My dad got very sick ten years ago. He moved in with me. My life changed then, has changed every day and will never be the same. Sometimes it sucks.
My dad got sick ten years ago. I got a call one day from the hospital. He was a contractor and had fallen from a great height — onto his head and back. He was unconscious for five days in the hospital. He was self employed and had no wage-loss insurance. He went through surgery after surgery. He had to relearn how to walk, talk, eat. He couldn’t remember his name or walk, so working was out of the question. He had no savings. He had been a single dad since my abusive mother walked out on us — and never a paid a penny in child support.
I was living in Tennessee at the time of his accident. I was 24 and had moved away from home not more than a year ago. I was in college at the time. My father was living in Canada at the time of his accident. So I left my life in Tennessee and went to Canada, to take care of dad. That was ten years ago and I was 24. At the time, I had genuinely thought that… it would only be for a short while. It was just something you had to do. There was nobody else to take care of him.
When I think back on that time, the first days after he had come out of his coma were much more pleasant than they are now. He didn’t remember his name, he didn’t remember my name, he didn’t remember where he lived. He was living in a studio apartment, a rental. I rented a two bedroom apartment and he moved in with me. When I signed the rental lease for a year, I was sure it would be for just a year. He was living in one of the most expensive cities in North America at the time of his accident. I quickly got a job — the first one I could get really. Just to get the bills paid. I soon realized one job wasn’t enough to support us. So I got another job late at night — when he was asleep and wouldn’t really need me around anyway.
Overnight, my life went from being a carefree 24-year-old college student with a hot boyfriend to being a full-time caregiver on top of working sixty hours a week just to survive. I had to take my dad to medical appointments every day. Grocery shopping, cleaning the house, making dinner, paying the bills… all me. Honestly, I didn’t mind at all… at first. After all, my mother walked out on us before I turned ten. My father had a been a wonderful single parent. The least I could do was take care of him.
Honestly, I do not know where the last ten years went. I look back on them right now — right in this very moment. I look at what my life has become — what I have become. And I am truly and deeply sad. I am sitting alone in my bedroom right now, writing this on my computer. After having a very heated argument with my father. Honestly, it takes a lot NOT to argue with him every single day. I bite my lip far more than I should — far more than ANYONE should. This is what my day looked like. Wake up at 6am. Take dad for a walk and breakfast. Come home, do dishes, start laundry, vacuum, mop the floors, windex the windows, pick-up after my dad, explain to my dad YET AGAIN why he needs to use his bathroom sink and not the kitchen sink for washing up every day. Then it’s off to work. After working most of the day, I went to pick-up and pay for groceries, then to pick-up and pay for dad’s medication, come home, make dinner. After dinner, we take the dog out for a walk. Then come home. I start cleaning up after dinner. I start loading the dishwasher. Dad decides the dog has to go out again. He says he will take him out and be right back. “Okay” I reply and continue loading the dishwasher. Not a minute later, the door opens and dad is standing at the door. “The dog will not go for a walk again without you”, dad says from the doorway. I tell him I can go in ten minutes but not now — I have to get the dishes done. Dad says that simply will not do — I need to forget about the dishes, put on my shoes and “let’s go”. I tell him the dog can come back into the house and wait for a few minutes while I finish dishes. Dad says the dog will not go back into the house. I take out dog cookies — and throw them on the floor. The dog comes scurrying back into the house, happy to eat the cookies. Dad gets mad. Dad throws the leash onto the floor angrily, throws his keys down angrily, throws his jacket down onto the floor angrily. He goes into his room in a pouty storm. I feel bad. I turn off the kitchen sink and go into my dad’s room. I apologize and tell him we can go out. He says forget it and tells me what a terrible and selfish person I am — and that he hates me and resents ever having a kid. As painful as this is to hear, I hear this lots from my dad now, after his accident. He had a traumatic brain injury. His moods fluctuate, his memory is never there, he is rude and vulgar, he has no friends, he has severe anxiety and depression. And he blames everything on me — every single day.
So I am 35 years old. I have been a caregiver for my father for the last ten years. I have a full-time job — and a part-time job. I left college and my boyfriend to take care of my dad when I was 24. My then-boyfriend is now happily married with a big house and four kids — he sees his father at Christmastime. Every day, my father tells me how selfish I am, how much he hates me and how having a kid ruined his life. And every day I apologize to him for this… because the truth would simply result in another fight.
I love my dad to pieces. I remember what a truly great father he was throughout my childhood. He was the best. I often cry myself to sleep, hoping that kind and loving man will come back. Overnight, I lost my dad. He was this truly great guy one day… and then his accident happened. I lost my father to a traumatic brain injury. I continue to lose him every single day, one day at a time.
I remind myself every day that his brain injury changed him. And that is not his fault. I cannot blame him for being sick. There is nothing he can do about that. There is nothing I can do about that. I just wish I could have my loving dad back again. I wish I could have my dad tell me how much he loves me and how proud he is of me. I wish his illness wouldn’t make him tell me he hates me. I wish his illness wouldn’t make him tell me he resents ever having a kid.
At the end of the day, all I can do is love him — and truly and deeply hate what his illness has turned him into.