He's nodding his head, but I'm never sure. He's like that sometimes, agreeing but then later I find out that he'd felt differently, as if I should have known all along.
"So we'll take him next week?" I ask.
This time he hesitates, a sure sign of dissention.
"Well, alright," he says, pushing his mashed potatoes with his fork.
I'm tempted to simply take it and run, but instead I blurt out, "Look, if you don't think we should, then say so."
He looks up at me but doesn't say anything.
It's like wrestling a rhino.
"No. You're right," he says.
It's been like this since we first started talking about it. Jerry's dementia has gotten much worse in the last couple of months and sometimes he wanders off. He often can't bath or even use the restroom without help, and last week, he hit me while I was trying to help him shave. Matt doesn't spend as much time with his father, but I see it every day. And I have to deal with it.
"We'll take him next week." Matt says, committed.
We'd talked to Jerry a few times in the past about moving to St. Mary's, but he's never let us get past a few words on the subject. I think it scares him, and honestly, it'd scare me too. He'd lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, and he cared for her right up until the end. I'm sure he expects us to do the same.
"Look," I say, clearing the dishes, "Why don't we talk to him tonight, to at least give him some time to prepare." I hate having to send him there. I want to get it over with.
"I don't know," Matt says. "Let's give him one more good night."
Reluctantly, I agree. At least Matt's saying what he's thinking.
That's been a problem on and off throughout our marriage. Matt tends to stand back and let me make the tough choices and then see how things fall before saying anything. It's never seemed fair.
The next evening, I keep waiting for Matt to say something to his father, but he's silent throughout dinner. When we're finishing up, I decide that I've waited long enough.
"Jerry," I say, "We're moving you to St. Mary's Home for Senior Living next week."
"What? No, I live here."
"Jerry, I'm sorry. But we need to do this."
Jerry gets up and storms off to his room. Matt doesn't say a word.
Over the course of the next week, I try to help Jerry get his things together, but he won't let me touch them. On Thursday, I suggest visiting the home.
"Why? I don't know anyone there."
"We're going so you can see the place," I say. "You're moving there Sunday. You need to be somewhere they can care for you properly."
"Oh." He stands looking at me, shaking his head.
"Get your coat, Dad."
"No. Not today."
I ask Matt to talk with him, but he can't. It's clearly breaking his heart to have to do this. Honestly, it's breaking mine as well. I love my father-in-law.
On Sunday, I pack Jerry's suitcases while Matt sits with him on the back porch. When it's time to go, Jerry doesn't put up much of a fight. Once there, I unpack the suitcases and put some knickknacks out to make it more homey.
Then he starts in on Matt.
"This isn't how I raised you," he says. "This isn't how I cared for your mother."
"I know," Matt says. He never could stand up to his father.
"Why are you doing this?"
Matt doesn't say anything. He just sits there.
"Jerry...." I say.
"Is this the way I raised you?"
"Jerry, we have to...."
"Is this the way any father should be treated?"
Matt sits with a sullen, defeated expression.
"No." Matt lets out a long breath of air. "No. It isn't."
And they both look at me.
Sometimes life gets messy. Sometimes you just have to deal with it. Sometimes, you have to be blunt and let the chips fall where they may.
"Jerry, you need to be here," I say firmly. "This is the right thing to do."
I leave with Matt soon afterward. He's angry with me for the decision we made. He's mourning for his heart-broke father.
I try to comfort him.
But then I cry all night while he sleeps peacefully in our bed.
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