Friday, October 12, 2018

How to Die

It was the morning of December 10th when my father first told me about his cancer. It was a long conversation that covered many topics from treatment options, to possible outcomes, but most importantly it was a discussion on mortality and life in general and a lengthy discussion about death.  From that first discussion the old man and i were under no illusions as to what the outcome was going to be, the same outcome we all face sooner or later my father just had a better idea of when that sooner or later was going to happen. As i've stated before, his surgeon called him the most rational patient he'd ever had. Staring down death my father never blinked. We talked about it extensively in those last months and he was fine with it, it was an inevitable part of life and i think knowing he had lived life as a decent and honorable human being helped. He had raised children who were independent and intelligent people (my sister anyway) and was appreciative of every minute spent with his grandsons, his three boys as he called them. He didn't bitch and moan about his plight or fate or whatever you want to call it, he accepted it and prepared for what came next. His biggest worry was being a burden to his children, to his last breath he was selfless.

The day after my father passed as i sat in his room and cleaned out his stuff i noticed the answering machine blinking. It was his special lady friend, a phrase pulled from the Big Lebowski as my dad often called me Dude. I called her to see if anyone had notified her about my dad. My big sis had and we had a conversation. She told me that she felt as if she knew me and my sons, she said my father would light up when he talked about his grandsons and how that boy of his was a never ending source of amusement and wonder to his old man. It was one of the themes that kept popping up with my father, his unconditional love for his children and grandchildren and his immense intellect. To say i think about my father a lot would be an understatement. I also know that his passing has had a profound effect on me and how i view things and deal with people. My father used to laugh at how as a child i was not one to tolerate injustice, a trait he himself possessed and a trait that i realize has been passed down through generations on his side of the family. In my youth the battle with the injustices of the universe would drive me mad, i wore my emotions a bit more on my sleeve than Pops did, of course as i've gotten older i understand the universe is a cold and cruel mistress not much interested in things like justice and the like. Now and then though i still have my issues with it but much like he taught me how to live my father taught me how to die, with a grace and a dignity and the thought that it's too late to correct things when the clock strikes midnight so you best live and love to the best of your ability while you have the chance. Which in turns leads me to the shit show.

The shit show started Labor Day weekend when the Posa, aka the Breadwinner's father, was admitted to the hospital. He hadn't been feeling well but when one cries "wolf!" so often no one really takes it seriously after a while. After some blood work and the like it was determined he had indeed had a mild heart attack which necessitated another procedure which in turn led to him being scheduled for triple bypass which in turn led him to being shipped from CenPenn, as the Pennsyltuckians call it, to the VA here in the Burgh. This of course meant that my humble abode would soon be turned into a motel and much like my recently dear departed little Claudia i do not much like when my house is invaded by strangers... well maybe not strangers but you get the idea. My whole little routine would be thrown off and frankly i like my little routine, it gives me time to daydream and pull tubes and spin records and generally fuck off while being the domestic handmaid that i am. And so it began.

With the Posa being shipped west the audible delight from the Breadwinner's big bro was palpable. Big Bro aka The Captain of Industry, is a 45yr old man who thinks daddy owes him something and hence uses him as a cash machine. A quick list of the Captain's fuck-ups would read something like, massive credit card debt at 24 (which daddy bailed him out), tossed out of the army after spending six months in the clink for "possession" of MDMA (for which daddy provided the lawyer and flew to Germany to cry in front of the judge), knocking up his girlfriend in daddy's house (who he subsequently did marry but not before finding out he had knocked up his other girlfriend in the army), moving his new family into daddy's house, being pissed that he didn't get a lavish wedding, his bride being even more pissed, and of course the list could go on but i'd run out of fucking room. Needless to say the Captain now runs his own business, signed over to his wife due to that little felony thing and consistently is in debt to his daddy for six figures, an amount he has no intentions of paying back and would shed crocodile tears on his father's demise until of course he saw the will which has apparently been changed to short the Captain of his debt... and that's just the first sibling.

The Trainwreck, aka younger sister, is a morbidly obese, chain smoking mental case with a soon to be 12yr old daughter who is already looking to be a bit of a handful. Her issues are also a plenty but can mostly be traced back to her weight which in turn leads to her own wrecked self-esteem and her penchant to quit on anything that might be a tad bit difficult. She actually owned her own business at one point and was doing well until her shitbag partner somehow forced her out. Which in turn led her to moving home and living in her father's basement. Toss in the hyper-active younger brother from Denver who can't sit still and is everything the Breadwinner loves, (don't worry it's not gonna get all Greek mythology kids). Since he can't sit still he's always doing something, be it fixing things to making corn hole boards and smoking salmon to sell on the internets. He's not a bad sort but believe me when i say his hyperactivity can get on my nerves as well as his habit of filling the Breadwinner's head with home improvement projects all of which i'm somewhat disdainfully looked upon as unfit to undertake let alone complete.

