I can sit and help my dad eat his french fries by breaking them in half, dipping them in ketchup and handing them to him.
I can help my mom move my dad into his bedroom for a nap supporting one side under his arm, stabilizing his walker, and encouraging him to take one more step when his weak left leg falters.
I have no trouble telling him, “You’re doing fine. You’re going to make it,” when three more steps to the bed feels like a marathon.
I can wait patiently for his answer of whether he wants cake or pie on his birthday while he pecks out the letters on his keyboard, one slow keystroke at a time . . .p . . . i . . . e.
But I couldn’t destroy his computer.
My mom has started to seriously consider getting a hospital bed for Dad. This will theoretically help in many ways with changing him, changing the bedding, and even allowing him to stay in bed in a reclined position if he’s having a bad day. I’ve been encouraging this move for a while. So Mom is trying to get the bedroom cleared of superfluous furniture in order to make room. The computer desk is on the donate list.
Quite a while back, maybe eight years or so, my siblings and I got our parents a new computer for Christmas that primarily my dad used on the desk in their bedroom. Two or three years ago we bought them a new laptop, right about the time Dad was using the computer less and less as a result of his Alzheimer’s. So from a very rational perspective, the computer in the bedroom has become superfluous.
But I remember my dad sitting at it, checking e-mail from old friends, reading newsletters from his stock broker, downloading photos from his digital camera, making all of us cds of family photographs that he must have spent hours and days scanning in. After he was no longer able to use the computer, I started taking care of his email for him, deleting messages when it became too full. Eventually I saw the futility in that and just stopped.
Like the van with its fishing rods stashed in the back, I was having a lot of trouble with the computer.
The current thinking from several sources I consulted was that we should destroy the hard drive before we donated or disposed of the computer.
A couple weeks ago, I moved the computer out of my parents’ bedroom and put it in my trunk. A few days later I moved it out of my trunk and placed it on the floor of the garage. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to open up the case or remove the hard drive and smash it with a hammer. I asked Mark to do it for me, and to take it to the recycle center. Some things I just can’t do.
One night, as the deadline for dropping off the computers loomed closer, I reminded Mark about it. Mark got up from the kitchen table and went out to the garage. I knew what he was doing. I sat at the kitchen table and cried.
Such a silly thing really.
The last time I went into the basement of my parents’ house I got to within about 10 feet of the doorway to my dad’s wood workshop and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I turned around and went back upstairs.
When the time comes, I won’t be the person disposing of his tools and machines.
I guess many if not most people have to deal with these kinds of tasks at some point. Grieving family members have to take care of the items left behind when a loved one dies.
You’d think there’d be some solace in the fact that Dad is still here. But it doesn’t feel that way to me.
Grieving family members allow themselves to grieve. But for us, this is not the time to grieve.
With Dad there are showers to take, french fries to eat, naps to take, questions to answer, and birthdays to celebrate. There is, this is, no time to grieve.