Thursday, September 20, 2007

Life, and death

I received a phone call last night from my mother. My father collapsed yesterday at a Macy's store and was in the hospital. While i can certainly understand this reaction to Macy's, it does seem a bit extreme. She had spent all day with him at the hospital and was just getting home to sit, alone, with a glass of wine and a cat.

I calmly received this news, and asked relevant questions of my mother, allowing her to talk excessively, which is what she does when stressed.

It seems to be nothing too serious, he did not have a heart attack, which is always a worry given his medical history. It may have been nothing worse than dehydration, he may need a pacemaker or to adjust his meds. We'll know more later.

After i hung up, the Mister listened to me relate the contents of the call, and then asked me, "Will you be devastated when your dad dies?"

The answer is, i don't think so. My dad has been a shadowy presence in my life for years. I think as a casualty of the relationship between my mother and me, as a result of no effort on either of our parts and of deafness (his, not mine.)

My dad is a nice man. But i have no idea who, if anyone, is in there. I am not sure if he has any idea either. He's been playing the congenial but vague man for so long it may, like the Velveteen Rabbit, have become real.

Think i'll invite him to lunch soon, if i can engineer his escape from my mother. Or maybe it's to late for us. But i should find out.


Liv said...

I have felt this way often. I wonder how my relationship with the bear has influenced/affected what could have been with my dad. I was lucky to have a weekend alone with him last year (for the first time ever) and I realized that there is person inside who I've never met. I'd like to know him--bear free. good luck, sweetie.

Anonymous said...

That lunch is a good idea. Good luck prying him away.

I feel the same way about my grandpa (Papa), now deceased. I 'knew' him when I was a child, but as I grew up and the fighting between myself and my gandmonster intensified, he became a causality. I wish I could have had a chance to maintain a relationship with him as an adult.

Schmoopie said...

Macy's is a bit much at times. (I had to crack up at that one!)

Some one on one time would be good. Tell your mother that you need to plan some sort of surprise for her and she can't be around.

I like my dad so much better when his wife isn't around. But alas, she is always there so I grin and bear it. Women are so high-maintenance ;)

Stucco said...

Why was he in Macy's? Did your mom drag him along while she shopped? I think I can use this the next time Schmoopie browbeats... (*ahem*) invites me to go shopping... Glad he's okay.

Lynnea said...

'he's been playing the congenial but vague man' - sheesh that describes how my father was for years. Still is at times. But he sort of reached a point where he figured she would be mad at him no matter what he did, so he started doing what he wanted, which opened the door for he and I to get to know each other better. Oddly, in a family that is afraid to speak about certain things, he and I have discussed some of the most touchy subjects together and come out still liking each other. I'm glad he and I have had that chance. You should go for it.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Shopping always makes me feel woozy too. Hope he's okay and you can get lunch with the man.

Anonymous said...

One of my biggest fears is that my mother will die first and I'll have this huge commitment to deal with ...a stranger.

I'm impressed by your plan. Of course it's worth a try. Even if it's a cliche, I think it's a good idea to live so you'll have no regrets. (Regrets of the "I should have" kind, that is. What can you do about the "I shouldn't have" type?)

jaded said...

If you don't attempt to find out, you may never know the truth. As for engineering, life's too short to waste time on tact with someone who is unfamiliar with it. Tell your Mom she isn't invited. I'm sure you've spent time with her (without him) in the past.

Marshamlow said...

In my family it is the opposite, my dad is overbearing and my mom fades into the background. I cannot remember the last time we had a conversation, and when we do it is just her telling me what my dad thinks. I sometimes wonder if anyone is home in there. Sending good wishes your dad's way, just in case, a few good thoughts never hurt. I guess I am superstitious?

urban-urchin said...

As De said- give it a shot, that way you will know you tried. You may be pleasantly surprised.

meno said...

liv, how nice you got that time with your dad. I think i remember reading about that. Thanks. :)

nancy, it's just so hard with that other partner looming SO large. Something to remember for when Em is grown.

schmoopie, Macy's is yukky. I only go there under duress. I could do that, and wouldn't she be surprised if the surprise was nothing.

stucco, i am sure that he was in Macy's at the pleasure of my mother. I think collapsing might work for you too. Let me know how that works out.

maggie, don't you wonder why they stay together? Hooray for you and your dad. It takes some backbone to have those discussions.

mona, shopping does suck. Maybe, like stucco, i'll try collapsing, just to get out of it.

de, i am afraid my dad will die first and then who will take the brunt of my mother? I am a coward, no?

patches, you are exactly right. I'll just tell her to get lost, or something equally direct.

marsha, good thoughts are never wasted, so thank you. The man is 81 after all....

