10.12.2004

Fight or flight.

I have been remiss. Have I already started one of these entries with that very phrase? I think so. At least, I certainly always think I've been remiss. I like the word. It sounds like you should feel shame. And I do.

It has been a decidedly strange time. I have been through a very weird period with my family, not all of them but some of them. I feel strongly that I'd like to go into detail here, but am not sure of the public airing of it just now. It certainly wouldn't go over with them. Nevertheless, we haven't exactly been seeing eye to eye.

Did you know that my father is dying? I should explain something here, quickly, for those not in the know. I come from a millenial family. I have many people in parental roles in my life. There's the mummy, and the bio dad, and the step dad, who is my brother's bio dad and with whom we lived from the time I was very small, and step dad's wife, and my mother's fiance, and my bio dad's girlfriend. Some have less parental input, some have more, some would like to have more. Who is in what category is not important. But, so you know, it's my step dad that is dying. He has been ill for 2 years and 8 months today.

The thing is, we haven't always seen eye to eye about things, nor have his wife and I. I don't know what we all thought would happen when he got sick, but somehow, in one's head, one imagines this great catharsis and sudden coming together so there is nothing now but love and compassion and empathy that this is a confusing and sad time for all involved. But it is precisely because it is such a confusing and sad and angry and crazy-making situation that, as it turns out, things just kind of get exacerbated. We have had our peaks and valleys, for certain, but I think we have very different world views and possibly even value systems. We've been in more of a canyon than a valley of late.

I'm starting with a very nice therapist at the Jewish Family Services tomorrow, and I am very much looking forward to having someone to guide me through this. I always think I can figure things out and handle things myself, but I definitely feel unequipped to wade through this one. I am just a bundle of emotions, sometimes to the point of shutting down. I wear myself out with sadness and worry sometimes, and have to get under the proverbial covers with proverbial tea for proverbial days.

Today, though, was a really nice day. Yesterday, too. Yesterday Siobhan and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for Ian and Pia, as well as my mum's fiance, Andy. My mum's in North Carolina taking a jewelery making course until December. We missed her. She's fun at dinner parties. Siobhan and I cooked all day and were good and tipsy by the time it all came together, but we were so proud of ourselves for keeping the imbibing modest until we were sure we had the meal well in hand. Outdid ourselves, really.

Then, tonight, we had a houseful and ate all the leftovers. It was like another impromptu Thanksgiving. Very sweet evening.

Jonah and I went walking down by the river in South Vancouver today. Sometimes I forget about the little nooks and crannies of peace this city offers, and am always grateful when I remember to go and have some oxygen and quiet. Plus, Jonah stepped in the marsh and got a soaker, so that was hilarious. We are having fun getting to be friends. It's so lovely when someone new comes into your life and it's just easy. We have a very easy time together. I appreciate that.

I haven't booked any comedy shows for this week, but I am working at the Vogue Theatre for a flamenco show for the next five nights, if anyone wants to come down and check it out for free, get in touch and I'll see how sales are going.

Sweet dreams, dear ones. Be kind to each other. Acheive peace.

x
r.

3 comments:

Joe Nobody said...

When things get crazy for me, I find the need to leave the house on foot. I pick a random direction and just keep walking. Just keep walking. Whenever my mind starts to pull me back to the house I physically turn away from it and just keep walking.

It helps most the time, at least on some level. When I come back and see my house down the street it gives me perspective, somehow. It makes my life and the problems in it more contained -- more "fictional" if that makes any sense.

Sometimes I find myself walking too far for too long and I'm forced to turn back. This can be a problem, but on some level it's also the point. It's this pushing agianst going home that helps center myself. Things don't feel so out of control.

Fight of Flight? In some ways both. Good luck.

Altruistic Dad said...

I don't know whether or not this will help in your situation, but I sincerely hope it does. A few weeks ago, I heard a story on NPR about a woman who had just died, and her life's work had been taking care of the dying (hospice care). They played an old interview with her, in which she said that one thing most people don't realize, but is very important, is that a dying person needs to die with dignity, and that means being allowed to feel it's all right to die with all of his/her personality traits (good or bad) in place.

I don't know your stepdad, but if my own father were to die today, he is a selfish, grumpy, stubbron, and bitter man, and it would be important that nobody try to force him into being anything else. Part of the difficulty of watching somebody die like that is what you've pointed out--that many of us would hope for some deathbed conversions, some deathbed reconciliations, and a lot of apologies and making up.

Such things rarely occur when a person is dying. If they were the kind of person who would make such changes, they would (in most cases) have started making the changes long before they reached their deathbed.

I know this isn't very upbeat or positive, but I hope it helps you understand why things are the way they are with your stepdad, and that none of this is your fault--none of it is anything you can really control or change. All you can do is let him be who he is, and let him die with dignity (with his personality intact).

Sword Play said...

That's really good advice. My father passed away in 2000 within a few months of two of my best friends' dads so there was a lot of sharing how fucking awful it was. The best advice I got was that everyone deals with this in their own way and that none of the emotions people are feeling are wrong. At some points you wish they would die already so you can get on with your life, then you feel guilty as hell about that and beat yourself up over it. We all felt that but were ashamed to say it out loud.

I think we try to use death to fix all the problems we've had with family and that just makes things worse. In truth death often brings out the worst in people (both the person dying and those around them) but all the tv shows and movies show death bringing people together in peaceful acceptance. The reason TV and movies have to show that is because it happens so few times in life.

All you can do if offer all the love you can, respect that people around you and him are going to be very crazy for a good while and whatever emotions you feel, let yourself feel them without judging yourself.