My Dad…I can spend my time writing about all the ways he failed me and my family, but that’s not what I feel in my heart or in my mind.
My entire life I struggled to relate to a person that was consistently impossible, indifferent and unattainable. Choices that were made, time that was lost, all the things that kept him from his family and the love that was right there in front of him for the taking.
Two days ago, my brother and his wife picked my dad up from my grandparent’s house (where he has been living alone for years), and checked him into the hospital in the ward for the mentally ill, where he will stay for a transitional period before being placed in a nursing home.
He is 56 years old.
This put an end to a year long struggle my family has been going through in our attempt to care for him, on our own, after he ended up in the emergency room last Thanksgiving. He needs more than we can give, and it was clear that he needed to be placed somewhere with 24-hour care. It’s not just an end though, but it’s the beginning of a better life for him and for us.
In the wake of his absence these last two days, I became fixated on “rescuing” his house plants that he had nurtured and loved for years, but were dying and in need of some major TLC. There were about five or six left at my grandparent’s and I needed to get over there and nurse them back to health. And so we did. As my mom and I were re-potting them, mixing in fresh dirt and giving them a much needed drink of water, I was ruminating about why I was so invested in this mission to resuscitate these plants. Clearly it was about more than saving the philodendrons.
My Dad loved to garden. He took great care in making sure his plants were thriving, and he went to the same garden center every spring to find the flowers that would decorate the yard outside the basement apartment he rented for over 15 years. He fixated on his plants and his garden as only someone with obsessive compulsive tendencies can. There was a time he could love anything back to life—he was gifted with a green thumb, and the man took pride in his beautiful yard.
So loving his plants back to life, after he lost the ability to care for them himself, was a way to connect to a man who was incapable of loving my brother and I the way we needed to be loved by our father. As an adult, I show my garden and my plants the same care and attention my father showed his. It helps me to understand my father in one of the few ways I know how to. He was a dog lover as well. On visits to him over the last year, I would bring my lab, not just because it was therapeutic for my dad, but also because it helped me feel like we shared something more than just pain.
When you’re looking for something, anything to help you reach someone seemingly unreachable, you find a way. He’ll never give my brother, me, our children or my lovely mama the care and attention we deserve and should have always had, but he has goodness in him. He did and he still does, and when I think of him, I’ll think of how he was when he loved something.
Author: Angie Krausfeldt
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own