I am not a scaredy-cat at all and often use the german saying “Geld und Angst hatte ich noch nie”, meaning “money and angst I never had”. Having suffered my share of psychological problems, I know about irrational panic attacs and how to feel about those on hind sight: symptoms of an illness hopefully cured for good in my case. As horrible as they are while actually occurring.
But one thing I honestly fear: the day my father will die. I already struggle to meet him a geriatric, old man. This might be the true reason behind my hesitancy to go home to Austria to visit. I was shocked to see, how old and weak my father had become, last time I was back home some two years ago. I think, I would much rather keep him in mind as the strong, intelligent and good looking man he used to be. Recalling him from my last visit, is already too much for me. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and the toll of decades of hard, physical labour reducing him to something I shy away from, something, I would much rather avoid.
This week, news from my mother got to me, that he has become much worse. Parkinson’s desease causes him to gradually lose control over his muscles, he is now reduced to the house and rarely able to leave the bedroom, needing constant care. I feel so sorry for my mum and my sister, who take turns looking after him. Even worse, recently he had to be hospitalized for some trouble with the intestines, being released very weakened. Making daily care almost impossible for my mum, who can obviously not lift my dad by herself. I feel really bad for not being able to be of any help at all. And even worse for being thankful, not to be able to.
But the worst was speaking to him on the phone. I didn’t expect him to recognize me. But he instantly did. And his first words were a complaint: “It’s been way over a year, since you last were here to see me. I am a patient now and your mother is a great nurse, much better than hospital staff. So is Regina (my sister). But you ought to come here, soon.” So I promised to come in November (something I had planned anyways, but hadn’t told my parents yet). His instant reply: “But this is more than three months away, still. Make sure, you stay at least a week, we have enough room to put you up. But you have to stay at least a week. Don’t just say you will, make it a week.” The subtext I heard, was “I don’t really know, if I’ll be able to make it till then, but I will try as hard as I can, if you promise to spend substantial time with me”.
I admittedly have always been a “Daddy Girl” and have learned from my siblings, that it went the other way, too, at least from their perspective. They always had the impression, that my dad favoured me, whereas I would more say, we just had (and still have) a congruency of intellectual and emotional wiring. Despite of which my father and I came to completely different views of the world and how things should be. I have fought his views for many, many years, forever reasoning, debating, challenging him. Until I understood, that I can not succeed in any way. Even if I pressed him to admit, that some of his believes were utter rubbish, I would in that instant rob him of the very base, he intentionally founded his entire existance upon. And what good would that do?
I just hope, his religion will make it easier for him to let go of this life. As I don’t share his views, I have to accept, that I will have to say good bye for good. Soon. And this fact breaks my heart already. I honestly have no idea, how to cope.