I have been having a really hard time lately. My father had a hip replacement two weeks ago. After the operation, he was very confused for several days. The doctors assured us that it was an effect of the anesthesia. My mom insisted my sister and I should not come because the hospital was an hour away. For the first week, he had no idea where he was most of the time (he thought he was at Taco Bell, the airport, home, etc). What was even worse was that he was mean. He yelled and screamed at my mother when she would visit daily. He was a very difficult patient- he kept trying to get up and fell once and pulled all of his various tubes out. Towards the end of the week, he was hostile and tried to hit a female nurse. The hospital had to call security and sedate him. Throughout the week, I was very concerned about his behavior because he has not really acted like that since his drinking days. I was worried about the stress it was taking on my mom. Finally by the first weekend, he seemed to be more “normal” (we loosely use that word in my family). He knew where he was and seemed to have calmed down a bit, although he was giving her a hard time about wanting to get cigarettes (he was on a nebulizer in the hospital and has sleep apnea so she refused to bring him any).
My sister and I decided to go visit him after he was moved to a physical rehabilitation center closer to where we live. My mom had been there earlier in the day and said he was still cranky and difficult, but she felt it might do him good to see us. My sister and I walked into his room and he instantly started screaming at us. He told us if we didn’t have cigarettes that we should just leave. He looked like a madman- he was screaming through gritted teeth and his eyes looked crazy. He yelled that we are “fucking liars” and said not to come back until we had cigarettes. I was literally shaking, but I asked him calmly whether he would rather have his daughters there visiting him or cigarettes…let’s just say he really wanted cigarettes.
We were literally there for like six minutes. I started shaking and crying as soon as we walked back into the hall. I was so shocked and startled. I knew he wasn’t in a great place, but I was not expecting that. I honestly think that while I was standing at the end of his hospital bed, I had a flashback to my childhood and teenage years. My dad used to yell and scream at us like that every, single day while he was drinking (he drank every day from the time I was 12 until he had a stroke a year and a half ago). For days after seeing him, I was so upset and angry that he treated us like that, but was also disgusted about how much it negatively affected me. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I lived through being treated like that all the time. It was so horrible back then and this was a rude awakening I wasn’t expecting. Over the past year, I have been very leery of getting used to my new “normal” dad and I guess I let my guard down.
Another week passed and my mom continued to visit him, but my sister and I never went back. My mom said that he didn’t really mention it and I am not even sure if he remembers we were there. We finally just saw him again for the first time over this past weekend. My mom picked him up at the physical rehabilitation center and we met them for lunch. He seemed a lot better, but definitely was still off and was not exactly nice. Nothing was mentioned about our visit, which isn’t surprising- that is how we have always dealt with problems in our family (ignoring them) and there is never an apology.
But I feel differently now. I felt so much closer to my dad right before his surgery than I had in 25 years. I made time to call him a few times a week and I really put a lot of effort into our relationship. I feel so let down and disappointed. Even if he wasn’t of complete sound mind when he acted like that it still really hurts. I felt uncomfortable around him when I saw him and afterwards I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Growing up, we got so used to how he acted that it was so easy to shrug off how he acted or pretend like it didn’t affect us. I don’t know how to do that anymore and I’m not sure I want to.
Wow, girl. That was difficult to read let alone experience it. You are an amazingly strong woman who is fighting for a relationship with your father. I admire you for that.
It takes some time and is easier said than done, but it’s imperative to separate the actions of an alcoholic from the value you place on yourself. It’s not you, it’s them, they are weak and eventually you will learn to forgive, but for now, take heed in knowing you are not alone. I stand with you in cyberspace solidarity and hope this bout of madness passes without much friendly fire.
Stay strong and remember that empathy is better than entropy.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It means more to me than you know! I think I am just taking time to digest everything and it’s still pretty confusing. Being able to vent and have people like you understand makes me feel a lot less alone 🙂
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My father after sevearl years of being In AA also had a massive stroke, even though he was sober, he was very mean and arguementative up till he passed away, It was almost like he was a dry drunk. It was very hard to be around him, because it put me back to being a little kid again, Very hard. Even though he was mean and arguementative, I tried to remember he was sick, and for myself had to set up boundries for myself. I tried to visit once a week, sometimes it was a few minutes, other times if he was ok and not screaming it was longer. Thoughts and Prayers coming to you.
Thank you, Matt. I was scared after my dad sobered up that he would be a dry drunk bc I had read about that but luckily he didn’t seem to act like that. It was like a switch was turned off in his mind and somehow it was just turned back on. I just want things to go back to normal.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to go through that and I do know what you mean about setting boundaries- I guess people like us have to learn about those the hard way!
I think you’re really strong. Being able to cope with all that isn’t easy. When I’m on the verge of breaking down, I always remember that there is someone in my life to give me a pat on the back telling me to stay strong. So here’s a pat on the back from me to you 🙂 Stay strong!
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Thank you. You are so sweet! That is a really good thing to keep in mind 🙂
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