This Old Man

When I was growing up, my father worked a lot, was tired a lot and liked to drink a lot with my mom and other friends and family members that always gathered at the house. I lived in an alcoholic home and never gave much thought to it, as that is what families do. Right? It was all I knew and considered normal. The clanking of the brown, glass Blue Ribbon beer bottles in that neat, sturdy brown case was a common sound. I figured I, too, would do the same when I grew up and I did for a bit. It was just the life I knew and I was basically raised in bars, definitely on weekends. Thankfully, I realized I did not want any part of that lifestyle.

In my boredom as a young child of sitting and listening, I heard dirty jokes even though they thought I was not listening or understood. If you listen long enough, and I had time to do such, you learn and hear a lot. I did not need Google. The smell of beer, the cigarette smoke flowing and clouding up the room and hearing fake, drunken laughter all around, was a normal period of my life. If we were in a bar, I kept myself busy watching, thinking or if given some money, I’d go buy a Archie comic book at the drugstore, which was a treat. To get twenty-five cents was like begging but they could freely buy beer. In my other down times, I would help clean, especially salt and pepper shakers, perfect for my small hands. Still to this day, I feel the greasy shakers when at a restaurant and just cringe. Such a simple task but it is never done.

My dad was a big man and sounded gruff at times and others knew when he spoke, he meant business. He was a stubborn man. Still, we knew we were to respect him as our dad and when it came bedtime, we best be quiet. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. and out the door to drive an hour to work, it was a lot on him so I understood. Still, kids will be kids and siblings will fuss with one another or laugh. Only a few times, did I get in trouble with him. I still remember the last time when I did, along with my sister. Memories, good or bad, are etched into my brain, as I can still hear the tone of his voice and feel fear as I heard him snap his belt. I still remember where we were in the living room, like frozen in time within my mind. It was just a threat but enough to cause fear to freeze in a panic within me.

Strange how I married a man similar to my dad and knew how to deal with him because of my dad. I went from one to the other, like from one frying pan to another. Dysfunction to a dysfunctional relationship. The tone of the voice raises fear. There would be no belts or switches used in raising our children. The strike-three method worked with my boys, as I corrected them if needed and they knew that they had every opportunity to do whatever. For instance, if they did not clean their room, they did not go or do until. I did not need a spotless room but they needed to learn to pick up and help. If they did not put or keep the seatbelt on, we would sit right in the driveway until they did. I remember our youngest having a fit over the seatbelt. We sat in the driveway until it clicked, no matter if we were late or whatever. We never had that situation again. The rules, whether our rules as parents or legal, we all follow. Kids will be kids but they need to learn and know right from wrong and to understand. I was not always perfect as their mother, but I tried to be patient and discuss what we were dealing with at the time. It does not require a harsh voice, snap of a belt, a tree switch whipping in the air of torture to ensue or anything physical, all of which brings fear upon the child. Understanding the child, the situation and explaining or otherwise the parent(s) get overrun by their own children, which happens.

I still use the strike-three method in life today in situations, no matter who or what it is. I’ll allow that grace period and strike three, you are out and I am done. I had to deal with this in a business situation recently, which worked out fine but on the verge of strike three. If you don’t want my business, I can go elsewhere. We all need to be strict, stubborn and stick to our guns as they say somewhat or we will be taken advantage of, so boundaries are needed, but we don’t need to be mean and ugly.

All through these years of strict upbringing even in an alcoholic home, I knew to be good, but I was also a child and not perfect. The fear of that tone used or hear as he called my first and middle name, I knew I was in trouble. I had responsibilities and if not met, I was to do so immediately. This can expound into so much more but the gist of this is of my dad demeanor and expressed to those around him. Don’t cross the line.

Years later down the road, my parents aged and medical issues came about. I was the one to care for them and I knew that was the plan from my early years, even as a child. I am unsure how I was able to do it all, having two toddlers, my own home and family, church, outside work in sales but I also tended to their needs, all by the Grace of God.

I saw my father of being that man you would think would be a hateful man, he became a very calm, patient man as he aged. Perhaps knowing I would take charge and he was in good care or perhaps I could hurt him, which I would not do. I became his nurse, for years, with medical visits, insulin shots and a feeding tube all throughout the remaining days of his life. No daughter should have to change their dad’s diaper and clean his private parts, but I did. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect him to let me but he trusted me. I have no regrets. Mom had already passed by then so he had me tend to him while others would come to visit, if ever. Dad had a stroke, which caused the feeding tube and he could not speak anymore but grunt or try his best to sound out words. I understood him. He ended up being like a big ole teddy bear.

Now, I am dealing with my husband’s father and mother. My father-in-law wins by being the most stubborn man I know. Things are turning out to be quite difficult with them. I say them because I believe my mother-in-law is and has been in such a severe state of depression dealing with this man. I feel she is at a point now that she would like to just curl up and die. Shoot, I would and I only deal with him occasionally. Hateful. This task of dealing with him falls upon my husband, the middle son. The oldest is not well liked by the dad and the youngest only wants a handout of money and the mom gives it.

In fourteen months, throughout this pandemic, I have seen them both deteriorate. I put side by side pictures of each and it is shocking. Forget doctor appointments as he will not allow or want to go for a visit. If he doesn’t, she doesn’t. His hair looks like a wild man and it is just crazy in what is happening. Her hair is not much better, dirty and matted. Stubbornness on his part to not want help to make their life easier with handicapped items. No, he would rather have her call for us to come pick him up due to falling, now happening way too much. I have all the handicap items sitting at our house to help but he refuses them.

As their son, my husband discussed, I suggested that 911 be called, if need be, especially if he falls and a sight of blood. If this continues, they will need to be called and him taken to the hospital. It might be the best thing. We know nothing of their medical information or what is what, which will be a task when something does happen or even death. We are at a loss due to this old man’s stubborn, hateful ways. I believe she has just given up, total hopelessness as she awaits death. It’s a sad situation.

This year will hold a lot of ups and downs with both of them, I feel. It has already been eventful. This old man is something else. Of all my years in this family (1985), I have never seen any alcoholic beverages in the house, nor has his son. We wonder what caused this immediate desire to drink beer. My mother-in-law, raised in church, worked at the church, does not believe in alcoholic beverages, so we are unsure how the beer purchase comes about. Odds are, she does not care and it might give her some peace. After retirement about eight years ago, she has been under his thumb since, once telling me this is not what she expected. The depression was already taking hold of this sweet lady. I have told her that she is a hostage in her own home and she agreed. I am shocked that she would buy the beer. A mystery. What is funny but yet sad, he attempted to hide his Milwaukee’s Finest beer can in a coozie and drink from a straw to hide from his son.

This old man is acting like a teenager and has an attitude to go with one. While he shuffles in his walk anyway, the beer is not helping the situation and causing him to lose his balance and fall.

Lord help us all with him.

The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—”that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

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