I was a teenager when my dad was no longer able to keep the PTSD at bay. Prior to his diagnosis, he thought he was going crazy, as in batshit, so the official diagnosis provided a level of comfort in knowing that there was at least a reason behind the mental anguish and the restlessness. Continue reading
I remember the VA nurses, usually kind and sincere unlike the doctors who blew through the room and seemed to scoff at questions. Who would have the audacity to speak in the presence of the almighty doctor? In 2006, when my dad spent a length of time at the VA hospital, the night staff would take the time to speak to me about my life, goals, whatever. I recall one nurse who made the evening rounds in the first or second room my dad occupied, who put up with a rude gentleman who shared my dad’s room in a bed next to the window. She dealt with him gracefully while lending a sympathetic ear to me. As she left the room to continue her rounds, she put her hand on mine and gave it a squeeze.
Driving back and forth from where I was staying to my dad’s nursing home, I would alternate my route, sometimes to avoid the interstate, other times because I enjoyed driving through the country towns and the open expanse of fields. I had another long day getting my dad settled into the nursing home. He wasn’t happy about being there even in his somewhat hallucinogenic state. Yet, he told me he was proud of me while I was standing there writing his name in permanent marker on his clothes. The hour drive gave me pause from dealing with people for a little while but it never helped to de-stress. By the time I got home I would sit on the sofa, turn on the television and just stare.
He almost always hallucinated when he was in the hospital. I’m not sure if it was due to DT’s or something else. He was very good at appearing lucid, especially around nurses. I would inevitably end up at the nurse’s station making sure they were aware that he was literally in his own little world.
My dad watched a lot of cartoons, or rather, he hallucinated that he was watching cartoons when he was really looking at a closet door or the wall. He even asked me to help him find the remote so he could change the channel-I told him he had it in his hand already. Then he held up his hand and pressed the imaginary channel button to change imaginary channels on the imaginary tv.
Whenever I brought Gatorade, he thought it was beer. He opened the bottle like it was beer, drank it like it was beer and savored it like it was beer. He drank them all that way. He even made me watch for nurses so they wouldn’t confiscate his ‘beer’.
Another time at the VA hospital, he started motioning with his right hand, mumbling, then nodding his head. He thought he was on a road and had encountered a couple of guys who could give him a lift in their truck. My dad asked me if we could go with them but I told him to thank the men who stopped and to let them continue on their way because we already had a ride.
Yet another time, when he had several visitors in his room seated around both sides of his bed, he sat up, turned to me and said, “Clowns to the right of me, jokers to my left, here I am stuck in the middle with you”.
I corrected him on the lyrics and we all laughed. That was one of his more lucid moments. He was aware of the hallucinations and I think he fought them because one night when he seemed to have fallen all the way down the rabbit hole, he confided that he was having a hard time telling reality from reality.