Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Father: Not a Eulogy, Not What I Wanted...Acceptance? Deliverance? Diatribe?

I've yet to find the words to express about my dad, my father, the man who shared a life with my mother and raised me.  A man that I idolized and hoped to one day find in a partner.  A man that when I was a Senior in High School shattered my world by treating me as an adult and confidant and disclosing information to a daughter that she should have never had to hear because he was divorcing my mom.  Words that have left permanent scars and have me questioning every relationship I ever have. 

When I was 19, I went to my aunt's house to celebrate Christmas.  My dad stepped out of the room and came back with a check for me for Christmas.  He spelled my name wrong.  He was still hungover from the night before.  He. Spelled. My. Name. Wrong.  My dad also told me that as an adult I could choose to have a relationship with him and I knew where to find him.

When I was 22 years old, two years after graduating college, I found myself living with my boyfriend and pregnant.  I was disappointed in myself.  I was scared.  I felt alone.  I feared telling my parents, even though I graduated High School at 17 and other than the first summer after college, I never again lived with my parent(s).  When I told my dad, he said, "I'm not surprised.  What do you expect when you are shacking up with your boyfriend."

Maybe I should rewind...I've posted it before - the year of 1982.  Sometimes, I think my mom makes excuses for my dad, his health and that he isn't the father and dad and man he once was.  I want to believe that.  I want to believe that.  I try to keep low expectations to not be disappointed - but the truth is, I expect things from my dad, my father - in sickness - as I did in health.  I was disappointed.  I continue to be disappointed. 

I believe my dad gave up on living when he reached 55 (and even before).  He turned 64 this summer.  He had outlived his paternal male relatives.  He was on borrowed time and wanted to live life to the fullest.  Forget to take the routine medication and injections for his diabetes.  Eat and live and be merry.  Or just eat whatever you want, move from bed to kitchen to couch and succumb to the illness.  My dad has too many ailments to list - from diabetes, COPD, heart failure (heart functions at 11% - bypass, stints, catherizations galore), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. 

My dad remarried in 1999.  I was invited to his wedding, but not included in a father-daughter dance.  His wife and I have always had issues (she is a "welfare" recipient - never maintaining a job much longer than 6 months, feeling entitled for everyone to care for her, not being able to budget/finance/see reality but living in the moment of self-gratification).  They have little relationship with my son.  They rarely if ever call and never ask to speak with my son.  Some years, when they have money for stamps - they may send a holiday gift or card.  They don't call.  We have visited them. The relationship is strained.

On Thanksgiving in 2008, I posted this.  The relationship hasn't been the same.  I stopped receiving her monthly calls that he was back in the ER and was dying.  Sometimes I would get them, more often not.  His wife would call my brother and then expect him to call or tell me (he has been "dying" and admitted to the hospital almost monthly for years).  I had been deleted from her FB page.  As hurt and upset as I was by everything, for my own sanity, I had to remove myself from the drama and the lies.  I no longer received email updates and I would sometimes receive them third-handed from family members.  My brother and I would share stories based on phone calls we each had had with my dad and/or his wife.  My dad was always the most coherent when hospitalized and appropriately medicated.  It was always the best time to talk to him.  He almost seemed able to communicate and knew what he was saying.

This summer, I was informed that my dad needed a heart transplant (and had to get one before his 65th birthday, the deadline of transplants).  Phone calls with his wife were always different.  From them moving back to Michigan so she could live with her family while he recovered, to the following month having a transplant in Jacksonville Florida because her daughter got a job and was moving there from Michigan, to the next month when he was leaving Tampa after a doctor appointment to consider a transplant or VAD.  I never heard where Tampa came into the picture.  I still don't understand.  Tampa is 4 hours from where they live.  They have no friends or social support in Tampa or even in Florida (with the new exception of Jacksonville).  My dad isn't healthy enough to drive himself and she can't legally drive.  Why would she pick a hospital 4+ hours away?  Why?

