Loss of a Parent and emotions

After the passing of a parent, I realized that I’m now a middle aged orphan!

Last week, I lost my father to the complications of dementia and other medical ailments, after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. Actually posting this entry today is ironic in that today is the 100 day anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and it was right after Sandy that his downward spiral was noticed by me.

For years he hid his dementia from me and his family by being what they call a “functional dementia patient”. He could get basic tasks done as long you did not disrupt his established routine. I won’t go through his last three months, as the pain of seeing him suffer still continues to numb my senses.

 

He was 84 years old and he fought bravely for 3+ months through hospitalization/rehab/assisted living. So now that leaves me and my brother as “middle aged orphans”.  For the past week, my brother and I have reached such a tremendous outpouring of love and affection from our friends and family that we are at a loss to define our gratitude. I realize that many times, when I write Dad’s taxi, it’s with my personal brand of humor, but this time, I’m writing to put my feelings into words so I can look back on these words and get a true understanding of my emotions at this time. I guess that is the best I can do at this time.

I didn’t think it would be this difficult at the passing of our father, as much as a sense of loss I felt when I lost my mother 13 years ago, but when you lose your parent (regardless of how you felt towards them when they were alive), many emotions come flooding to you. For me the feeling of emptiness, relief and just a sense of numbness all collided simultaneously. I wanted to cry, but tears would not come. All I felt was a feeling of solitude with my inner child and knowing that I’d never be able to see my dad and that after this life event, I’d no longer have any parent who would give me the unconditional love every child craves for from his/her parent.

Luckily I had my family and friends surrounding me to help me balance my emotions on my dad’s passing. The support I received from my inner circle of family and friends from  all over the world helped me understand the impact my father had on others and how to celebrate his life. This helped me to reconcile my emotions which had continued to collide on a daily basis during his life and his death.

As my brother and I continued to wrap up the memorial services and financial matters, we both gained strength from each other and just talking. Even as my brother is a few years younger than me and much more logical, his range of emotions allowed me to understand and grasp the loss in the proper context.

When you lose both your parents, the void left cannot be measured by words. The emptiness that you no longer have a mother or father who loved you unconditionally is a difficult concept for  any child to grasp. My relationship with my father for most of his life was strained to say the least. Yet during his last 3 months of his life, I gained closure on a my emotions as I took care of him and saw him deteriorate into a state of despair as he realized that he would never “go home”.

Everyday as I talked to him in his state of dementia, I realized that I no longer had any rights to feel the anger that I felt for most of my life. Now was a time for forgiveness and understanding. This allowed me to move on and take care of the necessary tasks a son has to do when he is taking care of his father. Yes, I may sound cold and heartless when I say these words but everyday I spent with him chipped away at every ounce of the residue of anger which I carried in my heart every day of his life for the way he treated his children and his wife when he was of sound mind. His toughness and independence was a staple of his existence of 84 years and I realized that if live to his age, I may not be able match his courage and dignity he showed till the day he passed.

When my dad left us, he left under his terms (peacefully) and with grace. He left telling the nurses “He would not be in the hospital after Today (January 29th, 2013)”. And as in his life, he kept to his word. He fought till the to get out of the bed that had imprisoned him.

At his memorial service, I spoke from my heart when I eulogized him and it enabled me to let go of all the emotions had kept pent-up inside for years. His fierce independence, his sense of right and wrong, and above all his wanting not to interfere in the lives of his children.

Yes as I normally do, I ramble on and on..

Dad, I hope you rest in peace and your soul finds rest wherever you are!

 

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Elder Care and Parenting

How will you react when you are faced with decisions on elder care before you are ready to tackle them? A parent’s perspective on taking care of his elderly father.

I’ve been writing over the past few weeks about Sandy and the after effects of this super storm on people. Sandy left me an unwanted gift and responsibility as well, I realized my elderly father was in need of an intervention as he was in poor shape physically and mentally. He is 84 years old and has lived alone for years.

My dad chose to hide his deteriorating condition from me and others. After being told by his caring neighbors as I picked him up during the power failure in his building and Spending 3 to 4 days with him while we were “power less”  revealed to me his true state of being. It was sad.  I did not expect to be thrust into the forefront as a primary caregiver for elder care so quickly. I always saw my father as the man who was so independent, strong, stoic and wanted to be alone and he would never need my help. Yet it was painfully obvious over the days I spent with him, he had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer take care of himself.

What I realized also was that I had ignored the danger signs because, of my selfish prejudices on what I thought of my father. I allowed my personal feelings to get in the way of responsibility and I guess this is the guilt speaking, but I’m sure many children who are thrust unwillingly into this role may feel the same way.

