cripsy13

Musings, mutterings from the misguided.


2 Comments

MY FATHER, MY BEST FRIEND.

The anniversary of my father’s passing is coming up and I felt the need to write his story.Image

I remember as a kid, my dad playing silly practical jokes on me all the time.  We were at the seaside; I was about 10 or so.  Dad thought I might like to feed the birds, so he told me to take a piece of bread and hold it up over my head – so I did.  Which, of course, brought a million seagulls to the surrounding area and if what they say is true about it being good luck if you’re pooped on by a seagull, I must be the luckiest person in the world?

My dad and I were visiting my grandparents in  Florida when I was about 19 – they had a lovely grapefruit tree in the backyard, so both my dad and grandfather told me to pick as many as I wanted.  I picked one – it was HUGE!  It took me forever to peel it and when I did and took that first bite – my face turned inside out and tears poured from my eyes.  They failed to inform me that it was the kind of grapefruit they used to make marmalade.  Had I been able to see properly, I’m sure the sight of two grown men rolling on the grass would have been very funny indeed.

There were countless other times when dad was just being dad and I can’t imagine him ever being any different.  He could cheer me up when I was down, piss me off to no end about something stupid – but he was my biggest supporter, always helping when and how he could.

Back in about 2003, he started changing…it was so gradual; I didn’t really notice (nor did my mom or sister).  He lost weight (he’d always been a big, robust kind of guy).  He started slowing down, he got tired more often and he seemed to always not feel well.  That went on for about a year, with numerous trips to the doctor and a few emergency runs.  Doctor’s kept telling him he was fine…just age (he was only 74).

In November of 2004, my sister and I went to see his doctor to see if she could provide any information on what was making him feel so poorly.  Of course, we adhered to the confidentiality clause, understanding she could only give us basic information – so she told us that she thought he was ‘just depressed’.  Okay, well that made sense (living with my batshit crazy mother would make ANYONE depressed).  So, we had a family meeting and we told dad what we’d learned and that we wanted to help him by being more active and if he didn’t want to see a counsellor, we’d be happy to have him talk to us.

Now – I should stop here and provide some information on my mother.  During this entire time, my mother thought my dad was just being a lazy ass and ‘faking’ his symptoms.  She’d constantly complain about how his issues were affecting HER (my mother was a bit of a narcissist).  Both my sister and I would receive phone calls about how his complaining was causing her to fall into another depression (not that I’m belittling depression; I too suffer from it – but my mother made it her life mission to never NOT be depressed) and she ‘couldn’t stand much more’.  It was very hard to feel any sympathy for her.

So dad, being dad, said he’d shape up and I told him in an email that anytime he needed to vent or cry or whatever – to please talk to me, because mom was having a hard time with everything – to which he readily agreed.

January 2005 – I was visiting my parents when all of a sudden – my dad passed out and slumped to the ground.  I immediately called 911 and they came right away.  Before they had even reached my father, my mother had kidnapped two of the paramedics to tell them that he was faking it and it was she that was REALLY suffering.  They bundled dad up, took him to emergency and after hours of tests – they told him he had a bladder infection, and sent him home with some Bactrim.

A couple of weeks later, I was at work and my dad phoned and said that he and my mom had doctor’s appointments, but he didn’t feel well enough to drive.  My dad had been driving since he was 10 years old, so I knew something was very wrong.  I left work and picked them up and took them to the doctor.  Their regular doctor wasn’t in; it was a med student who was filling in.  She saw mom first and when she came out, my dad went in.  My mother started whining about wanting a cigarette, so I told her to go out and sit in the car.  Awhile later, the med student came out and looked very upset.  She asked to speak to me and I said sure and she said ‘your father is a very sick man and he needs to go to the hospital straight away’.  I went in to see dad, and he was lying there with tears running down his cheeks.  ‘I’m scared’ he said to me – ‘Am I going to die?’  Trying to remain brave, I told him not to worry, I would take care of everything.  He needed to have blood tests before he left, so I had to get him down some stairs, when he passed out.  A couple of people got him down the rest of the stairs and situated in the waiting area.  I told the nurse that he needed his tests done NOW, as I was taking him to the hospital, so she brought everything out, got ‘em done, and with the help of the kind strangers, got him up and into the car.

