I wasn’t simply driving his car away for a while. I was taking it into my permanent possession. My dad cannot drive anymore as a direct result of the dementia and Parkinson’s he suffers that make a meal out of his loss, emptiness, and unbalance.
He had agreed that I would take his car so that I could sell mine and come out better for it financially. Still, the visceral feeling that I was taking something from him overwhelmed me. This man, who once seemed to live out of his car (he named it Louise) and once seemed as if he’d never admit defeat was now so withered and diminutive—a human tremor—that no claim to his car even exists in the ether for him to grab onto.
From this man, from my father, who has lost so much—two marriages, two houses, a law firm, the ability to speak—I was taking more, and for my own benefit. I was stripping my dad of possessions and independence. I was feasting on the carcass too.
An almost comical addition to the circumstance is that I would have to make this 11-hour drive completely alone. Of course! I had done everything for and with my dad alone, becoming his primary family caregiver, no one to help me carry the trauma of saving his life that day.
All I knew is that I had to keep moving forward. I had to keep driving, and if I just kept driving forward, I would eventually reach my home in New Jersey and the experience would be over. If I stopped moving forward, I would be prolonging this guilt incarnate, which is not what I wanted. However, moving forward and away from my dad was not what I wanted either.
Every time I see him, he is worse. Every time I see him, he is less like himself. Every time I see him, more of his personality is gone, and he is more like an echo of a man, trying to remember himself, only to come up with a shrug.
I slowly pulled into my driveway at the end of the 11 hour trek. I was bone-weary and my eyes felt glazed like Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I went to grab the car keys and realized my fingers had no strength to turn the car off. I wasn’t ready to end the journey. I laid my head on the steering wheel and wept.
You’ve likely experienced that irritating, faint “ringing-in-your-ears” sound at some point in your life. I read somewhere once that this sound is actually the sound of cells dying or being damaged by a loud noise. You won’t hear at that frequency again. The entire drive to New Jersey, my body was seized with an ache. There’s no way I can describe it other than it physically felt as if my heart was being forcefully wrenched from my body yet beating, as if from that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that gave me nightmares as a child. It must have been the equivalent of ringing-in-my-ears — my body was manifesting the scream of cell death occurring within my dad. Next time I see him, he’ll be worse, even less able to answer my questions and sing songs with me. I would never see him at that frequency again, and while I will always guard those cherished memories closely to my heart, I continue to grieve the loss of what we could have had.