When life returned to some resemblance of normalcy I did what I had to gain control of his life. Even as he resented, my intrusion into his personal life, I had to gain control of his affairs. Every part of his personal life was a mess from where and how he lived to his mental state. A lesson to be learned here is that the few steps that I took to gain control of his financial and his medical life will now enable me to at least be able to take care of him on his terms.

I quickly realized how ill he was and took him to a doctor (which he had not done so for years!). The new doctor, quickly advised me to admit him to the local hospital via the emergency room. He’s been in the hospital for over 8 days now with his mental state in tatters with dementia and his physical state now being a shell of what I knew of him over the years.

A man who could balance his bankbook, penny to penny is now not able to walk, feed himself and has no idea why he is in the hospital. Of course his stubborn nature doesn’t help his outlook.. A man who was always independent now has to rely on everyone else to take care of him.. I can imagine how that feels.

I have empathy for my father, even as I was never really emotionally close to him and neither is he the most loving father anyone could have. I quickly realized all my old wounds had to heal quickly and my forgiveness and being able to go above and beyond as his son, was key to helping him. For me being helping him in his time of need, was never a priority and now my only priority is making him comfortable as his primary caregiver.

I do want to share with you with you a few thoughts for each of you to think about when what YOU must think about elder care.

  • If you have an elderly parent, YOU MUST have “The Talk” with your elder parents: This involves financial and medical power of attorney. I got lucky, only due to my instincts and my wife’s ability to push me to get things done.
  • Make sure you and your family is prepared to make one person the “in charge” of all financial and medical matters related to the elderly relative. If you can’t do this, split the responsibilities between family members. Everyone should contribute and support the individual (to keep him/her sane). In my case, my wife and kids have stepped up and given me the critical support during this difficult time.
  • Be prepared to dig into financial records that you had no clue that existed. I had to dig through mounds of paper at my dad’s house to figure out his finances. Shockingly, even with his ongoing dementia state, his finances were in perfect order!
  • Make sure you have full access to the medical history of your elderly parent. Without this, doctors will not even recognize you.
  • Make sure you have in writing, signed and notorized your elderly parent’s wishes in case of any final health care of end-of-life care decisions have to be made. There are many sites on the internet that allow you. I found this site and everyone should visit the site fivewishes and fill in/print out the forms that this site will create for you for FREE. If I knew of this site, I would have been in better shape than I am now. I am preparing my fivewishes ASAP and getting them witnessed and notorized. New Jersey is one state that accepts these five wishes as a legal document.
  • Talk to your parents. Keep the lines of communications open. Don’t allow them to be reclusive and isolate themselves. If I had paid more careful attention to my father’s deteriorating condition, I’m almost certain that we would not be in the situation we are currently in.
  • When your elderly parent needs care, make sure you balance your life with the need to take care of your parent. I’m finding that the more I dedicate to my dad’s care, the less I’m taking care of my emotional and physical health.
  • Keep things in perspective in a daily basis. As the days progress, treat each day as a new day and wish for the best. Each day will be different as I see with my dad in the hospital. There is no guarantees when it comes to an elderly person being in a hospital, and you have to take everyday as a “moment in time”.
  • Make sure you tell your employer of the work-life balance you are facing. Many employers today will be very considerate and give you plenty of leeway to do what yo u need to do.

I could ramble on and on beyond this point (which everyone who knows me, will agree that I’m very good at), but I think I’ve put on paper, my thoughts as I progress through the minefield that is known as elder care. I like to call it when a parent takes care of parent..

As I proceed down the path to taking care of my father, I now realize that every day is an adventure in to the abyss of the unknown. Yet I can peek into the abyss of darkness, if I prepare myself and do the research and use my natural given ability to dig into details. I guess old habits just follow you around..

I’ve linked some articles below on elder care, I

Parenting – What’s your style?

Today, I’m going to write about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Parenting.

What is your parenting Style

There are many  schools of thought in on parenting. Below is the two that I struggle with on a day by day basis.

  1. The Authoritarian Parent (“Micro Parenting“) – In the business world, we’ll equate this to “micro-managing” a child. In real life, this is the overbearing parent that is constantly molding, probing, prodding, and making the child in a possible self-image.
  2. The Permissive Parent (“Hands Off Parenting – In the business world, you can refer this to “no management direction at all”. In real life, this is a parent who just stays back and let’s the child make his/or her  decisions of mistakes.

How do you establish the right balance between the two?

Now I don’t consider myself to be the best parent in the world, but I have always tried to guide my kids to “do the right thing” and “be an all-rounder”.  In my house we have two kids that are not only 7 years apart but worlds apart in their DNA makeup and their outlook and perspectives.

