Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Undead Dad

Well, the old bastard's not dead yet. But he might be soon.

I screwed up the force of will necessary to call my father's wife to enquire about his state; he lives yet, although his heart's thoroughly buggered now and only the bypass surgery that has so far been deemed too risky and too futile to help might save him. He goes in to face death (again) in the morning; once he's on the table, he's got a 40% chance of surviving the surgery.

I think I disappointed her with my lack of emotion; furthermore, I think I surprised his nurse with my lack of desire to talk to my father on what could quite possibly be the last day of his life. She kept asking, "you're sure you don't want to talk to him?"

"Oh yes, I'm sure."

"Okay... well, you can call later, whenever you're ready."

By every Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week standard, I should be rushing off to McAllen, Texas to have a tearful reconciliation with him on his deathbed. I'd arrive and sit frostily, staring at the tubes snaking into his frail, strangely shrunken body; he'd tell me how much he always loved me and how proud he is of me; and I'd collapse into a sobs at his bedside while he strokes my hair. That's how this is supposed to proceed in the popular imagination, and I'm not even trying to live up to my end of the deal. Obviously, eyebrows are raised.

If they think I don't want that -- if they don't understand that I would give everything to have that happen -- then naturally they would assume that I'm as poor an excuse for a daughter as he has likely led them to believe. And I understand their position. But so many times I've reached out for that -- often with anger, always with pain and confusion, but still trying -- only to be pushed away again and again, that eventually I shut him out completely just to protect what was left of my self-esteem. Emotionally, I had to do a lot of self-parenting during my late teens and especially through my early 20s -- my mother was wonderful, and without her influence I'd have been left a complete psychological wreck; everything I've done to build myself up into some semblance of the person I was born to be has been constructed on the foundation she provided me. But it was always partly a process of shoring up my identity against the father-shaped hole in the middle.

Rushing off to my father's side would bring me nothing I need -- he's got no love or approval to give me; he doesn't even know me as an adult woman, how could he "be so proud" of me, as I've been told he is? And if he is... well, it's a pity he never said so to me; I so badly needed him to. Going for some bogus reconciliation now would only be for his peace of mind as he goes off to wrestle with death -- "see, I wasn't such a bad father after all" -- and in the sense that there are many, much worse fathers in the world than him, I guess he's right. But he was still pretty fucking bad at it. I've gotten to live with that reality for my entire life; frankly, I don't feel particularly inclined to go pretend to be okay with everything that's happened, and more importantly to risk another crushing disappointment and all the pain that it would drag back up to the surface, just so he can assuage his guilt before he goes to have his risky surgery and likely not come back.

I have, as far as I'm able, already made peace with the state of our relationship; there's nothing in that Texas hosptial I need. If he finds himself in a less peaceful situation at the end of his life, that's not my problem. I don't wish him death -- I honestly don't. What happens to him now makes little effective difference to me either way. I admit that his death would simplify things somewhat -- I'd have some work to do with the counselors at school, and I'd have assorted personal and familial business to take care of -- but I'm as content to have that happen some other time as now. It's not a matter of wishing him ill, it's just that, in every sense that matters, I lost my dad a long time ago; his death would only finally give him a decent excuse. If he does die tomorrow, or shortly thereafter, then I'll have to live with the choice I'm making right now for the rest of my life; it's certainly possible that I'll regret it. But this, at least, is finally my choice to make. That's better than I've done with him so far.

I know I'm supposed to surrender to sentimentality at the likely death of my father, but all I can do is say what I honestly feel. I guess I wouldn't be very good at being Japanese.

Enough of my daddy issues; nobody really wants to hear about this, I know (but it's my blog, so I'll do it if I want). I promise not to bring it up again until I know it's all over. I'm just going to go on with my life as normal today; it's another cliff-hanger, still no resolution to be had. Maybe tomorrow.

PS: Don't smoke. It's bad for you.
12:37 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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