When I was in 5th grade, I begged and begged and begged my parents to “please, for the love of everything good and holy let me wear makeup.” They said no. They said no in 6th grade and 7th grade. By 8th grade, they caved and allowed me to wear face powder and lip gloss.
It didn’t matter. What I didn’t carry in my small Jean Nate’ makeup bag; a hand-me-down from my oldest sister, I could borrow from my friend Jill at school. Jill was so cool. She could wear as much makeup as she could fit into her purse. She could go to concerts on a school night. She could even watch R-rated movies. She could talk to boys on the phone. She also had her driver’s license in 8th grade which meant, A. she was the coolest person I knew in 1987 and B. There’s no chance in hell my parents would ever let me hang out with her.
I’ll never forget the night Jill was going to have a party at her house. Everyone in 7th and 8th grade was invited. Even this kid Ryan I had a massive crush on. I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t let me go. I was 13 years old, for crying out loud. I was practically an adult.
The night of the party my mom tried to take my mind off the fact that they had destroyed my life by arranging a fun night at home. Her idea of a fun night at home? Trivial Pursuit, where she would allow me to win the first pie section (I never won more than a single slice), followed by watching a brand-new episode of “Murder She Wrote.” Both of which were her favorite things. She never quite understood why that didn’t make me feel better.
I whined and moped the entire night. Finally, mom said, “We don’t know her parents. We don’t know what goes on in their house. When we don’t know those things, it’s always going to be a ‘no.’ This is for your own good.” I was certain that whatever went on at Jill’s house was not nearly as scary as game night and Angela Lansbury with Ralph and Janie.
I get it now. And after having children of my own, I realize what a ridiculous and dated statement “it’s for your own good” is. Not because it’s not true. Because kids will never, ever understand what this means while they are still kids.
A few weeks ago, after meeting with my dad’s doctors, my brothers, sisters and myself decided it was time to move him into a facility that offers more care. Dementia is tightening its grip, and as hard as we push back, we can’t win this battle. Dad is still capable of doing most things on his own, but we knew it was time. We also knew he was not going to be happy about this move. So, we did our due diligence. We spoke to a therapist, his sisters, ate empty calories, and watched the movie “Cocoon” (I’m still not sure what we were looking for by watching this one?). All to make sure we were doing the right thing. Plus, we needed backup. When the time came to tell him, we braced ourselves for the worst.
He didn’t take it well in the beginning. He was sad. We weren’t prepared for that. Mad we could handle. But sad? That was tough.
Moving day has come and gone. Each day has been better and better. Yesterday I picked him up and took him for a walk in the park. When we got back, dad exclaimed, “This is the best day I’ve had since you put me in the clink.” This started a conversation where I essentially tried to explain that he wasn’t in prison AND that all his children were part of this move … not just me. We both laughed a little and right before I left, he asked me again. “Now tell me again why I can’t go back to my other house? Is it because of my brain?”
“That’s right, dad. This is your new home. It’s safer.”
“But I feel fine?”
I looked into dad’s confusion-filled, light brown eyes and told him the one thing I knew he would understand. “Dad, it’s for your own good. I promise.” With that, he reluctantly shook his head yes, whispered, “Oh, OK” then gave me a hug.
Telling Tales is written by Wilson County’s Becky Andrew and Angel Kane. This column is Becky’s.