I believe that we can never truly appreciate the depth of the impact that we have on each other. Our interactions can leave the softest of footprints and sometimes the deepest of wounds. As humans, our lives are inextricably interwoven.
I like to think of everyone, as coloured twine. The length of the twine determined by the days of our individual living experience.
A person’s twine, shifts and changes in texture and strength, varying between vibrant and strong and frayed and bleached in colour. It can be matted with extraneous clutter, weak at points, even diminished to a single strand, only to become robust again, a distance further and so it goes.
This twine is not severed with the umbilical cord, instead it is set free, to roll forwards.
Science would describe the life force, as atoms of energy attracting and repelling, creating ‘pure light’, and at our death, returning to join the ‘great universal matter’, only to be recycled once again.
At this point, our beliefs may indeed, dictate the direction of those released atoms and the reincarnated recycling.
My faith promises me, that my father’s atoms, are heading straight to join the ‘atoms formally known as Mary’, his beloved wife and best friend.
My father’s twine has been woven though the lives of others, over the course of 101 years. His kindness and his generosity has enabled him to be deeply loved by many.
Some of these people, as his only daughter, I will never know. There are many who say that they ‘love him’. He has been blessed by many of these relationships, and burdened by several others.
I have always respected an individual’s right to choose whom they will love. I have shared this old school gentleman, my father, with my beloved family and friends, because his intelligence and wisdom governed by his deep faith, has been far too bright an energy to selfishly trap in a box of neediness. He has taught me well how to ‘pay it forward’.
Now in the final weeks of his life, a woman has emerged claiming to be a ‘surrogate daughter’. There are no dirty secrets. No trysts, no cheap liaisons. No front page news.
Their friendship is not one that I recall being mentioned in the weekly conversations that I have had with my father or have been made mention in any of the hundred of letters exchanged between my father and I.
We have through our life choices and through circumstances, lived in different states of Australia. This has not prevented us maintaining a strong loving relationship. The art of letter writing is something we both have embraced.
I have no real knowledge of who she is, and who she has been to him since the death of my mother in 2003. I suspect that she is like many people, been attracted by his light.
This woman, whom my father has struck up some ‘undefined friendship’ , unbeknown to him, has claimed him, as her ‘surrogate father’. A woman whose psyche, I suspect, has been disrupted by grief of the loss of her own parents (this she divulged to me ), and the suicide of her partner (third party report, that she had told another aged care resident).
This is also a woman who does not understand boundaries. In the past week, after a claimed absence of three years, she gained access to my father, undertook personal tasks she insisted were directed by him, accessed his wallet, his address book, opened his mail and read my private correspondence.
She introduced herself as his ‘surrogate daughter’, to me, when she proclaimed that I could ‘speak to him, through her’.
I did not hesitate to correct her regarding her role, to question her presence and request of the nursing staff that she was not allowed to gain access. She did however return twice more, throughout the week and gained entry once.
Her ‘claimed need’ was only to ‘be there and to hold his hand’.
Her needs, it seems, outweighed my father’s right for peace and my need to keep my stress levels down. It is challenging to have your aged loved ones living at distance. It is not always practical or possible to be able to sit with them over the many weeks or months, while the twine slowly rolls to an end.
She did not recognise or adhere to any protocols, seek permission, respect family wishes or interact with professional staff regarding my father’s current medical state. Her presence included harassment of myself and the staff. The police have been informed and a standing order is in place.
It is questionable, that this woman’s development of several new relationships with two other elderly people at the same residential facility, (who are on the continuum of dementia), can be construed as simply charitable. Their families can decide if they want her to access their loved ones.
I am clear about who has access to an 101 year old man, who has diminished cognitive capability, is physically weak, and whose twine is slowly coming to an end. It isn’t someone who doesn’t understand ‘ethical boundaries’ or skilled in caring for the highly vulnerable.
It isn’t only death, that finally separates us from the living. It is our own selfishness and a twine knotted tight, tangled with grief and loss, weakened by self interest and deep fear of loneliness.