Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Dad and My Rabbits

My Dad and My Rabbits. I couldn't have written this post a few months ago.  It would have been too difficult in many ways. You see, my dad passed away in May-about 5 months ago.  I wouldn't have been able to finish it.  It would hurt too much.  Not that it doesn't hurt now, but I have some of my feelings sorted out a bit now.  Writing this now has a therapeutic value. I think this will help me.

Our relationship was always unusual. When I was a kid, I hardly saw him. He worked late hours on many different shifts and he would be sleeping when I was home or I would be in school.  He was kind of grouchy (probably tired and stressed) and not a very expressive or affectionate man.  He came from that old school of men where you don't show affection much. His values were also old-fashioned for his day and age. He was raised by a mother who had him in her forties. She was born in 1888. She had those strict Victorian values, which he had much of also. He was a loyal and matter-of-fact person who was there for those he loved. He did what was necessary to keep family going. He passed on the values, loyalty and being there to me. He learned more about affection later on in life, but was still awkward and uncomfortable with it.

My dad grew up in the Depression, having been born the year before it officially started.  He knew how rough life could be in many ways. He did tell stories of moving around a lot where his father could get work.  They had a cow and chickens, as well as the occasional bunny.  His descriptions of his rabbits seemed to describe what I think might be Californians. The big white bunnies with the ruby eyes.  Large in size. No matter what breed they actually were, that's what I picture and that's what he pointed out in rabbit books I showed him.

I won't go in to what the rabbits were possibly meant for. I didn't like to think about that.  People viewed rabbits different then compared to now and I accept that. He told me stories about how he had different animals that would disappear and a big meal would appear on the table.  He then would state that he and his sister would lose their appetite and wouldn't eat them.

My dad loved animals. He was especially partial to dogs, so we had a few growing up.  It is through one, a chihuahua named Penny, that I learned how to approach and be comfortable with animals. I saw a magic my dad had with other animals. They would approach him and be very friendly to him, when the owners said they never saw that with others. Later in my life, I had people say that to me as dogs and other animals approached me.  I am hardly saying that all animals took to me, but some did and it surprised their owners. Perhaps I inadvertently learned something from my dad or picked up a bit of his magic genetically which showed up at times.

My dad liked to tease me about my bunnies. He made the typical rabbit stew jokes which I didn't like, but then at times he was actually friendly and curious about the rabbits. I had to look at him as seeing rabbits as livestock, which some elderly people do. Some are surprised at them being housepets and change their point of view and some don't. I saw that a lot in the nursing homes I worked and volunteered at with rabbits.  My dad would vary depending on his mood.  He would also want to find something to tease me about, it was an easy target. In some regards I think it was his safe way of showing a type of affection for me. He would tease about other things, but the rabbits became a major target in later years.

In his last decade, after my mom died, my dad's dementia showed more-perhaps because my mom covered for him and he was on his own. He had vascular dementia, as a result of stroke and bad circulation. It affected his judgment and emotional lability (less control over his emotions and expression of them). His comments about the rabbits were sometimes kinder and gentler to the other spectrum being ruder and meaner.  I had difficulty with that among other things because the rabbits mean so much to me.  It was easy to deal professionally with people like that, but it's different when its your own family.

On one of my last visits to see my dad (he was out of state) , he was in a nursing home because a couple of months before he lost a good deal of his vision to stroke in the middle of the night.  My brothers, my husband and I went to see him on Easter weekend.  We brought bunnies with us. We did visits in the nursing home with the bunnies in addition to visiting him.

Now I want to know your opinion on the pictures below this. My dad could see through the "bottom" of his field of vision. He could see where he was stepping for example. He could see his dinner in front of him if close to him.  He acted cranky in regards to the rabbits accompanying us there, but you check out his reactions as he was looking in this cardboard bunny carrier. What do you think?

I miss my dad, the cranky guy.  I know he loved me, although it was not easy for him to show it.  I am feeling more of the pain now, as the numbness is subsiding, but I am finding some healing and some peace with some things that troubled me before.

Perhaps this post is a bit more selfish...I am writing it as a part of my healing process and in it's own way as a tribute to my dad.  He did have a soft spot inside his crusty exterior, kind of like a toasted marshmallow-a bit crusty on the outside, but warm, soft and melted inside. Most people would describe him as very kind and caring, but stubborn as well.  I think this kind of sums up his nature.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It would mean the world if you shared any of your thoughts in the comments box.

May your day be peaceful and warm hearted,
Mary Ellen

Please "like" Rabbit Slippers Blog on Face Book to keep up with the latest postings and events.
You can also sign up by e-mail notices at the top right of the page. (Your privacy is important to Rabbit Slippers)
You can also follow through Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs, both located in the right side bar.
Thank You!
Please visit the Rabbit Hop Shop at the following link (Rabbit Hop Shoppe link) for rabbit themed items and gifts!


  1. Just stumbled across your blog. Like your father, my father had the same type of dementia only he didnt have to live with it long. Men tease, its what they do. I would be willing to bet that was your dad's way of connecting with you. Even teasing you about what you loved the most. I think he was acknowledging that in his own way. I think your dad was looking at the bunny in the box and getting a tickle out of it.

  2. Thank you for such an insightful comment. I think you are absolutely right. I hope by what you said about your own dad that he lived a full life for a long time without dealing with the dementia. It is difficult to live with that for the person with it and for the family. I just hope your father's life wasn't really shortened by it. Hopefully this is coming across correctly that I wouldn't wish suffering in a long-term way and that he had a long full life.
    I agree, I think my own dad did get a tickle from the bunny in the box, but tried to hide it. The benefit of his "dementia" at times was that we could see when he was happy. He often appeared sad in his later years and that was painful to see.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. That is a very touching post. Thanks for sharing a piece of yourself.

  4. you made my cry! thank you for sharing. >:)