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.