Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bad News

I really do want to post fun things, and I will in the coming days.

But today my father, my biological one, the one with whom I've been basically estranged and whom I've not actually spoken with in years, called me. He called in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, I think thinking that I wouldn't answer and that he'd just leave a message. During this 15-minute conversation, it was revealed that he is dying. He is 54 years old. He will be 55 in a couple of weeks.

And so I found this out, and within the hour I had to go to campus for meetings and class prep and etc. Which was kind of good as it was a way of not thinking about things in a concentrated way.

And then I had to come home and call my mother and tell her, hoping that she would be able to leave bullshit behind and just ask me how I was and care about me, although that hope was not to be realized. I ended up having to hang up on her. My mother's default mode is bullshit and blame. And I know that comes out of upset, but I honestly don't give a shit right now. This is not about her. It's about the fact that I'm going to lose my father. She needs to grow the fuck up.

But G., who is honestly the best of all of my parents, called about 15 minutes later and was perfect. He loves me most of all. More than bullshit, more than betrayals and fuck-ups that are more than 22 years old, and more than the fact that these things aren't even anything to do with him and that he's always been in second place because they're not. Without him, well, I wouldn't be who I am. Thank god for him.

And thank god for my friends. K. and BFF and A. and FB, maybe especially, FB who was the first person whom I talked to after hearing this news who said everything right and who gets it all even though he can't. He's entirely on my side, and he entirely cares. You know, it's funny, G. and FB both probably should get it least of all, for various reasons, and yet both of them.... Well, they both suck with travel and they both challenge me in ways that I find annoying, but both of them.... I depend on them. And neither lets me down when I need them. Ever.

But so my dad, from whom I've been estranged, is dying. And he's not old, and he has two kids who are just barely teen-aged. And I don't quite know how to say goodbye to a father who doesn't even know me, and who's last communication to me before this phone call was to send an email in which he said, "Hey Crazy, How's your career? Love, Dad," and whose communication before that was a forwarded joke email last thanksgiving. I haven't seen him or actually spoken with him since 2004.

I'll admit, I feel better (although I feel guilty for feeling better about this) about the whole "how's your career" business precisely because I feel like it was the only thing he knew how to say instead of saying, "I have pancreatic cancer and we have a fucked up relationship and so since I'm likely to die I need to talk to you."

The doctor said he has 6-18 mos. to live, and the sense that I get was that he was diagnosed at least 3 mos. ago, though I don't know, because it was so hard just to get him to tell me what was going on that I didn't ask for details beyond what he offered.

And I feel guilty because I know that this has to be hard on my mom, but I can't take care of her and be on her side, because my father's fuck-ups aren't really the central thing right now. It's not that he's not an asshole - he surely is - but he's my father, and I need to make him understand that I love him and I've made my peace with him. And what I need right now from her, and from the people who do know me, is comfort and support, because I can't expect that from my father or from his family. All I can do is to make him know that I love him and that things are ok, whatever things have been between us. And I can't expect my stepmother, or my half-brothers (who are fucking children - I mean, Jesus, they're 14 and 12), or my father's siblings or mother (who I'm not even sure know about his illness) to care about how I feel because seriously, those people don't know shit about me. They don't know me. And that is the fault of both my mother and my father, whose inability to hang meant that it was always a competition, a competition that they expected me to pick a winner out of. And it was also the fault of my stepmother, too, who thought I was a threat when I was fucking 12 years old. The only person who's not to blame there is G., who never asked me or expected me to choose. With him, it was only about me and him. And that is why he's the best of all my shit-ass parents.

So I don't even know how I feel, other than that I feel awful. And I don't know how I will handle this, other than that I will, because it's the only thing to do. And so I can't write a fun and frivolous post right now, although I will do in the coming days because I'll be trying to pretend that this isn't happening. 2008 has been a shitty fucking year. I'm done. I need good things, and I need not to have anybody else die or to be terminally ill or whatever.

