In which my father is dying and I don't give a shit

Two years ago, I told about my asshole dad and his behavior during my mother’s knee replacement surgery in this thread.

Well, it’s looking very likely that I’m going to get my wish. (The following may be a bit disjointed, as I’m C&Ping from e-mails to a friend.)

My dad was having dizzy spells last week, and finally fell down and asked to see a doctor (he usually has to be pushed, pulled, and dragged). Supposedly he had some sort of tumors near the cerebellum. He was in the hospital for observation, but otherwise OK except for not really being able to get up without the risk of falling again. He’s 69. Apparently he’s also had some spots on his lungs that were diagnosed as calcifications (you’d think it would be worse, as he’s been chain-smoking Luckies for 50+ years).

What was my reaction? A bit of “meh,” a bit of “gee, maybe he will go first after all.” Mildly wondering how much fake sympathy my mother is going to expect me to exhibit. If he gets spectacularly ill and/or dies, I’ll do whatever she needs me to do to help her, but I have no desire to, say, go visit him (what for?). My sister went this weekend and took the kids (the only grandchildren). OK, so they’ll want to see Grandpa. And maybe he wasn’t as much of a shit to my sister. Then again, she likes to fake stuff just like my mom does.

My mom just called tonight. Cancer. He’s starting chemo, and after that he has a choice of hospice or palliative care. At this stage, 1 in 3 patients survives a year.

So now they’re scrambling to organize paperwork, which my mom is exceedingly good at, and it’ll keep her busy. After she gave me all the particulars, we talked about some other mundane things. Laughed a bit about various humorous things that came up. I offered to help with digging up information, doing paperwork, and such. I’m sure she’ll be stressed, but I’m sure she’ll also be relieved on some level.

I really don’t feel anything about it except (1) relief that I get my “wish” and he goes first, so she can have some years of peace without him and I don’t have to be the bitch daughter who cuts off her father, and (2) dread of having to go through all the crap up to and including a funeral. (My mother is a fool if she thinks I’m going to make a point of visiting him.) Perhaps a renewed regret that I never had a good father, but certainly no misguided wish that he could have somehow magically turned into one. Maybe instead that my mother had married my dad’s brother instead, who has the family voice, look, and mannerisms but is a normal, nice guy.

I’ve spent some time the last few days trying to scrape up something positive about my dad, much as my mom once made up a list of pros and cons when she was pondering divorce: has a job, pays bills, fixes some stuff around the house. My list is similarly short: I remember him teaching me how to ride a bike. Kids are easy to deal with when you don’t have to deal with them as people, but just bounce them on your knee. I remember being belittled and laughed at (not with) for “dumb kid” observations; being accidentally burned by the cigarette in his dangling hand because he didn’t know I was there; him telling the youth director of our church, who had come to our house for the usual visit before my confirmation, that the church should have a safety/CPR/first-aid program (he was an EMT at the time) because saving lives was more important than saving souls; my interests being scoffed at as “nonsense”; my pets being called “stupid varmints.” And that’s just the personal stuff; not counting the racism, foul mouth, lack of hygiene, etc. And how he behaved after my mother’s surgery, which is still pretty fresh.

I just really can’t work up any sorrow for the man. As far as at least his older daughter is concerned, he reaped what he sowed.

Mr. S and I were talking about this just last night; he said it was just pretty much relief when his dad died, and the man never developed a relationship with his kids, except to yell at them in a drunken stupor. And we talked about the other positive male role models we’d had: my “faux grandpa,” who lived next door ever since I can remember, whose whisker rubs I still miss, and whose opinion about this year’s election I’d love to hear (he once said he wouldn’t cross the street to spit on Ronald Reagan); my Uncle R, Mom’s brother, a great dad to three rambunctious girls; my Uncle D, already mentioned; Mr. S’s older brothers, with their laid-back demeanor and quiet, happy marriages; and his friend K’s entire family: parents F and J and their FIVE boys, at whose house he spent a lot of time as a kid.

I’ll be properly somber and politely accept condolences at the funeral, but don’t look for tears from me.

