I attended college 900+ miles from my hometown. Needless to say, I did plenty of traveling in my early adult life to school and back for holidays and breaks. Usually before I boarded a plane back to, my dad would hand me a plastic sandwich bag with the following contents:
- A roll of quarters (for laundry, of course)
- Several packs of gum
- Few packs of Emergen-C
- Dehydrated fruit of some kind (usually mango or pineapple he dried himself)
- A crisp $20 bill
Dad was never the kind of father that offered sage advice while sappy music swelled in the background. Never has been. The only sage life lessons I’ve learned from my dad, I’ve learned by navigating a relationship with him, and watching him navigate other relationships in my family. His love was better expressed through an air travel survival kit than by outwardly sharing his feelings.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might recall that about 3 years ago (almost to the week, actually) my eccentric, somewhat reclusive, hoarder of a father suffered a stroke that pretty much changed him forever. The stroke was followed by COPD. The COPD by a quadruple bypass and valve replacement which was followed by another stroke…you get the idea.
I’ve been quiet about him for a while here because there wasn’t much to tell. Frankly, I’ve distanced myself from him as much as possible. I’ve hurt so much over the past couple of years. We (my sister and I) have almost said goodbye to him more times than I can even remember. We’ve been sad. We’ve been angry. We’ve grown tired.
I think everyone thinks I am being so strong. Truth: It’s not strength, it’s weakness. It’s me stepping away because it’s easier. It’s easier than trying to connect with a man who no longer controls his pendulum swing of emotions, who cannot process reason, and who cannot process hurt. I just. Can’t.
I catch all Dad related news and updates through my sister these days. In general, he’s in much better health now that he’s in an assisted living arrangement where someone monitors his medications, his personal hygiene, etc. He doesn’t have a computer and now limited access to his bank account funds, so attempts to purchase horses, electric cars, and spending $1,200 on gold coins has been slowed. However, he has a troubling wound on his foot that is now infected. If his doctors can’t reign it back in, he’ll likely have to have his leg amputated well above the knee.
“Dad! If you don’t start managing your diabetes, you’re going to end up in a coma or in a wheelchair with no feet!” we would warn.
“I’m going to live forever!”
“I’ll just get those flipper feet!”
So. Yeah. Pardon me while I just stand here and blink.
I know I should call him. I know I should probably send him a note in the mail with a small piece of pre-school artwork from his only grandson. Intellectually, I know I should do that.
But what does it say about the kind of person I am that I don’t?