I’ve been spending time with my father. He was a powerful man, once. Now he is not.
He has no money in his pocket, because he loses it and gets it stolen when he has cash, and he can’t manage a bank account. The hospital provides the expensive things he needs, my sister and her husband look after the accounts on behalf of all of us, and I provide things he shouldn’t have. There’s care for him in that, but he has no power.
He’s not living in his home because he’s in the dementia unit of a hospital. He doesn’t have my mother, the love of his life, with him so he is not a husband and a lover. He cannot protect her or lead her because she is dead.
I asked him what he wants for Christmas, and he said, “A fast car.” And then he admitted that he couldn’t drive it if he had one. I remember that sometimes, when he was a younger man and I was barely a boy, he’d buy family cars that were a little racy. Muscle cars. I never knew till now how important the cars were to him. He married early, and had his first children straight away (I was a late afterthought), so he never got to drive the kind of cars he wanted. I wish I’d known when the knowledge could have done him and me some good. So now he can’t have a road racer, and he always wanted one. Damn. Damn.
He’s lost his intellect. He’s lost the power and authority of his body and his voice. All he has, all that remains of the man he was, is his decency and his niceness. He tries to be kind; it’s his instinct and his habit.
Because of that, the nurses and orderlies and doctors and administrators like him. They make sure any decision falls on my father’s side of the ledger. So he is looked after, and people are decent and kind to him. Decency and niceness are survival characteristics.
That’s all. It’s a lesson. In the end, you cannot pretend to be someone you are not, because you lose the capacity to pretend. You live better if you are, by habit and nature, decent and kind.
I don’t believe in any gods and I don’t believe in karma, but that observation about human behaviour (in ordinary, non-emergency situations): I believe that.
Kua hinga te kauri-nui o te wao nui a Tane.