Cleaning out the closet can be a good thing
I don’t typically pick up Saturdays paper and read my column. Once it’s been written, much like journaling, I’m on to another thought and over it. Since I had questioned myself while writing the one last weekend, I re-read the printed words.
It came across as rather blunt and although it could shine a different light on my Dad, that’s not how I intended it to be perceived. The information isn’t news to anyone in my family and although I thought I had learned something no one else knew so many years ago, that wasn’t the case, as I was the last to know. The fact that Dad was having an affair for all those years and raised two other children as his own doesn’t change anything. Dementia took Dad away from me, not this other family.
It seemed to comfort Dad to talk about them, especially during the years he knew dementia was stealing his memories. I’m glad I was there to help him remember all the things he was forgetting. I was the story keeper, and as the years went by, I could help him fill in the blanks.
Apparently as those teenagers grew into young adults, and Dad began to show his age, they chose to live a life without him. It was a chapter in his life that was gone and although these relationships may not have been the right thing to do as a married man, it’s not my place to judge. While my siblings chose to not overlook Dad’s misgivings, I chose to be by his side and I will always be grateful that he allowed me to know his regrets, mistakes, joys and sorrows.
Even though it sounds like an usual situation for a family, I’m not so sure it really is. Every family has secrets or “skeletons” in the closet and more often than not, they stay in there, churning up more and more dust with each passing year. It becomes the family topic everyone tiptoes around and spends more energy trying to keep a secret than just facing it and moving on.
I put his Father’s Day card on the nightstand as he was preoccupied with putting poker chips into the holder. He looks so darn cute in his bib overalls, although no one had noticed he had leaked through his Depends and the front of him was soaking wet. As we made our way to the bathroom to get changed a staff member took over the task.
I sat on the couch, waiting for his return and was thinking of the one-liners Dad could build conversations around, “pick your poison” or “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
I miss our talks, his lectures and stories. He taught me to believe in the person, not their past.
Page 2 of 2 - When he finally sat down next to me, he had become obsessed with the buttons on the front of his overalls. I reached over for his hand and gave it a squeeze. He gave me a wink and for just a flicker of a moment, his cloudy eyes seemed to be focused.
All I could get out was Happy Father’s Day before he lost interest and started fiddling with the plastic couch covering.
Like Dad always said, “all you can do is just play the hand you’re dealt.”
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at email@example.com