A week ago, Friday, I got a message from my dad’s probation officer. That’s right. Probation officer. My dad has a probation officer. Unbelievable. Am I really related to this person? I don’t know why I was so shocked. Someone had been draining my dad’s accounts. Dad was trying to buy things and pay bills. Every check bounced. Pass bad checks, get put in jail. Get out of jail, get a probation officer. That’s pretty much the process as I understand.
Anyway, the PO, I’ll call her Moira, asked me to give her some background information on dad.
Oh, boy. Really? Let me just exhale the page and a half of material I’ve given every last doctor in the past twenty-seven years. Chronic alcoholic. Three alcohol in-patient rehab stints. Unmedicated bipolar I disorder. Heart patient. High cholesterol, unmedicated.
Surgeries and hospitalizations? Let me see … Michigan, prior to and just after retirement: In-patient, 28-day alcohol rehabilitation, times three. After retirement: Kalamazoo State Hospital, mental health evaluation. January through October, before I moved him to Florida with me: Severe frostbite in extremities caused by lying unconscious in a snowbank for a few days after being robbed. (Docs wanted to amputate his hands. His fingertips wound up falling off). Punctured back, left lung by someone who robbed him. Third degree burns on left side of body after being thrown into a burning barrel after someone robbed him. Concussion, three broken ribs, broken arm after someone robbed him.
After I moved him down with me: Pins put in an arm broken by people trying to rob him. Quadruple bypass, dual carotid endarterectomy, dual femoropopliteal bypass (fem-pop), gallbladder and hernia removed, and then another fem-pop. All that in under a year. All those before he moved to North Carolina.
After he moved to North Carolina? Hmm… It didn’t take but a couple days before he broke his leg. Take a guess as to whether alcohol played a part. He and his new roommate, a childhood friend he hadn’t seen nor spoken with in a good twenty-five years, were celebrating dad’s move. God only knows how many hours of drinking went by before they both passed out for the night in their relative rooms. Dad told me he got up in the middle of the night, forgot he had his suitcase by his door, and tripped over it on his way to the bathroom. His friend, I’ll call him Ted, was so out of it, he didn’t hear dad yelling, so dad told me he rolled himself over onto the dog bed and scooted his way to the phone to call 911.
As for all the other hospital visits, I have no idea. I’m just beginning to get an idea, I told Moira, because I changed dad’s permanent address back to mine. I’m getting all his unpaid hospital bills and explanation of benefit forms here. At this point, it looks as though dad’s been in an emergency room every other month or so since Fall 2008. I know the last time I saw him in the flesh last October, he had several staples in his head.
I didn’t ask.
Dad’s hygiene has become horrible since he moved. He frequently urinates in his jeans, even did so as I was speaking to him when I saw him last year. Prostate problems again? Who knows? He obviously hadn’t bathed in months. He’d gone back to not taking off, let alone changing, his clothes, most likely for months. Last time he was in this shape, he didn’t take off his clothes for nearly two years. He was also wearing a woman’s sweater and eyeglasses he’d found in the dump, smoked like a fiend, and rattled on and on. Clearly, he was in a manic state.
He also managed to lose his best friend, Blackie, a Scottish Terrier mix who had never left dad’s side since 1997. Dad was doing something outside his room in a hotel for the homeless, went inside for something, came back out, and Blackie was gone. By the time dad had someone call me, Blackie’d been missing for two weeks. Since dad never renewed the microchip subscription, we’ll never know if HomeAgain tried to call.
I could have gone on, but I only have so many minutes on my phone.
Apparently, she called because she was concerned about my dad. He didn’t seem like any of the other people she had on her caseload. He just seemed like a lonely old man. She told me that she sees him quite often just walking the streets of town. She also said that word on the street is that dad has money. Dad gets his Social Security and pension deposits a couple weeks apart from one another, and that’s about how often she sees him with anyone. Those “anyones,” she said, were using him. They take him to the bank, get his money, maybe take him to get something to eat, load him up with liquor and beer, and drop him off somewhere, not necessarily his apartment. They leave him to fend for himself.
Everything she told me, I already knew. Moira got upset with me, because my reaction wasn’t what she’d expect. She couldn’t believe I could let my dad live like this.
I gave her some background on me, how I was thrown into the caretaker role my first year in college and how I’ve continued to help dad out of bad spots to the point of becoming his legal guardian and taking him into my own home.
I have a problem when anyone tries to put me in the “bad daughter” column, especially when I know it’s after dad has worked up a sob story. He’s all alone. His kids don’t care what happens to him. He’s just a retired, disabled veteran trying to make it on his own.
All alone, my ass. He wasn’t alone when he wasn’t drinking. He had friends, played cards every day, had his dog, went places, was liked by all his neighbors. Granted, my brother and I are all who’re left alive in the family. It’s just us three and my brother’s family, but dad never developed a relationship with his grandkids. While they were growing up, he was drinking and he never even acknowledged them at holidays. And forget about birthdays. He never visited. Never called. Never sent cards. He started to make headway when he lived with me, because I kept him sober and my brother allowed him to come visit; but once he started drinking again, his temper flared, and he was too dangerous to have around. My brother cut off all contact.
When he started drinking again, his sober friends didn’t want to have anything to do with him. His best friend, his card-playing buddy, and his wife decided to move near Orlando to get away from him. Everyone stopped returning his calls. Some even blocked him. When he drinks, it’s like he develops Tourette‘s. He’s not only foul-mouthed, though, he’s aggressive. He scares off people. That’s the real reason he’s alone. No one knows how to handle him.
I do, though. He listens to me. I’ve been known to stop him in his tracks in the midst of an attack just by scolding him. It’s as though he’s a toddler. Truly.
Moira, dad’s not alone. I care. I’ve just learned over the years how to set and keep boundaries.
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