You risk tears

You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed.

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Dad was not an easy person to deal with. I was told so by many a nurse. One nurse complained that we brought him a man with the DTs. We were yelled at and dad was sedated. 


Uncle Royal, Mom, Dad with the cigarette and his sister Louise. 1942


This may not be the kind of story you want to be reading on Veterans day. Yet it is the truth. I don’t like war or the war machine or military hackers, economic hit men, or bombs of any kind! I know that the history of humanity is a bloody one. I often wonder, astronomically, what kind of stellar rays the earth projects out into our solar system? Power, peace, sex, and equality: rich, poor, inclusive, or exclusive, are all qualities of our dualistic life. Love abides!  Then there are the simple stories of simple people and their alcoholic purple heart WWII veteran dads.  This is one that is funny as well as disheartening.

“The desert is a symbol, Turning it green is about much more than agriculture.” Chapter 13, pg. 129, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man -John Perkins

Mom was already signed up for Kaiser Permanente. Dad was with the VA. Seemed all was taken care of as they moved into their twilight years. As we age our bodies start to break down and when mom and dad hit their 90s it was unavoidable.  Dad stopped watering the garden and brushing the pool. In his 80s he still golfed and did walk the full course. Amazing you say? Well he also powered down lots of booze too? He told many a good story drunk as well. Then there was always the meanness of his personality. The pendulum swung. It swung back and forth. They never knew but I knew, like the sun rising and setting, I would have to unfortunately deal with his nastiness. We all endured his abuse in my family.

We all speculated on the facts that dad learned or acquired this behavior because of his service in the military as a Captain pilot of the Army Air Force during WWII. Dad’s B-52 was shot down the same day as Saint Exupery plane, July 31, 1944. {Exupery authored the book The Little Prince.} Exupery’s mysteriously disappeared but dad survived off the island of New Guinea with a broken back.

As a child we celebrated this day with a cake. My mom was very creative and designed a little B-25 plane crashed on the Island of New Guinea. I helped make up the blue dye frosting for the cake one year. So, we justified his alcoholism. That is what I learned.

Years later when dad started to show signs of dementia I advised mom to sign him up with Kaiser Permanente. A nice representative went to their house and got dad all taken care of. It was not much longer that Kaiser stepped in to help him. He was sick. Dad’s dementia got worse. We thought it was Alzheimer’s. His doctor told us he fried his brain drinking to much booze. I was not surprised but mom was. The whole family except for me were in denial about this.

Now for the funny part of the story.  My siblings were going to change the world and my dad too. Sister and one of the brothers told me this,

“Kaiser is not doing the best for dad. It is a terrible place and we need to get him better help!”

This was only a month after mother’s death. Kaiser helped her transition and gracefully so. What they told me angered me because I knew that Kaiser helped both of our parents. I was there to witness it at the time.  Once the big boy and sister siblings kicked in I was pushed aside for their brilliance. Most of them lived out-of-town and only came to visit a few times a year. This is how you are treated when you are the youngest in my family. I am the only one to still live where I grew up!

Now for another funny part of the story.

One of the second oldest brothers glorified the VA. There were two hospitals near dad. The VA hospital near Westwood and the one out in Northridge. Neither wanted to help. Yet there was a retirement adult care facility out in Northridge. This is where brother with glory glory told me how wonderful this VA hospital was. Brother spoke the words of the angels. He described the cleanliness of the place. The courtesies and how St. Peter of the golden gate stood to greet him.

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I went there with my nearest brother sibling. We interviewed with the adult day care coordinator. As I walked into the facility I was impressed. The live sound of a grand piano, the ruffle of a newspaper and friendly smiles as I walked by were warmly inviting. In her office the coordinator asked the questions. She wanted to know about my dad. My sibling was not honest. I tried to explain to this lady who my dad really was and how he behaved. I knew that dad was not the right person for this lovely holy holy VA place. I also advised my siblings the mistake they were making. Adjoined to this lovely adult day care was a medical facility. I reflected to myself that would be the best place for dad.

Siblings took dad there. He only lasted 15 minutes and was kicked out. He argued with the coordinator and pushed her.

“Having foresight is a terrible thing when nobody’s listening !!”

The VA was not there for my dad in his most vulnerable stage of his life. They could not handle his illness. Alcoholism and meanness is unacceptable! Back to Kaiser they went with their tail between their legs!! Kaiser treated dad with respect and showed him difficult dignity.

I never received a we are sorry or an apology for their failed effort. Holy holy VA Hospital symbolically burned to the ground and was never mentioned again.  I know that oldest brother always expected me to take over and take care of dad. I declined the offer. Oldest brother treated me like dirt too. With a husband and two kids to care for. I would have gone insane taking care of my dad too. He was very abusive.

I remember before his demise, dad did turn down home health aides because they were ugly or too fat. They were not up to his standards of a dame. I suggested that they put him in a nursing facility.  He would be happy there. A good facility would keep him sedated.

“NO,” they said.

We did the best we could for dad. I know we all loved him. One of my siblings had nowhere to live, had no family to care for or property or job. He did not have a car, nor did he drive. He moved in with dad at the family home and became a saint. Luckily, I drove and was there if they needed a drive. And so, the story goes…

Under his care dad ran away a couple of times. One time he hitched a ride to the coast over 30 miles away. He had no memory of us anymore. The police picked him up at a bar off the Pacific Coast Hwy. He smelled the drenched smell of hard alcohol! He was fresh with the lady police officer who was polite to him… regardless!


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