My father is 91. Whenever I see him, (he lives about 700 miles away), the first thing he says to me is how alone he feels. Admittedly, part of this is his own doing. He avoids crowds due to his inability to hear people well and tends to shy away from social situations. Keep in mind, at one point, he was the President of the New York State Farm Bureau. But big picture, most of his brothers and sisters are gone. He recently lost a son-in-law. And he’s losing his memory and finally acknowledging his age and quite frankly, he’s scared.
This past week, my sister took him to a new doctor. My parents had moved a while ago and he had held on to his old doctor despite the distance until it was becoming obvious to both the doctor and my family that he needed someone closer. And so after a bit of drama he agreed to get someone closer.
The foundation of this blog has always been to remind us that we’re never the only one on this path. Somewhere out there is someone who is experiencing the same trials and tribulations you are. Somewhere, someone understands what you’re going through. It’s true when your seven. It’s true when you’re seventeen. It’s true when you’re fifty and it’s true when you’re 91. It’s a key element to our peace of mind. To have the knowledge that there is someone who gets it and understands what’s going on in your head. Such was the focal point of my father’s doctor visit.
Even at 91. Even with everything my father has lived through. His accomplishments. His ups and downs. His knowledge of life and what it means to be 91. Despite having family around him every day reminding him that they’re there for him, even he simply needed a stranger to say, “You’re not the only one experiencing this and I want to help.” And from what my mom and sister told me, that’s exactly what this new doctor said. “I understand, and you’re not the first one to go through this.”
I’m told he wept at the end of the visit, which from all accounts lasted nearly two hours. I can only guess, that simply hearing someone tell him, “you’re not alone and I’m here to help” brought a sense of relief to him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t already have people aroundhim who love him and are there to help. But sometimes it takes a complete stranger with no history to validate your state of mind.
As divorced dads (and moms), there are times when we feel incredibly vulnerable and alone. We wake up in an abyss of unknowns, convinced our lives are a complete mess. We shy away from inviting people in wondering who would want to be a part of our mess. During those times, knowing there are others just like you, somehow gives you peace of mind and an ability to face it head on with a little more confidence and resilience. It also helps us recognize that our world really isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be sometimes. And yes, sometimes it’ll make you weep when the weight of feeling alone is lifted. Hearing about my dad’s experience and having watched him these past few years and having watched my children grow and navigate through their first decade has helped me recognize that in every stage of life, we’re convinced we’re the first to experience the pains we’re living through.
In that vein, this blog has been a source of therapy for me as well these past three years. Each note I receive, every comment made, reminds me that there are others going through the same things I am. And that we’re all doing our best and learning as we go. The reality is, sometimes it simply helps to know, you’re not alone.