As an adult it is hard to look at my parents and see them as old, tired and closer to death. I have a hard enough time remembering I have gotten older, more tired and am also closer to death.
For the past four years I have been watching my mom struggle with the loss of the use of her arm. After a slip and fall, several surgeries later and the acceptance that her arm will never function the same it has become easier to see that my mom is a fighter and that this injury will not stop her. Limit her, yes, but not stop her.
It is easy for me to look at my mom and see her as a fighter. She always has been. She has taught me that only I can tell myself that I cannot do something. She taught me that I am the only one to limit myself.
Recently my father had another health scare and I am left feeling sad. I do not see my father as the same kind of fighter. I see him as stubborn and I see him as frightened…maybe too frightened to die.
Several years ago he suffered a massive heart attack and it was one of my prompting reasons to relocate to Alberta…to be closer to him. The truth was, being closer to him was hard. I love my father however I often leave our interactions feeling hurt and abused. I know my father loves me, but I also know he does not know how to relate with me. Actually how can he when I keep changing the rules?
I use to allow my father to say and do as he pleased with regards to his interactions with me. I would take abuse as a form of his love and I would justify why he was mean. I would put up with anything to have my father around.
I would bring back the memories of sneaking out of bed to watch early morning Scooby-Doo and Rawhide. I would remember “fixing” cars with him, gathering up nuts and bolts to help with his repairs…I remember fishing with him and sitting in his room listening to the song Daddy’s Girl after he moved out and my parents divorced.
Then as I got older I would remember that he let me listen to the “devils music” (anything that was not country) when my step mom was not around, helping look after my son when I was a young adult, fixing my car so it was reliable.
Yes, my father loves me and on a core level I know this. However there has been so much hurt that as I get older I know I have the right and responsibility to tell him how I want to be treated. I have the right to not have him hit me in the arm, not slap my ass hard as I walk by. I have the right to not be called names (fat ass and such). I have the right to set boundaries and to be treated with respect.
However this means I have changed the game on my father and that may appear unfair to him. It may seem like I do not love him and it may appear that I do not want to be around him.
However this past weekend with the news that he was experiencing mini-strokes there was no question that I would be by his side. Without question I would pick up my siblings and drive to the ends of the Earth if required to make sure I was there to love and support him.
The moment my father saw me there he told me I didn’t need to be there. I told him I was not there for him but there to support my step mom. I told him that he knew I loved him and that whatever happened would be what was meant to happen but it would be my step mom that needed support.
When my father went out for a smoke even with the sounds of angry voices and words of “Don’t do it”, I followed him out and sat on the freezing concrete because it was my way of saying I love you. It was my way of saying I accept you as you are.
As he coughed and hacked and my mind went into fear that my father is not meant for this earth much longer, I rubbed his back and held onto him letting him know he was alone. In those moments I know he knew that my love for him was true and that regardless of the boundaries I am setting with him that I will always love him.
In that very moment I put aside my anger towards him for not taking better care of his health. For making a stupid agreement that he would not live to be older than his parents when they died, an agreement he is not even conscience of making. In that moment I saw him frightened and I saw him as old and close to death.
My father is with this world today as I write this blog. I know on a level he is making a choice as to whether he will fight and if he will let go. I also know that when he chooses to let go there will be many who are hurt and filled with guilt and anger for his decision. What I really came to understand sitting on the concrete steps as he choked on his smoke if that I will not be one of them. I have come to terms with who my father is and know that he loves me and he knows that I love him for who he is and not for what I think he should be. I will feel the loss of him deep in my heart.