  • The younger one, is a go-getter, extremely sensitive and wants to succeed at any cost and does whatever is necessary to reach her still evolving goals, and she’s not even a teenager yet. This is the child that is harder to manage, because she’s all over the place and always challenging the Status Quo. In my house this is my “American Idol Child”. She even blogs!
    • This child is a non-stop communicator and will not stop discussing till she gets her point across. This is more like me I guess. Of course my friends may think otherwise.
  • My older one is a teenager in college and she’s on the opposite spectrum with DNA. She’s easy-going and really just wants to “go with the flow”. This child doesn’t have much of an outward desire to excel in anything much, but just wants to “be”. I could spend hours and hours talking to her for a stretch, but the channels of communication are uni-directional. From me to her.
    • In my mind’s eye, this is a passive child who doesn’t directly interact with her environment, but treads water ever so slowly that there is not much year of year differences.
    • At times she shows flashes of brilliance and may even be misunderstood to be a “selfish, self-centered child” for only being a go-getter for things she wants for herself.

How does a parent cultivate these two unique personalities and DNA composition? what is the right balance of parenting style match the child?

For my younger one, I must always raise the bar and challenge her to excel, whereas the older one, I need to constantly push her to find something that will interest/challenge her.

For my older one, I must always push her to establish “any” goal to work to. Otherwise, I’m not sure that she will ever set a goal which will interest/challenge her.

It’s as tough balance for any parent to follow. At least I struggle to balance the needs of each of these kids.

Here are some of the things I have to catch myself from not doing to maintain an equal footing as a parent:

  • Compare the achievements of one to the other
  • Use the classic line – “Why can’t you be like your sister, she doesn’t need any push in the right direction”.
  • Punishing the one that is yet to establish or even vocalize an “attainable goal”. Of course for me this one is too easy. Just take away my child’s body attachment to social media (her blackberry, or her Mac)!
  • Praising one over the other (in front of each other), because this obviously gives the older one a “complex”. What kind of complex  you can figure that one out.
  • Using the daily/weekly/monthly parent lectures, where the child will in minutes shut down and roll his/her eyes

There are many more bad “helicopter parenting” strategies that I can write about but I think you get the idea..

Now what are successful techniques that all of us a highly paid parents do use?:

  • Rewarding positive behavior and success
  • Being friends first and then parents. Even the first part is hard to do!
  • Drawing the lines and boundaries  for acceptable behavior and enforcing these boundaries
  • Being clear, concise, honest and direct in what you expect from you child. For me, I always tell my kids this is directly associated with “doing the right thing” for any situation that the world throws at you.
  • Constant Coaching and Communication – As a parent, the lines between the two of these things have always been blurred, as my coaching style can easily be perceived as “sarcastic encouragement”.
  • Being involved with your child’s daily life, without being intrusive. Allow your child to experience success and failures in their relationships and activities as they grow up?
    • I today’s Facebook age, how can you be your child’s friend without being overstepping the boundaries of being your child’s friend?
    • For every failure there is always to successes!
  • Trust but Verify: Now this is the hardest one for me. I trust my kids to do the right thing, but I how do I verify that the right thing has truly been done?

I could go on and ramble more and more, but as a parent what strategies work for you? As a dad who is constantly trying to balance his actions with some sense of positive reinforcement, I’d like to hear from you if you have any ideas..

Dad…

Another Year another year older

On the eve of my birthday, some reflections by dad and his taxi of life!

So another year has passed by and it seems that each birthday comes faster and faster. Seems like only yesterday I was turning 18, 21 and now wow much much older. I would reveal my age, but that would just make me feel old, so I won’t.

I guess this year can best be characterized as the year of travel and illness. I had a great trip to India and of course I came home with eColi. Let me tell you something eColi is something that can easily drain your physical and emotional energy. Luckily I survived this one and came out somewhat unscathed. Except of course for the medical bills!

What I’m really grateful for this year is my family. Through everything my familial links and bonds have kept me sane and upbeat. Of course when I say family, I’m talking about my kids and my better half. I also have to credit my humor for keeping me focused and upbeat.

Financially, the year was a disaster, but hey which single income family doesn’t struggle and live paycheck to paycheck?

I think the best thing that happened to me this year is this blog and my new venture with my buddy AK.  We continue to plod along as we develop a South Asian Community based global portal. Even this, we have not really made much headway, but we keep pushing forward! We know that we won’t be the next Facebook or even Rediff, but this venture allows me to utilize the excess creative energy that I seem to be always searching for.

I guess the best I can say about the past year, I really matured as a person. I finally realized that holding on to old bitterness only does harm and does nobody any good. I finally realized that growing older does not mean you have to feel sorry for yourself, but to really appreciate what you have achieved and to enjoy your family. I’m also starting to realize that as I get older, I’m becoming more self reliant and care less what others say or think of me! Is that my arrogance speaking or is that my self-confidence showing its true self?

Overall, I think I finally grew up this year, or at lease some sense of maturity has finally crept into my existance. Let’s see what next year holds for me financially and emotionally.

Dad..