Dad is not doing well.
He has been hopitalized since Thursday. One of his doctors dropped him, citing his inability to remain sober. Today, the social worker gave him one choice: inpatient treatment for a month. My father asked to think about it. The social worker told him that he has no other choice.
The problem is that he is physically weak, despite spending all of these days in the hospital. There is no concern that the damage to his body and brain may be permanent. Tomorrow, mom will call work and inform them that dad will be gone for long term hospitalization.
Mom is going through hell right now, though her conversations are something like this:
(insert bad news)
What can I do?
Oh, nothing, I’m fine (in that tone which means: “I’m far from fine”)
It’s given me a lot to think about this past weekend.
1. Given my father’s age, health, etc, it is possible he won’t survive this. That may sound a little negative, but I’m starting to wonder if he has the will to live at all. I think for all that he is afraid of dying, he is more afraid of living at this point. I’ve never understood my father, and I understand him even less now.
2. Let this be a warning to parents: do not EVER start giving your child bad news that so obviously does not make the situation fine, and when asked “What can I do?” or “How are you feeling?”, lie to their face. It was bad enough when I was 16, I have not appreciated it more as an adult. This has led me to confront something pretty savage: I love my mother. She has worked hard to make me feel guilty my whole life (I’m talking stereotypical mother guilt here). My mother has been very good at being a victim her whole life. Now that she really is a victim, I find it harder to feel sorry for her. That hurts the most. I know my father has a medical problem: addiction. His ability to control a lot of what he does is not really his to control. My mother on the other hand is just impossible to deal with. Take for example:
M: I’ve tried talking to the doctors, they won’t talk to me.
Me: Have you left a phone message?
Me: Leave a phone message, that way they will call you back.
M: I can’t.
M: The only time I can talk to them is at work, and I can’t talk to them at work (mom works for a doctor)
M: All the patients will overhear.
Me: There’s no place to go where they can’t hear?
M: I can step outside, or go into the doctor’s office.
Me: Do that.
M: I can’t
M: Who will pick up the phones?
Me: There’s no one else there?
M: There’s a nurse, but she refuses to touch the phones.
The begs to question if I have lost my ability to empathize with others. I don’t think it is that. I even wondered if this is one of those classic defense mechanisms: stop caring about something so that you don’t get hurt. I don’t buy that this is the case. I just think after years and years of my mother making me feel bad, I’ve finally gotten to the “I’m not going to let it affect me anymore”.
Frankly, I haven’t even thought much about dad. When I have, I couldn’t help but wonder that his no longer being around would make everyone’s life a lot better. I wish I hadn’t thought that. I’ve just been thinking more and more about the place I’m at. Of course, that instantly makes me think that I’m being selfish focusing on me instead of my family.
I think that being away from my family has done wonders for me: I’ve been able to feel less guilty, been able to get more in touch with who I am. The more and more I am around my parents, honest to goodness, the less healthy I feel. A meal there, a small family party there: fine. Dealing with this drives me bananas! Of course, I’m back to feeling guilty again because I’m thinking about my health vs. my family’s needs.
It’s a vicious circle.