Growing up, I learned quite quickly, that lying to Dad was definitely not a good idea. He either had that special version of parental ESP or heightened Spidey Senses, that always resulted in him finding out the truth….. pretty darn quick. Or I just sucked at lying. Actually, it was likely a little bit of both. 😉
Now, with his Alzheimer’s and blindness, I’ve found myself telling little white lies to my Dad. I’ll never be totally comfortable lying to him, but I find it helps keep the peace and saves him from getting upset. And a few are for my own sanity.
- Dad’s favorite way to travel was by train. His favorite trip was out to LA to visit his brother. It was a two-and-a-half day trip from Chicago to LA that we did every other year. Bliss for Dad and pure torture for me, as I suffer from severe motion sickness. Of course, he doesn’t remember that part today, but he still remembers about travelling by train to California and asks my mom daily if she and I will take a trip by train with him to see his brother. Neither of my parents are in any condition to travel, especially by train. At first, we would honestly answer him, once saying that Mom had just gotten out of the hospital and couldn’t travel (truth) but Dad wouldn’t believe that and would argue that her doctor would let her go if she asked. Then Mom would say she can’t walk because of her Post Polio Syndrome, and Dad would push that aside and say that I would be there to help her. To which I would immediately offer that I get motion sick and can’t travel on the train. “Oh yes you can. You can take a pill for that!” Yes, technically I could, but they don’t work for me. He wouldn’t believe that either. Each time, the conversation would become more and more heated. I finally suggested to Mom that she just say “OK” when he asks. She’s really not comfortable lying to him either, but that shortens the conversation by a good 45 minutes and he remains calm and happy.
- We still get the morning newspaper delivered, as we have for the past half century. But, now Dad cannot see. Even so, he still calls out to me each morning as I’m getting his breakfast, “don’t forget the paper!”. At first, I would bring it to him, and he would ask for his glasses because he said he couldn’t see it. I’d tell him the glasses weren’t going to help because they were old. “No they aren’t. They still work!” So, I’d give in and get him the glasses. He’d get them on and then wonder why he still couldn’t see the paper. I’d say because of his cataracts. “I don’t have cataracts!” OK, Dad…. Today when he asks for the paper I tell him that Mom has it. She does…the comics and puzzles pages. To which he playfully retorts, “Mom can’t read!” And, he lets it drop, because he’s forever telling us, “Mom always comes first”.
- Because he can no longer see the clock, and therefore really be able to tell what time of day it is (morning or night), I sometimes lie about what time it is. Mostly for my own sanity. After a long night with little sleep spent caring for Mom, even if it’s 9am, I may tell him it’s 6:30am and that its “too early for breakfast”…. just so I can catch another 30 minutes or so of sleep. Or, in the evening when its just 9pm and I’d like to try to catch a little sleep early before having to help Mom all night, I’ll tell him its 10pm and time for him to go to sleep.
I’m getting better at not feeling too bad about these “fibs”, because as noted in the first two examples, forcing him to abandon his version of reality and join the “real world” causes a bit of confusion, sometimes anxiety, fear, and a little anger at times. Instead, we’re using these white lies to validate his feelings and memories and in a way, reassure him that he is still part of life as he knew it —- with a few tweaks.
After all, I am not lying for a malicious reason.
Does anyone else find themselves telling little white lies to spare your loved one unnecessary upset and distress?