a diabetic and had heart trouble. I do not believe my father ever got over that. My father medicated his depression with alcohol. This got progressively more pronounced after he retired. I remember him saying to me, when I was young, that he was of no use anymore. And I remember thinking how much I needed him. The alcohol was a difficult thing for me, as I got older. I would be embarrassed if my friends came over and he was drinking. I hated being embarrassed of my father...this man that I adored.

I had gone away to university for a few years, not really seeing much of my father. Then the year before I got married, I moved back home and worked with my mom in the nursing home. It was at this time when I realized that it was not just alcohol that was stealing my father away from me. He was in his eighties now, and he was starting to become forgettful. My mother and I both blamed it on the alcohol. Thinking he was just drinking more, or needing less to get drunk. We tried to work opposite shifts so that someone would always be there with him to watch out for him. It wasn't until a couple of years later that we would come to know that he was being taken away from us by Alzheimers.

It started to show at my wedding. He was confused by all the people, he seemed to think that he was the best man, not the father of the bride. I again was embarrassed of this man. Afraid he would make a fool of me on my wedding day. I remember even specifically asking the DJ not to make a big deal out of a special dance for him and I. I look back on that now, and I am so glad they didn't listen. He really did well and held it together the best he could for me.

My father was always a very quiet man. He never raised his voice to me. He never raised a hand to me. The worst punishment he could give me was to tell me I had disappointed him. I always wanted to do well and please him. From the time I was very young, he talked of me being a nurse. I shared that dream......I am not sure if it was shared with him or shared for him. But I pursued the career nonetheless. I did not do very well in my first years of study, and I always felt I was letting him down. By the time I actually realized this goal and graduated from nursing school, Alzheimers had taken over....I am not sure that he ever knew that I had accomplished this dream he had for me. I like to think now that he does know.

My father passed away on May 29th, 2002. At the age of 95. He had been in a nursing home for a few years, and bedridden the last bit of that. I had moved away from the city he lived in the year prior to that, and rarely saw him. Even being a nurse, I found it very difficult to spend much time with him. I missed the intelligent, gentle man I had known growing up, and seeing him as less than that was very painful. The day he passed, I had gotten to see him though, and I kissed him and told him I loved him. I believe that in Heaven, his thoughts are clear, and he knows how much I loved him, and how proud I truly was of him. I miss him.

In remembrance of Dad, on Remembrance Day


Oh, The Joys said...

What a lovely tribute!

apgaRN said...

That's beautiful, Iris. Thanks for the link to my blog... I've enjoyed starting to read yours. This post is touching and brought to mind a piece that I heard on NPR just this morning of two daughters, interviewing their elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer's. I was weeping at the conclusion, mourning for my own losses and for the memories that this disease steals. The father in the segment couldn't remember the names of his children, but when asked if he had any regrets in his life, expressed such gratitude for being given a loving family. I once cared for an Alzheimer's patient during nursing school. She was quite far gone and very confused about her surroundings, but pleasant and happy nonetheless. She told me over and over again how much she loved me (we had just met!), and that the pretty girl on the TV was her, don't you know... I found it comforting that she was able to live in relative content, despite her decline.

Sorry for the babbling... you've caught me after a busy night at work.

Off to bed it is!