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The Gifts of Warning.

8 August 2017

The saga with my father continues to unfold. He remains in the hospital as of now, in a stepdown unit. He remains “difficult” and “agitated”. He asked my sister for “whiskey and a shotgun.” But he has also apparently been flirting with the nurses, and doing better from a withdrawal-detox perspective. He may be medically ready for discharge soon, which means he’ll need to go to a psych unit for evaluation. I think. Things are confusing.

The facility that we had gotten him approved to move into doesn’t take people who don’t want to be there. And dad won’t accept placement in any place except home. But home isn’t a safe environment for him, and his “wife” can’t take care of him anymore. So we’re having to look into other options. The social workers at the VA have been fabulous, but there’s only so much they can do. My sisters have been even more fabulous.

So I don’t know what’s going to happen. My father is not well, mentally or physically. I understand why so many people express relief when a long-term ill person dies. Not only for the person, that their suffering is over, but for themselves. I’m doing very little from a practical perspective. My role has been to offer a pressure valve for my sisters and cover some of the costs of travel and attorneys. But I’m emotionally exhausted by it all. I can’t imagine how the front-line lifters must feel.

The situation though, gives me gratitude. My father is an excellent example of what happens when alcoholism, diabetes, and depression go essentially untreated for a lifetime. Sure, he’s had doctors, and he’s abstained from alcohol from time to time, and he’s taken anti-depressants. But he’s never been invested in good health, physical or mental. He’s simply persisted. He’s found ways to get other people to take care of him, rather than making the decisions to take care of himself. Now, at the end of his life, he’s made it incredibly difficult for anyone to do so.

I have all the same genes and problems. I am alcoholic. I am insulin resistant trending eventually toward diabetes. I have been diagnosed with major depression. And I certainly suffer from serious anxiety, even though I don’t recall any healthcare professional ever officially diagnosing me with an anxiety disorder. I have tendencies toward isolationism, self-destruction, entitlement, and self-medication.

But my father shows me where that leads. A life of poverty, frustration, illness, dependence, and infirmity. Eventually, involuntary commitment and recalcitrant self-pity. He has shown me very little about how to be, but much about how not to. I thank him for that. I can learn what there is to learn, and let go of the rest. None of my father’s deficiencies are rooted in malevolence. Only illness and indolence.

I wonder sometimes, if my father’s failures as a father are born of insecurity. His own father was a vicious drunk. Violent, abusive, and dead at a young age. Surely my father feared being like his father. Surely he reacted against that. Drunk and lazy perhaps, but my father was never violent. Perhaps he never attempted to be a real father to me for fear of damaging me the way his father damaged him. I don’t know.

But I know that one of the reasons I don’t want to be a father is that I don’t want to pass on what my father passed to me.

Emotionally I have worked incredibly hard to overcome the pitfalls and lessons I was taught by both my parents. Neither was ever really fit to be a parent. Neither had parents fit to be parents, with the possible exception of my father’s mother. But I cannot overcome the diseases wound into my genes.

I have made the decision to end the line with myself. I am too broken to make and prepare a new generation of humans for a planet that will need resilient denizens to make the next way forward. I am grateful for the lessons I learned.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 August 2017 10:59

    I come from an alcoholic father as well and relate to a lot of what you have written here. My dad’s a bit different–he’s one of those “functioning” alcoholics, but as he ages and I look at his example I keep questioning that word and what it means. I used to wish I was a functional alcoholic instead of the train-wreck I ended up as. Now I am so grateful that I wasn’t functional and I hit bottom fast. Being sober for a while, I realize what is possible in life–how much bigger it can be. My Dad’s life is pretty small; he’s stayed afraid of everything his whole life and it’s limited his views and his experiences. I get sad about my Dad a lot-cause his life is sad. But I am extremely grateful to him as well for the example that he has shown me. I don’t want what he has. So I’ve made different decisions and done different things. I feel pretty lucky. Really enjoyed your post. Thanks.

  2. 9 August 2017 09:29

    I have always said that my dad was one of my greatest teachers. He was a “functional” alcoholic, but our home was an absolute nightmare. He got sober when I was 13 and stayed sober for 10 years but started drinking again. He never could stop drinking again. He told me after I got sober that his sober years were the happiest of his life. It’s so sad, but made me realize how important my sobriety is, and not to fool around with it.

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