I found my father today on the floor in his room at the nursing home. I called for the nurse and then we checked to see if he was hurt. They checked him over, called additional staff and then picked him up off the floor and put him into his wheelchair. They took his vitals and I started talking to him.
"Dad," I said, "you can't do that. If you want to get up, you have to call the nurse. You can't get up by yourself."
"Yes, I can," he said.
"No, you can't and the fact that I found you on the floor proves that."
"I only fell because the wheels weren't locked on the wheelchair."
"And, Dad, if you had called for a nurse, she would have checked that for you. You can't do that by yourself, you are not able to."
"YES, I CAN! Don't tell me what I can do!" he hollered. I was stunned.
The only thing preventing me from crying was the nurse that was busy taking his vitals.
At that moment, I was a child again and my father was hollering at me because I had done something foolish. His hollering at me had reduced me to mush just as it had when I was younger. I had done something to provoke my father's disapproval.
I was a mess for quite awhile after that, but I covered that up and brought my father to Bingo. After when I brought him back to his room, he started talking to me, a lot calmer now and admitted that he knew he was older and couldn't trust his body to always do what he wanted it to do. We had a calm discussion and I again tried to emphasize that he needed to call a nurse. Forgotten, by him at least, was his earlier outburst. But not forgotten by me and how it had made me feel.
When I got home, I began to reflect on what that moment had done to me. How it had brought up something so sensitive that had been buried for so long that it reduced me to near tears. How we always long for our father's approval, no matter what our age.
It is hard to see my Dad, age 88, approaching the end of his life and progressively falling deeper and deeper into dementia. He still has lucid moments, but his moments of confusion and agitation are more frequent of late and learning how to deal with them is my current mission in making life easier for him. But, I see there is a part of me still that needs and wants his approval.
And then I think of my Heavenly Father and I know I have His approval. I reflect on how much He loves me and I ask Him to examine that hurt deep inside and heal it as only He can. I am so thankful that I don't have to work for His approval. It's not based on what I do or what I don't do or what I say or how I act. It's unconditional! "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us..." 1 John 3:1 And as He pours out His unconditional love and approval on me, He asks me to love my earthly father with that same kind of love, not responding to his outbursts, knowing that it's not personal at this point in his life; it's the ravages of old age and his frustration with his body - that it won't do what he wants it to do - and I just happened to be there to bear the brunt of his frustration. The love my heavenly Father pours out on me and the grace He extends will be enough for me to enable me to love my earthly father no matter what, for the time he has left here on earth. That is not noble of me; it is what is expected. "For to whom much is given, much is expected." Luke 12:48 How can I not freely give what has been so freely given to me?
There are still so many thoughts going through my mind regarding this and I expect that God will continue to reveal and teach me in the days ahead much more that I need to see and know. For now, I can rest my head on the pillow tonight at peace in my Father's love.