If you’ve got a great dad, give him an extra hug the next time you see him, and thank him for being a great dad from someone who never had one.

Damn. That’s a tough and unusual situation to be in.

But I also fully agree with you that if you do not get along well with your parents, wether it be because they’ve ignored all there life or they have treated you badly, there is really nothing to be remorseful about. You can find people that function just as well, if not better than a parent. Not that one such person is needed after a certain age.

Nothing really helpful I can say except that you just go through this once. And even though its a sucky time, it will pass.

Best of luck to you in this situation. May it all pass as well as it possibly can. :slight_smile:

I wish I could say the same (that mine is dead or dying) but alas, that fuckwad still roams the earth. Everyone in my family had hoped he’d be long gone by now, but he’s lived to 68! In my grandfather’s will, he left my mom a good-sized chunk of change, but with the stipulation that she didn’t get it until she was 60- he, too figured her husband wouldn’t be still around to spend it all for her. But nope, there he was, to blow it all. You’d think being overweight, a chainsmoker, and a multiple bypass surgery veteran would almost guarantee an early demise, but as we like to joke, my dad will probably outlive us ALL, just out of spite. Sigh… you’re so lucky.

(If there was a hell, I’d surely go there for that remark but it’s how I feel.)

I’ve had two family members die reciently: My Father, who’s death affected me to the roots of my soul, and my Grandfather, who outlived my Dad by 32 years (Dad died at 62, Grandpa died a year later at 95) and spent the last 10 years bitching about his life. This compounded with the knowledge he molested my mom made his passing a near non-event in my life.

Just wanted you to know, You’re not the only one who’s lost someone and said ‘meh’.

I hope to live as long as Grandpa did…and fight to make every single day worthwhile, because I might go as early as Dad did.

For me it was my mother. She drove away her whole family and refused to talk to any of her brothers and sisters. She then cut herself from her 2 kids. When she died I could not help but remember a few good moments. They were rare. But I felt sadder for her for for what she missed. She barely ever talked to my son . He deserved a lot better.

You can ride with me. :slight_smile:

Pretty lame time for him to say it, but I kinda like that.

Sorry for you and also for your father – nobody wants to die hated or unmourned, especially by his own children. Mostly, parents want their virtues to be perpetuated and their faults to be forgotten, but that’s not always possible, and it’s always the things you care most about that bring out the worst in you. Your father sounds like a man with a complicated mix of good and bad qualities, and your post isn’t that of someone prepared to separate the two. That’s okay – it’s your life. But there was at least one time when he did something funny and silly and kind and sweet and totally unexpected, just because he loves you, and it might be good for you both if you could remember that one, brief moment too.

I don’t even know why he was present at the meeting; as an atheist, he never attended the church that Mom took us girls to. We were all sitting at the picnic table in the backyard, and he could have easily stayed in the basement with his precious ham radios like every other night. But when he said that to a leader of our church, I wanted to crawl under the table and die. I am no longer a churchgoer, but I still recall that embarrassment quite keenly.

For my father it has always been more important to be right (or hilarious, in his almost always scathingly inappropriate way) than to consider the feelings of others, or whether his words/actions are appropriate to the time, place, or people present.

Here’s another memory. I had some friends with cousins who lived within the same school district in our city as they did. (Mine all live far away.) One week, for some reason the friends were staying at the cousins’ house, or vice versa, I forget, and so of course they were all going to school together that week during the prolonged “sleepover” instead of leaving from their separate houses. I mentioned this at the dinner table because I thought it was kind of neat.

Cue pater to berate me to tears, interrogating me rather loudly on whether that arrangement was “normal.” I think his point was, it’s not typical, so they shouldn’t be doing it, and apparently I was a shit for thinking it was neat. What the bloody fuck?

Funny? My dad’s idea of high hilarity is racist and vulgar humor. Silly? Silliness is a waste of time, “nonsense.” Kind? (Did you read the previous thread I linked to, about how he treated his wife after her surgery? Oh, and that Sunday, when she was still in the hospital recovering from the bad reaction to her anesthesia, was their 40th wedding anniversary. He spent it at home.) He worked part-time as an EMT for a while. But the thought of him dealing with or putting his hands on an injured, frightened person skeeves me out. Sweet? Please. He is an utter ass who thinks only of himself.