I supported her and her decision.  I didn't understand it.  Maybe she was ready for him to die.  I can't be of any social support, neither can my brother - we live across the country.  A week later, he was admitted into Tampa General for extensive testing to see if he was a candidate.  After almost a week they couldn't get his sugar stabilized, and it was up in the 500 range.  My aunt emailed me (and my brother) and said that she had seen him and she felt he was dying.  If we wanted to see him alive, we needed to visit and do it soon.  She had driven over from Texas to say her goodbye.

Of course I was recovering from my hammer to the face adventure.  I hadn't heard anything from my dad or his wife.  The email was news to me.  I called my brother.  He had heard from my dad's wife the night before that they also found a lump in his neck that they were biopsying (which was non-cancerous).  We talked about the severity of the situation (having heard the Boy Who Cried Wolf so many times previously) and trying to understand.  Having our Aunt there made the situation different - having a neutral non-threatening, non-manipulative voice to discuss his condition.  I attempted to talk to hospital staff.  Within 30 minutes of receiving the email, my brother and I had booked plane tickets and made arrangements and were going to be in Tampa that evening.

In the morning, we went to the hospital to visit our dad.  He had no idea that we were coming. We spent two days at the hospital.  We were part of a very difficult family meeting with the Social Worker and RN who informed us that because of lack of social support, transportation and financial issues - a transplant consideration was not possible.  We accepted our fate. My brother gave my dad's wife his blessings to find housing in the retirement community they have moved from several times due to financial constraints.  We broke the news to my dad that he was not a candidate for a heart transplant or a VAD.  My brother and I had time with him, what we anticipated would be our last time with him.  The IV he was on, was pumping his heart for him.  Slowly, he was dying.  His heart would cease.  The good news, he was approved for Hospice with his IV and would be discharged later that week.

Without being at the hospital, I wouldn't have known what was going on (like the months my dad has lived without bathing because he battles depression and lack of motivation).  His wife sent out mass emails while we were there - I had my aunt forward them.  Her email after we returned home in summary was that the hospital and his children left him to die but that she is going to fight for her husband.  He needs money and a transplant. Please send money or well wishes if you can't afford to send money. Of course I wasn't a recipient of those emails either.

I was lost.  I felt paralyzed.  I felt numb.  I was there.  I was in the hospital.  What was going on?  What were these emails that I purposely wasn't copied on (or emails for almost two years prior)?  I'm a realist.  I have become cynical.  I'm not the only one.  Is this her attempt to relieve guilt?  To say she did everything? Or is this her way to raise money to fund her own hopes and dreams?

The next thing I know, Hospice is no longer coming daily, they come once a week and she has enlisted the assistance of a national transplant fund for fundraising.  They have been denied a transplant in Jacksonville as well. The latest and last option, a transplant in Orlando.  Orlando, 40 minutes from where they live.  FORTY. MINUTES.

Sunday I spoke with my dad.  He told me he has an appointment at the hospital in Orlando.  He has no idea how long he will be there - if he will be admitted.  Orlando has his file.  He told me that they have received $2000 in donations but at $100 per transport (he's saying 4 a month AFTER the transplant) that the money will have little impact.  This is their last chance at a hospital and transplant.  Why wasn't Orlando their first option?  Why was Tampa that was logistically impossible for them?  During the conversation he told me that they were denied for mortgages in the retirement community (they would need two: one for an older trailer/home they will demolish and then one to build the new home on the property) - as he receives Social Security and she receives Disability.  Why they need a new home, I don't understand.  Why they can't live in the apartment you ask? Because she isn't a senior citizen and without his income of Social Security she couldn't live in the retirement community without his income.  She needs to move in while he is alive.  She has to.  She refuses to talk to me.  She hovers in the background on the phone and attempts to answer questions my dad is relaying because he doesn't know or care to know the answers.  He does what he is told.  He gets up when she tells him to and goes where he is taken.

