By Cynthia L. Hefti
After an ugly argument with Brian about whose responsibility it was to take care of Daddy, the final decision fell to me. I was single and my two children were grown. Brian still had kids at home and a wife who believed, as clearly my brother did, that nursing homes were the first stop, not the last. "Besides," Brian said, "I already paid my dues." Brian had told Daddy when we first hired the aides that Daddy wouldn't be driving any longer, that the aides would take him wherever he needed to go. For the first time ever, Daddy swore at Brian and told him that there was "no way" Brian could stop him from driving his own car. Hurt and angry, Brian had stormed out of the house. What Daddy didn't know was that Brian stopped in the garage and took out the spark plugs and distributor cap from Daddy's car, and just for good measure, he flattened all four tires.
One of the aides called me a few days later and said Daddy had sneaked out of the house and when she had found him in the garage, he was trying to start the car with a bottle opener.
So like it or not, Daddy was my responsibility now. When I arrived to pack up Daddy and move him into my house, Daddy didn't recognize me. He thought I was another aide, come to wreck his life. He glared at me, his face red and full of rage.
"It's me, Daddy," I said quietly, trying to get him to look directly at me. "You're going to come and live with me."
"Over my dead body!" he hissed and stomped off into the kitchen. At that time Daddy was still walking. It was only after living with me for a month that he decided he didn't want to walk anymore. It wasn't as if he couldn't walk. In fact, at times he could practically run, but when he didn't want to walk, there was no budging him. I finally relented and got him a wheelchair, and he seemed quite pleased with himself to be rolled around on his own terms.
That day I followed Daddy into the kitchen. He sat at the table, pouting and making exasperated sighs like the boys had when they were little. I busied myself making a pot of fresh coffee and fixing turkey sandwiches. I didn't talk.
Finally, I heard Daddy speak.
"When did you get here Katie?" he asked.
I turned toward him. He was smiling up at me, his old face soft and as endearing as it had always been. There was the Daddy I knew and loved.
"Daddy, I've come to bring you home with me."
He looked at me for a long time. His eyes filled with tears and he wrung his hands together in his lap.