Monday, June 6, 2011

Unexpected Part 2

My dad and I have never been close. We have rarely seen eye to eye on anything. In spite of my personal, academic, and professional successes, he has been critical of me my entire life. I can count the number of times he has said he loves me on one hand. The number of times he has said he is proud of me is less than that. When I became the first person in my entire family to graduate college, he wasn't there. When I then went on to be the first (and only) person in my family to get my Master's degree, he wasn't there. He has insulted me more times than I care to remember.

Years ago, he told me that he had to be critical of me to compensate for how my mother treated me. The fact that my mom "favored" me made him feel that he had to put me down. That it was necessary to keep things "fair" in my family. My dad not say this as a way of explanation or apology, rather as just a fact of what needed to happen in my life. (Never mind that my mother never said any of the things that he said to me to my sisters. She was supportive of all of us in different ways. I am not blind; I knew she favored me, but she never put my sisters down in order to lift me up. She just supported me more than she supported them.) My dad, on the other hand, always put me down in order to lift up my sisters. He still does this.

But I digress.

 I never thought I would take my dad's side over my mom's side. The scars he inflicted are present, even though I don't like to admit it. My mom has always received the benefit of my doubt, so when I took his side over hers, I was stunned.

My dad is old. Really old. He has defied medical wisdom for decades and still continues to do so.  People who treat their body the way he has treated his usually die before age 60. But not my dad. He is pushing 80. He is not going strong. He is sick, and his body has started shutting down. I love my dad, and it is so hard to watch this happen. Every time I see him, he looks that much closer to death. That is hard to write and even harder to see.

He is not going down without a fight, though. He goes to the doctor (different doctors for different things) about twice a month. There is one fight that he is losing; he is going blind. He does fine at home where nothing has moved in 30 years. He can take care of himself there; however, there is one thing that he absolutely cannot do. He cannot drive anymore. This is a difficult situation for him to be in. He prides himself of his independence. His driver's license was not taken away from him; he chose to stop driving. To him, he stopped driving on his terms. The problem is obvious; he cannot drive himself to his appointments. He can't drive himself anywhere. He actually needs help on this one thing.

My mom should be driving him. She won't. She flat out refuses to drive him to his appointments. I talked to her about this a few months ago. I thought it was beyond ridiculous that I had to tell her that she needed to drive him wherever he needed to go, especially the doctor's appointments. (For crying out loud, SHE IS HIS WIFE! They have been married almost half a century! Why on Earth does she need to be reminded of this???) But after our conversation, she told me that she would start driving him.

My dad did not know of my conversation with her.

I went to see them a couple of weeks ago  (I live in about 90 minutes away), and as I was driving my dad to my sister's house, he told me that he didn't know what to do. He has doctor's appointments and my mother flat out refuses to drive him. She said it is just too inconvenient for her. My sister works full time and can't take him all of the time. He said he didn't want to be a burden on anyone, but he was at his wits end. My heart broke and anger spilled out.

My dad may have his faults, but he always provided for my mom. He drove her to work at 3am when she was afraid to drive in the snow. He paid off her credit card bills when she didn't understand how she got in that much debt. He may not have been the most pleasant about the money situation, but he did it.

Now I can only imagine how difficult it is for her to watch her husband's health decline, but I am frustrated that she is not even trying to help him. I love my mother, but she is wrong. She needs to do this for him. He is not asking for a lot. He is asking for her to drive him to the doctor. To show him compassion. To swallow her own fear and take care of her husband.

So now, here I sit, angry at my mother and taking the side of my father. Who knew?

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