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Thoughts on my father - Peter Hentges

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January 16th, 2009


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12:51 am - Thoughts on my father
My father and I never really saw eye-to-eye while I was growing up. I think I wanted more attention from him than I got and I also think I developed more slowly than my brother did, throwing my parents' expectations for a loop. I rebelled hard (in a passive Minnesotan sort of way) in my teens and early 20s. You, gentle reader, may remember the long hair, but I also passively seethed every time I had to spend time with my dad. There was always something he was doing around the house that he wanted my help with when, by that time, I just wanted him to leave me alone. I started drinking shortly after I went to college and it became a mild problem in my early 20s. By the time I found myself, dealt with my anger and learned that I could drink without being self-destructive, I also learned to accept my father for what he was. I was never going to change him to suit my expectations and I no longer needed his approval to be the person I wanted to be. We started to get along OK. We even bonded a bit over poker when he and my mom snow-birded out to Nevada.

I'm having some trouble just now, though. The man seems to be slowly working on killing himself. On the one hand, I get it. He had to watch his dad kept alive in a nursing home for years of slow decline and infirmity and has made it very clear on several occasions that such a fate will not befall him. He smokes. A few years ago, his voice became noticeably hoarse. Last week, my mother reported that he'd gone to see a doctor about it finally. Probably because he was beginning to experience laryngitis and one of his great joys is joking and talking with other people. The doctor examined him and said his vocal cords were thickened and scarred, most likely due to acid reflux.

When I heard this, I asked if the doctor said anything about my father's sleep apnea. My father is a classic chainsaw snorer. Loud and interrupted frequently. I remember waking him up from where he'd fall asleep in his recliner some nights and sending him to bed because his snoring was keeping me awake back in my bedroom. Well, no, the doctor didn't say anything about apnea. Probably because my father's never been formally diagnosed and wouldn't think to mention it. So I planted to seed of the idea that apnea is one of the things that can cause acid reflux with my mom. Hopefully she'll mention it to my dad and he'll bring it up with a doctor. If it isn't his idea, though, it won't do any good. I should probably give my sister-in-law, who is a doctor, a call and see if we can't get things working on two fronts.

Be that as it may, though, I live with a background belief that my father will die at what I consider to be a fairly young age. While an uncle had a stroke a few years ago and was making a remarkable recovery up until he died peacefully in his sleep, I kind of think that my father, faced with a similar situation, would forego the months of therapy and find a way to commit suicide. I could also see my father refusing chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer. I respect him a bit for that, for having beliefs that he's willing to take all the way, but I also think it would be sad for a strong man to give up fairly easily. I could be wrong about that and hope that I am.

These thoughts were sparked by kaffyr's current ordeal with her father. A bunch of feelings dredged up from that tragedy. These are the ones closest to my family. There are others about how the elderly are treated, how veterans are treated, how health care in this country doesn't work, particularly for the poor, the elderly, the otherwise disenfranchised. Those thoughts need to stew a bit more yet if they're going to become anything sharable. These ones are done for now.

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[User Picture]
From:dreamsewing
Date:January 16th, 2009 08:02 am (UTC)
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*hugs*
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From:kaffyr
Date:January 17th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for mentioning this post. I like hearing that, as you grew older, you came to an understanding of your dad and, it seems, a comfort level with him.

I was also struck by your determination to finesse your dad into checking out apnea. Go you! (As our parents gets older, we seem to slip naturally into the role of either care-giver or would-be caregiver, and it doesn't hit us until we're in the middle of it that it's a reversal of our earlier parent-child roles.)

If the entries about Dad helped spark your thoughts on all these things - family, the elderly, veterans, and health care - then I'm very glad I decided to write them.

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