I know that people who’ve lived in normal families are shocked at the feelings of those of us who didn’t. I suspect that most of them are thinking of their own darling parents and can’t imagine cutting them off. Believe me, sometimes it’s very easy. Forty-one years of experience talking. This person hasn’t given me any reason to feel positively toward him. Quite the opposite.

Yes that is a tough situtation, but to me not one that is all that unusual.
I know a lot of people with similar stories.

My dad died 2 years ago, and my situation was very similar. I did find myself in tears a few times, but wasn’t sure if I was mourning him, or the troubled past I had lived through with him. I also had a 2 1/2 year old who really liked his Grandpa, so that was hard. He really did seem to treat all the grandkids pretty well. So that was something I guess.

My dad was 81 when he died, and my mother is 10 years younger. She was married to him for 52 hellish years. I kept thinking, “She is free”, and “Thank God he went first”. But now she seems to miss him. Habit I guess.

Once my dad got sick he went fairly quickly(5 months), and we did visit him a bit, but he was always very mean to me when I did. So I didn’t go often. One of my sisters, who had rarely spoken to my dad in the past 20 years, went to visit him a lot and made a big deal of how good of a daughter she was. Be prepared for some of that. Someone will try and make you feel guilty. Don’t.
After those initial tears of shock when my dad died and a few more at his funeral, I haven’t shed any. And I really don’t think of him all that often. We all moved on rather quickly.

Now for the weirdest thing. Our 16 year old dog died a couple months after my dad. We still mention the dogs name just about every day, and think of him often. It helps that our son (now almost 5) has half a dozen stuffed pets named for our old dog. And, we still cry over him. :slight_smile: Now that was some unconditional love. Miss ya Ziggy!

I may have seen the paternal unit for the last time.

This weekend we had the usual family get-together before the folks leave to go south for the winter. He hasn’t told the rest of the family he’s ill, and he thinks he’s going to tell only a few people down south.

That won’t fly. He looks 85 all of a sudden. Coughing a lot more. Even less mobile (though still under his own power). Still blazing up the coffin nails (I guess at this point, what’s the difference, might as well enjoy).

I did not speak to him except obliquely in the course of general conversation.

As I wrote to a friend, I may well be the one who makes the calls to tell his siblings that he’s gone, when the time comes. I’ll offer to do it to help my mom out, and I know my sister won’t want the job. I imagine that Mom and Sis won’t be too happy with me for not being upset, but what is, is. But I can help by removing the burden of some of the associated tasks, I guess. And Mr. S will help too. He totally understands and supports me. He’s a keeper, he is.

Shit, I can’t wait until this is all over with. Thank Og for puppy therapy; nothing shakes a blue mood like being under a pile of fuzzy wiggledogs who love you. :slight_smile:

I’m sorry for your loss. My sister and I didn’t get along well, and I was pissed at her for some things she did even after she died of cancer. I was angry with my BIL too, and that caused a rift between my neice, nephew and I. (we’ve reconciled) My BIL died about a year ago from heart problems. By that time I was able to sayI’m not angry anymore. I wish I had a chance to say it when they were alive, but I was angry then.

I think I was completely right to be angry with them, but I regret having to be angry.

Scarlett, go in peace and let the old man go in peace too. From what you have told me, he has been a very sick man his whole life, probably with narcissistic personality disorder, and not a mild strain. He loved nobody, and was unable to feel the love given him. It is extraordinarily painful to family members. Shortly, he will inflict no new pains on you and when you are ready, you may give up your anger towards him for all the things he has done to you and your family. But because he never had a fully functioning personality, he never experienced the true pains and joys of this life, and never lived. It was none of his doing, none of your doing. It is just an awful disease. I am so sorry. Please live with joy.

