Dealing with the loss of my dad has been difficult. Some moments I’m completely fine. Some of those moments I’m thinking about him, even, and I’m fine. The way he would give me a side-eye glance whenever my mom said something crazy. How he’d wink across the room at me or say, “Hey Bren, Hey Bren,” whenever he was going to tell me something either wildly inappropriate or that he knew would bug me.
But there are other moments where I am so completely not fine. I’m not okay. Matt put it perfectly recently: I fall into myself and thoughts of what could have been and what’s been lost rush over me and down my throat. I choke on those memories and in those moments, I weep.
I know that I would be devastated no matter the circumstances of his death. I know this. But there are certain elements of this situation that make everything more complicated, more difficult to bear.
For context: my dad changed after his heart attack in 2008. Actually, he was different ever since I moved out of the house. But it was the heart attack that really made him different. After he was released from the hospital, he was optimistic. He was adamant about changing his diet and getting more exercise. He seemed motivated. Then my mom started in. She made him feel like he couldn’t leave his bedroom. Every time he got to the door she jumped up and said, “What do you need? What do you want?” Every time he made it all the way into the kitchen, she acted like he was invading her territory. He wasn’t welcome anywhere except in his room.
That’s when I first noticed a significant change in him. He was giving up. He was slipping between my fingers then. I didn’t know it exactly. I still had hope. But as it turns out, he was on a set trajectory from that moment on.
I remember vividly one time I was at my parent’s house to accompany my dad to a doctor’s appointment. I’d spent the night because I don’t have a car or drive (that’s another story). We went to his appointment and he needed some labs done the next day or something. I don’t remember exactly but I know my mom asked me if I could spend another night to go with him to his next appointment. You need some context here. My mom hadn’t been out of the house on her own in nearly 10 years at this point. She checked out of life when I was about 14 or 15. She says to this day it was because she got sick (or sicker, I should say) but that wasn’t really the case. She just couldn’t be bothered to do much of anything anymore.
I paused to think for a minute after she asked me to spend the night again. I said, “Let me call, Matt.” After all, I was living with him at this point and he was the one that dropped me off at their house in the first place and was going to pick me up. Also–WE LIVED TOGETHER. I wanted to talk with him to see if he was cool with it and to make sure there wasn’t anything else going on I didn’t know about. So, I get off the phone with Matt. I gave him a brief rundown of what was going on and I was just about to tell my mom that yes, I could stay again. But she wouldn’t let me get a word in. She said, “You don’t have to go tomorrow, it’s okay, you don’t have to stay.” I argued with her. I said I wanted to stay over and over but she wouldn’t hear it. That was that.
I went back into my dad’s room and told him what had just happened and he just sort of sat there, rubbing his thumbs together. He was defeated even then. Because really, how do you fight against a person who doesn’t even acknowledge what you say? She makes a decision and that is that. She went with him to doctor’s appointments for a bit after that. She refused our help buying groceries after a few weeks, too, because I wouldn’t buy her cigarettes. Also, she was having us go down to Lakewood to buy groceries three times a week instead of just making one big list to last all week. Because we wouldn’t/couldn’t do things 100% the way she wanted, she didn’t want our help anymore.
A year or so passed and my dad was very different. He didn’t go out much at all anymore. He was even more secluded in his room. I’d been spending the night to go to my dentist’s appointments which were in Lakewood. Every time I was over there, my mom made a big deal about the fact that she had to “undo” the couch so I could sleep on it. By “undo” she meant move all of her unnecessary crap like a pile of candy, pyramid of cigarettes, and perfectly folded napkins. So, she’d pitch a fit about all the effort she put into my visits. My braces came off, then I got married. I had another dentist appointment lined up a few weeks later. My mom made my dad cancel my visit though. Why? Because she didn’t want to have to “undo” her couch. He sounded so sad on the phone then. I think he knew he was losing me too. She’d driven everyone else away and now she was doing it to me, her own daughter.
The cruelest joke of all now is she calls me every day. I have to hear her voice every day. A women who couldn’t even be bothered to pick up the phone when I called before. A woman who couldn’t be bothered to move a few things off a couch (or god forbid, let her daughter do it) so her daughter could sleep there. A woman who takes everything that matters away from people while shouting from the rooftops about how much she does for other people. As though buying my dad some iced tea he liked makes up for the years she kicked him out of their bedroom, for never listening to him, for never caring, for the gross neglect.
When I got pregnant, I refused to go in their house because she smoked in there and didn’t have the decency to smoke outside for me. Then when September was born my mom didn’t feel like coming over to visit to meet her new granddaughter even though a ride was all lined up. Every time she made my dad cancel. He had to hear my frustration and anger. She never did. How unfair. As the months rolled on leading up to my dad’s passing, my mom cancelled nearly every visit, and every time she made my dad do it. She pushed me away because I wouldn’t do things on her terms anymore. And my dad suffered for it. And that isn’t fair either.
Around Christmas, my dad called again to cancel a visit. He said, “You sound disappointed.” I said, “No, I’m used to it now.” He paused for a moment then said, “Maybe we’ll see you next Christmas, Jesus!”
I know he was frustrated and too weak to do anything about it at that point. And that’s so shitty. My mom robbed me of the last months of my dad’s life and I was too busy being pissed to argue. That’s a shitty regret to have, believe me.
Image source: Jiska