I have been having a really hard time lately. My father had a hip replacement two weeks ago. After the operation, he was very confused for several days. The doctors assured us that it was an effect of the anesthesia. My mom insisted my sister and I should not come because the hospital was an hour away. For the first week, he had no idea where he was most of the time (he thought he was at Taco Bell, the airport, home, etc). What was even worse was that he was mean. He yelled and screamed at my mother when she would visit daily. He was a very difficult patient- he kept trying to get up and fell once and pulled all of his various tubes out. Towards the end of the week, he was hostile and tried to hit a female nurse. The hospital had to call security and sedate him. Throughout the week, I was very concerned about his behavior because he has not really acted like that since his drinking days. I was worried about the stress it was taking on my mom. Finally by the first weekend, he seemed to be more “normal” (we loosely use that word in my family). He knew where he was and seemed to have calmed down a bit, although he was giving her a hard time about wanting to get cigarettes (he was on a nebulizer in the hospital and has sleep apnea so she refused to bring him any).
My sister and I decided to go visit him after he was moved to a physical rehabilitation center closer to where we live. My mom had been there earlier in the day and said he was still cranky and difficult, but she felt it might do him good to see us. My sister and I walked into his room and he instantly started screaming at us. He told us if we didn’t have cigarettes that we should just leave. He looked like a madman- he was screaming through gritted teeth and his eyes looked crazy. He yelled that we are “fucking liars” and said not to come back until we had cigarettes. I was literally shaking, but I asked him calmly whether he would rather have his daughters there visiting him or cigarettes…let’s just say he really wanted cigarettes.
We were literally there for like six minutes. I started shaking and crying as soon as we walked back into the hall. I was so shocked and startled. I knew he wasn’t in a great place, but I was not expecting that. I honestly think that while I was standing at the end of his hospital bed, I had a flashback to my childhood and teenage years. My dad used to yell and scream at us like that every, single day while he was drinking (he drank every day from the time I was 12 until he had a stroke a year and a half ago). For days after seeing him, I was so upset and angry that he treated us like that, but was also disgusted about how much it negatively affected me. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I lived through being treated like that all the time. It was so horrible back then and this was a rude awakening I wasn’t expecting. Over the past year, I have been very leery of getting used to my new “normal” dad and I guess I let my guard down.
Another week passed and my mom continued to visit him, but my sister and I never went back. My mom said that he didn’t really mention it and I am not even sure if he remembers we were there. We finally just saw him again for the first time over this past weekend. My mom picked him up at the physical rehabilitation center and we met them for lunch. He seemed a lot better, but definitely was still off and was not exactly nice. Nothing was mentioned about our visit, which isn’t surprising- that is how we have always dealt with problems in our family (ignoring them) and there is never an apology.
But I feel differently now. I felt so much closer to my dad right before his surgery than I had in 25 years. I made time to call him a few times a week and I really put a lot of effort into our relationship. I feel so let down and disappointed. Even if he wasn’t of complete sound mind when he acted like that it still really hurts. I felt uncomfortable around him when I saw him and afterwards I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Growing up, we got so used to how he acted that it was so easy to shrug off how he acted or pretend like it didn’t affect us. I don’t know how to do that anymore and I’m not sure I want to.
Things have been a little crazy lately. My boyfriend and I definitely hit a rough patch and the holidays are always a little stressful. On top of that, I am traveling to D.C. next week, which is triggering A LOT of travel anxiety. It is so easy to get disheartened by the negative things, but I am really making an effort to look at the positive things in life. My friend is having a baby girl, my dad is still doing pretty well, I have really nice students this year, things with my boyfriend are looking up. I do have a lot to be thankful for this year.