And so for ten days this is what i dealt with. Of course not all of them were here all the time but at least one of them was here and usually more than one, and yes sometimes all of them. All the while i went about my usual business of taking care of the boyos and running them to practice and games and school and helping with homework with the added fun of cleaning up after adults who seemed to think my house was a motel and that the maid service (see me) would handle the clean up. But let us not forget the Posa.

The Posa, staring down his own mortality, became a quivering ball of tears. He sat and told the Breadwinner that he was scared and that he wanted to see his granddaughters get married and see them graduate and see them do all kinds of things. (Note, she has no daughters.) As the dutiful daughter Breadwinner went and saw him every day, usually multiple times and listened to him whimper about his plight. This is a man who treated her like shit her whole life. Told her when she was a child "he didn't want her." Her older brother and her are less than 13 months apart. The Posa was an emotionally and physically abusive asshole, he preyed on his wife's low self-esteem and weight problems to control and manipulate her. His idea of showing love was throwing money at his kids and his two middle kids, the Breadwinner and her hyperactive brother, received very little, and yet there she sat listening to him and taking care of him and worrying about him. He spent every waking moment on the phone calling every person he knew to drum up sympathy, to make himself feel loved. I get it, the guy was scared, it's a natural reaction. He also kept asking when i was going to visit.

Let me state that i am an empathetic and compassionate human being even if this next paragraph or so will seem to prove otherwise. While i believe all humans deserve those things i also believe some do their best to negate those things by not ever exhibiting those qualities themselves. By being self-centered, abusive assholes whose utter lack of humanity disqualify them from said feelings. I put the Posa squarely in that category, i don't mind someone being a miserable SOB but when you toss in the aforementioned traits i don't have time to be arsed anymore. I showed my compassion to him by not visiting. My utter indifference to his existence would most likely have come shining through and i wasn't going to sit there and fawn over the man as he wished. It doesn't really matter to me if he lives or dies. I know this might seem a rather callous view but it's the one i hold. Being the ever present navel-gazer it has crossed my mind that he may be just a pawn in the never ending game of fuck you played between the Breadwinner and i. Having received very little support of any kind during my father's illness maybe i'm being the selfish asshole and returning the favor. Then again this is a man who has done nothing to earn any one's empathy or compassion except for his youngest and oldest children.

My father showed me how to face the end with grace and dignity. He didn't bitch or moan or whimper about things, he looked it squarely in the eye and accepted it. He didn't want or expect sympathy, didn't want attention, he wanted to get on with the days he had left, to read and talk to his siblings and children and grandchildren and not be a burden even though every one of those people would have given anything to help him. He as an intelligent and thoughtful guy. The Posa is the exact opposite. Even though he's no longer here my father is still teaching me things. It's another in the many lessons i hope to pass down to the boyos, both spoken and unspoken and after that it's up to them what they do with this knowledge.

As for the Posa? After quintuple bypass he's back home and on the mend. My house is back to normal just the way i like it. There was a point where i was a bit pissed that a man like my father could get the shit end of the deal while the Posa keeps on going. It was the shadow of the younger me and my problems with the universe and it's meting out of justice. It's alright though, somewhere i could here my father laughing, smiling, and saying "let it go kid, it's gonna be alright." As usual the Old man is right... and i have.


Exile on Pain Street said...

I think not wanting to be a burden to your children is a very old-world concept. My mom was the same way. When things were bad, she went off all her meds except morphine for that reason. To no burden us. They're a tough lot.

You'd better watch your step. You'll find yourself on the losing end at the will reading.

Kono said...

Exile- That will's got nothing to do with me, the Breadwinner is actually the executor cuz she was deemed the most fair and responsible, i'm sure it'll be a shit show cuz i know how it's gonna go down... and you're right, some of them are a tough lot, your Mom, Pops, some on the other hand are not, see Posa.

savannah said...

Yep, I think about my Mama how she held on, in hospital, until I could say that I would be OK and she didn't have to hold on any longer. She was on a respirator and all she could do was write short notes. Her last note to me was to go home and send my husband back to see her. I said g'night, gave her a kiss and left. He hadn't been home more than 20 minutes when the hospital called and said she'd died. She stayed strong, so I didn't have to be. xox

daisyfae said...

i had a grandfather like that - he abandoned my grandmother, and her three daughters (including my mother) when they were little kids. married his big city girlfriend, and moved back to a farm near where they were all raised. when he got cancer, my mom and her two sisters sat at his bedside - fussing and fawning over him. my dad would only go occasionally, helping mom with the drive. he had no use for a man who would abandon his children, and had no idea why my mom and her sisters would sit there, pretending like he was the best daddy ever. Also a posa...

you are correct that there will be a shitshow when he finally punches out. the breadwinner will have a pretty shitty, no-win task. my advice to her? be an asshole. be a huge fucking asshole. they're going to accuse her of being an asshole anyway, so why not just BE one...