Andrea Frazer said...

I concur with everyone and thinking of ya.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

As usual, I am struck by the raw honesty of your voice. I miss blogging anonymously and wish I could do such mental meanderings on my site.

I have had these same questions in my head and also do not think I will be devastated by either of my parent's deaths. However, I will be incredibly sad by what will "never be".

Ironically, I have been recently devastated by my mother's usual behavior and I have simply given up on her. It is a very different grief, I think.

I hope your father will be okay.

Bob said...

I can still remember when I was 17 and the 3-hour drives with my dad when he would either come get me or take me back to college. He would tell me about things he wanted to do, places he wanted to go, stuff about mom that would get his goat - he was treating me as an equal. That was the first time I can remember thinking that I really was grown/growing up into an adult. He and I stopped arguing and started discussing.

I hate to say it amongst all of the comments here, but I have a great relationship with my dad. mom too.

I hope your dad is okay and that you can find the person inside of the amiable stranger.

Em said...

Hope your dad is okay. It sometimes takes a moment like this for us to even give it one more try. Maybe it will work out.

sari said...

I would be devastated if my dad died. My dad and I live in different states and I miss being able to just have lunch with him or go to a movie or just hang out, listent to music and do jigsaw puzzles.

But you know what - it's never too late to try with your dad. And don't let your mom come. It's Father-Daughter day.

sari said...

PS Sorry, I came back to say I hope your dad's feeling better soon.

Mrs. Chili said...

This resonated for me. I will not mourn my parents' deaths - I will celebrate their passing and hope, for their sakes, that someone takes them aside and shows them where they may have made better choices. I hope that reincarnation actually exists and that they get another shot at getting this life stuff right the next time.

QT said...

At this stage in the game, I agree that your mom should understand and give you space to have one on one time with your dad.

I am glad he is ok. Dad's can be tough for a girl, I think. When I was growing up (prior to the teen years) I had a great relationship with him, now he is just so eccentric and strange. And as you point out, is it the stress of being the only man in a group of women his whole life? Because I can see how that would make a person a bit cra-zay.

It seems like you have done a lot of thinking about all of this already, so I guess the best outcome is that you would be pleasantly surprised.

Lynnea said...

Funny, I asked him that once - though tried to be not to blurty about it. Something along the lines of "you know there was a time when I thought the two of you would end up apart" he answered that in spite of everything he still loves her and on top of that he figures at this stage of the game, she won't survive without him. That last part makes me sad and yet he's right.
I don't consider myself all that brave in those conversations as I find since seeing the therapist, topics seem to just vomit out of my mouth before my brain really checks what I'm saying. Surprisingly, it does come out astute enough to describe my feelings and Dad has been mostly receptive to hearing it. We don't see eye to eye on everything, but we've sort of reached a place where we're ok with that.
I think Patches is exactly right too. Directness is the best way to go. Otherwise you get stuck in games and that is so not worth it.

Mermaid Melanie said...

Interesting analogy with the V. Rabbit. I have a similar issue with my father, not nearly as distant, but I had no idea who he really was.

My therapist suggested (seeing as I don't have good intimate relationships with men) that I do a video interview with my father. I came up with a list of things I wanted to know about my father. It went really well. And I found out a lot of things I never knew about him. I did it under the guise of "this is for your grandson".

I haven't gone back over the actual tape to work on it, and write down some further questions. but that is my plan.

anyway, end of saga. I hope that this episode will pass with good news and a healthier dad. Consider the interview. Might be fun to find out all you never knew. Be prepared to dig though. He wasn't very forthcoming. good luck!

meno said...

u-u, it will be interesting to find out if the man who was once my Daddy is still in there.

mamap, thank you hon!

cagey, i live in terror of the day i am found out by my family. I'll have to take the whole site down. The Mister has given up on his mother, and i know it causes him pain, when he allows himself to think about it. Thank you. :)

bob, nice memories. I don't think you should hate to say it, i think you should be glad to be able to say that you have a great relationship with your parents.

