Monday, March 25, 2013

On becoming a nuisance...

AOG, Madrid

My seventy something father called me the other day. His wife had passed away just hours before.

It had all been very sudden. He was still in shock. When I last spoke with him about 12 days ago, he was still in shock.

Before I continue, let me just say that I have not seen my father since 1988.
A few years ago, when I was still in London, he started to call.
He was then, and always, hungry for news.

However, our conversations seem to be a very repetitive affair. 

  • How are you?
  • How’s work?
  • Your partner?
  • Your mother?
  • Your sister?

My sister is always a tricky conversation. She is hardly at home and, when he calls, she is never to be found. So he complains to me about her.

He lives in Florida, and my sister is still in the UK.

Time differences aside, she does lead a very busy life.

Dog walks, training, and the usual hustle and bustle of living in the social milieu that is British country life.

So when he calls, she is hardly ever there to pick up the phone. Of course, when I call, she is hardly ever there either, so it is nothing personal.

Which is what I always tell him. Again and again.

Still, he complains.

When his wife was still alive, that is to say, the last time I spoke with her, she always enquired about my sister, my mother, and me.

As with my father, the conversation was always a repeat performance of the previous phone call.

I never met my father’s wife, but she seemed very sweet on the phone. I was glad that he had her in his life and, to be honest, I never considered the idea that he would outlive her, quite the contrary.

So when he called with his news, I too was shocked. The woman my father left my mother for had departed.

I had always known about her but, thankfully, my mother was not one of those women who blamed the other woman for her husband leaving, she was intelligent enough to realise it was my father who was to blame for that. But she never really blamed him for that.

So the years passed, and when my father called the first time, he was keen, for whatever reason, to ensure his wife and my sister and I spoke to each other. It was always a strange, and mostly unilateral, conversation.

I love you both so very much”, she often said.

To which I could only politely say “that is very sweet of you”, or something like that, but little else.

And whenever she said those words, I cringed slightly.

It always felt so odd. I did think she was a very sweet woman, and a saint for taking care of my father. But I felt strange.
Almost as strange as when my father says he loves my sister and I. To this day I have not said it back.

And the reason why is because I don’t love him.

When I talk about my father to other people I always use this stock sentence: “I don’t love him, and I don’t hate him. I just don’t have any feelings”.

Maybe it is a cliché, but I do think it sums up perfectly how I feel. I don’t know if other people understand what I mean.

He has not been in my life much. Not physically. He has been absent from it for a ridiculous percentage of it, so if I ever had feelings towards my father, they dissipated.

In a way I think I am quite lucky since, at least, I didn’t develop hatred towards him. I think I just developed a huge sentiment of indifference, and that is what is with me these days.

When he called me the other day to tell me about the passing of his wife, my first reaction was 'And you are telling me this because…?'.

Of course, I didn’t say that to him, but I didn’t say much of anything then. He was in pain and I did what I could to give him whatever support I could, which I think was very little.

I have called him a couple of times since, to see how he is, and he is well, but lonely. He has a large uphill journey which more than likely he will face alone.
His wife had children of her own, but , although they live near him, they have their own father to take care of (I assume, I have never spoken with them).

Certainly they have their own lives to live. He told me this already.

Still, my father values his independence, such as it is. He is almost blind now, due to about 20-30 years of unsupervised diabetes. He has also developed cataracts, but when we last spoke he said he was going to see his doctor about them.

He has said very clearly he does not want to go and live with his brother, nor does he want to become a nuisance to his family or anyone else.