So much of my mood for the week after I visit my dad at the end of each month depends on my last visit with him. If he was more tuned in, I have an easier time of it. If he was more distant and less alert, I struggle. I think I fear that something will happen and my last moments with him will have been unconnected ones. And so, with each visit, I cling and pull and try to twist his attention back to us. More often than not, these days, it doesn’t work. I hang on to those small moments that it does with all my might, terrified to let go and lose him again.
I don’t think the need for your parents’ love ever goes away, and I suspect that a lot of my clinging is my desperate wish that he could love me the way he used to. It’s selfish. I know he does love me on whatever level he is currently capable, but it just isn’t the same? I try every trick in the book – hurling songs he knows, family catch phrases, silly jokes he used to love – anything to get a look of recognition out of him. When I get an actual hug that feels real, or a genuine laugh? Fugghedaboudit. That dangling carrot keeps me coming back for more. At what point will I be able to let go of my need for him to recognize our relationship and instead just accept him as he is? Will I ever be able to stop trying to force him into it and accept that the disease is just too strong?
The text for the painting from the Fractured Memories series reads “I cling and I cling and I cling, but the disease chips away at him, turning him from me. How do you know when it’s time to let go?”