Nearing the end of his life, my father had moments of lucidity when the fog of dementia would lift briefly, and Dad would be with us again. It was during one of these moments that he told my sister Lynne that he felt that he was a failure in life.
He looked back on his life and judged himself by a few things: he had joined the air force, but didn’t make it overseas like many of his peers at the Legion; he had worked hard in a demanding straight-commission career, but hadn’t made a lot of money like his older brothers; we didn’t live in a huge house, or own vacation properties like others that he knew.
Dad wasn’t different from many people, past, present or likely in the future. One of the first questions that people ask new acquaintances is usually about their occupation, or interests. Why do we do that? People are more than their occupation or their interests and yet, Dad, like many other people judge themselves in this way.
When I look at Dad’s life, I see a man who joined the air force like his peers, and wanted to do his best. He was married to the same woman for almost 45 years until Mom died in her 60’s. They raised five kids, lived in a comfortable middle-class neighborhood, took vacations, and had an active social life with a variety of interests.
But more importantly, those five kids, along with their spouses and grandkids were there for him. Burdened by heart disease and dementia, he grew to depend on us more and more. We worked out schedules to time our visits to make sure he had contact with family on an almost daily basis for five years.
We debated the best way to approach Dad’s care, and our ideas differed, but make no mistake, all of us were aiming for the same goal- provide Dad with the best care that we could. As in most families, some siblings shoulder most of the care of elderly parents and our family wasn’t any different. Lynne and Patti were already retired and stepped up to help Dad the most. When my brother Paul passed away from cancer, his wife Sandra was there in his place, despite having her own elderly mother to care for as well.
It’s been a year and a half since Dad passed away. Tomorrow, I will be having my sisters Lynne, Patti, and Denise and our sister-in-law Sandra over for a “sisters dinner” which we engage in a few times a year. WE range in age from mid-fifties to early seventies and we are still close , still laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Our family was not destroyed by petty infighting or greed that is so common among families dealing with an elderly parents.
This man raised 5 of us to be functioning, productive, compassionate and caring people.
He was a success.
Remembering Dad on the 5th anniversary of his passing.
Originally published in Daytripping paper, May-June 2019