I am a negligent daughter. While I do a good job taking care of the money for my dementia-ridden father, I don't visit as much as I should or could. Worse, I don't really feel guilty. I go every couple of weeks, spend a few silent minutes with him - which he seems really happy about, and then I'm off on my merry way. I make sure the Residence and case workers take good care of him, that he has what he needs, that he gets his medical needs met, that his rent is paid on time. Maybe I'm not so negligent.
The relationship with my dad is a complicated one. My dad is a narcissist. He was brutal with me as a kid, physically, mentally, verbally. In my twenties I walked around with clenched teeth, so consumed was I by my anger. I grew up thinking my self stupid, because that's what I was told. I made decisions to accommodate that belief. I was never supported or taken care of. Never protected from my mother. It sucked.
Somewhere along the line, because of another event in my life, I began to learn about compassion. The kind of compassion that Pema Chodron teaches about. She is a Buddhist monk in Nova Scotia. Through learning about compassion, and directing it toward my self and then my father, my anger began to melt away. I learned that the weight of compassion felt much better than the burden of anger. It was a salve, a relief, a better way for me to be.
So yesterday, what was supposed to be a 20 minute visit, turned into a four hour visit. My dad needed taking care of. He had an "accident", didn't seem to know what to do about it so left everything the way it was. It was not nice, required a considerable amount of cleaning and laundering. I had to intervene with the Residence staff. I had to wash my dad, help him shave and brush his teeth.
I am ever grateful for the teaching of compassion. Without that yesterday would have been impossible. I am grateful to have in my heart the capacity and wish, even, to do what I do - to understand it as something I have to do, want to do, can do. It is such an irony to me that I am the one now caring for my father. More importantly, it's a real gift.