June 21, 2009

Father's Day from 180 Degrees

It was morning, we were sleeping and the phone rang. I kept my eyes closed, not ready to wake up. Besides, I don't sleep well anymore, and sometimes when I wake up, it feels like overnight, my eye lids turned to sandpaper.

I could tell already it was one of those mornings.

Maybe the phone ringing would go away. I didn't want to deal.

I heard my husband's voice, "Hellooo?" I kept my eyes shut, praying it was not for me.

"Yeah, Dad... Sure... No... Well... I had plans already... no... OK... let me call you back..... OK...." *click*

Keeping my eyes closed I said, "s'up with your Dad?"

"He wants me to pick him up from church this morning. He wants to go to 10:30 Mass, but we were going to go to breakfast with the kids. The transportation guy from the facility can't pick him up after Mass and his best buddy who usually takes him home is gone for the summer."

There was silence.

My husband doesn't deal well with being torn between obligations of his father and his family.

As vocal as I can be about how much his father pisses me off, I also recognize that we need to live without regrets... and it is... his father and the grandfather of my children. I try to intercede to mediate as much as possible.

I broke the silence, 'We can do both. Let's get up and you take a shower. I'll get the boys up and I'll help them finish their packing. We can be out of the house, enjoy breakfast and you can still pick him up. He can go to Mass... we can do breakfast as a family."

There was still silence.

I finally opened my eyes. He was staring at the ceiling. It is Father's Day.

"Come on!", I cajoled. "Seriously, we can do it both and not feel rushed. I promise, but we need to get moving..."

Sundays are our only days to sleep in. He is up at 5:30 to 6:00 on work days and I train on Saturdays, pulling me out of bed at 4:30. Sundays we sleep until 9 or 9:30.

Slugs that we are.

We love to stay up on Saturday nights and then just... sleep on Sunday. Mass doesn't start until 10:30, so the family does it all.

He got out of bed to take his shower and I got out of bed, woke up the two boys still sleeping, and had Mr. T, my early riser, help me finish his packing. I had the boys packed, and we were dressed and ready to go by 9:45, so we could get a good Father's Day breakfast and then he could pick up his father.

The deal was we needed separate cars.

We had a fantastic breakfast, a place I found for us at the last minute, since I'm the resident expert on every Southern Style Breakfast Greasy Spoon in the North County.

It amazes my husband and makes him laugh. Me the health freak of the family knows the best place to get cheese eggs, grits, bacon, home fries and anything else you could have a hankerin' for in the morning hours.

I love breakfast.

After breakfast I left with the boys, so he could get his Father from Mass, he goes to a different church than my family (not a close church to us), and we had elected to skip Mass so we could spend a nice family meal together on Father's Day since the boys had Boy Scout camp and since my husband has been out of town. We had taken separate cars in case my husband ran late and I knew I needed my car to get them to camp.

My cell phone rang... and it was my husband saying, "My Dad wants to hang out at our house all day."

I replied a yes, of course. It is the right thing to do.

My father in law.

I have said often that I could create a blog strictly on him... who he is, what he's done and the relationships he has and has destroyed.

I was talking to my girlfriend about him the other day, speaking of his rapid deterioration down the slippery exponential slope. She said to me, "Bou, we'll all be there one day."

And I said to her, I kid you not, "Yes, but I hope that I will live such a life, that when I'm there, and God forbid, afflicted with all that ails him, that my kids will have empathy because I was a good person. He was a bastard before. Now he's a bastard with Parkinson's Disease, amongst other things."

And I guess that pretty much sums it up. The ugliness in it's entirety.

His body is melting, taking a phrase from my own father. Pop is melting... slowly, like a candle. His color is faded, he is stooped on a walker, his legs don't work right the hips being a mess, years of choosing to not exercise have come home to roost in a broken body, his voice is quiet and there is a slur, he shuffles...

There is nothing about this man that is the same as who I met 20 years ago.

Nothing really.

The robust bastard I met is melting... and it is difficult to watch. The bravado is gone... although I watch because the manipulation is still there, although completely ineffective.

Of the four children, two of them take an active interest. My husband and an out of town sister, being the other.

He has fallen on our shoulders.

There is resentment at times on our part. Actually there are times of extreme resentment... things I cannot post here. It is deserved. I hope often that God is watching and counting somewhere, "Check mark for Bou's husband... minus mark for "insert name here of sibling""

Childish. I know.

