We’ve never had what you’d call a close relationship. Truth be told, we’ve barely had much of a relationship at all. For years, I never knew the difference. You can’t miss what you haven’t had.

During the many years we lived together, we barely spoke. We weren’t mad or upset. The unfortunate truth is that we just didn’t have anything to say to each other. We’d walk by each other like strangers in an airport, hardly acknowledging each other at all.

Fond memories? Not so much. Yeah, there are moments here and there. But mostly I hoped he wouldn’t notice me. Because when he did, it usually meant I was in trouble. I can’t remember him praising me, telling me I’d done a good job, or even showing interest in anything I ever did.

Things didn’t change much after I moved out. I tried to have a different relationship with him, but he really didn’t seem all that interested. After I left Lexington, we did get a little closer. Closer–not close. We’d talk on the phone every few weeks, and he always seemed genuinely glad to see me when I came home for a visit.

Yes, I’m talking about my father. Then, when I was 45, my parents divorced. Turns out, practically everything I thought I knew about him was a lie.

After the divorce, I decided to wipe the slate clean and start over again. For a while, I thought we were making real progress. Then I found out he’d lied to me about things that happened after the divorce. I understood why he’d lied to me before, but once everything came out, there was absolutely no good reason for him to lie. After an initial period of anger, I let it go.

Things changed for me when my Aunt Toodles died. He didn’t go see her when she was sick, before or after she went into the hospital. He didn’t go to the funeral home for visitation, and he skipped the funeral. Why? Because he was afraid of what people (my mother’s family and friends) would say to him. I can’t find it in my heart to forgive him for that.

And now, he’s dying. The cancer they fought with radiation treatments last year has returned. He says he’ll be here for another year or two, but everyone else thinks he’ll be gone by Christmas.

I visited him back in October when I was in town for my high school reunion. He looked terrible.We were supposed to go out to eat, but he wasn’t able. He was highly agitated–even angry. After about 30 minutes, I left,  thinking that I would probably never see him again.

Today I heard he weighs less than 100 pounds and is unable to do anything for himself. His new wife is tired of taking care of him and is planning a long trip in July. Seriously?

She’s never been one of my favorite people. I’m polite to her. Period.

I’m torn about going to see him. The truth is, I don’t want to go. My fear is that if I don’t, I’ll never forgive myself.

What I wouldn’t give right now to be able to talk to my Aunt Toodles again. She’d know just what to say to help me reach the right decision. But I can’t. I’m just going to have to figure it out by myself, here in…

My Glass House

14 responses to “Torn”

  1. Michael…I’m very moved but also very shaken by this post. I’m certain I’ve never faced a situation where I’ve been anywhere NEAR as torn as you must be right now. You have my admiration for even being ABLE to write about a subject that cuts this deep, that’s so totally of this moment…so much harder to face this…than to reflect on past heartbreaks–and God knows that can very very tough to explore, as well. I believe if there’s one glitch in the design of modern man–it’d be we should have been designed more well-prepared to face the passing of those close to us…or maybe we just aren’t taught that life skill early on? Whatever you decide, allow those who love you and bring you joy to sit a little closer, to be by your side, to be in your world right now….I am so sad, Michael. xoxoxo

    • Thank you, Jeanie. Having read Glass Houses, I know you know the whole story about our relationship. I’ve about decided I’m going to go…just have to figure out when. And being a Glass, we learned young how to cope with grief… We didn’t have any choice.

  2. I felt sad reading your post. I don’t know your whole story as I’ve only been following for a short time. The one thing I would say is that if you don’t go maybe you might regret it after he’s gone no matter what the circumstances were during his lifetime. The answer will come to you I’m sure. Take care.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m going. Not sure when, but sometime in the next month I’m going to run up to see him. Thanks for reading…

      • That’s the spirit 🙂 I’m sure even now if you spoke to your Aunt Toodles she would get a message to you somehow. A sign or something. Your book Glass Houses sounds like it will be an interesting read once published. 🙂

  3. Michael, I wish I could help. I wish I could say something that would be the A ha or the inspiration or the comfort that you need. What I know I can do is say that I’ll keep you in my thoughts and know that no matter what you decide or for what reason, it will be the right thing. I’m sure of it because to even care enough to struggle with the decision means you’re the kind of person I thought you were from reading about your life. Kind, compassionate, feeling, determined, honest, funny and not afraid to say what you think and stand behind it. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

    • Thanks mairzeebp. You’ve got me pegged! 😉 Interesting how someone I’ve never met can know me so well. You’re very sweet.

      I’ve decided to go see him the weekend of 7/14. It’s what my aunt would have wanted me to do. What I miss is all the discussion we would have had around why I should go. She had a gift for helping me to see things in ways that made a difference to me.

      I appreciate your support and look forward to meeting you one day at a book signing (whether mine or yours TBA!).

    • Thanks Cathy. We get along fine on a superficial level. My mistake has been assuming he’s capable of anything else. His family doesn’t talk much about the past. I’m not sure taking care of him or seeing to his needs was ever a priority for anyone. He did as well as he knew how to do which unfortunately, fell way short of enough.

  4. Michael, so sorry for your struggle. I too was estranged from my father when he passed and made it to the hospital just minutes after he had died. I have spent years with guilt on this because I wished him dead many times, but not sure I really meant it. You will be the bigger man in this situation if you go see him for yourself, where he cares or not, he probably does though and just does not know how to show you. Good Luck Friend and I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and send you Peaceful Healing Vibes.

    • Thank you so much–for your concern and for sharing your story. You’re right. He doesn’t know how to show it–never did, and that’s not going to change now.

  5. Hi, Michael – I saw today’s post but missed this one, so I had to get caught up. Having read Glass Houses…I understand where you are. I’m glad a decision has settled on you and I really believe Toodles is “riding shotgun” with you. Death doesn’t destroy a love like that. She was an amazing person. I hope you and your dad find a sense of peace about everything. I’ll be praying for you both.