(No MP, please, not that you would)
He died almost three years ago. He was in many ways a terrible, abusive man. When he died, my siblings and I were relieved and didn't cry.
He physically abused my brother. He emotionally abused me and my sister. I was afraid of him even though he didn't physically hit me. During the time I was dependent on him, he would fly into rages without provocation (for example, if I asked for a doughnut), and he would shout and rant and berate me for hours on end. Anything I'd ever done that in his manic rage he considered "wrongful," going back for years, he would unearth and scream about. He would threaten to take away everything important to me. I wouldn't be allowed to participate in extracurriculars. I wouldn't be allowed to do things with my friends. I wouldn't be allowed to sit and read. He was going to take away this thing, or that thing that I'd been given.
You have to understand, I was a goody two-shoes. I never got in trouble. My teachers loved me. I got good grades. My friends were the kids at the top of the class. Occasionally we drank or smoked on away tournaments, but nobody drove or did anything too scandalous. I won awards. But he never had a good thing to say. When I was alone with him, my stomach was tied in knots and it hurt, truly hurt from the anxiety. I didn't handle the rages well. I stopped talking to him except when I had to, and only about neutral things like the weather. Things I didn't think could possibly provoke a rampage.
Once he discovered I had thrown a used sanitary napkin into the trash can in my room. I remember that day. He became completely unhinged. He made me scrub the trash can out in the bathtub. He ranted about how disgusting and dirty I was, how I was a pig and a slob and shouldn't even live with decent people. He kept going for hours. Whatever else I may say about my mother, she didn't allow this kind of thing. She would stop him and say "Enough! Shut up!" and he would stop yelling and start muttering and go to his workshop to sulk. Hours later, typically, he would say, "I'm sorry," but that didn't mean anything. It didn't mean anything at all.
I had a summer job where he worked later when I was in high school and college. I was shocked to hear people tell me that he bragged about me all the time. This man who never said a nice thing to my face was apparently proud of me. How ironic. Some positive words to me would have made such a difference.
Once I started college, of course I didn't have to spend much time alone with him anymore. He was very against my going away to college. I remember him yelling at me, "You're just trying to get as far away from here as possible!" I was only going a few hours away, but yes, I was definitely trying to get away from there, he was right. When I called home my mother would insist on my talking to him when I had nothing to say. It was so awkward.
But there came a point in my sophomore year that I had a terrible fight with my mother. She, too, was a crazy and vicious person, only less of the time. But when she went off, it was no holds barred. She was calling me several times a day and keeping me on the phone for hours while she chewed me out, cursed me and berated me. I didn't dare hang up because that was not allowed, you did not hang up on my parents. This went on for a few weeks and I was nearing the point of losing it when my father called me. "Look," he said, "We may have a disagreement," (he'd been present for the original argument) "but I want you to call us anyway." "Dad," I said, "Mom has been talking to me every single day." I told him what had been going on. He said, "I'll take care of it. Just call." And with that, the harassment by my mother stopped. She liked to brag that if you hurt her, she'll hurt you back twice as badly, and she definitely included her children in that rule.
After that, I did get along better with my father for a while. But things fell apart when my mother had her final illness. Like so many people, his worst traits became exaggerated as he got older. He was a terrible bigot. He was convinced no private doctor was any good, that the only good treatment to be had was at the Veteran's Administration. But he was also convinced that surgery was to be avoided at all costs. No matter what the condition or what the prognosis, he did not want surgery.
During the 1990's he had developed a back condition that caused him a lot of pain and impaired his walking. It got worse over time. This made him irritable and also had a negative impact on my mother's life. They couldn't really travel. She had to do the bulk of the shopping and household work. He didn't want to go out. He was basically a pain in the ass. And because he refused to have the surgery to correct his condition while he was still young enough and in good enough health to have it, there came a point where it was really no longer an option. He was too old. The risk was too high. His muscles were so atrophied that rehab prospects were poor.
My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer about five or six years ago. She had smoked since the age of 14. All my father could see was how it affected him. It was a late diagnosis and it had already reached her brain. They tried chemo and it did no good. She deteriorated very quickly. While bemoaning the fact that he was going to lose her, all that seemed to concern him was money. She needed a hospital bed at home, and he threw a fit because he didn't want to rent one. My sister rented it herself and she and her husband moved the guest bed into the garage to make room for it. She also needed a home health care aide, because she could no longer walk. He didn't want to pay for one. He hired one who was incompetent but agreed to work off the books for ridiculously little money. She didn't even know how to change a bed with a patient who couldn't lift herself. He wanted my sister to do everything, but my sister (a) isn't trained and (b) emotionally couldn't deal with tending to things like taking my mother to the toilet and cleaning her up. I can't condemn her for that; we all have our issues. But rather than spend the money on professional help, my father kept trying to handle it himself when he couldn't even support his own weight. They would fall down and he would have to call my sister to come help them. The point finally came where he had to give in. Then, when hospice care finally kicked in, he would leave my mother without clean bed pads rather than pay for a package out of pocket. Hospice was supposed to provide it. But she needed it NOW and hospice wasn't coming for a couple of hours. GO TO THE FUCKING STORE AND BUY A PACKAGE OF PADS. I would have just gone myself, but I didn't know the way. I yelled at him and he cursed me and told me to get out of his house. I yelled back, "Last time I checked, it was my mother's house, too, and I don't think she would agree." He just glared at me. I told him to fuck himself. When the social workers came, he put on a "poor little old man" act to make himself seem so grief stricken and sympathetic, but it didn't last. Within a week they started believing us, the adult kids, that he was an SOB.