When my mom’s dad died, I’m fairly certain she never shed a tear, and if she did, it was out of guilt for not being sad about her father dying. He was an alcoholic for most of his life, and when he quit that he went straight into Valium addiction. He was a moody, repressive man that kept my grandma firmly ground down. I, as a grandchild that saw him on a fairly frequent basis (my mom kept track of their financial and medical information and had their power of attorney), have maybe two positive memories of him, but none I would call “happy”. Five-plus years since he died, and we still have to put up with the eccentricities my grandma developed to deal with him and keep herself out of trouble. I still think the guilt about just how un-sad she was at his death and her continuing annoyance at her mother has a far more profound psychological impact on my mom than his death.

:frowning: All you guys, I feel terrible for you. And I’m going to call my dad when I get home from work. I’ve come to realize how truly lucky I am.

I love my daddy. His love for all his kids is unconditional, no strings attached. He was always there if we needed us, but didn’t breathe down our necks when we didn’t. He took us camping (all seven of us) every summer. Many’s the time he used to come home from the mill at 2pm and holler, “Get your suits!” and take us all to the beach. He’d sit in the shade with a brew and his radio, and give us nickels and dimes to buy popsicles. He gave us a happy childhood in spite of not having gobs of money.

I used to think that kind of dad was normal! I’m continually aghast and dismayed the more I find out it isn’t.

He’s not perfect. He’s got a number of flaws, but how he cares about us is not one of them.

He isn’t much for words, but it’s always been clear enough in his face and actions how he feels about us. Most of the time, it was pride.

He could get cranky, but I’ve come to realize, looking back, that he never made us feel like it was our fault, or took it out on us. And I know now how easily he could have, if he’d wanted to. (Looking at you, f-i-l, who did make gobs of money but came home surly every day and made his kids walk on eggshells around him)

He’s going on 74, and I know I’m going to have to lose him sometime. I don’t want to think about it, or I’ll get teary eyed (Too late) It’ll leave a gaping hole in all our lives.

(My mom is the coolest, too, but that’s another thread.)


I’m sorry you have to go through the hassle, Scarlett. FWIW, I don’t think you’re wrong in the slightest to not care about your dad. He was as he was. You couldn’t influence him and he didn’t bother treating others decently. It’s sad he’s dying but it’s sad that we all have to die.

Having lived through the death of an extremely toxic parent (mother) I’d say your emotional distance is both healthy and appropriate. And gotta love all that strong support from Mr. S and the pups.

Every experience is different but my survival tactic was inscrutablity. No crying, no anger, no emotion displayed at all, just–blank. It worked very well, actually. My sister and I were so relieved when the vicious cunt kicked off. Unfortunately there’s really not the slightest point to say so. She did have a few friends, oddly enough, and they were genuinely grieved. At any rate, the point of a death is everything’s over. Done. Finis.

My sister and I made a pact to let her evil die with her. So while we sure didn’t cry we just thanked funeral guests for their condolences. If your sister and mother want to gild his lily posthumously, so to speak, let 'em. Just make it very clear to them, now and afterwards, that you won’t play. You won’t interfere with how they handle the death but they do not have permission to criticize or arm-chair quarterback how you do, now or ever.

It can be a remote kind of pity to see a life so thoroughly wasted.

You have my support, Scarlett. I won’t go to my father’s funeral, when it finally happens, if they sent a stretch limo for me. This too shall pass.

My father lived to be 93. He was forced to live in a nursing home and he made everyone there as miserable as he possibly could. He taught me that I was a total failure and always would be. He bullied me as much as he bullied my mother; if I wasn’t handy and he wanted to berate someone, he would call me.
He died with a couple of nurses at his side; I was told that he expressed sorrow that I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have been there in any case, nor did I attend his cremation ceremony. It occurred to me a few days later that I had been feeling free and adult for the first time in my life and I was 66 when he died.

Nothing much to add, Scarlett, as I’m lucky enough to have a great dad, but just wanted to pass on my sympathy for how you’re feeling and my best wishes. It sounds like you don’t feel at all guilty about not being sad if he dies - good for you.