Friday, 19 April 2013
22 Hours Later ....
I can honestly say that was one of the worst 24 hours of my life.
Where did you go in that time, Dad? You don't know or won't say. You turned up home at noon yesterday (Thursday) looking like a grey, gaunt ghost - totally unsurprised to see your entire family at home at midday on a Thursday. Unsurprised to see me bawling my eyes out, and nearly faint with relief. When I gave you a hug, you felt like a frail shell of my father. You left when the sun was high one day and got back home the next day when the sun was high, and to you it was still the same day. You hadn't eaten or drunk anything for 24 hours.
You drove to a medical centre 20 minutes away to pay a bill at 2:30pm on Wednesday, and then disappeared. We know you you made it there because we rang the receptionist. It was on a very busy road, and you don't know the area very well. But the exit from that medical centre only lets you turn one way - but that wasn't the way you needed to go to get home.
So you kept driving - in the wrong direction. Away from us.
You are 84 years old. You have been blessed with good health, but after being rear-ended in a car accident a couple of years ago you have declined in health & mind. You have lost weight, and grown vague, and you have lost interest in the world around you.
My mother, frustrated with the way you have declined has responded to this by nagging you 24/7, and calling you names liked 'useless' and 'pathetic'. You don't know how sad that makes me. I know it hurt you inside. You have always been quiet like me, but now you stopped talking at all.
But then we got you a plethora of doctors, and you were responding well - a cause was found - anaemia from the kidneys not working properly. The last few weeks you had started to put on weight, your hands have shrunk back to their normal size, and you have taken an interest in your hobbies again. Just last weekend, I was talking with you & Mum, and a holiday to Queensland was mentioned. I saw your eyes light up, as you discussed where you would stay on the 4 day drive up there. You don't know how happy that made me.
What happened on that drive? You mentioned driving in the night, and not remembering how to put the headlights on. I am horrified. You have no idea where you drove to, but you do remember stopping for petrol & a toilet break.
Yesterday, after the police & everyone had gone - and it was just you, me & Mum left. You said that you'd "gone to do your job, to go and make some money. To make some deliveries."
You used to be a courier, and your job was making deliveries in Melbourne and beyond. You didn't retire until you were 75 years old. You did this job for about 20 years and you loved driving your car.
You want to go back to a time when you had a job and a purpose to life. When you were earning the money. You don't want to be 'useless'.
My Uncle Fred, did something similar when he was 75 years old. I was only seventeen at the time. He disappeared for 2 weeks, leaving my Aunt frantic with worry. It turned out he had gone fruit picking up north. Took off without a word. When he returned, he said he wanted to "earn some money, and feel useful again." I see a common theme here, with retired men.
When the two police officers turned up yesterday to cross you off their 'missing persons' list, we all talked about how you will no longer be allowed to drive. You took no notice, and chatted how you were going on a driving holiday to Queensland soon.
Sorry, Dad. We are hiding the car keys. Mum can't drive, so I know this will affect your independence, and will be a big blow to your self esteem. It kills me to have to do it, but it is for your safety, and all the other people on the road.
I am thankful that my Mum still has her health. I am thankful that I have 2 brothers and a sister to help share the burden of this. I am thankful for my friends - both real life and on-line who have helped through this.
I am thankful to my ex in-laws who were the ones who spotted his car and gave me the call that found him.
Dad, the next few weeks are going to be very hard for you. Please don't disappear into your own world again. We are here for you in this one.