Over this past weekend, I met a girl at a party. We had talked very briefly once before, we are about the same age and I knew she was a teacher, so I figured we had some things in common. We ended up talking in the corner for over an hour and I confided things in her that I normally would never tell a stranger- she also is divorced, so she understood things that many other people do not in my life. She was so sweet and easy to talk to and we had a very similar history as far as the timeline of our marriages and divorces go. This girl is now engaged (her fiancé is actually my boyfriend’s best friend’s good friend, which is how I happened to meet her). It really surprised me how open I was with her. I guess at this point I don’t have anything to hide and I am not ashamed by anything that I have experienced. It was just really nice to talk to someone with a different perspective, who could still really relate to my life. The only thing that made me kind of upset was how excited she is to get married again and how happy she kept saying she is. I don’t know if I really feel that way…I mean, I don’t know if I would ever want to get married again and the fact that she is so eager to marry her fiancé made me question whether I would want to get married if I was with “the right person”. I’m not saying my boyfriend isn’t that person- he is so supportive of me, but we definitely have problems and her relationship just seems…easy. Now I have definitely learned not to take other people’s lives and relationships at face value, but she genuinely seemed so happy and in love and kept saying what a nice guy her fiancé is. I feel like I was so traumatized by my divorce that I don’t know if I would ever risk having to go through that again. But one thing we both said is that we both saw red flags going into our first marriages (and ignored them, obviously). She clearly sees no red flags now with her new husband, but I feel like I see some in my relationship now that would make me a little hesitant to make that commitment again. Meeting her just made me think about how much my life has changed in the past ten years and how I really don’t know what is going to happen and maybe I just have to be okay with that right now. I mean, I never, ever thought my father would go this long without drinking, so it just goes to show you that life has a way of throwing curveballs.
So, I am going focus on being thankful this Thanksgiving. Instead of being too scared to travel, I am going to try to remember how lucky I am to be able to go to D.C. with my boyfriend (who I know will help me get through my anxiety to get there) and his family, who has embraced me in so many ways.
My paternal grandmother (my last surviving grandparent) has been ill lately and I just found out yesterday that she fell on Tuesday evening and was not found until yesterday afternoon. She lives six hours away from me and I feel very helpless. I have a very small family. On my dad’s side, there is only my grandma, uncle (dad’s brother), aunt (his wife) and two cousins (their children). They live in Maine, my grandmother in Cape Cod and my family is all in NJ.
For many, many years, my family has been distant- literally and figuratively- from my uncle’s family due to my father’s behavior. I resent him for this because I care about them a lot and feel like I am missing out on seeing my cousins grow up. I was very close with my aunt especially growing up. In fact, for the past few years, even my contact with my grandma has been limited because she has a clear preference for my uncle’s family and I don’t blame her. My father has ruined many occasions and his behavior must be very upsetting for my grandmother and uncle (my grandfather was a raging alcoholic before he died in 1990, so my father must be a great disappointment to them).
Throughout these past few months that my grandmother has been falling, ill and in and out of the hospital, there have been email chains going including all members of the family, including my dad and uncle’s first cousin, who thankfully lives by my grandma and has been instrumental in her care. Whereas everyone else’s emails have centered on my grandmother and what can be done to best assist her, my father’s emails have been batshit crazy insane. He writes nasty things, talks about irrelevant topics and focuses on himself and his problems predominantly. Finally my mother had to call my uncle to apologize and explain that my father’s alcoholism has increasingly become worse since the two brothers last saw each other.
My mother has always been the heart of our family and it is unfortunate that so many other relationships had to suffer because of my father. People didn’t want to be bothered with him, and that trickled down to include my mother, my sister and me. I don’t take it personally because if I was in their position, I would feel the same way. But it makes me very angry with my father, not only for destroying family ties, but also because he is not doing anything to help his own mother. When my maternal grandparents both passed away a couple of years ago, my mom was back and forth from NJ to FL constantly and we all got involved in helping them and being there for them in anyway.
So when my mother tried calling my grandma to check on her (my grandma adores my mom), she got no answer and was worried. She called my dad’s aunt who rushed over and found her on the floor, completely disoriented and she was rushed to the hospital, where she still is now. Most of the communication of all this was on email and between my mom, the cousin and my uncle. My father was specifially left off of the email and was the last to know that his mother had fallen. This makes me so sad and angry and left wondering why my family is so freaking dysfunctional. Most of my friends have normal families with normal relationships (not perfect, obviously, but in the norm). It upsets me so much that because of my father, I have limited contact with his whole side of the family (and my family all around is extremely small…on my mom’s side there is only my aunt, cousin and her kids). I just feel sad today. Sad for my grandma, who will most likely die without seeing her eldest son again (my dad) and who must feel heartbroken that he turned out the way he did.