The house was quiet, which wasn’t unusual, but his dog was sitting near the table, without Dad, and that wasn’t normal, which made panic set in, quickly.
After checking all the rooms, basement and backyard, my mind was flooded with all kinds of scenarios of what could have happened to him. Not much different than the days of worrying the kids would be kidnapped or wander off to be lost in a world of strangers. The problem was, Dad never met a stranger, as he could easily be convinced you'd known for years, as dementia had stolen his memories.
He finally came home, after a visit with a neighbor, and my first response was to reprimand him for not leaving me a note to tell me where he was. I continually had to catch myself, during this role reversal, of parenting my parent, so he wouldn’t realize he was no longer as independent as he thought he was.
Dad was healthy in every way, with the exception of his memory. My siblings were convinced he shouldn’t have been staying home alone and would be better off in a supervised "home." I cringed when they tried to argue the point, since I was the one who had taken full responsibility for his well-being, and I believed, for a good number of years, he was self-sufficient enough to live in his own home.
Dad had true regret when he eventually removed his own mother from her home, and that was enough to keep my battle going to allow him his independence, as long as possible. The decisions that are put upon us, for our parents, are not cut and dried, much like those we have to make for our children. There’s never any guarantee how decisions will impact the lives of those we love. You just have to move forward with your gut instinct, and hope it’s the right path to follow.
The rationale for Dad living by himself constantly ran through my mind – so what if he wants to wear the same pair of pants for three days? If he eats chocolate chip cookies for dinner? If he accidentally puts toothpaste in his hair, instead of VO5?
Every time I walked into his house and he’d greet me with a smile – bright-eyed and excited about the new birds who came to the backyard for a bath – I knew I'd made the right decision. It may not have been the best decision, in the opinion of others, but I believed it was best for Dad, until he mistook the power line for a tree limb and cut it with tree trimmers. Thank goodness they were fiber-glass handled. Otherwise my siblings could have said, “I told you so.”
I’ll continue to make decisions with my heart, rationalize it with my head, and then follow my gut instinct. When this method no longer works, it won’t matter, as by that time, I’m sure one of the kids will be deciding for me.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.