It was so much worse after my mother died.
Against the advice of me and my brother, my sister had moved some years earlier not only to the same state as my parents, but within a couple of blocks of their house. It was only about five months from my mother's diagnosis to the day she died. It was then her hell began.
He expected her to do his shopping, run his errands and cook for him. She would bring him meals and he would complain about them. She would have him over to her house and all he would do is mope and complain. Her neighbors told her how he complained about her and how he threatened to shoot himself (he owned a gun). He refused to see any doctor outside the VA. He had a shrink at the VA, but only saw him once a month - and definitely needed much, much more. I tried urging him to go to a grief support group. He refused. I urged him to get involved in the local Masonic lodge. He wasn't interested. Every suggestion was shot down. It didn't matter that seeing a private doctor would cost him nothing; they couldn't be trusted. My sister started to resent his demands more and more. She vented to my brother and me, and we tried to be supportive, but she (like our father) rejected all our advice. She's a complicated person, and can be a bitch at times, but in the end she has a good heart. He played on her guilt and she could not set boundaries.
The VA being what it is, and my father hearing what he wanted to hear, his mobility deteriorated as the months passed and also as he gained a large amount of weight. Then, about a year and half after my mother's death, he had a small heart attack and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. At the hospital, he became psychotic and tried to discharge himself AMA, but they wouldn't let him leave because he wasn't stabilized and because of his mental state. At the time, I was hospitalized myself with a bleeding intestinal ulcer, so I was spared flying down there. He was released a few days later, but the hospital said he couldn't live alone anymore. He exploded and refused to have anyone come stay with him. They said he couldn't be discharged until we had arranged for home care. My sister went ahead and made the arrangements anyway.
That heart attack was the beginning of the end. If it had been unpleasant before, it was about to get a lot more unpleasant. The heart attack, though small, had a domino effect. His mobility got dramatically worse. He still cancelled most of the home care worker's hours after a couple of weeks because he didn't want to pay for it and said he didn't need it.
He could barely move his legs anymore. After much urging, he gave in and asked for an electric wheelchair from the VA. Because he had gained so much weight, the wheelchair they gave him was enormous, and he could barely control it and put hole after hole in his walls. He refused to stop driving even though he couldn't move his feet. He insisted he was going to get himself an accessible van. Some guy was willing to sell him a used one. He kept falling down and was unable to get himself back up, and would call my sister at all hours to come help him, but she couldn't lift him - even her husband was straining his back trying to lift him, and she put her foot down and insisted that he had to call the paramedics or give in and have a trained caregiver to assist him with getting around the house and the bath. After many weeks he gave in and hired a home care worker. He was angry, so angry. He believed my sister owed it to him to take care of him herself. He would call me and accuse my sister of having reneged on her promise to help him. I told him again and again that she couldn't do it, and he would bitterly curse the fact that all of us were against him. Different people, doctors, social workers, broached the subject of assisted living, and he wouldn't hear it. All three of us kids told him he couldn't drive anymore - one of his aides had let him drive her somewhere at his insistence, and she reported back that he had been driving on the wrong side of the street and through red lights, and that she had been in fear for her life. You could see the car was banged up from times he had tried to drive alone. He was enraged. We flew down to see him and after I frankly and calmly backed my sister up on the issue, he refused to speak to me for the rest of the visit. I patiently explained that we weren't against him, we just wanted him to be safe, and my sister wasn't able to handle the lifting. Most of the aides were black or Jamaican, and he never failed to comment on that to us.
After many, many stressful weeks of fighting and crises, my father agreed to go into assisted living - but only if it was the Masonic Home in upstate New York. He didn't look at a single facility near where he currently lived. Not one. He had never seen the Masonic Home, either, he didn't know anyone living there, but it was the only place he would consider, because if it was the Masonic Home, it had to be good. It wasn't near any of us, so visiting him would mean major travel. It wasn't cheaper than other homes. He hadn't been an active Mason for decades, so that didn't explain it. It was a perfectly irrational decision, like so many of the others he was making, but rather than let my sister have a breakdown, we didn't fight it. We prepared the application and the process got rolling. Everything was in place. He clearly wasn't happy about it, felt he had been pressured into it, but seemed resigned. My brother and my brother in law would fly with him up to New York and move him in. He couldn't get into an airplane bathroom, so he would have to wear a diaper for the flight. Everything was in place.
My brother flew down to my father's to help him with his final preparations. He was sure some disaster would occur, like getting to the home and my father announcing that he wouldn't stay there. I thought that was a real risk, too. He had a different surprise in store, though. The next morning, the morning before they were to leave, at six a.m. our phone rang. My father had died during the night. My siblings and I disagree whether it was a natural death - it appeared he died in his sleep, and no one was going to autopsy an 85 year old. Still, he had a horde of pills from the VA that could keep all of us supplied for months. I think he didn't want to go and took an overdose. We were shocked. As I said, we were relieved.
Also as I said, we didn't cry for him. We cried a little for ourselves, because he was such a bastard in life, and had made our lives so miserable for so long. If I were to tell you all of it this would be a book, and it is too long already. I won't say he never did anything kind. But his kindnesses were blotted out by his cruelties. I don't miss him, I don't think any of us do. But today, I remember him.