As I got him seated, my mother said with derision ‘so NOW what’s his problem?’ – I looked her straight in the eye and said ‘dad is very sick, I’m taking you home and taking him to the hospital and I don’t want to hear another single word from you’.

With mom dropped off, we headed for emergency where I got him into a wheelchair and up to the triage desk.  ‘Please take a seat’, the nurse said without looking up.  I said ‘no, you will see him NOW and if you don’t, I will chain myself to your desk and won’t move and if you think I’m kidding, you’ve got another think coming’ (I can be a super bitch when I need to).  With a sniff and a huff, she took his blood pressure.  It was so low; he basically should have been dead.  They rushed him into a suite and started a complete workup.  He stayed in emergency for 3 or 4 days, and they did test after test after test and couldn’t find anything wrong with him.  Meanwhile, dad continued to crack jokes and pick on the nurses.

The finally admitted him to a ward and started more tests and finally, and exploratory surgery.  What they found was horrific.  Basically, his intestines had turned into concrete.  Anything he ingested was not passing through and was causing horrible toxicity to take over his body.  He was hooked up to a nasogastric tube suction machine and the shit that came out of his stomach was black.  And there was a lot of it.  From there on in, he wasn’t allowed ANYTHING to eat or drink – not even water.  It was beyond awful and dad, although he was really trying to remain upbeat, was slowly starting to wane.

I’d go to see dad and he’d be crying because all he wanted was some water.  Nothing else.  Just water.  I’d often give him tiny sips to ease his pain and even the nurses started slipping him the occasional orange popsicle.  You’ve never seen anyone so happy to have a popsicle in your life.

They tested him for this and that and everything in between.  ‘He has cancer!’ they’d proclaim, but couldn’t back it up with blood work.  He had 2 or 3 more exploratory surgeries; they brought in some of the top doctors in the region – still, nothing.  They could not for the life of them, figure out what it was.  By this time, dad was tired.  He didn’t want to play any more.  We’d visit him every day, taking shifts.  (I should say that by this point, mom had stopped telling everyone ‘it’s all in his head’).

February 17, 2005:  Dad was scheduled the next day to have yet another exploratory surgery.  My mom, sister and I met up with his surgeon in dad’s hospital room and he explained what they would be doing.  Dad was feeling pretty good that evening, cracking jokes, making us smile.  Towards the end of the meeting he said ‘when you all come in to see me tomorrow, please bring me a coffee!’ – And of course, we all agreed to do so.

February 18, 2005 – 10:00 am:  I was at work and received a phone call from the hospital indicating that they had given my father too much morphine and he hadn’t woken up from his surgery.  They indicated that they had ‘reversed’ the dosage and that it was still within normal limits, just on the high side.  So, I went to the hospital, and there I saw my poor, beautiful father lying there with his eyes wide open – but no sign of life.  The nurse kept trying to get him to close his eyes, but even in his unconscious stupor, he was being a pain in the butt.  I went over and said ‘C’mon Harold, you gotta close your beautiful brown eyes or they’re gonna dry out!’ – And I gently closed them for him, and they stayed that way.  I spent the rest of the day talking to him, telling him stories about work and other things…and he never woke up.  The doctors indicated that they did fully expect him to wake up soon.  Later on in the day, my mom and sister came and as I left, I gave him a big kiss and told him I’d see him again tomorrow with a cup of coffee.

Tomorrow never came.  Later that evening, after my mom and sister left, my wonderful father passed away ½ hour later.

I was very grateful to have had a friend over, because when I received that phone call, I fell completely apart.  My friend and a couple of other friends came with me to the hospital and there I met up with my sister and mom.  I walked into dad’s room and he was just…lying there, like he was sleeping.  I slumped to the ground and started weeping like I’ve never done before.  My brother in law crouched down and just held me until I could muster up the courage to actually go in the room.  My mom, sister and I sat down and the surgeon came and joined us and he actually had tears in his eyes and apologized to all of us for not being able to save him.  He explained that they just could not figure out what had happened and asked our permission to perform an autopsy, which we agreed to.  When the meeting was done, my mom and sister said goodbye to dad and I stayed behind.  I went over to him and kissed his forehead and brushed back his hair and told him how much I loved him.  Looking back over my shoulder, I said goodbye to my dad for the very last time.

