Friday, November 25, 2011
There is a cycle to life that is often the butt of many jokes. In a perfect life, we are born into this world and our parents love, nurture and protect us. We grow into adults and love, nurture and protect our own children. When we become senior citizens, our children become our protectors. At least that’s the way it seems.
Marissa is a stay at home Mom. She has five children, two of which are no longer at home (one is in the Coast Guard and one is in college). She has asked me share her story.
Marissa is the oldest of four children. They all live in the same geographical area. Her parents have been divorced for more than a decade as a result of her father’s alcohol abuse. She has become her father, Joseph’s, caretaker. An extended family member has attempted to help Joseph by providing him a job and a room, but after four years of alcoholic insanity, they let him go. Because he had some money from being injured in a car accident, he decided to not seek out other employment.
Joseph, refuses to go to in-house rehab, but has participated in AA. His longest length of sobriety over the past four years has been only six months.
When Joseph lost his job in May, Marissa took him into her home. He was jaundiced and became increasingly worse each day. His eyes were covered by a film of yellow making them appear golden. After much coaxing, Marissa managed to get Joseph into the hospital for detox. Besides having dangerously high ammonia levels, he was also malnourished and dehydrated. After a ten day hospital stay, he was released and moved into a clean and sober house. He, once again, started going to AA and things looked bright. Marissa’s relief would only last for a couple of months when Joseph returned to the bottle and he was asked to leave the house. Because he had no where to go, Marissa, took him back into her home with the condition that he not drink and would seek employment.
Having set her boundaries, Marissa knew that it would not benefit him to allow him to cross the line without consequences. In October, she told he must move from her home. He stayed in hotels until his money ran out and began sleeping in the woods close to Marissa’s home. He came to her house and told her he wasn’t feeling so well and could he stay with her a few days – just until he was feeling better. Marissa agreed and took him in for a few days, providing him a clean bed and food. But, the following Sunday she re-admitted him to the hospital. He was released after only four days. Joseph returned to the woods, but became sick once again and asked Marissa to let him back into her home.
Joseph has siblings, none of which will allow him to live with them. Marissa’s siblings are not in a position where they can take him. They all take a “tough love” stance on the caretaking of their brother/father. They believe he should be left on the street no matter how sick he is. They believe if they allow their father to “hit bottom” he will come to his senses and take recovery seriously. Since they have very little contact with him, they can’t see what alcohol has done to their father physically. They don’t understand that there is now no turning back because his physical health is gone.
Joseph has gone through all his money. Social services give him piles of paperwork which he cannot complete because he can no longer understand how to fill out a simple questionnaire. He has no insurance. There is no longer any possibility of rehab because he is refused admittance due to the high risk factor and lack of money. Marissa feels that there are no other options but to give him a safe place to die.
Panic sets in as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Her son, Andy, is returning from college for the holiday and will expect to be able to sleep in his own bed in his own room. But that room is being used by his grandfather – a fact that he doesn’t know because Marissa has not shared the information for fear of Andy’s disapproval. Her one pillar of sanity in the whole situation is her husband, John, and her belief in God. John supports Marissa’s decision and will help in any way he can. They become a “united front” but Marissa must be the leader. She braces herself for the assigned task – to tell Andy that he will be sleeping on the sofa.
The next day comes and Marissa waits to make the phone call until she has completed all the many chores she has lined up for that day. She finally sees her father in the early afternoon. She had taken advantage of his “quietness” and managed to get a lot accomplished. She was waiting to call Andy until her husband was home from work.
When Marissa entered the room, she saw Joseph in his bed and breathing very heavily. She knew the situation was dire. He was in so much pain that he barely acknowledged that Marissa was there. It took several hours for Marissa to get her younger kids out of the house, her husband home from the office, have a conversation with her brother, and issue her father an ultimatum – go to the hospital or leave her house. He agreed to the hospital and it took a few more minutes to get him dressed.
It was a struggle getting him to the car. His legs hurt and he had no muscle control, so essentially, Marissa and John had to semi-carry him towards the car, but couldn’t lift him enough to get him into the seat. They called 911 and an ambulance was on the way. While holding her father up, Marissa was trying to tell the dispatcher what was going on, but she couldn’t do both. She laid her father on the ground next to the car.
Before the ambulance got there, Joseph began foaming from his mouth and turning purple. He stopped breathing and Marissa knew he had died right in front of her. The dispatcher was instructing Marissa on CPR when the paramedics arrived. They worked on him for several minutes and then transported him to the hospital. When she got to the hospital it was official, Joseph was gone.
The doctors explained to Marissa and John how they think the death occurred, but it really didn’t matter because the end result was the same. Her father was gone. As much as she loved him, Marissa couldn’t protect him from himself.
In the end, Joseph gave his family the gift of freedom. The entire family can now come together as one and celebrate his life with stories sparking both laughter and tears. The family can heal and move on. That is a gift of love. That is what a good father would do.
Ohhh… And as for Andy – he was upset that his mother didn’t trust him with the truth. If he had known, he would have left school early and been there to help her. Seems he’s already starting on the path to protecting his Mom. And the cycle continues.
at 8:14 AM