Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remember the Roller Coaster?

When I was a little girl, oh, about 7, 9 years old, my parents were both 'practicing' alcoholics. Many evenings would end with a frying pan flying through the air. From my mom's hand to my dad's head. Then, for some reason, Daddy would grab me, take me out to the car and drive down to the Boardwalk. We'd go to the roller coaster and ride it over and over and over again. When the Boardwalk closed up for the night, we'd go home and all would be quiet until the very next time.

I know Daddy suffered years and years of PTSD, depression, various physical ailments all as a result of his years as a POW, captured on Wake Island, early in WWII. Years of fear and loathing, afraid to be alone working through it, years of hard work and many successes. Can you imagine? As a POW, after his group had completed loading train cars full of lumber, they ran out of lumber. So their captors then forced these POWs to dig holes in the ground and throw the dirt up onto the train. Then they had to push the train several hundred yards and unload the dirt. To build a dirt mountain. 300 feet high. To keep 'em busy. And that's just one short story of his years in Chinese and Japanese camps.

Now he's 93 years old, has outlived most of his peers, his POW buddies, his friends, including my mom and his brothers. He's fairly healthy, doesn't really want to complain much about his body full of aches and pains. His mind is certainly deteriorating. He's alienated the few friends he had close to home because of his paranoid dementia and false accusations. Even though his peers and friends know it's a confused mind, they can't forgive him.

So he's more or less alone in his town of 45 years. Too confused to live alone there any longer. A few years of angst has brought us to this point, and now he's moving here to be close to family who will look in on him every day, grandkids and great grandkids who will get to spend some time with Grandpa Russ.

It feels like we're on the roller coaster all over again. Crawling up the hill, Daddy's argumentative and resistant, (fearful, I'm sure) then we coast down and around the corner and he's excited to move, looking forward and shedding tears of joy to be with his family. My gut is screaming about doing all this, how to do it, when to do it, how to do it.

We've got his apartment, beautiful place with lots of amenities, across the street and near the Napa River. He can walk down the street and throw a line in. Independent Senior Living. Meals, special events, happy hour every night, new friends, transportation, cable TV all included. He WILL enjoy it, once he settles in. I can't wait.

But right now, my life is not my own and I don't like it. It's my control thing. And his. Two steps forward, one step back.

I really do feel as if I'm back on that train again, taking a deep breath, speeding around that corner, hands reaching up to the sky, mouth wide open, screaming and screeching to a hard stop.


Marilyn said...

Beautifully written depiction of love and understanding and the price it sometimes costs to find that. Thank you for sharing your story.

Carol said...

I agree with Marilyn and I totally understand. You will be glad for this roller coaster ride, I promise.