Em, i think he will be okay, at least for a little while. We'll see what happens.

wng, i know it isn't nice to admit to not really caring, but honesty compels me.

sari, how sweet. you are lucky. No, mom will have to stay away. And thanks for the good wishes.

mrs.chili, my parents are not as awful as yours, but i completely understand your wanting to dance upon their graves. They will probably die as they have lived, without love.

qt, she may not see it that way, so i will just have to explain it to her using words of one syllable. I was a daddy's girl when i was little too. In fact, the only reason my mom had me (i was third) was because my dad wanted to try for a girl.

maggie, you are fearless. My parents profess to love each other too. But it does not manifest in a way that i would like to live in.

melanie, what a clever idea. Maybe i'll do that. It should work out well as my dad does like to talk. One time the Mister just started asking him questions and my mother actually let him talk. It was fun to hear about his earlier days.

flutter said...

I don't think it's too late. Maybe the reaction was to your mother, and not at all to Macy's.

luckyzmom said...

A fathers admiration and attention is so important for daughters. If more of us had it, fewer of us would have to work so hard at being emotionally healthy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear this. He sounds lonely or maybe he decided retreat was the best option.

Biscotto said...

Don't fool yourself. You will be devastated when he dies. No matter how weak the bond, it still ties.

Knowing that, do what you have to do to make sure that you don't have any huge regrets where he is concerned. Either make your peace with the distance or make an effort.

I, personally, am hoping that my father doesn't kick off before I decide to start talking to him again. I'm willing to live with the risk of this and I'm willing to live with the certainty that I will regret this decision.

See, that is how it works.

The death of a parent is a big deal. Denial is also an option.

AC said...

I didn't know my dad either. There are things in my memory, real or made up - doesn't matter - that I miss. He was really intelligent and slightly eccentric and if head been the one left, I think we might have had a good time getting to know each other.

What I do miss for sure is, over these last 18 years, his responsibility for my mother's happiness and welfare. An only child, raised with manipulation through guilt - no matter that I don't respond to that anymore - the fact remains that there is no one else and some days seem awfully burdenous.

Ortizzle said...

Do go to lunch with him. You never know what you might find out. And even if it's a replay of the Velveteen Rabbit, at least you will know. (I will leave it up to your imagination how you will manage this without your mother tagging along.)

Mother of Invention said...

I always think it's neat to get together with parents one on one. It's just a different dynamic and could be quite revealing in a positive way. Give him the opportunity. You've nothing to lose.

meno said...

flutter, ha ha! I'm betting on a little of both.

luckyzmom, just so. I remember telling the Mister that her first relaionship with a man was with him.

deb, he has some buddies, but i think you might be right about being lonely.

biscotto, we'll see. I am excellent at anticipatory grief. In this case i don't feel any. And i am willing to live with the risk of being wrong.

ac, like you, my mother is such a presence that it's difficult to breathe for her taking up all the oxygen in the room. That is why i am glad he's still her to take most of her attention.

ortizzle, i will. I'll just tell my mother that i want to take him out alone. She'll have to deal. Although i know she'll be hurt because i've never invited her out.

moi, and some knowledge to gain. So i will. :)

lu said...

Oh yes, go to lunch.

Every day gets in the way of so much of what is put off for all the tomorrows to come.

I keep looking for some break through in so much of what I long for, or feel is missing and I think I'm hoping to come to terms with the fact that there is no break through, just moments that are what they are before its too late. More moments with people in our lives, this is what we need.

Lynn said...

I think that inviting him to lunch is a great certainly do not want to be haunted by "what ifs", and "coulda dones".

Cheesy said...

I adored my Daddy.. but my Sis and him had many woes... But~ It's never too late, unless he is gone. I'm thankful my Sis and Dad were able to connect before we lost him. If you want to know him... all you can do is try!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It couldn't hurt to try. Maybe at least you could fill in some of the blanks and shed light on incidents from your childhood that puzzle you.

It would be good to know who your father and Em's grandfather is. It's possible that he has always wanted to know you better, but your mother and her needs made it too difficult.

Good luck. I hope he feels better soon. Macy's is treacherous.

crazymumma said...


I know this feeling.

It's worth getting to know him I think.

But that is just my opinion...

peevish said...

I hope your Dad is okay. And I hope you are okay with him. My Dad is also "vague", especially emotionally. I know he lived through a fair amount of trauma, verging on abuse, as a kid and his way of dealing with it is to pretend it didn't happen and everything is fine. He has always been very distant, and therefore so have I. And sadly, I do think it is probably too late for either of us to change that now. So I think I know how you feel.

Susanne said...

I hope your father is all better.

Funny, I just wondered about how it would affect me if my parents died. They visited us for a week and don't hink I'd be devastated either. But then you never know.