It sounds like a bad word although sometimes there's no other way to describe a feeling so strong it comes down to using this four-letter word.
Typically I’ll resort to the word “hate” when it involves something going wrong for a family member. I just don’t know what to do with myself when something bad happens and I can’t fix it. Whether it’s one of the grandkids getting hurt or sick, the children stressed about work or life, all I can do is hate the situation enough for all of us.
I don’t remember being this passionate about “hating” certain situations as a young parent. I just went with the flow. It’s probably a senior thing as we have more time on our hands to think long and hard and therefore can put more energy into worrying.
I discovered this emotion of hate while taking care of dad during his years of dealing with dementia. I hated the place Dad's mind had turned to. During those last few years he was so withdrawn inside of himself, he was unaware of his surroundings, which made him angry and he seemed to hate everyone and everything, which in turn, made me hate the situation.
Even when he couldn't remember who I was, his eyes would still light up when I walked into the nursing home. Eventually his eyes became unfocused, in a haze, or staring at a piece of trash or crumb on the floor. I hated the fact I was being so selfish by not going to see him as often, as it just became too depressing.
We moved Dad to a nursing home, which was just five minutes away from the house so while running errands I’d stop by and chat for a few minutes. Eventually I’d find myself driving past without stopping. I hated that about myself. I felt like I had abandoned him, yet I knew he had no idea who I was or how long it had been since I’d been there to see him.
Some have said people with dementia or Alzheimer's still know you're there to comfort and love them, but eventually I had a really hard time believing that theory. I hate the guilt I still have for not being there when he passed; I just couldn’t bear to watch it happen.
Recently while visiting with an old friend, who is taking care of her brother, who’s in a nursing home for memory loss, all of those feelings flooded back with as much passion as they did while Dad was still alive.
She talked about not going as often as she once did, and I could hear the guilt in her voice. There’s nothing to feel guilty about, I reassured her, although, unless you’ve lost a loved one to this terrible disease, it’s hard to understand no matter how many times you’re told not to feel bad about it, you still do.
Even though I loved taking care of my dad and being his caregiver, I hated he left this Earth without knowing who I was or how much I loved him.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at email@example.com.