Monday, August 29, 2011

My Dark Side

Folks, I've been avoiding posting about this since I started doing this little blog, mostly because I didn't know if it was something I wanted to get into or not.  But I almost feel like I'm hiding it from myself, so today I'm going to go there.  Bear with me.

My dad is dying of cancer.  Two and a half years ago, he was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.  At the time they said the prognosis was not good--it never is--but that in most cases like his, the patient does not survive more than six months.  He has made it two and a half years, which is in most ways a blessing.  But now he is in hospice, at home with my mom, and he is declining.  He will be gone soon.

This feels like an impossible thing for me to write about, because I will never be able to explain how I feel about it.  Four years ago I lost my mother-in-law to cancer.  I loved her so very much, she was an amazing, loving, giving woman.  So not only was it a horrible loss to bear for myself, but it almost destroyed me to watch how much it hurt my husband.   He won't ever stop feeling her loss.  We have found our way to our new normal, but it has been a long road.

It's somehow different with my dad.  For one thing, we've had a much longer time to process this.  From diagnosis to the time she was gone, we had less than six months with my mom-in-law.  With my dad, it's been two and a half years.  And my relationship with my dad is extremely complicated.  He did the best he could with what he had as a father, but we had some terrible times, and as I was growing up he made some choices that I will never make peace with.  I have never (that I can remember) been able to show affection to him or express love to him.  It's not that I don't love him, it's just, well, complicated.  If I really had to explain it I would have to write a book.

So for two and a half years we have been thinking about his health, trying to help him and my mom, talking about his condition, going to appointments and scans.  It has been a part of every day life for so long now, that we've almost just reached an acceptance about the whole thing, and sometimes it must seem so calloused.  I think it's more numb.

I am so worried about my mom.  Through thick and thin (and there's been a lot of thin), she's been by his side.  They are so dependent on one another, and it's taken such a toll on her to watch his decline.  I know she's afraid of being alone, being without him.  I know that she feels like her life is so small right now.  She's practically a prisoner in her apartment, unable to leave unless someone is there to watch over my dad.  This has been so difficult for her.  She's a diabetic and I worry that she's not taking enough care of herself.

But sometimes I am amazed by her.  She's had to deal with so much in her life.  In some ways it has made her scarred and insecure, but in many ways she is tough as nails.  She is a survivor.  I call her every day.  I ask about my dad, and there is slow decline.  I try to get over there a couple times a week so she can get out and feel normal for a little while.  The whole family is doing a good job of pulling together for her, and I know that's helping.  She's going to be all right.

Hospice literature says that sometimes watching a person declining slowly, and the pain that goes with it, can be a way of giving the survivors peace as they let their loved one go.  The suffering will be over.  I really do believe that, it is so awful to watch people suffer this way.  Both the person that is dying and the people that care for them.  Death is a part of life.  My family has been touched by it too much in recent years, and I hope we're due for a break from it soon.

There is always this gnawing feeling in my gut.  A guilty conscience.  I feel ashamed that I am not crying for him the same way that I have cried for my mom-in-law.  I feel like I don't do enough for my mom.  I feel horrible as I go do normal things, grocery shopping, going to the Fair, football helmet shopping.  I feel worried that I will feel some relief when he passes.  I think I'm a good person, but does that not make me evil?  I feel ashamed that I look forward to normal life after he passes.  I hate how he is suffering.  He does not deserve this.  But I feel sick that he continues to make his way out to the porch to smoke, when it is so difficult for him to even get himself from the bed to the chair.  He's dying.  Why should I care if he still smokes?  How can I feel any anger toward him now?  I think I am a horrible person for the way I feel sometimes.

I pray for my parents, that their days will be as peaceful as possible.  That my dad's passing will be peaceful and happen before his suffering gets much worse.  That my mom will find her new normal and find joy in her life again.  And I pray for myself, that I will find peace with my relationship with my dad. And that I will have the strength to be there for my mom.

Thanks for bearing with me, folks.

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