But on a brighter note, when my dad finally got out the business about what's going on with him, he noted that in addition to the chemo, that the doctor also put him on oxycotin. Let me recount the conversation:

Crazy: Well, that is a silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud, right? At least you're getting good drugs!

Crazy's Dad: (chuckle) He also has me on percoset. That's some pretty good stuff!

Crazy: Well, see, at least you get good drugs!

Crazy's Dad: Totally!

So yes, he's like a 19-year-old prescription drug addict, but the point is, this is my dad. And he sucks, and it's been shitty being his ignored daughter, but I love him. And he's only in his mid-50s, and he's likely going to die very soon. And it's hard and it's awful and my mother sucks. But at least somebody is getting good drugs. I just wish that person were me.

46 comments:

Jane said...

Oh my god. How awful. Sending hugs and good thoughts your way...

Bardiac said...

I'm sorry, Dr. Crazy. This is really bad news. I'm glad you have some supportive folks. Take care.

Even though he's your Mom's ex, it's still likely to be a hard thing for her, and it will be in large part about her, at least from her point of view. (Not to be critical of your take, just trying to give a different sense from someone who's Mother is widowed and had a lot to deal with.)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your dad.

From your post, you realize you are in a weird position -- and, I think the only thing you can do is to tell him that you love him and that you've made your peace with your childhood.

The rest of the people around you and him will have to deal with this in their own way -- and you have to do what you need to do in order not to feel bad about this in the future... So, write him a letter, go visit or whatever -- but tell him. He's going to die soon, but you'll live a long time feeling bad if you don't. The good thing about this kind of death is that you have some time to make sure he knows -- that will give you peace later.

Maggie said...

Oh Crazy, I am so sorry.

And I have to add: I completely get the thing with your mom. I have the same problem with my own mother, whose decades-old wounds will apparently never heal, and so every conversation that even remotely involves my biological father becomes about her, her needs, his betrayal, his assholeness. It's exhausting, and so, so, so not what a person needs at these times. (I have hung up on more than one occasion.)

Anyway, I am thinking about you.

{{Dr. Crazy}}

BrightStar (B*) said...

I'm so sorry.

Comet Jo said...

I'm so sorry too. And having lost a parent (to pancreatic cancer, but under much less fraught circumstances) all I can do is echo what Inside the Philosophy Factory says--say goodbye and make sure he knows you love him. And I think it is easier to have had a chance to say goodbye, I can't imagine what it would be like to lose someone totally by surprise.

((((( vibes)))))

Anastasia said...

First, I'm so sorry. This is a really tough way to lose someone. And sorry for your father because it sounds like a pretty horrible way to die.

Second, I completely get the estranged father pain AND the feeling that you've made your peace with him while your mother hasn't. completely. When I found out my father's second wife was dead, no one in my family could understand why I cared because she was *mean* (okay, so she was actually an alcoholic but dude, that doesn't mean I didn't love her) and I had to defend my feelings, which was exhausting on top of the grief I was already feeling. Anyway, the point is, you're totally making sense to me here and on this point, your mom does suck and yes, she needs to grow up.

So I'm sorry. And I'm so glad you have G who is, by all accounts, a spectacular person.

Anastasia said...

I meant a spectacular parent, especially. I'm sure he's spectacular as a person, too. It's just...I don't mean to imply your mom is a bad person, just not living up to being a great parent.

PowerProf said...

I'm sorry.

Seeking Solace said...

I am so sorry. Hugs.

life_of_a_fool said...

I'm so sorry. This is all so awful. I'm glad that you do have G. and FB and friends that can provide the support that you need. I'm also glad that you have, or can, made peace with your father.

kermitthefrog said...

Oh, I'm sorry, Dr. C.

phd me said...

I'm really sorry, Crazy. I hope you're able to get the support you need to make it through this.

gwinne said...

Oh, Crazy, I'm so sorry to hear this.