But it is difficult to watch my husband struggle with all he struggles with when it comes to his father.

Yet he perserveres.

The 180 degree role reversal has occurred.

My husband is the father... and his father... the child.

We must live without regret. When all is said and done, my husband must be able to look himself in the mirror and know he did it all right.

No regrets.

That is what I tell him.

And so tonight I said to him, "Since your father has lost his license, all his buddies are out of town, and transportation can't take him back to the Assisted Living Community from Mass... maybe on Sunday now, you should pick him up after Mass and bring him back here. Have him wait for you at his church, and pick him up, and he'll just hang with us for the day... every Sunday. We do Sunday dinner with him anyway... this way he'll just be here."

My husband was quiet for a moment and then I heard him say so quietly, "yeah, I think you're right. I am going to think about it..."

No regrets.

Happy Father's Day to all you Fathers. And in particular... to those of you... who are now the Father to their own Father, he having become the child.

Posted by Boudicca at June 21, 2009 10:16 PM

I shouldn't read these, they are my future. I only hope that I'm a bastard with Parkinson's that has a good enough disguise as a nice guy to last me.

Posted by: Peter at June 22, 2009 02:33 AM

Peter- No, this is not you. I promise you. First, the Parkinson's is the least of his troubles. Second, I read your blog. You are not a bastard. You have an excellent relationship with your family.

No, our issues are deeply dysfunctional that transcend any physical issues Pop has. He has become the Hot Potato. We just are the one's that caught it when someone yelled STOP, by virtue of vicinity.

Plus, I believe he has nearly 20 years on you. Nothing I describe, but the voice and the slur, have anything to do with Parkinson's, believe it or not. He has a degenerative hip disease that he refused to take care of and now? He is where he is. Refusing all exercise, medical advice and physical therapy for 20 years... will get you to where he is now.

This is not you.

Posted by: Bou at June 22, 2009 06:35 AM

This kinda describes my inlaws, who we will be going out to see in a couple of weeks and may not last that much longer, minus the complete bastards part. They have contributed to a great deal of family dysfunction, though (mainly my MIL), and the condition of their health is directly related to their refusal to take care of themselves properly. My wife @ I feel that her dad probably won't be around much longer, and we're already thinking of what to do with her mom. Assisted living is likely, since my wife's sister is hopelessly overextended and dysfunctional herself (a future blog subject), and our place is way too small (a convenient excuse, because murder would be the likely result with my wife and her mom living in close proximity).

Posted by: diamond dave at June 22, 2009 08:38 AM

Even though I am an atheist, there are times I hope there is a God so the evil people will burn in hell and the nice people like you will be rewarded in the afterlife.

Posted by: Denny at June 22, 2009 09:35 PM

DD- I think watching my fil has made me more of a fitness freak. I so do not want to be like him. Of course, I don't want to be a mess from running either... as of now, I seem to be running a fine line on what is going to happen in my future.

Denny- Ack! Do not make me out to be something I'm not! Living with a 'no regrets' attitude hardly makes me altruistic! It is, to some degree, self serving. Besides, he's a bastard, but he's our bastard. We love him... even if he makes us all half frickin' insane.

Posted by: Bou at June 22, 2009 10:31 PM

Bou, been there, done that, living that life all my life.

My mother is the same way (minus the disease and pain problems, although she is a hypocondriac) and shes only in her 60's.

It took me 39 years to come to terms with a way to deal with her and keep my sanity, it's even easier now that she lives in Florida.

It's societies fault, they say you must love thy father and mother but they never say it's alight to not love them if they are horrible people.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at June 24, 2009 08:40 AM

Make the best of life. Whatever the circumstances.

Posted by: JihadGene at June 24, 2009 12:44 PM

My hats off to you, but especially to your husband. It's tough to do your duty despite lack of appreciation, but it's so sad to know with certainty that your dad will never be someone to admire.

There are five of us brothers in my family (Yes, folks were always asking, "Are you Catholic?" and we'd answer, "No, Mom and Dad just really liked each other"). Anyway, we all grew to at least four inches taller than Dad, but until the day he died, we all looked up to that old man. As I said, it's so sad to imagine never having that.

Posted by: Bob at June 24, 2009 11:14 PM