This is me wishing I could click my heels together and go back to childhood. Back to when my relationship with my dad wasn't complicated. It's some stuff I need to get out so that I don't drag it around with me all day.
My dad wasn't ready to be a dad. He hadn't known my mom that long and she became pregnant during a week between changing birth control pills. He was 24 and my mom was the second pregnancy in which he participated. The previous girlfriend elected to give the baby up for adoption, so he didn't want my mom to abort or give up the baby for adoption. He wasn't forceful about it, it was just his opinion. Mom, age 19, agreed.
He was an ambivalent dad. At least, that's how he felt to me. When they divorced (I was 4) the divorce decree set a child support amount (a relative pittance) and visitation as every other weekend. He didn't do anything beyond those weekends. He got to be the fun dad, camping, hiking, teaching me photography, spending time at the coast courtesy of friends with little cabins. Back when VCRs were expensive we would rent one and watch movies. He introduced me to schlocky horror in my early teens. He had me reading light sci-fi and Lovecraft as an early teen. But it didn't escape me that often mom would have to ask him for the child support check. He wasn't there for any of my school events. He didn't try to spend time with me outside the required every other weekend. I think he did what he could.
He was diagnosed with MS when I was about 12. Retrospectively, he had been having symptoms when he was 24 and had arthroscopic surgery for a knee problem. He started taking good care of himself and was the healthiest I'd ever seen him. He wasn't drinking. He went back to school and did an AA in graphic design. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make much at any of the jobs he got. Not as much as he made as someone who had worked almost 10 years as a machinist.
He set out to tank his health to get on disability. Maybe the immense effort required to maintain as he had was too much. Maybe he knew he would eventually deteriorate and stopped trying to keep it at bay. I don't know. I know he did let himself go on purpose. It was really hard to watch. He moved into Section 8 housing, which was a studio apartment that was a shit hole. He wasn't eating well, he had a lot of problems with coordination early on and had a really hard time keeping the place clean. My mom and I were the only ones who visited him, so his family didn't see what was going on. They didn't listen to me when I tried to tell them how sick he was. I was probably 17-18 at the time.
Then he started having cognitive issues. He was in his early 40s. Visuo-spatial issues, information processing, word-finding, etc. he called me 10 times a day with the same questions, sometimes angry and demanding. My bf and I and two friends moved him to assisted living about 1.5 hrs away. My aunt and uncle went to pack up the rest of the apartment and saw how bad things had gotten. They loaded everything into a storage truck which they had to have fumigated because of the roaches. He ended up hating it there, not least because he was the youngest resident by 30 years and fairly isolated. A year or two later I was the one on the phone with the social worker trying to figure out how to get him moved back to be closer to his family. Three social workers later I found out that we had to get him moved before the state would move his benefits to the next county. Again, his family didn't know how bad things were and I had to do the heavy lifting myself. I was in college. I found him a great adult foster home, which is where he still lives.
At 62 he is as bad as he's going to get. He is bedridden. He can't hold himself up if the bed is tilted too far up. Speech is difficult to understand. He isn't always able to stay awake or spaces out to the TV when I visit. He remembers some things, but has filled in some gaps himself. He firmly believes my mom divorced him when he was diagnosed, which was definitely not the case. The dad I knew has been slipping away for years. Slow loss. I've been grieving for years. I frequently feel like an asshole for not visiting more often. So much guilt. I tried planning regular visits, but I didn't go. It's easier to avoid the two-hour drive for a gut-wrenching 30 minute visit he won't remember.
I miss him so much. There have been so many times over the years that I wished I could share with him. He and Mr GV would have hit it off in a big way, which would have been fun. He would have been a fun grandpa for Little GV. She loves him, but they don't really know each other.His brain has atrophied quite a bit. He can't really form new memories, so what he knows of people he hasn't known since before he got really sick is vague. I don't know if he remembers his mother died a few years ago.
There's no estimate of how long he'll hover like this. His body is otherwise healthy. They start having difficulty swallowing and eventually aspirate. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death. Though so much of him is already gone I'm not ready for him to die. I don't know why. He's been in stasis for what feels like forever and I know he isn't going to magically get better. Try as I might I don't seem to be able to overcome my sadness and fear to visit more often. It could happen. It's more likely than him getting better.
Nobody has ever taken his place or even come close. Mr GV's stepdad and I have interesting connections, which is something I like. He's from my hometown and we're both pretty sure that my recently-emigrated family used to frequent his dad's butcher shop in the early 1900s. I'm looking forward to wishing him a Happy Father's Day. I sent my dad a card telling him how much I love him. I might try to have his caregiver get him on the phone later. He might be up for it.