For the Small Voice

Fathers are such powerful people in our lives. Some of us were “daddy’s little girls”. Some of us were always a bit afraid of disappointing Dad. Some of us are adults bound with grudge and resentment towards our dad. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, the role of father holds great power in your psyche.

I was the Manager on Duty this weekend and was pleased to talk with daughters calling their fathers or mothers. In memory care we spend a lot of time in the world of family bereavement and loss. We see an amazing individual in our resident–a joy, a character, a challenge. Families see all that has been lost, “He’s not who he used to be. I hate to see him like this. It is so hard.” And we empathize and validate and listen with compassion as is right and important.

But on the weekend prior to Father’s Day I share the amazing individuality and personality of a 94 year old father to his daughter. She is grateful for the sharing, but there was the “but”. And I hear it, I validate her feelings but have my own but . . . the tiny voice inside is saying, ‘Lucky you. You have had a living father 20 years longer than I had mine. You get to hear him talk on the phone. You get to hear people tell you what a charmer he is. I would give so much for just one phone call to Dad.” Even with the plagues and tangles that mask “who he used to be”. The glass is half full, enjoy it. Revel in it. And the voice stays appropriately in check, validating the daughter’s feelings and murmuring my compassion.

So for the voice: If I could call Dad, I’d tell him about Mike and how very good he is as a husband. I’d tell him what a mistake it was to buy the condo. I’d expect and bear the ribbing for the cost of my additional degrees. I’d tell him about the miracle adulthood of my kids. I’d want to reach through that phone and hug him and tell him how much he’s been an example to me.

If Dad were alive with dementia, he may or may not recognize my voice. He may hang up unexpectedly. He may not let me tell him all those things—I see the challenge.

But the small voice still says “Lucky you–twenty more years, what a gift for you.”

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

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