Saying that it’s been a long week is gross understatement of the facts. It feels like a decade has passed over the last seven days. I’m fairly sure I look like a 120 year old woman, with a wizened face and a hunch.
The post I wrote seven days ago found me on the brink of an emotional breakdown. That I pulled out of it and found the strength to handle what came next is a testament to the human ability of survival at all costs.
To recap recent events, my elderly father is dying of lung cancer. He’s got metastases on his brain, and recently endured two rounds of radiation therapy. Currently he’s in hospice and his mental state is precarious. Because of the incident that inspired the previous blog post, I could no longer indulge any denial about Dad’s decline. And this is where the story takes an even uglier turn.
My dad has always been a gun owner, he received his first weapon at 15 from his own father. He’s never been a gun nut, always very responsible with the handling and storage of his arsenal. Dad collected many guns of all types during his life. When he retired from being a machinist, he became a dealer, setting up tables at gun shows around the state. It was a retirement venture, he and Mom enjoyed the outings and it kept them active.
Dad has always been a stickler for the laws regarding weapons. At some point, the laws of California made it extremely difficult for casual dealers like my dad to stay in business, so he stopped dealing and sold off most of his inventory. Most.
He kept some for home defense, some for the sentimental value and some as investment pieces. He also had a substantial amount of ammunition and assorted accessories. I didn’t really understand how large his collection was until yesterday, when I saw it all, every last piece, spread over the living room floor.
He’s been wanting to sell his collection, been saying so since his cancer diagnosis. But I had so many other things to deal with, and I have no experience with gun sales, that I just kept pushing the idea away. After last weekend, his fury was biblical, I began to worry about his mental state and the weapons. I’m not the only person who walks into his home regularly. There’s his housekeeper and a roster of folks from the hospice coming through his front door every week.
What I couldn’t get past, couldn’t gloss over anymore, are the inexplicable and unpredictable rages that were coming over him on nearly a daily basis. Especially because he never remembered them after the fact. All I could see was an ever-increasing potential for tragedy. Those guns were on his mind, his mind is confused and a stranger walking through the door at the wrong time could be easily confused as an invader. Too easily.
As much as I love my dad, as much as I respect him and never, ever want to take anything away from him, I simply could not leave those weapons with him. My obligations are not only to him, I’m obliged to look after my own safety, the safety of his caregivers, the safety of the families living nearby. Not surprisingly, the hospice was adamant the weapons be removed as well.
It does not fill me with pride to tell you that we ganged up on him. My husband, two representatives from the hospice and me. We tried explaining the reasons he should surrender the weapons, but he doesn’t remember his rages. I can’t think of any person under any circumstances willing to admit their mental state is compromised, it’s humiliating. It still tears me up knowing I was a party to his humiliation, tears of shame sting my eyes as I type this.
I wish I could say that my dad saw reason and surrendered his weapons. But he didn’t. When it became apparent the argument had reached a stalemate, we had to do something drastic. To my everlasting shame, I had to deceive my father. I deliberately preyed on his confusion and asked him to go out to dinner with me.
He always wants to go out for a meal with me, it’s the one thing that always works.
I lured him out of the house, my brother came and took the guns off the property. My dad trusted me and I betrayed him, sat there at a bad Mexican restaurant and chose my small talk carefully so I wouldn’t be outright lying to him. I was a cowardly, mealy mouthed conspirator in a crime against a very sweet man who wouldn’t even let me pay for dinner.
Going back into the house was like walking to my own execution, I knew what would come. I would have to admit what I did, tell him that I tricked him because I loved him. It was a pain on the same level as making the decision to take our daughter off of life support all those years ago. It’s the kind of pain that never stops hurting.
The look of betrayal in his eyes is seared into my soul. No matter how good, right or honorable my intentions, my actions were cruel. I do not regret choosing to do the right thing, but I will always regret the way I had to do it.
I wish I could say that was the end of the story. It’s not, it got worse. But this is all I can process for one day, so I will continue tomorrow.
Until then, please considering telling at least one person how very much you love them, how you will always fight for them and how glad you are that person is in your life.