I'm going out to look for Irene!" I heard the keys jingle as my Dad pulled the keys off the rack. My stepmother, Irene, his second wife had succumbed four years earlier to the havoc-wreaking disease of cancer just as my mother had fifteen years before that.
"No, we've talked about this, you can't drive at night," my brother states, in a steady but firm voice.
The air is tense. "Yes, I am!" boomed the retort. The words tumbled out from the lips of a failing eighty-year-old much like a determined teenager attempting to take the car for a spin.
"No!" Mark scooted away from the downstairs computer desk and faced off with the man. My brother had become a wonderful young man, but as a teen, he was a tornado waiting for a place to touch down. This face-off was reversed; my brother, ‘the parent’, tried to make our Dad, ‘the teen’, drop the keys into his hand. I watched the seen unfold in slow motion.
With a fistful of keys Dad raised his ‘balled’ hand and hollered, "This is my house. I'll go and come when I want. I am going to find Irene."
We knew his search was fruitless for she had passed.
I could see the glazed look was not one of a docile half-sleeping kitten, but one of a tiger in a cage enraged by kids poking at it with sticks.
Raising the anti, Mark declared war, "No Dad, you can't GO!!" and reached for the keys.
The landing was small where both men squared-off. In my mind I heard the popping sound of fireworks before the light show. Leaping up the stairs I thrust myself between them.
"Dad," I pleaded, "You can't go out." Mark stepped back knowing his emotions equaled an igniting rocket.
I would take the blows if I had to. This was foreign ground to me to stand between such raw anger. Looking into my father's clouded eyes was almost like seeing a monster and a frightened child all tangled up. I did not recognize him. The fog thickened. I did not face Mark because at that moment I realized all the frustration and stress of several months of constant caregiving had reached his fists. The initial swell and wave of emotion swept over the three of us, but as I reached for the keys slowly, thinking I had diffused the situation, the second wave came.
"Move your car, Carolyn" he growled, "or I'll drive right over it!" I became a child at 47. I obediently reached for my keys and held my other hand up to keep my brother at bay.
How could tiny bits of protein travel within the human brain and destroy a stable man's emotions creating this lack of control. Many years before my Father had experienced the violent emotional outburst of another elderly gentleman. Lyndon had taken the brunt of an angry, confused mind.
My Father sold Electrolux as a part time job, but his love and primary job was driving a city bus. As a child, I ran around the house with his bus cap and coat on pretending to careen around the corners of our living room and kitchen. On that morning I was no longer a child, but a university student. Split shifts for bus drivers were common and my Father had finished part one of his shift from 5 am to 9 am. He pulled his bus into a stop in the core of downtown London fog that morning and stepped into the street, lunch pail in hand, smiling, glad to have finished the first half of his shift.
Swoosh, Slash, gnash, fa-thud! Blood flew in every direction. A half-crazed man with a knife waving, repeatedly stabbed and slashed my Father in the neck from behind. People gawked. People parted. People stood by unmoved. Only one brave black woman from a war-torn African country acted. She thwacked the aggressor from behind and in a moment of surprise the tide turned. Police officers on the downtown beat thrust the crazed, knife waving, man down. My Father fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood. Moments later my brother received a call.
"Son, we have a man down here. I think he is your Father. He has just been stabbed. He's on the corner of Richmond and Dufferin." These staccato sentences ignited my brother into action. Mark slammed down the phone; grabbed the keys, and darted in and out of traffic like a rabbit on the run through brambles. Squealing tires ceased. He shoved through the crowd yelling, "That's my Father!"
The pool of blood looked like an unreal TV crime scene with the one officer slapping handcuffs on the deranged man on the ground. Thinking his Father was dead, and this man lay in his Father's blood, justice needed to be meted out now, my brother reasoned. He dove towards the man, but the man in blue clamped his hand on his shoulder.
"Don't do it. Your Father will live."
The scene faded away. Our Father recovered from his numerous stab wounds. But what of the mentally challenged old man? He was found guilty but served no jail time. They put him in an institution for the mentally unstable.
Unstable, uncontrolled, negative aggression; had I just witnessed those same emotions in my own Dad because of a disease-- Alzheimer's? My Father from the past had forgiven the wild man who attacked him and who now roams in the streets free. I would forgive my Dad as I heard the tires squeal and he drove away searching for a dead woman.