It took weeks for the results to come back.  He was finally diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma – a form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.  Dad never worked anywhere with asbestos – where had that come from?

I did months of research and through a friend of mine I was able to figure it out.  Dad was in the RCAF in the 50’s, living in the barracks – which contained asbestos in the walls.  These asbestos fibres can live in a body for up to 60 years.  The timing fit, it all fit and I was on a mission.

I called my dad’s doctor and asked for his medical records and was met with ‘do I need to call my lawyer’?  As you can imagine, by this time, I hated her with a burning passion and said ‘I don’t know, I haven’t looked at them yet’.  I received those and then I filed a claim with Veterans’ Affairs and they gave my mother a nice settlement – it wasn’t going to bring my dad back, but it would help her to remain comfortable for the rest of her life.  She passed away in 2010, never having bounced back after dad’s death.

I write this for me – and for anyone who wants to read it.  For anyone who has gone through the agony of losing a loved one to cancer or any other disease.  For anyone who misses someone and wishes they could say ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye’ – just one more time.


Leave a comment

SELF INDULGENCE

Happy New Year!

So…how many of you made New Year’s Resolutions – hands up!  Right…now, how many of you are still following them?  Oh…yes, well, that’s to be expected.

Image

Every year, I vow to lose weight, drink less, do more, get out with friends, be more organized…the list goes on.  Most years I make it until about mid-January and then slowly everything starts to weaken…and I’m back to where I started, angry at myself for failing and then I wind up making things twice as hard for myself because if I’ve failed, I’m going to do it with a vengeance.

Image

Which ultimately means I eat too much, drink too much, slob out on the couch, ignore everyone and find myself looking for my bankcard at the bottom of my purse (because there is no way in HELL I’ll have put it back where it should go).

Bah.

Just prior to Christmas, I had a (as my father would have put it) a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting with my landlord.  I’ve been wanting to purchase my condo for a long time, but kept putting off attacking the mountain of personal debt I’ve accumulated in about the past 9 years.  She’s given me until the middle of the year to prove that I AM working on it and if she’s happy with the results, she will bend over backwards to assist me with the purchase – WAY above and beyond what a normal landlord would ever do.  Our meeting was extremely intense; not since my father died have I had such a conversation about my debt and my addiction to self indulgence.

Which started after my dad died.  I just put that together.  Interesting.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my dad was everything – dad, best friend, mentor – I admit, I was definitely daddy’s girl.  He did everything for me – got the oil changed in my car, bailed me out of stupid monetary decisions – the stuff most dads do.  I never panicked – or paid much attention to things, because I knew dad always had my back.  I’m embarrassed to admit that he helped me out financially WAY too many times.

My dad died suddenly in February 2005.  It hit me like a fucking sledgehammer.  If you were to ask me what the rest of the year looked like, I can’t tell you because I was in a complete fog.  My sister and I had to start caring for our extremely needy mother, who made our lives a living hell.  I had lost my dad, my best friend and my support.  My safety net, as it were.

Image

That’s when things started getting ugly.  I started drinking too much, spending too much – EVERYTHING was too much.  I didn’t care, nor did I think of the ramifications of my actions.  It made me feel better.  It stopped the hurt.  I started spending like I had an unlimited trunk full of cash.  I didn’t buy big things; it was the little things – $40 here for a new shirt, $25 here for groceries and I’m not even going to get into how much I’ve spent on wine over the years (that in itself is embarrassing).  Maxed out more credit cards than I can count.  Managed to get myself back on track by paying them off, only to get myself back into trouble – time and time again.

