Well, I did it. I finally blew my stack with my father-in-law. I mean I really, really lost my cool. The day started out poorly. I was running slightly late, and he made us even later by not being ready when I get there to pick them up. I mean so late to the doctor (yes, I know, again to the doctor, and that alone might be pushing me over the edge--I only have 3 more appointments to deal with this weeks, though, so I can't crack yet), that Thyrza's chart had been pushed into the "No show" pile. And having been pushed into that pile myself, I know it's nothing to mess around with. Sure, let a doctor run a half and hour or more late while we site twiddling our thumbs and reading old issues of Parenting magazine with some of the pages torn out. But us be be late, and a 50$ fee gets slapped against you before you can say hello, or explain about walkers, dementia or anything else.
But Grampie and Thyrza come from a small town and used to a slower pace, where they can show up 15, 20 minutes late and it's okay. But not here. NO way, not ever! Fortunately, the doctor agreed to see Thyrza, despite our tardiness, so off we went, leaving Grampie in the waiting room. When I got back out to him, he asked when his appointment was. He'd completely forgotten we were there for Thyrza.
Later, after an excruciatingly long and convoluted time at the bank (another of our almost daily stops), I'd answered the same question one too many times, heard him reprimmand his wife too often, listened to him play the same verbal tapes over and over and over until a switch finally went off in my head and I just let him have it. Both guns blazing. I gave him what for, and a little bit extra, and by the time I was finished, he said, "Whoa, Thyrz, I guess we better sit up straight and salute." Thyrza, with not so much as a hint of a smile in her voice said, "Roger, just pipe down." And he did.
He won't remember it tomorrow. In fact, he'd forgotten it by the time we got home, when he was his familiar grateful self. Sure, he wanted me to run back over this morning to make a phone call across the ocean, take him on a quick run to Office Depot (De-pot, as he calls it), and I told him, as gently as I could, given I was still steaming, that I really needed this day to myself. I have to drive south to my own doctor's appointment this afternoon, have to pay bills this morning, need some time to get some things done around here. Thyrza said, "Let her have a day, Roger." The rest of the week is given over to them, after all. "Alright, alright," he said, backing off with his hands raised in surrender. Still, he was grateful for the help. They both are.
More grateful than I was gracious. Yep, he'd already forgotten that I'd lost my cool with him, which is nice, I suppose. It's not the same as forgiving me for it. Dementia means never having to say you're sorry. So my sin against him, and believe me, it was definitely sin, just sits there. He isn't responsible for those broken record tape phrases he constantly reuses, the redundant questions he asks, or the confusion of his brain. He can't help any of it. Sure, sometimes he is an agitator--but it's his only way of approaching the man who used to be a fun tease. If he chides his wife for not finishing her milkshake, when all she wanted was to share it with him, it's because the holes in his brain make him misunderstand, not because he's a mean man. He isn't. And it's mean of me to take my frustration with his disease out on the on who suffers most from it.
No, I can't ask his forgiveness, though I did call Thyrza last night and ask for hers. She accepted, told me she's glad I feel so comfortable that I can let loose when it finally gets to me. But that isn't quite the same as forgiving me. We're in a difficult situation, and it's not going to get easier. I know that. I'd love to make excuses for myself (and believe me, I could be a master at it!) but the bottom line is, Grampie--and even Thyrza, to a lesser degree--aren't able to govern themselves as I am. Just as I wouldn't have the same expectations for a three year old that I'd have for a twenty-three year old, I should not have the same expectations for folks in their 80s and 90s that I have for myself. Adulthood, it becomes clearer and clearer, arcs in the middle.