I also have an estranged father--we haven't spoken since 1997, I think--who had cancer. He's in remission, but I'm waiting for the call for my grandma that says he's dying. I'm not sure what I would do.

heu mihi said...

I'm so sorry. So sorry.

Jenny Davidson said...

Yes, so sorry...

helenesch said...

I'm so, so sorry...

Psych Post Doc said...

I am so sorry. I'm glad you have G, FB and good friends to help you through this time.

Belle said...

So sorry for you; might you consider writing him a letter telling him that you love him and have forgiven him and all is behind you? And then, write one to G saying what you've said here, and how you love and appreciate him?

Having a real piece of paper, with a handwritten love note, might make a huge difference to both of them. And it's something that they can keep and remind themselves of during hard/bad times.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I, too, am sorry to hear about this. It's bad enough dealing with elderly parents who aren't doing well; I think it must be much harder when it seems like your dad is too young for this. And with the complicated dynamics. I'm glad you have both IRL friends and supportive blog friends to help you deal.

PhDLadybug said...

I am sorry to hear about this. I think what everybody else said makes a lot of sense, maybe you have to find your own way to tell him that you love him and find a way to build this dialogue without anybody interfering.
My thoughts are with you.
A hug.

Barbara said...

I'm so sorry too! I lost my father to cancer several years ago, after a few years of estrangement. After the fact, I was very thankful that we were able to reconnect before he died, and that we were both able to tell each other that we loved each other, despite all the bullshit that had gone before. It was hard to see him suffer the way he did, but at least we made peace, and I was able to say goodbye. You will be able to do that, too, and while it won't make his dying easier, maybe it will make coping with his death easier. {{{{hugs}}}}
Barb

Ann said...

Pancreatic cancer is a real short straw. One of my grandfathers died from it (29 years ago). It's a very painful disease, so I'm happy to hear he's got good drugs. It sounds like you've been a good daughter to him, but I'm sure it's difficult to think of this chapter of your life closing so suddenly.

Nik said...

I'm so sorry. It is good you have the chance to talk to him. It would have been more horrible otherwise. I hope he knows how great you are--it sounds like he has an inkling.

the rebel lettriste said...

I too am sorry. And prayers and blessings.

Cfox said...

Oh Crazy, so sorry to hear this. You're getting good advice here and, it sounds like, from G. Good luck---
((((vibes))))

AcadeMama said...

Hey Crazy,

This is coming from someone who really, truly does get it, as I have a eerily similar situation. The only difference is with my Mom, who actually always manages to take the high road, and the biological Dad baggage is burdened further by his psychological verbal, and physical abuse during my childhood. All that said, I get it, and I'm sorry the weight of all this is on your shoulders. The fact that you've already made your peace with the past is a huge step, and that may be all your dad needs or wants to know right now. That you've forgiven (if not forgotten), that you're still his child, and that you love him and won't let him die without knowing these things.

Hold on tight to those who are helping you cope with this, and try to be patient with those like your mom, who aren't yet strong enough to let go of the past. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts, and I hope your dad's time left is as comfortable as possible.

peace

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks, everybody. Your support really does mean so much.

I feel like total shit. Got an email from my mother in which she complained that my father having cancer takes away from the fact that my uncle's dying, too. Like it's a competition or something. And like my dad is some sort of spoiler by having a terminal illness. She actually said, "I just feel like he always rains on our parade." Seriously.

And then apparently she notified my cousin Gina (with whom I'm not at all close) about what's happening, apparently because Gina had a fraught relationship with her father and he, too, died. Clearly I'd like to discuss this with somebody who knows me less well than the people who read my blog know me. Clearly.

You know, I really think that my mom should quit while she's ahead.

I'm really, really angry, and I'm really fucking sick of feeling like I have to worry about how other people feel.

Oh, and in other news, I did not get the money I applied for to offset the costs for securing permissions for the book. Apparently this wasn't considered "worthwhile" use of university funds. I would like to punch my entire university in the face.

