Thought for the day: The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
I was driving my friend home after visiting with her dad in the hospital. He was battling squaemous cell cancer and lymphoma. The once strong, virile, opinionated man now lay fragile and weak, barely able to lift a fork to feed himself. His face was distorted from surgery. Tubes hung from his arms. It was sad to see him struggling to be the man he used to be, trying to chat and joke, only to lose his grip to the sleepiness that randomly overtook him. It was hard to watch.
My friend was exhausted from the emotional roller coaster. She asked me as she blankly stared out into the darkness, “Remember how you told me that even though your parents seemed to always be fighting and never seemed to get along, that when your dad got sick the confrontations stopped – that your mom doted on him as if she couldn’t survive without him?” I nodded because I remembered it well. She continued to relate that her parents were the same way, and now she was having trouble understanding. She asked me why I thought it was that even though she and her father had a rocky father/daughter relationship, much like my father and me, that you put it all aside when they get sick. They were not easy questions to answer.
I escaped into deep thought before I answered. My parents didn’t seem to have a good marriage. They seemed to be nothing more than roommates – people who lived together and tolerated each other. They fought about stupid, irrelevant things. My dad had a quick temper and my mother knew which buttons to push to set it off. She almost seemed to relish that power she had over him. And yet, when he got sick, she was always by his side, getting him whatever he needed or just sitting quietly watching him. When he died, I thought that maybe it would be freeing for her. That now she could relax and enjoy her life without all the bickering and tension that always seemed to be in the house. But instead, she plummeted onto a downward spiral of depression, eating little and mixing up or not taking her medicines correctly, even though she was well able to do so. We didn’t realize this until it was too late. My mom was admitted to the hospital for dehydration four months after my dad died, even though we thought we were keeping a watchful eye on her. I then prepared a place in my house for her to live so I could help her, of which she was in agreement. On the morning I was to pick her up to bring her home, the hospital called to say she had taken a turn for the worse. By the time we arrived, she had died.
You don’t realize how fragile life is until the shadow of death is looming. When you find yourself in that position, all the trivial stuff disappears. All you remember and hold on to is the very basic thing, and that is that your parents loved you. They loved you the only way they knew how to. And right or wrong, good or bad, they did the best they could, even if you thought they could have done better. The confrontations they had with you were probably caused by the fact that they did love you and wanted more from you and a better life for you. They didn’t want you to go off and put yourself in danger or be in relationships that they thought would hurt you. And instead of communicating that to you, they instead expressed their anger and tried to bully you out of it. That, I think, is how that generation was. There was no talking it out like there is today. Raising children was very different then, and a child’s opinion didn’t matter. There was a pompous arrogance about a parent’s position of authority – they knew best, and you had better accept it or else! That’s the only way they knew how to be.
You don’t come to this level of acceptance of the way your parents were until you are well into your adulthood. It is only then that you begin to understand why they said and did the things they did. And the why is rarely pure and never simple but boils down to the fact that they loved you. And in the end, that’s all that matters.