Family Matters

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This being a short week at work and since I have a significant amount of vacation that I haven’t used, I took the week off.  It gave me an opportunity to go see Dad for a couple of days.  Although, it was quite the production to get up there because he’s got someone who comes to the house from 4-6 to cook for him and, according to him, it would be “awkward” to have visitors when she’s around.  So we finally agreed that I’d come up Sunday and leave Tuesday and he’d tell her not to come on Monday so we’d have dinner on Sunday and Monday and take care of whatever tasks need to be taken care of.

Now, I will just say right from the start that if you are expecting some kind of Hallmark moment, you’ve come to wrong post.  Pop and I are not what you’d call close.  He’s just not wired to provide a lot of emotional support.  Don’t blame him for that because it was just his nature.  I have a memory of being about 8 years old and I had been stung by a bee and my hand and forearm were swollen and I was in the doctor’s office with no clothes on (have no idea why) and he starts talking about the sculpture the Thinker.  Guess I was kind of like that but I was more trying to cover up because I didn’t want to be naked.  But it isn’t really the thing that comforts a kid.

And part of it is a combination of my environment and personality.  Mom liked to always tell us that her mother told her to tough it out (or some such phrase).  In other words, just deal with your stuff, don’t complain about it.  So you kind of got a vibe that neither one of them wanted to hear about your problems.  And, I’m not really one who likes disclosing that stuff (except to the mostly anonymous internet) so you just learn to keep quiet and deal with your stuff.  Feelings should not be seen nor heard.

The other thing is that both of them tended to give off the vibe that they only wanted the cliff notes version of your life.  Try to start deeper conversations and they’d change the subject.  And this gets at another part of my personality.  If I get the sense that you don’t really care and are just asking to be polite, I’ll automatically give you the short answer with no real details.  Does that mean he didn’t care about me?  Probably not but he was never the type to show it so it was easy to assume otherwise.

I’m not going into this to bitch about my childhood but more to try and illustrate the relationship we have.  He’s never been the person I would go to if I needed advice or council.  Well, I actually never go to anyone because that’s kind of how I was raised.  I assume it was true for some people because there are volumes of father/son quotes and people who talk about all the wonderful things they learned from their Dad.  Just wanted to be clear that wasn’t me.

If you want me to be honest, I went more out of guilt and a sense of obligation.  My siblings have all made at least one trip there and he ended the last phone conversation asking me to come visit.  So I went.

But each visit consists of “fixing” whatever he is obsessed on at that time.  For example, he had it in his head that he’d like to listen to music so my task was to figure out how to play CD’s.  Which really was nothing more that just opening the drawer and popping in a disc and closing it.  You had to press the AUX button on the radio to make it play CD’s through the speakers.  But when you can’t see, this is like having the instructions in a foreign language that you can’t comprehend.  So I tried to mark all the appropriate buttons with masking tape and arrows and we went through it multiple times but his short term memory was so bad that he couldn’t retain anything.  Even had a problem with the concept that one button could both open and close the CD drawer.  And, he can’t see which disc he’s picked up so I don’t know that he’s ever going to play music.  I offered to arrange the discs in some order so the ones he wanted to listen to would be together but he turned me down.  It was like he wanted to do this and then got depressed about the number of steps and how hard it would be to do with his limitations and just gave up.  I did put some instructions down and told him that maybe when people are over, they can play music for him.

So both days were spent doing things like that and running errands and obsessing over what kind of cat food to buy and whether the fees he’s being charged by his bank are too high.  We paid some bills and sorted some other mail and I read him a few cards.  Its now less of a visit and more of a running to do list.  I see him like this and it is a weird mix of anger and pity.  Clearly, this is now how he wants to spend his remaining years and it just seems so needlessly cruel for life to have mostly taken his eyesight and to have turned him into a scared, lonely person who really is on the border of being able to take care of himself.

He’s surrounded by a lot of old photos and I look at pictures of him when he was young and I can see what he used to be.  And it just makes it suck all the more to see him as he is now.  Its is sad and depressing and I came back yesterday and I was just drained.  Couldn’t even make the effort to go attend the pre-Thanksgiving dance party.

I don’t even really feel that good about going up there.  I’m not sure it did anything for anyone.  Everything I “fixed” was just making changes to something someone else had “fixed” earlier.  None of the bills or mail were critical and he has someone who helps him with that.  The things I bought could have been bought later.  At this stage, we aren’t going to have deep meaningful conversations so I guess it is just about the to do list.


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