On that note, I think it's best if I cancel my office hours and go home to be with kittens.

Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

I'm sorry, Crazy. Truly sorry. You're in my thoughts today and going forward.

And you're right, of course, to focus on what YOU need and feel and want right now, and on your Dad. Anybody who doesn't understand and support that needs to get out of your way.

The rest of us can write cheerful blog entries for awhile, and you can come read ours.

Hang in there.

Ginny Wood

k8 said...

I'm so sorry!!!!! Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself right now. Snuggling with kitties sounds like a good start.

Arbitrista said...

That's really hard. Take care.

Kendra said...

God, I'm sorry, Crazy. Take good care of yourself, and surround yourself only with the people who will also take good care of you.

Susan said...

Oh, I'm so sorry -- a death from cancer is hard anyway, without the messed up family things. I can't get my head around your mother being angry that your father is dying at the same time as your uncle. I think the fact that you have made your peace with the past is really important for you, and I'm glad you have people who put you first.

It's not really relevant here, but my favorite line about difficult fathers comes from JFK. Apparently at some point he was asked about some of his father's less salubrious business deals, and he said "Well, we all have our fathers". My mother gave me that gift when I was struggling with my father and semi-estranged from him.

Meanwhile, I can't believe your university didn't get (a) how expensive permissions can be and (b) how important they are.

I hope the kitties were very nice to you and that you could have alcohol and/or chocolate. . .

Hilaire said...

Oh, Crazy, I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry about your mum, too. I am just so happy for you that you have such lovely friends.

Take care, and I'm thinking of you.

Lesboprof said...

I am really sorry, Crazy. This is seriously a bad damn day.

When my dad was dying of cancer at 54, our family was totally split. I was one of the few who wasn't really pissed at him. (At the funeral, when someone told my mom how sorry they were and what a great guy he was, she said angrily," Oh, yeah? Well, you didn't have to live with him." And my folks were still married when he died.)

I coped by avoiding the family members who were seriously pissed, sought out friends and loved ones who got it for processing and support, I cried when I needed to, and made my peace with him the best I could. It sounds like you are doing much the same.

And fuck your university. Damn.

I hope you get whatever support you need--from kitties and others. Don't forget to ask for what you need. You are precious.

Hugs.

Andrea Turpin said...

Crazy, I'm so very sorry.

May I second the notion of a real letter for him to hold? It is what I regret most about losing my dad suddenly years ago. We had a fight, and he died the next day.

And don't answer your mother's phone calls right now, unless you're sure it's G. I love G, both from all your writing about him and because he's Lebanese.

Many hugs your way...

Snarky Prof said...

I am so sorry you have to deal with this. It just sucks. No other way to put it. I went through this about 6 years ago, and I still don't know how you say goodbye in this situation. I spent a lot of time grieving over a relationship that suddenly wasn't even a possibility. Sometimes saying goodbye to that possibility is the saddest part of all.

Flavia said...

Oh, Crazy, honey. I'm so sorry. Do what you need to do and what feels right with your dad, and forget about everyone else's bullshit. Time enough for that later.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, honey, I'm so, so sorry. Please take care of yourself and do what you need to do. Big hugs to you.

susan said...

I'm so sorry, Crazy--I see from the next post that your mother has come round a bit, and I hope she manages to turn around and help you through this. I'm so sorry.

AAYOR said...

God, Crazy, I'm so sorry. About all of this.

undine said...

So sorry, Dr. Crazy.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

I'm so sorry. It's just awful all around, for everyone.

Rokeya said...

I am really sorry, Dr. C. Sending good thoughts your way for as much peace as possible in a very difficult situation.

timna said...

take care. thinking about you. my mom's twin died pretty suddenly with pancreatic cancer, so my sense is colored with urgency.

Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Just getting caught up on blogs, so this is much later than it should've been. Sorry to hear this; I'll keep you all in my thoughts.