Today in the mail, my son received a Christmas card.  My son.  Not my son and I.  My son.  I had had it.  I called my dad again and asked what was going on.  That I was hurt.  That years ago when he said that I had to accept them as a package or not at all, that I did.  That I have been respectful and civil and not received the same.  That I am not notified of his health and happenings.  That him calling back yesterday to ask for my email address that all of my email addresses have been the same for over seven years was ridiculous.  He said he had no idea.  He suggested I talk to her.  After a good two minutes, she finally got on the phone. She was passive-aggressive.

I thanked her for my son's Christmas card.  She told me my card would arrive in a few days.  I then inquired that she had sent separate cards.  She said she had - first time EVER.  I then asked her why she wasn't copying me on emails and notifying me.  She told me that she didn't have my email address.  I told her that she did and they have been the same for seven years.  She told me that I use my son as a pawn.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  She yelled that I don't allow him to talk to his grandparents.  They have never called to talk to him and he has NEVER asked to call them.  (They are not active grandparents and as close as he is to my mother - unless she calls him, he doesn't talk on the phone.)  This woman then went on to say, "If you didn't know, your dad isn't well."  I replied, "Oh really?  I didn't know that.  Maybe if you told me, I would know."  She then started yelling more and I hung up on her. 

I started to call my boyfriend back who had called during the conversation and I hung up after two rings.  I sat in my basement stairwell and I sobbed.  Sobbed uncontrollably.  I cursed in my head.  And when I collected myself, I dialed my mom.  And when she got on the phone,  I sobbed uncontrollably again and cursed.  And while I sobbed and I cursed, his wife called me back.  I let it go to voicemail.

This was the voicemail, "Hey X.  Ok since you hung up on me.  Uhhh...That's pretty mature.  Umm...but besides the point.  Do you have any idea what I'm going through?  Do you have any idea?  I hope you never ever have to find out because I know you don't care about your dad.  You basically just kind of wrote him off.  That's what you did.  You came to Florida.  It was a pity fuck trip.  And you came there and you basically wrote him off.  That's all you did.  You never. You don't call your dad. You don't do anything for your dad. You don't even, you your, your mother. Or you could live here in Tallahassee and I'll guarantee that you would never see your dad.  You wanna know why I don't keep you in the loop? Because frankly X, I'm sorry, Let me just let it all hang out BABY, don't stop calling your dad.  I think you are a BITCH and so do a few other people I know.  So whatever HONEY.  Just a, your card is in the mail.  You are going to get it.  I didn't leave you out.  I'm not that cruel.  I'm not that big of a bitch.  I'm really not. So ah you know.  Go ahead and use T against us because I know you do.  And ah whatever.  Just keep in touch with your dad.  Don't not keep in touch with him because of me but I know you've done that before, stupid things.  He didn't spell your name right and you didn't talk to him for two years.  That was kind of juvenile.  But Ok, whatever."

My father is physically ill.  He has been for a very long time.  He doesn't call me.  He doesn't call his grandson.  He hasn't for over a decade.  It's a fact of life.  It just is.  Many years ago, I accepted the fact that my dad is ill.  That his life could have been different.  It isn't.  I don't want him to get a transplant.  He doesn't deserve it.  He gave up on his life over a decade, almost two ago.  A heart is a sacred thing and should be given to someone that wants to live.  Someone that deserves to live.  As difficult as this is for me to acknowledge, my father is not that person.  On a side note, less than four months ago my mother's sister was taken from this world due to cancer.  Her husband has now been diagnosed with cancer.  Tragic.  They loved life and lived life.  They deserve life.  So many people do not and yet those are the ones that seem to feel entitled and receive the opportunities.  Yes he is my father.  Yes he was my dad.  I am a taxpayer like you, I can see the big picture.  Right or Wrong, I see it.  I live it.  I have accepted it.

Can I accept to move on?  Can I accept that I may not be informed of his health?  Can I accept that I may not be informed of his death?

I can only control what I can control and who I am. Sometimes the hardest thing to do...is to walk away.  I've walked away before, but love and family and hope bring me back.  I don't want to live in the negativity and the darkness and the lies.  It is hard to turn your back on family...right now, I stand still and I wonder and I wait.  Will fate decide for me?


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