My father’s death left me an emotional mess. Not because he was a loving, caring father. He wasn’t. It was the sudden realization that I had spent the previous nine years providing care for a man who treated me horribly in a pathetic attempt to finally earn his love. It was anger over the lack of help and appreciation from my father’s family, especially his other children, two of whom he loved the way I always wanted him to love me. But more than anything else, it was how these same people, who didn’t visit him and had done little to nothing to help for years, cried like they were most loving family members and exaggerated their relationship with him upon his death. For me, as the carrier of the huge caregiving burden, it was like adding insult to injury. I wanted so badly to tell everyone off, but I knew it was better to get through the funeral and finally obtain some level of closure.
My experiences got me thinking: I bet there are many, many other caregivers out there who wish they could confront all those who didn’t help, who didn’t visit, and who in no way seemed to care about the person before their death, but suddenly become the most caring, adoring, and tragically effected people after the person’s death. I bet, just like me, the caregivers sit, gritting their teeth, not confronting those who didn’t help, while trying to get through the funeral and the aftermath. I bet they’d love to unload on these people as much as I do. So I decided I’d write out my thoughts in response to all the bullshit those who did nothing spew after the person’s death. I hope every caregiver enjoys.
Bullshit: “I can’t believe there is no open casket viewing at the wake. I wanted to be able to see him one last time.”
Response: “You know when you could’ve seen him? Sometime during the last three years while he was still alive. You didn’t care to see him then, so we didn’t think you’d care to see him now. We were trying to save money as we’re paying for this funeral out-of-pocket and he wasn’t in good condition at the time of his death, but we should’ve thought of you. Our bad.”
Bullshit: “How sad that he had to go to assisted living. I wish someone would’ve given him to me to take care of. I wouldn’t have let him go to one of those places.”
Response: “I wish you would’ve said something before he died, but that would’ve required you to call or visit, and we both know you never did that. I would’ve been more than happy to drop him off at your house rather than take him to assisted living. Now, you would’ve had to bathe him and change his diapers, but as good a person as you are, I’m sure you would’ve had no problem wiping a grown man’s ass. Oh, and the dementia caused him to lose his sense of what was appropriate and what he could get away with, so he was always saying sexually inappropriate things to the female home healthcare workers. But again, I’m sure with all the self-professed goodness that you possess and I don’t, you could’ve handled what no one else could.”
Bullshit: “Look at [the caregiver]. She’s not even upset. How could she not love her own father?”
Response: “Yes, you’re right. The measure of how much someone loves their dearly departed father is by how much they cry at his funeral, not by how much they did for him during his life. You know what? I’m relieved. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I received constant calls regarding his care. I worried that he was lonely, because I was the only one who visited him and took him places. I watched him deteriorate slowly for years. I sat by his side during his final days and fought for humane care for him, because the care he was receiving was akin to medically-sanctioned torture. You chose not to be there, but I’m glad you could be here now to judge my actions and make this harder on me.”
Bullshit: “I want to stop by [the deceased’s] house and grab a few thing’s he promised me sometime this week.”
Response: “Wow…I didn’t realize you know where he lived, because you haven’t stopped by at all in the last few years. I know, I know. All your health problems, your demanding job, and your kids’ constant activities have prevented you from stopping by for four years. I’m so glad that your schedule is suddenly is so free now that you want to grab a few things ‘he promised you.’ Funny, he never mentioned leaving you anything, but I’m sure you’re telling me the truth and not trying to get over there to grab anything of value.”
Bullshit: “I just wish I could hug him one more time.”
Response: “You know when you could’ve hugged him? Sometime within the last few years.”
Bullshit: “He was such a good man. A wonderful father. [insert other saint-like qualities.]”
Response: “He was a pathological liar who treated us all like shit. That’s why none of you were there when he needed you. That’s why, other than me and his two favorite children, no one bothered to show up when it was time to take him off life support. Now that he’s dead, you’re crying and talking about how great he was. We didn’t know a great man and I don’t know why, now that he’s dead, he gets to become that person in everyone’s minds. I did for that man what he would’ve never done for me. I’ve earned the right to remember him how he truly was rather than participate in this competition to see who can describe him in the most glowing terms possible.”
Bullshit: Facebook post about how much they loved missed/the decease.
Response: “What are you talking about? You didn’t bother seeing him during the last four years of his life and he lived twenty minutes away from you. I’m glad you could find photos to post from the one holiday you spent with him five years ago to lead people to believe you spent every holiday with him. I hope you’ve made yourself look like as good a person as you hoped. I hope those Facebook likes and sympathy are worth it.”
Bullshit: “I didn’t want to see him in his final months. I want to remember him the way he was.”
Response: “I wish I had that luxury, but someone had to do it and you didn’t want to do anything that might make you uncomfortable. You profess to love this person with all your heart, but you couldn’t bring yourself to see him when he wasn’t in his prime? Thanks for flaking off when I was reaching out to you for help when I, and the person you claim to love so much, needed you.”
Although this has been beautifully cathartic and great fun, I’ll stop myself here. I realize that these are very particular to my situation, but I hope other beleaguered caregivers can relate and enjoyed the responses. I realize I sound bitter and judgmental, but it’s so difficult not to be when I received very little help while my father was alive, no appreciate for the care I gave after his death, and judgment for my actions from those who could’ve helped and didn’t. I also realize that most of their bullshit was said to mask their own guilt, but I’m tired of considering everyone else’s feelings at the expense of my own. They could’ve simply kept their opinions and self-promoting lies to themselves. The one positive I can take away from my experience, and I hope other caregivers can take from theirs, is that I don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t have to lie to myself and others to ease my guilt. I was there. I can find comfort in the fact that I did right by my father. Everyone else can deal with their remorse.