this is gonna be bad

I did not and do not want to keep talking about my dad.  I had a very firm plan about boxing that issue off and focusing all my anxiety into something productive.  Worrying about him results in zero productivity, unlike feeding my new found Pearl Jam obsession or playing Bejeweled Blitz until my clicking finger bleeds.

But ignoring him has proved more difficult than expected.  You would think a guy who lives 200 miles away and isn’t particularly sociable would be extremely easy to ignore.  Ha.

At the beginning of the week, he emailed me.  He rarely emails, but in all the times he has done so, the messages made sense.  This one was confusing and/or confused. The topic was comprehensible but the specifics garbled.

I spent a few minutes panicking (What the fuck is this?), followed by longer minutes trying not to jump straight to DEMENTIA and instead taking all the steps to figure out his line of logic.  Was this a simple error or a complex one?   Like those math problems from high school, where the teacher goes over every line of your work and marks where the error was made, and you could either get partial credit for basic knowledge or a SEE ME AFTER CLASS.

I couldn’t figure it out.  In the end, I took a shot in the dark and emailed back, “the attachment didn’t come through.  Could you try again?”  because if he was referring to a link of some sort, the message would make sense.  No luck.  Garbled response.

Later that evening, I cried in the shower some and resolved to box that shit up.   Ain’t nobody need back to back posts in which I’m an asshole for betraying my dad’s privacy.

But the next day, he called me.  It would be hard to say who was more surprised, since he never ever calls me.  As it turned out, he’d been trying to call my mom, and misdialed.  Guess the universe thought he needed to pop in and rattle me and my box-making abilities.   He was embarrassed, since I was not the person he had expected and he didn’t particularly have anything to say to me.

As I was crying in the shower that evening, it dawned on me that if my dad had died suddenly in full health, I never would have seen this part of him.  I don’t mean the confused part.  I mean that I have spent so much of my life being angry at him.   I imagine he would have croaked and my memory of him would be tinctured with that cold anger of teenage rebellion — my standoffish and unknowable father.

Seeing him now, without the armor of sharp brain and obsessive interests, is like seeing Darth Vadar* with his helmet off.  What’s under isn’t pretty, but it is vulnerable and exposed and who he is under all the trappings of who he was.  Maybe there is God in this.  Then I curse a lot.

So as it turns out, my mom came into town this morning, and she brought my dad with her.  I think, perhaps, she was lonesome and didn’t want to leave him alone.  He was here this very morning.  My boxes are chewed by dogs and strewn across my mental flooring.

My parents seem happy.  My dad sat in my living room and talked, and he was fine, fine, fine!  So normal and daddish and at ease.  He tells me about my sisters and my new nephew.  We talk about the financial cliff and he throws up his hands in disgust.  Then he stumbles on some thought.  I see how much my mom is doing for him now.  I suspect things are getting worse quickly.  I realize at some point, maybe that will feel like a relief – at least it went quickly, and I want to throw up.  These are horrible, vulturish things to consider.  Then I think about how it could go both quickly and still not quick enough, and I realize this is gonna be bad.

*And here I feel compelled to insist my dad was not the Darth Vader of my childhood.  Certainly, I still have both my hands.

8 Replies to “this is gonna be bad”

  1. It sucks. There is, unfortunately, no way around it. Quick or slow it rips your heart out. Sometimes, when I can tell my Dad is pretending that he heard or followed a conversation or gets confused in the middle of one, it is like getting the wind knocked out of me. It just hurts in so many ways.

    My Dad seems to be getting confused by category right now. Something from 20 years ago he’ll say was recent or vice versa. He is so clear and sharp about most things, then time or distance is so dramatically misjudged I remember we are on the slope. He seems now to be retreating into Veteran’s survivor’s guilt, remembering battles and deaths. And I hope that that doesn’t become home to him, that he will come out of this phase and have peace, at least, in his decline. I hope that the gift of seeing these other sides of your father can somehow help you bear the pain of losing him bit by bit. I am going to try to reframe my thoughts on my Dad’s experience to work in the gift in it, thank you for sharing that perspective. Take care of yourself.

  2. Please keep writing about it – for writing helps, not only you but those who are enduring similar experiences. You and your Dad are in my warm thoughts. Hugs to you.

  3. My dad died very suddenly in October. He was healthy one day and gone the next. Everyone tells me it’s easier that way, you don’t have to watch it happen. But I don’t think it’s true. My last conversation with him was about Bob Fosse, I don’t even recall if I told him I loved him before I hung up. There are so many things I wanted to tell him, to ask him. I would have if I’d have any inclination it was coming.

    You and yours are in my thoughts.

  4. My mum is fading fast, and an ocean away. We talk on the phone and some days she puts up such a great facade you’d hardly know – others, she’s vague and distant and has nothing to say to me. Fading fast mentally, but physically she could go on another fifteen years. I don’t want her to. Thank you for writing here.

  5. I am so sorry, Anne. I think you should write as much or as little as you need to about what you’re going through.
    During a time in my life when every second of my day had me gripped with terror because of yet another terminal disease with no cure threatening my family, my only respite other than the first moment upon waking, before the black, suffocating horror could settle back in for the day, was playing Bejewelled on my old PC. So blessedly mind-numbing. And in the same vein of coincidence, I am a big Pearl Jam fan. I saw them live in Hamburg in the spring of 2000. Eddie looked into my eyes and sang directly to me, I swear it.
    I hope you find some peace and some relief from this emotional agony you are going through, Anne. You are not alone.

  6. On January 11th my dad was dead for seven years. It was so slow and then very fast and I had to take leave from my job because toward the end I was just a fucking mess.

    Here is what I know: if you put your feelings in boxes and label them “okay” or “I’m a sick fuck” or “horrified” or ??!! you’re going to lose yourself. Feel your fucking feelings. Wallow. Breathe. Write. Scream. Do it. You are processing tough shit. It is okay. Feel the things.

  7. This is the worst and I wish I some kind of idea or advice but I don’t. Well, only this: what you write here is compassionate and honest. Are you violating something – privacy, decorum, something? Possibly, but it still feels necessary.

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