After his brain illness, there are a lot of things my dad can’t handle, or rather, that he handles differently. For instance, he has issues with motor skills, language mishaps, memory. He can’t communicate the way he used to. Sometimes, my father loses patience with his new brain (which has gotta be hard. If it were me, I might just spend all of my days drunk), but mostly, he seems to accept the present circumstances of his life and does not dwell on what used to be. Though once, on a trip to Korea, he told Husband (who was then just Boyfriend, but then became Fiance during that trip, because my mother introduced him to everyone as such) “Can you believe I used to work as a translator for top American generals?”
Sometimes, to be honest, I lose patience with my father’s new brain. I wish I didn’t. He gets upset when I snap, far more sensitive to insensitive treatment than he used to be. I called a social worker at his hospital, convinced that there’s got to be a better way. People have coped with this before. There must be some kind of existing, well-tested strategy with Post-it notes or something that prevent family members from losing it.
Sadly, the social worker said there wasn’t. She said, You will always get annoyed at your parents; they are your parents. You have to accept it.
We went swimming a few weeks ago, very excited to see Baby in the pool. Mostly, Baby climbed to the top of my head like a lemur monkey, terrified of the water and the multitude of swimmers surrounding us. We gave up. Mom took Baby to the waiting room, and Dad and I swam laps.
The lanes are labeled Slow, Moderate, and Fast, and Dad went to Fast, mostly, I think, because he couldn’t process the meaning of the sides, but whatever, this is his gym, he comes here every day, so I decided not to worry. I went to my Slow lane, and eventually, Dad I end up in adjoining lanes. I wave! He waves back and keeps swimming. I sink underwater and watch.
He is a good swimmer — his stride is strong and youthful, and in that moment, I admire his grace. I watch until his bright red floral trunks disappear in the blue as he swims farther and farther away from me.