- Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 01:00
- Written by Jackie Madden Haugh
At the door to my bedroom, my father stood in his dark-blue suit tapping his foot. Staring at his 16-year-old daughter, he ordered: “Jackie, hurry up. We’re going to be late.”
In the Madden family, punctuality was right up there with perfect manners and good hygiene. We were never allowed to be late for anything. Being tardy for school, church or dinner was equal to a mortal sin. It was a sign of disrespect and punishable with near death, or at least a good grounding.
“Dad, I still have five minutes,” I hissed, desperately trying not to be insolent. “You can’t rush a girl when she’s in the final stages of fluffing herself.”
And with his signature “harrumph,” he pointed at his watch and said, “You just wasted one minute. You have four left.”
Since I was a child, I’ve found it amazing that he could shower and shave in less time than it took to pour a bowl of cereal. I, on the other hand, seemed to need an entire day. Now, I often reflect on how the tables have turned as I watch my 96-year-old father get ready to make his final journey home.
Each day starts with a simple routine – a sponge bath in bed followed by breakfast. Once completed, it’s off to his tattered and worn-out recliner for a day filled with what appears to be devoid of anything substantial. With his eyes closed, he looks like he’s asleep, but I know better.
Jack Madden is a gentle man who converses with the Lord daily. In those quiet hours, he connects with the spiritual world. I know my mother is calling him to come be with her, but he’s not ready. He has things to think about, a lifetime to remember and people to pray for.
This enormous job of caring for my dad has me constantly re-evaluating the gift we call life and a family’s involvement. Why do some die young and others live way past what is deemed reasonable? Has medical science gone too far in keeping people alive longer than they should be? Is it a requirement that adult children take on the caregiving of their aging parent after they’ve just raised their own children? There is no right or wrong answer to such questions. Only what works for the people involved.
Years ago, I made a promise I’d never leave my father alone in a nursing home, a vow that definitely has had its mixed blessings.
I often find myself feeling trapped in a house that smells of adult diapers. The floors and walls of my once pristine-looking home are now permanently scarred with divots from the metal spokes of his wheelchair, and sometimes my heart rages over the unfairness of it all.
But the rewards are many. With my dad by my side each day, I’ve learned not only about my heritage and the incredible human being I’m proud to call my father, but about humanity – especially mine. While it hasn’t always been a pretty sight, I’ve learned to set aside my selfishness to put this treasured individual first. Doing the right thing feels wonderful.
So, as I watch him get ready to give me that last goodnight kiss, I pray, “God, let him take all the time he needs for that reunion that awaits in heaven.” As far as I’m concerned, this is one time my daddy can be impolite and throw punctuality out the window. I’m thrilled he’s too busy to die, because I’m too selfish to let him go.