Welcome to Hell: A Caregiver's Nightmare

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Punch line

“It was an accident. I never meant to hurt him. Oh please, he was my father! I mean is! He is my father. I didn’t even think he could be hurt. And hurt by someone as insignificant as me? No way! Not a chance! He was larger than life. In my head, when I remember him, it’s like he has this aura of light around him, like a saint in those Old Masters paintings or a god in a Disney cartoon. I never meant to hurt him.”

Hell is guilty.

“My mother didn’t blame me. She didn’t. When I woke up in the hospital, she was there, holding my hand, rubbing my stretched skin around the IV tape, whispering soothing words, trying to comfort me. Her! Comforting me! But…once I got released and he didn’t; once I started walking again and he didn’t; once I went back to school and he didn’t go back to work…She still didn’t blame me. She just never hugged me the same way again.”

I am tearing up and my voice starts cracking. “Look, I get that I am lucky and blessed in a lot of ways and I am throwing myself a pity-party and it’s all in my head. (Isn’t everything?) But sometimes…sometimes that knowledge doesn’t comfort me at all. And I want to cry until I have no more tears and I want to scream until I cannot scream anymore and I just want someone to love me the way I was loved before.”

Hell is yearning to return to something that no longer exists.

I don’t say anything for what seems like five minutes but is probably two. Ever since my dad’s accident (I always call it that. I relinquished claim years ago; I didn’t shoulder enough of the burden to share in its title), time has loosened its grip on me.

“My mom is amazing, really. I am not exaggerating. She…she tries so hard and I just cannot bear it. I don’t want to depend on her kindness. I don’t want her to need to forgive me for this!”

I shake my head, run my fingers through my hair, pick at my shirt sleeve, twist my ring. Then I say, “Sometimes I wonder if I caused it, the accident, on purpose.” I laugh nervously, waiting for the lights to come on, for an official to barge in and beat me or berate me at the very least. “I don’t know why I said that.” I add, “Maybe I deserve to be in hell.” And I know I am damning myself so no one else needs to damn me. I am trying to beat the devil to the punch.

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