Monday, July 31, 2006

Putting a price on Dads and Diabetes (beware, I ramble)!

My relationship with my Dad is rocky at best. Actually rocky is a really positive take on it. It's a disaster. Now that's a long story and not one that needs to be told, but some parts are relevant to the story I am about to tell. The important background info is as follows: My dad has always been a little off. My parents got divorced when I was six because he was unpredictable and well it was in everyone's best interest that my mom and Joey (my younger bro) and I not live with him. Now Joe and I still saw him on weekends and my Dad did have quite a few lovely attributes. There has never been any doubt in my mind that my father loves me. As I got older my Dad's problems became more and more pronounced and in the last 3 or 4 years he has really gone downhill both physically and mentally. I have no doubt that in addition to the mental illness he has always had, there have been other physiological changes in his brain function. So as it stands now, my father is extremely narssisstic and really has no issue knocking other people down in order to get what he wants. He is VERY sick.

Ok, so I see my dad as infrequently as possible even though he lives only 10 miles away. It's just too painful. But I love him despite the fact that I don't particularly LIKE him and I hate to see him in such pain. The other day I saw him and for the first time in several weeks and we had a somewhat normal father-daughter interaction. We talked about diabetes, and shared our common experiences. The fact that I at 20 years have no complications (although the eye doctor says I have very healthy eyes "for a person with diabetes" so I guess there is something noticeable) and my father was blind, having heart trouble, and many other things by the time he had had diabetes for 20 years came up. I actually felt supported by him.

Well, a day or two later he called and let me know that he had something related to my health that he wanted to talk to me about IN PERSON! Ugh...this is how he sucks people in. I called and told him that I would of course be willing to see him but that I was leaving the next day for a week long vacation and that it would be very hard to relax not knowing what he wanted to speak to me about. He was relentless and would not tell me what it was. He said that if I let it ruin my vacation is was my fault. Soooo...I go off to VT and manage to have a good time. When I get home I go to see my dad. I am dreading it, God only knows what he is going to tell me. Well when I get there the woman he lives with that I guess could be referred to as his "girlfriend" (they met on a phone "chat" line and he got her to move up here from South Carolina with her 16 year old son having never met)is walking out because he has kicked her out for the second time and she is off to live in her car. No worries, she was back the same night. SO we start off buy him telling me all the awful things she did and I tried to strike a balance between being supportive and playing devil's advocate.

Now we get to putting a price on diabetes: When things calmed down he gave me an envelope and in it was a very cute congrats card with a kitty on it. He said it was in honor of 20 years of hard work and whatnot. So I open it and there is $10 dollars in it. Now, I have to say I wasn't expecting anything, but dude, that's $0.50 a year. I mean WOW! I was almost insulted. Of course that made me feel guilty. I mean my dad lives on disability and has a mortgage and just really has no money, so this was nice. I said thanks as enthusiastically as possible and he looked at me. He said "Do you think that is a fair amount for 20 years of diabetes." I had no idea what to say. At this point I could tell that it wasn't the amount he was really going to give me. I figured probably $50 so that's what I said. He responded "Oh, wow, Nic I have a mortgage, I am living on disability..." Picture me looking like I was just stabbed in the gut. But then he said, well yeah, that's how much, and handed the envelope back to me. I opened it and there was a fifty dollar bill in it...along with 19 more of them.

SHIT! Now I am crying hysterically and feel happy, surprised, and a bit guilty. I thanked him and told him I couldn't take it. I know it's bad form to do so, but he can't afford it and in all honesty, at the risk of sounding like a complete douche bag, you don't get anything from my Dad without him already having an idea of what he wants in return. How the hell would I be able to pay this one back? Well, I realized that thinking this way made me sad and unable to be truly appreciative and didn't give my Dad any credit. I mean, he may be doing this while being in touch with that part of him that loves me and wants me to feel special regardless of whether or not it will get him anything. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt and felt honored.

Well, it has been a week since he gave me the gift. His lady friend is back in the house, they even drove to Maine for a few days. I have paid my mom back for the new bike she got me a few weeks ago, and there is still plenty of money for me to use when I go to the Cape and for books next semester. Dad has asked for a few favors and I know he is expecting me to visit him more, but I have decided to let myself believe that it is the shrinking yet still present healthy part of him that wants to see me and spend time with me and not the sick part that wants to hurt me, or blame me for his pain.

Is diabetes worth 50 bucks a year? I don't know. My guess is that if I remembered not having diabetes, I'd say hell no, I wouldn't live with it for 50 bucks a year. But I don't know anything else, and hell, I'm doing alright, and diabetes is part of what's made me, well, me. And I like me now, so sure I'll take 50 bucks! But if anyone reading this is thinking of giving more..I'd take more too!

p.s. Please know that I love my Dad, but sometimes, even love can't heal everything. So yes I am angry with my Dad, but I see the good in him, even at his worst, and I do appreciate those parts.


George said...

I totally understand that struggle. It's funny how we can love people but not LIKE them. I know that their are people in my family that If they were not related to me, i would probably choose not to have them in my life.

I think you are doing the right thing. My Dad is gone and so I have a soft spot for Dad's but at the same time, you have to watch out for your own well being.

My advice would be to forgive but not necessarly forget. I always forgive but I also remember how I was hurt in the past so I can protect myself in the future.

Some may say that in not the thing to do but I honestly am able to forgive.

Now I am rambling. We have a lot in common!

Nicole aka Fred said...

George, we do have a lot in common. I often tell myself that I can forgive without foretting adn I think it has been a saving grace. It allows a person to heal, but still acknowledge life events that were hard but shaped them. Thank you so much for your supportive comments.

julia said...

I have a rough relationship with my father, too. It's hard, waiting for that other shoe to drop. This was a really touching post.