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.