Saturday, September 29, 2012

just do it, make the call

It really doesn't feel like that long ago I was a child who had dreams and aspirations and strong and able parents that would always be by my side to help guide me on this journey of life. Very gradually, as I have grown older and I've watched my parents grow older - and witnessed Charlie losing his mom when he was "only" 24-years old, I've come to realize that who we have in our lives today is very dynamic and can change without the slightest warning.

As I'd written a few weeks ago, Jim isn't doing well.  Our sweet, wonderful, perpetually happy Jimbo has really been struggling and my mom is really struggling watching Jim's health decline. Being the fixer that I am, I want to fix the problem. But I can't ... because there are few things that we humans can control and the steady progression of time isn't one of them.

Earlier this month, Charlie's Dad, Alex was put in the hospital with what was initially thought to be a stroke or heart attack. It was neither and he's home now. The prognosis is good, although we're still feeling shaken at the situation and our vulnerability to control anything. (Refer to paragraph, above.)

It wasn't very long ago that I wrote a post about my Dad. Earlier this month, he too, was put in the hospital. He's since been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, an ulcer, and and an assortment of ailments I don't fully comprehend.  At this moment, he's in a nursing home regaining his strength so that he can move back to his retirement community.

As we were saying our prayers the other night the children asked me, "Mom, WHAT is going on with our grandfathers?" It's not easy for my little ones to comprehend that time is going on and as people grow older, their bodies don't work the same way they did when they were younger.

Last week, my sister Janet wrote me a note that Dad missed me and wanted to talk.  While I talk to my mom several times a week, I honestly couldn't remember the last time that I had spoken with my dad?  I'm ashamed to admit that whenever I'd call he'd be sleeping or out of his room, or wouldn't feel up to talking so our conversations would last for less than two minutes.  Ultimately, I didn't feel like he wanted to talk with me, so I didn't want to bother him.  So my Dad's message, via my sister who is on the ground in Massachusetts and visits my father frequently, cut me. Why hadn't I called? Why hadn't I written?  Why haven't I made a quick weekend trip to visit?

I called Dad and while I was on hold as the dispatcher transferred me to his room, I listened to an advertisement about the state of the art facility where my dad is staying. They bathe the patients and dress them and feed them and have all kinds of support depending upon the level of ambulatory care required. And something, guilt - years that have flown past - regret over divorce and family feuds - whatever it was ... hit me like a damn tidal wave.  By the time Dad's nurse handed him the phone I was a mess, an awful mess.

I'm so sorry I haven't called you, Dad.  I ... I ... I'm not even going to give you any excuses because none of them are any good.  

My Dad is in his raspy voice responded, "It's OK Jenny. I'm so sorry. It's my fault. I should have called you. When I'm feeling better, I'm going to see if someone can drive me down to Virginia. I want to come see you..."

So I cried and Dad, undoubtedly feeling that he needed to reassure me because that's what a parent does... regardless of how involved in your life they may or may not have been, I'm convinced they're still wired on some primitive level to do something if they see their child hurt ... stayed on the line with me for twenty-five minutes.  Which is cumulatively, longer than we've spoken in a year.  Granted, he didn't talk much, but he listened to me drone on about birthday parties and home improvements and the stock market and the upcoming election and the weather. And he's called me again, several times this week, to check in. My father, who hasn't called me in months (years?) and is unable to dress himself, has been calling to check in on me. 

daddy and me

Today, I'm going to call him first. And I might even cry some more because it's been really nice to hear his voice this week.


  1. I am very close to both of my parents and talk to them both regularly. My husband, who is "only 26", hasnt talked to his parents in over a year. His mom had a massive heart attack and died just 2 days ago. The amount of regret he has is indescribeable and is making the heartache so much worse. So just do it, make the call. You may not have another chance. ~Amber

  2. It must have been hard to write this. I am touched that both you and your dad are now making sure you keep the contact going. It's a beautiful picture of the two of you.

  3. Oh, Jen... I am SO very glad you've reconnected with your Dad. It's as if you've been given a second chance.. I'm soo happy for you!

  4. Amber, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's mom, that is devastating. Yes, that's exactly the point ... you may not have another chance. And even if you don't feel like calling, sit down and send them a note, just to let them know you're thinking of them. A little love can go a long (long, long!) way.

    Your family is in my heart....

  5. Jen,

    I am so glad you called and he and you are both making the effort to communicate. I lost my dad when I was 16 and my mom when I was 33. With my dad there was so much left unsaid, not because of a lack of interaction, but because of a lack of communication during that interaction. With my mom, I hadn't spoken to her in 6 months, until just 13 days before her unexpected death. I am SO glad I made that phone call and talked to her at length, not knowing then that it would be the last time we talked.

    Though the communication may not always be pleasant or easy, it is better to keep those lines open and make an effort for your sake as well as theirs.

    Amber - my thoughts are with you and your husband as he deals with his mother's death and all the emotions that come along with it. May her death help heal the rift between him and his father and may his heartache be eased by renewed familial relationships.

  6. Anon, I'm so glad you had a chance to talk with your mom. Communication can be very difficult sometimes, especially with people whom you feel there isn't much to talk about. In those cases, sometimes the more you talk (even if you put it on your calendar for 5 minutes every couple of weeks), the better it can become because you can follow-up on topics you'd discussed previously.

    Some relationships require a little more nurturing than others. But I think in the grand scheme of things, it's always worth it.

  7. I'm sorry your Dad and Jimbo are's nice to see you turned your comments back on - I think it adds to your blog!