By the time my curmudgeon father turned 80 he had been married and divorced three times, had a minimally cordial relationship with his children, was living alone in a rural area of central Pennsylvania and had endured a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for lymphoma. His prognosis uncertain, he was very weak, in a lot of pain, nearly blind from cataracts and concerned about living with no help close by. A lifelong loner, he had no friends and his three children lived states away. Ultimately I offered to bring him to Colorado where he could move into an assisted living facility and I could help him manage his medical situation and living arrangements. His relief that he would not have to face the ordeal of his cancer alone was obvious. He lived almost exactly one year after moving to Colorado, but in that time he and I were able to work together to sort out his medical decisions and in the process established a warm and mutually respectful relationship that I still hold in my heart.
As I look back, I appreciate the fact that my father, in spite of his stubborn independence, was clearly grateful for my time and effort and was willing to openly explore his options with me. He respected my busy schedule and did not ask for more than I had to give. The assisted living provided good care for his physical needs and took the burden of providing direct care from my shoulders. My brother, who lived in Wisconsin, provided support when I requested it, but did not second guess the decisions that my father and I made together. All these elements allowed me to enjoy my time with my father and to value the relationship we had in that last year of his life. All his adult life Dad was an extremely difficult man to deal with, but at the end of his life he was able to find the grace to accept the help he needed and to be grateful for it. It made all the difference.