Thursday, November 18, 2004

Update On My Father

First of all, sorry for not posting for the last four days. It's been hectic around here...between my poor health and my dad's condition, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. I'm running in a million different directions.

Secondly, I want to thank everyone for their kindness. The comments were so wonderful, and really made my day.

You know, when I began this blog, I kind of thought maybe Fizz would read it, maybe Emma and Ruth (my friends). I never thought so many people would enjoy the nonsense I write.

In any event, I am grateful for it. A million Hosannas.

Here's a little background, for those of you who don't know me in real life:

My father is dying. He has six months to live...tops.

My father is a construction supervisor. He travels all over the country, building assisted-living housing and department stores. Right now, he's in Montana with my niece, my sister M's kid. My sister R is flying out tomorrow to bring him back to Dayton, to stay with his sister for his final days on this Earth. It's what he wants.

My father has been in poor health for nearly 12 years. That's when he was in Florida, and I got a call telling me my father had collapsed at work and fell into a coma. I was 6 months pregnant with my son, and doctors warned me that my father might not ever wake up. And if he did, he'd be dead within four months.

He didn't die. But then again, that's my dad for you.

My father and I have never really gotten along. We're two very different people. Complete opposites in almost every concievable way. I'm a feminist, he's a chauvanist. I'm a liberal, he's conservative. I'm into punk, he loves country. I'm pro-choice, he is rabidly pro-life. About the only things we have in common are bad tempers, a love of tattoos and DNA.

And to be candid, my dad doesn't get along with ANYBODY. I've never once in my life met someone who thought my dad was a nice guy. I take that back: I've met many women who STARTED OUT thinking that. More than I care to count, really. Another big difference between Dad and me: he's been married four or five times. Me, just the once. My father is a womanizer. I lost track of his girlfriends long ago. Occassionally, one tries to be friendly with me. Sends me emails, tries to "get to know me." Like the one who refused to tell me her last name, and then told me I had a "bad attitude" for finding that odd. I, for the most part, ignore them. They usually aren't around long enough to bother with anyway. But besides women, no one seems to enjoy the man's company. He's a....difficult person. Abrasive. Aggressive. Confrontational. Which is probably why he's been shot three times and stabbed twice. Five different people, mind you. Just all with the same goal in mind.

This doesn't mean I don't love my dad. I do. Even though we don't get along, even though he's a difficult person to love...I still love him. And sometimes, I feel like I've spent my whole life trying to get him to love me back.

Because, you see, I not only don't get along with my dad...he doesn't get along with me. He doesn't understand me. I confuse him, I think. He's never gotten the whole punk thing. My mom was different. She was a hippie, and was big on loving me no matter what. How I chose to look was unimportant. But my dad? He was horrified. Every single time I've seen him in the past 15 years, the first thing he says to me is, "What is that thing doing in your nose?" Referring to my nose ring, of course. 15 YEARS, and he still asks every single time. Among my favorite replies:

***Nothing now, but if you wait a moment it will jump up and perform tunes from "The Music Man."
***Praying for world peace.
***Trying to get a good view of my eyebrows.
***Wondering who this big red man is staring at it.
and my usual reply...
***Annoying you, of course.

Another thing Dad and I have in common: we're both unrepentant smartasses.

As confusing as I must be to my dad, he is equally cofusing to me. I don't understand his motivations. I don't get why he is the way he is. I know he's an alcoholic and a drug addict; that I DO understand. But he's only less of an asshole sober...and I don't get why that is.

I also don't get why I am singled out among his children. I used to think I was paranoid, but when my friends and later, my husband, began to notice it...I realized I wasn't paranoid at all. My dad does single me out. He will throw money at my siblings as if he were a giant, generous ATM machine. He forgives them all sorts of transgressions, including stealing from him, risking his job, dumping kids off with him and then taking off, treating him like shit and so on. But me? He wouldn't give me a dime. He buys my crackhead sister a car; I get a $20 K-Mart card for my birthday (and I was grateful for it, as he usually forgets my birthday entirely). And me, if I am too sick to return a's a horrible transgression that must be brought up at every concievable moment for the foreseeable future.

