Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The legacy left to me

My dad delivered me. Oh, there was another plan in place but it did not happen. It was always intended for me to be born at home. My mom enlisted the help of a midwife. She felt pretty good about this decision too...until she went into labor. The midwife lived quite a ways away and, when my parents decide it was time to call her, was on the phone. This was before call waiting. Can you imagine? Sitting there with a busy signal on the other end of the line? Once they finally got through, the midwife took off to get to us. And promptly got pulled over for speeding. "Excuse me officer, I know I was going too fast but I have to deliver a baby." Yeah right. Gee, for some reason, the officer didn't believe her. Can't imagine why. So by the time she got there, I had been born. Luckily, my dad had read a book. So he delivered me. And three hours later, I was grocery shopping with them.

My memories of my dad are all mixed up. I remember always wanting to be with him. To hold his hand. To feel like he was proud of me. To feel important in his life. Unfortunately, those things were not high on his priority list. My dad was an alcoholic. His booze of choice was vodka. To this day, I cannot handle the smell. People who say that it has no scent have not been around it as much as I have. It smells so strongly. It smells of failure. Of fear. Of disappointment and regret.

My parents finally got divorced when I was 12. My dad moved out when I was 6. I can't even begin to tell you how many nights I stood in the kitchen, watching for him out the window. Waiting for him to come and whisk me away to what I was sure was going to be an amazing magic filled weekend with my daddy. More often than not, he failed to appear. I wonder now what was going through his head. Did he really not remember? How do you forget your child? I think about my mom too. How angry she must have been. Watching me hurt...seeing the excitement turn to sorrow...holding me while I cried...

As tends to happen with chronic alcoholism, my dad got sick. He developed Liver Disease. Esophageal Verasy. Hepatitis. It was horrible. I struggled so much with how to handle it. I had two options. 1. Ignore him. Ignore his disease. Ignore the fact that he had no one. Hold on to the hurts of growing up with him as a dad. Remind him of all of the heartache he caused me over the years. Or 2. Drive him to doctor appointments. Make sure he ate. Go to his house (a converted garage studio with concrete floors) and check on him. Tell him I loved him. Do my best to mean it.

I'm ashamed now to tell you how hard that decision was for me. In the end though, I felt like I needed to show him that I could take care of him. I patted his back while he vomited blood. I held his hand while he was in the I.C.U. I sat beside him when he had fluid drained off of his stomach. I told him I loved him. I meant it.

I was able to do for him what he was unable to do for me. He was transitioned to comfort care in a nursing home right after Christmas of 2004. He couldn't talk because he had been on a ventilator for 3 weeks. We (my brother, sister in law and I) made a sign for him that said, "Chocolate Milkshake, Please". He would hold it up for the nurses. We knew that he didn't have much time left. On Saturday January 15, 2005 I went to see him. I told him that Joe and I would be back to hang out with him that night. I told him I loved him. He squeezed my hand. I left. We didn't go that night. We were on a date and ran out of time. The next day I got a phone call from his nurse. He was rapidly going downhill. They had him medicated heavily with morphine and told me that we needed to get there. Joe took the boys home and I went in. My brother and his wife, myself and my dad's best friend pulled chairs up to his bed. He was unconscious but I think he knew that we were there. We started telling stories about him. Laughing and joking. Out of the blue he started to cough up blood. My brother and I went to either side of his head. Matthew grabbed the suction tube and started to suction his mouth. I wiped the blood off of his chin. We looked at each other and both knew. He was gone. The nurse came in and confirmed it. We kissed him and left.

I feel almost like, since that day, something has been broken in my head. I started having insomnia. Going through bouts of severe depression. Attempting to sabotage my life and my relationships. Acting like he did. Drinking a little too much sometimes. Being a little bit too big of a personality to have people feel comfortable around me. I know that if I'm not careful, I could turn out just like him. And sometimes, on the bad days, that seems like it would be easier than fighting the legacy left to me.