As I write my husband’s life story, I see more and more the hurt and anger that festered inside of him. This all began from trying to be the “good son”, the obedient son, and the frustration that came with his efforts. These emotions spilled over into his adult years as well. As a son, he was always obedient, with a “twist”.
An example of his being obedient with a twist was when his father wanted him to drive the church bus. This happened when he was in his early 20’s and he drove a “big rig” since he was 19 years old so, naturally, he could drive a bus. However, at this time in his life, he didn’t attend his father’s church. He had enough of church by the time he left his parent’s home. But when his father asked, he always obeyed. On his only day off of work, he agreed to pick up all of the kids and others who needed transportation to church.
Keeping true to his rebellion, he would pick up the kids and others, let everyone off of the bus at the church, then, he would pick up all his “hippie” buddies. While everyone was at church, he and his “friends” would smoke up the bus with a little “weed”. He did as he was asked and then did as he wanted. Yes, this wasn’t very wise, but it was so like him and his way of being obedient with a “twist”.
Over the years and after two divorces, I think his parents “gave up” on him. They gave their approval to the second son and because of the developmentally delayed status of the adopted son, they reserved most of their concern and attention for him. They knew that my husband could take care of himself. By his early 30’s, my husband had a true love/hate relationship with his parents. This lasted for the majority of his life. I think that it was the same for his parents.
I should clarify. Over the years, time was given to my husband. It was not done from a willingness or a parental concern, but it was done in the midst of crisis or drama. My husband’s choices in his early life always brought these elements with him. He received attention.
Much like when a child needs attention and they are unable to get it positively, they will act out and receive it negatively…that seems to be the operating principle over my husband’s youth and young adult years…
As the effects of life wore on my husband and his restlessness abated, his need for peace and contentment finally won out over his need for rebellion.
Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I “worked” on his “Father Hunger”. We bought books, tapes and listened to sermons that addressed the unending needs of an adult child when they lack a relationship with their father. My husband knew that his father was repeating in him what his grandfather sowed into his father…not much time or thought.
In 2003, my husband’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. She knew that something was wrong and when they finally told her, she began to become frightened of her future. My husband tried his best to reassure her that he would always remind her of whatever she forgot. He could remember things that happened when he was 2 and 3 years old and his parents were always amazed at his accuracy.
In 2005, a CT scan of his father’s brain showed atrophy and he too began to not relate to the present. He seemed to go into a trance and do whatever my husband’s mother bid him do. He seemed to cease being an individual.
On several occasions in those early days, before my husband’s cancer was diagnosed, we told his parents that, since we lived close by that we would help in any way with whatever they needed. On many occasions my husband would go over and “check” on them.
He tried to have a conversation with his dad about things that were on his mind, but all he received was silence.
Many times, after the fact, we would find out that they called on someone else to do what my husband said that he would do for them. I could see the hurt in my husband’s face with each one of these occurrences. His heart was bruised again with each incident…..He finally gave up on the hope that he could resolve his issues with his parents. He had to let them go…
In the months prior to his passing, he gave up on calling them. They didn’t remember that he was sick or they remembered that his brother had prostate cancer, but didn’t remember that he was sick. He felt worse after trying to talk to them and, afterwards, it drained him emotionally so he stopped calling. For him, It was too painful to bear their dementia and his cancer.
The final week of my husband’s life, I spoke to my husband’s brother about whether he should make the effort to bring my husband’s parents down to our home. Traveling was a difficult task and both my brother in law and I knew that they would not remember being here or seeing their son.
It seemed that my brother in law and I came to the same conclusion at the same time because as I called him, he was about to call me. I said that it didn’t matter if they remembered seeing my husband or not. If it were one of our children, we would want to see our child, so it must be with my husband’s parents.
By this time, my husband was unable to communicate with us. His level of consciousness was anyone’s guess at this point. When my husband’s brother said that they were coming, the children and I cleared space for chairs to be by my husband’s bedside…
I was not feeling well that day. I was having a major physical reaction to knowing that my husband was hours away from dying. The hospice nurse had instructed me to take my anti anxiety medication and lay down. I was sleeping when they arrived. The children assisted them.
I woke up after they had been here for a couple of hours. I knew that they would not stay much longer than that. As I lay on the couch between being fully awake and still drowsy, I heard something amazing.
My husband’s mother was talking to him in that voice that every child knows. It is the one where you are sick and your mother’s voice is as soothing as any medication or medical remedy. My husband couldn’t see his mother because she was standing by the window and he was facing away from it. The next moment I heard a cry come out from my husband.
With every ounce of energy he had left, his voice rang out, “Mom!!!”. No one will know just how difficult it was for him to say that word! It was his desperate attempt to reach her and It took every ounce of life left in him. All of us knew that she could never appreciate that is was one of his lasts words heard on this earth.
In many ways, it sums up their relationship. He was crying out for his parents and they never truly heard him. They were always lost in a fog when it came to their first son…
Yes, my husband’s parents are still living, but they are not here. They are in a place of confusion, a twilight of shadows, that robbed my husband of an opportunity to express his love for them and they for him. We think that we have years and years to tell our parents the hidden things, the wonderful treasure of memories that we have of them and us.
The reality for my husband was that, even when he tried to overcome the obstacles that were in their relationships, they could never listen and hear him. That moment of reconciliation never happened for him. Dementia took his parents before death took him.
It is during the act of living that we take the opportunity to tell those we love how we feel. It is in the memories that we make that we feel their love and acceptance. It is too late for my husband and for me to express ourselves to our parents.
Now is always the best time to tell those you love how important they are to you……Now is always the best time….