Jean Long Manteufel

Dear Jean,

Father’s Day is coming up.  I don’t know what to get for Dad. He has lost so much of his memory.  At times, he doesn’t even know me.  Why bother?

Dad isn’t the same person he used to be.   Sometimes he thinks I am his younger brother, Bill, who died in Korea.  It hurts.

For the most part, Mom now takes care of the house.  She says she wants to do it while she can.  Fortunately, Dad is still mostly able to care for himself.  My sister found someone to do their yard work, and she takes them to their doctor visits.

I help by paying their bills.  I stay with Dad for a couple of hours every week, so Mom can get out of the house.  We just sit, and he talks about things that happened 70 years ago.  I want to go out for dinner or a game or something, but he just wants to stay in.

Two years ago, the neighbors called me because his driving was so unsafe.  I eventually had to get him to stop driving.  Mom and my sister agreed that it was the right thing to do, but I felt awful. I feel like a mean child.

 

Answer:

Oh my.  Don’t you see it?  You are giving him the best Father’s Day gift of all.  You and your sister have his back.

Let’s consider the letter you would have written ten years ago, if you had known the future.

“Dear Dad,

For Father’s Day, Sis and I want you to know that we’ll always be there for you and for Mom.  And we’ll do it together.   

When the day comes that you no longer can drive safely, we’ll make sure that you won’t hurt yourself or anyone else.   We’ll be strong when you can’t be.

Your bills will still be paid on time and that your finances will be well protected.

I’ll listen to your stories knowing that it gives you comfort to relive memories.  Don’t worry that you’ll repeat yourself or that you won’t remember things anymore.  It’s OK.  I’ll be there for you.

Sometimes you tell me that I remind you of Uncle Bill.  He’s obviously somebody you miss.  I’m glad you see him in me.

As your energy runs down, I’ll keep in mind that just being there means so much.  Even if you don’t remember me, I’ll make sure you feel my love through companionship, a touch, my time.

Dad, we’ll stand by you.  You can lean on us.  We’ll be there for you and Mom, always.  You will never have to worry about what happens when you are unable to take care of things yourself.   We’ve got your back.

I’ll make mistakes.  I’ll be impatient.  But I’ll do my best.

And Dad, as you are reaching the end of your journey through life, we’ll still be there and do our best to make sure you aren’t alone.

Dad I love you, and I want you know that we’ve got your back.  Happy Father’s Day.”

By Jean Long Manteufel

Sponsored by Willow Valley Communities

If you’re interested in reading more stories by Jean Long Manteufel, consider purchasing her book.

Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long’s Senior Transitions in Appleton, WI writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging.   She can be reached at Jean@TransitionsWithJean.com

 

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