Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ten years ago today, my dad died

My parents at our wedding. They were 50 here
The last words he spoke to me a month before he died:

There wasn't anything more to say to you.

I had been speaking to him at work trying to figure out his plans for my  mom who had Alzheimer's Disease. She had been kicked out of the first nursing home and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. She needed a new nursing home but he was considering bringing her home, which would be a very bad idea. Our few conversations usually ended with him dramatically slamming the phone down on me, which was probably the case this time. But my work phone had a faulty wire (who has wired phones any more?): if I stretched the wire too much, the call would be cut off. I called him to see if I had ended the conversation accidentally. No, as usual, he had slammed the phone down on me.

On the night he died, I got a call saying he didn't have much longer to live, maybe just two weeks or so. His uric acid levels were at dangerous levels and might have destroyed several organs. I went to see him just as he finished having dialysis. He seemed to be sedated but had good color and was breathing easily. He had gone to the hospital just 2 days prior to see if his arm was broken (it wasn't but it was so painful, he couldn't use it and thus not get anything for himself such as something to drink). They had released him. As far as I could tell (I demanded all his records), there were no lab tests done. Within the next day, he went downhill fast. He had stupidly hired a psychopathic homeless man as a caretaker 6 months previous when my mother first went into a nursing home. My father always was helpless to take care of himself even when he was in good health. This man ended up stealing from him and not even giving him fluids he so badly needed towards the end. He had begged a week before his death my mom's nursing home to let him share my mom's room because he was afraid of a man living in his house that just wouldn't leave and who was threatening him.

A few hours after I got home, I get a call saying that if I want to say goodbye, I better get there fast. Five minutes later, I get a call saying he was dead. On the death certificate, cause of death : uremia. Real cause: neglect and stupidity. Also the time of death was well before the series of phone calls. Again the hospital left out lots of crucial information when I demanded all the records.

At first the cockroach still in my mother's house seemed to be helpful though he did seem resistant to moving out any time soon. The lawyer correctly guessed that he would never leave voluntarily and that he needed to be evicted. As far as I was concerned, he was a guest that needed to be uninvited but no, a court procedure was necessary. Unfortunately the Notice to Quit came on a day we were mass cleaning the house (I had asked for it to be delayed until we were done) which really angered him so much that he threatened to shoot me. He had told my brother and father numerous times about how he shot someone who didn't do what he wanted. I called the police, who arrived in full force complete with a SWAT team. They did a record check on him and yes, he did have an incident in which he shot someone.(not hitting..he claimed they were warning shots). But as it turned out, he had a right to stay in my mother's house and I did not. It took two more long months to go through the harrowing eviction procedure with him having to be physically removed and all the possessions thrown on the lawn for me to clean up. He took everything that was of value. Fun times and then he sued the estate claiming wages even though after a month, he did nothing for my father other than to bully him . I have lost track how many times that year, I had to go to court. And after a while, I figured the lawyer was doing everything in his power to extend the case for his benefit only so I ordered him not to do one more thing on 'our' behalf. The case was closed within 18 months but no one bothered to tell me that until I asked 4 years later.

And meanwhile I was working full time and dealing with a high needs child  and my mom, who then I was responsible for. Does stress cause cancer?

My father and I parted ways not long after I married. I overheard him bragging to a friend that I was a 'success' (defined by having a relatively highly paid job and graduating from a 'good' school) because of him as opposed to his friend's daughter who could not finish school and at best had a series of part time minimum wage jobs. This was a bit much for me: I angrily shouted that if I was a success, it was DESPITE him not BECAUSE of him. My childhood was not a happy one, in large part due to him. I got by knowing 'this too shall pass'. As it turned out, these were unforgivable words. He disinherited me on the spot.

I saw him over the next 30 years or so only to appease my grandfather and to rescue my mother who was trapped in this abusive marriage. He was very dependent on her yet he could never be kind to her. In his last few years, I needed to help him with his health issues usually caused by neglect and magical thinking on his part. He resented that I needed to take him to the ER and the doctors would speak to  me, not him.

He never showed any interest in his 6 grandkids claiming they were half-breeds. He pretended not to know Shanna's name. He was a racist and profoundly selfish. And he was clueless. He was especially bitter that his house lost value because of African Americans moving in (even though they maintained their homes and he didn't). He would tell any African American medical personnel that had the misfortune of being assigned to him that 'their people' have destroyed his home value. I would ask him, what do you expect them to do with this information? And you wonder why,they speak to me and not you?

I know it is not good form to speak ill of the dead especially of  someone who gave me life and really thought he was doing his best. He did have many friends, which always surprised me. Although he was so clueless about many things, he did have many talents. But he was a very difficult person having temper tantrums well beyond the age of three. Always screaming and panicking. I never came across any one like him.I lived with him until I was 18, a small part of my life. I have had plenty of time to make my own happiness. I have since come across numerous people who have had Oprah story worthy childhoods making mine look like a walk in the park yet they thrived. I have no reason to whine

It is a beautiful Easter Sunday. I will go out to brunch with two of my children. And yesterday I had a wonderful early birthday lunch with Shanna. And then, I hope to have a long bike ride.

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