Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some thoughts about my father

On 26 September, I said at the end of the post that some things required something more, and my father is one of those things. This is going to be more of a venting session, as I have no idea what to do for him.

I'll start with the physical, which is the least complex of his issues. It starts with the fact that Dad is overweight. He's always been out of shape. He once got down to 189 lbs., but that didn't last. The psychological tie-in on that is that, in his quest for comfort, food never argued or said no to him. Thus, food was always a big part of his life. His weight complicated the triple bypass he had over a decade ago, turning what should have been a three-day hospital stay into a three-week stay. Because they replaced his mitral valve with a mechanical valve, he's had to be on blood thinners that ultimately complicate everything else in his life. On top of all this, Dad's legs behave..."diabetically." He gets frequent sores that become infected, and he seems to need perpetual wound care. Add a hefty dose of arthritis to the mix, and he's just not well physically. He's not dying. Not even close. But he is in a constant state of discomfort.

Spiritually, I think Dad has become lost. I believe he was once conservative, and eventually became a reform Jew when us kids came into his life. Now, unable to attend any services whatsoever, Dad has become about as Jewish as I am. I'm comfortable being what I call "an agnostic Jew." (I'd have more faith if I had G-d's mailing address.) Dad, however, never took the time to grow comfortable with any religious aspect of his life. It's as though he's simply wandered through Judaism without ever truly connecting with it. He's Jewish because he was reared to be so, and not because he's accepted any part of it.

Emotionally, my father has become a train wreck. My step-mom told Becky and I a few things that had me absolutely flabbergasted. For example, she's 80. Dad will be 80 in March. (They're 51 weeks apart in age.) At that age, there's really not many places to go or much to do with one's life. And yet Dad, ultimately frustrated by being...elderly..., has great fits of dissatisfaction, leading him to vent his anger with fate on his wife. She's the most readily available target, and so she gets hit with the flack of his outbursts. Just the night before Becky and I visited, he unloaded on my step-mom, saying, "I didn't want any of this. I'm leaving." "This" being such things as becoming old and residing in an assisted living facility.

My poor, poor step-mother then pointed out a few things. Like the fact that if he's going to just up and leave her, she needs a bit more warning than that. What is she supposed to do? Pack a bag, step out to the curb, hail a cab, and move into an apartment elsewhere? She doesn't have the means or physical ability to do anything like that.

What's more, her life is now my father's life. You see, Stu has stopped calling my father for some unknown reason. My guess would be that when Stu screwed me out of a place to live, Dad gave him "a talking to" that Stu decided to throw yet another fit over. I don't think Stu ever grew past the stage in life where, if one is displeased, one throws a tantrum and then stops talking to the person who upset him. Barry hasn't called in years, leaving many to wonder if he's even part of this family anymore. Then there's me, who wants to stay in touch with his father, but has become afraid to, as every chat is a fairly depressing encounter. Aside from his three sons, there's distant family that is...well, distant, both in distance and emotionally. And so my father's "family" that lives locally all belongs to my step-mom. If Dad walked out on her, he'd have nothing. Just me, and I live too far away to be of any use whatsoever.

My personal belief is that Dad hasn't been honest with himself. I think he convinced himself he was marrying my step-mom for love, but was actually doing it to save himself from loneliness. She also had better credit than he did, which meant he could do more financially than if he was alone. He began with a lie to himself, and continued by lying to everyone else...without ever realizing he wasn't being truthful.

Now the truth is smashing him over the head, and he doesn't know what to do with himself. Who knows? Maybe he does love my step-mom? But he's not IN love with her. And the greater financial freedom he hoped for...? Social Security isn't much of a retirement plan, and there's not much for someone his age with limited mobility to spend his money on. Besides, his assisted living is an EXTREMELY expensive bill each month.

And Dad was never supposed to get OLD. That is, he wasn't going to die young, but he never planned on becoming elderly. For a man who's worked all his life, not being able to simply go and do what he feels needs doing is one of the most frustrating things he's ever encountered.

That's all I have at this moment. I would talk to my father, but he won't listen to his son. He doesn't see me as the fount of wisdom others see. I'm his poor, disabled, foolish kid, who never made a success of himself as he should have. And that's unfortunate. I think Dad could benefit from a nice, long talk with "Bor the Barbarian Monk."

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