I am the only one of his kids who is even remotely stable (although R is getting there fast and I am proud of her). I have a legitimate marriage (not M's green-card nonsense). I'm not a junkie. I'm a good mother. I have a good husband. We live in a great city, in a nice home. We support ourselves. I stay at home with the kids, and Jonathan has held the same job for five years (my brother and sister can't hold the same job for five weeks). And we do everything we can for our loved ones.

But I am, somehow, the bad daughter. The black sheep. Presumably, because I don't borrow and/or steal money from my father every chance I get.

I mean, he has literally flown across the country several times to be with my other siblings, and has made the 12 hour DRIVE to my house only once in the several months he's been in Montana. Flying here---which would only take a few hours at most---he won't even consider. And when he WAS here, he spent the whole time flirting with my babysitter. And her mother.

He has, over the years, ignored the fact that I have MS. It's like it doesn't even register with him. It's not denial; it's more like it isn't important to him. He rarely asks me how I'm feeling. He never calls when I'm in the hospital, much less send a card or something. When I first got diagnosed....he never even told the family. He told NO ONE. When I came to Ohio for a visit...I was shocked and hurt that no one knew.

What really hurts me is that I would love to take custody of my niece after my father's death. Give that precious little girl a real home, with a mom and dad and siblings, and a stable life. But my father would rather give her to my elderly aunt or back to M....who abused and abandoned her in the first place.

I don't know why he treats me this way. Why he doesn't like me. I'd like to think I've come to terms with it, but I don't think I have. And now...he's dying. Any day now, I could get The Call. Telling me to get on a plane, that the end is near. Just like when my mom died, seven years ago.

And when it does come, I will go. And like when my mom died, I will handle everything. R will probably be pregnant again. M and RJ are useless. Some of my dad's sisters will probably be helpful, but most will be too upset to be of any real use. Not that it's thier responisbility anyway; it's clearly mine. Everyone else will not care, or even be happy the old fucker is finally gone (I wish I were exaggerating that, but I'm not. When I still lived in Dayton, people used to stop me in the mall, on the roads, in restaurants, to tell me what a bastard my father was. Gee, thanks guys. That sure fucking helps). And I also have no doubt that my dad will end up leaving everything to my siblings, at least two of whom will go through it in a matter of weeks on drugs.

And still...he's my dad.

Yes, he's the guy who forgot my birthday from age 9 to 19...but he's also the guy who took me and Phoenix to Florida to visit my great-aunt, and we had a great time. He's the guy who refused to pay my school fees so I couldn't graduate with my class...but he's also the guy who stood by my mom's bedside when she was dying, and paid all her hospital bills (even though they'd been divorced for nearly 18 years). He's the guy who threw me out on the streets at 16....and also the guy who beat up my junior-high principal for making a racist comment towards me. He's the guy who made most of my childhood a nightmare....but also made a few rare moments wonderful and unforgettable.

And I don't know what I am doing to do without him.


At 4:19 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

I'm so sorry, Angel. My husband lost his father last year - they saw each other for the first time in over 10 years when we got the news that he was dying. It's such a rough position to be in.

May you have the strength to deal with this. I will be thinking about you.

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Thank you, Cathy. And I am sorry for your husband's loss.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Pixie LaRouge said...

Sending an empathetic hug. I have a difficult relationship with a family member, as well. And, though I don't really "understand" where you are, I can see some of it. May you find peace in your heart and your wonderful husband and marvelous children. The best part is that confusion and anger die faster than love. Still praying,

At 3:38 AM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Thank you, Pixie, for your kind words.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rita said...

Hi Angel, I can relate to your father/daughter story from a different perspective. My 2 daughters father was a hard man for them to love without anger and/or guilt. It was like they wanted to love him so much, and he was so unlovable that to love him made them have to be untrue to themselves. Make sense? My best advise to them was: Love him expecting nothing in return. That is LOVE. When you do receive something in return it's an added bonus. Cherish those moments. He is who he is, you cannot change him. Blessings to you.

At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God your honesty is refreshing. <3


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