I just didn’t care…I didn’t stop to think that all those little purchases added up to one big, hefty bill.  Oh, I made payments regularly and was always very conscious about doing that, but it was all peripheral; it never entered into my mind that I was paying 13%, 15% or 17% and throwing a few hundred at it each month wasn’t getting me anywhere.  I was managing it and I didn’t have debt collectors after me and it was all good.  Carry on!

Image

After my mother died in 2010, there was a small inheritance left to me and I used most of it to pay off debt.  Yay!  A credit card with a zero balance!  Whoo!  I can start spending again!

Just before Christmas I got extremely sick and have only just started feeling marginally human again.  I had a lot of time to just sit and ponder things…when one day, I had what I like to call – a jelly donut moment.  A jelly donut moment is when you stick your finger in the middle of the donut and watch everything ooze out the sides and top.  Basically – my psyche started oozing, but with that came clarity – a sense of calmness that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Image

I realized that for the past 9 years, I’ve been obsessively self indulgent.  I bought things because I wanted them RIGHT NOW and I drank too much because it made me forget all of my problems – but, I deserved it – didn’t I?

No.  Well, maybe.  My point is that all of the money I’ve spent, all of the wine I’ve drunk didn’t replace my dad – it only created a different dependency.  A dependency on being self indulgent.  ‘Poor me, I’ve had a bad day, I should go look at shoes.’

So, tucked at home in my jammies on New Year’s Eve, with some cold medicine and Netflix – I made a different resolution.  This is the year that I become less self indulgent.  I’m going to take care of myself by eating better, getting a bit more exercise and by not drinking.  I’m going to think before I spend.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be absolutely 100% ‘perfect’ – but what it means for me, is that those moments of self indulgence are going to be the exception, rather than the rule.  Because I deserve it – don’t I?


2 Comments

Here yesterday; Gone today…

The end.  Finito.  That’s all, Folks!

You see – I am the end of the line – family wise.  My dad was the only boy (he had two sisters) and I was supposed to be a boy (oops, sorry about the not having a penis thing).  It’s something that’s bothered me for many years, ever since I realized (and, was informed) that I am indeed, it.

About five years ago, I became very interested in tracing my family tree.  Now, my dad’s side has been traced back to Adam (we’re a bunch of drunken, Scottish heathens) – but my mom’s side – well, that’s a whole different ball of wax.

My mother never told me (or anyone, for that matter) much about her family.  My grandfather died about 5 months before I was born, and based on what my sister and dad have told me about him, he was quite the character and I’m very sad that I never got the chance to meet him.  He came from Russia in 1913 to join the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  He fought in France, lived through Vimy and was wounded a few days later at (in?) Arleaux Loop.  He was sent to a military hospital in England, where he married his nurse and they returned to Canada.

That’s about all I’ve got.  My mother adored her father and didn’t have much use for her mother (who, according to my mother, was evil and batshit crazy…hmm…the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree on that one).

So, armed with that information, I started digging.  I came across some information in an old family photo album that actually listed all of my grandmother’s brothers and sisters.  Aha!  But the person I was most interested in was my grandfather.

On and off, over the past few years, I’ve done some research, even managed to get copies of his attestation papers from Veterans’ Affairs.  Reading them was just fascinating!  It detailed his military history, his health, what happened when he was wounded – every little detail was meticulously kept.  Except for the town in Russia he was born in.  The name he had listed doesn’t exist, nor did it ever exist.  I tried a million different variations, asked around to some of my eastern European friends – I just couldn’t get anywhere, so I sort of let it lie.

About a month ago, my sister gave me a bag of documents.  It was everything that was in my dad’s safety deposit box – she’d had it for some time, but had only recently come across it.  For me, it was like Christmas.  I found my mother’s birth certificate – and on it – was the REAL name of the town my Grandfather was born in!  Turns out that it’s now considered a part of Belarus (I guess that sort of makes me a Belorussian – I think we’re very good at shot put in the Olympics, if I remember correctly 🙂 ).  I also found out that my mother had Grade 12 piano (never heard her play a note in her life).  I even found copies of her high school report cards – she was a pretty smart cookie; dad on the other hand – erm, not so much.  It had my dad’s military records, a few photos and even a letter written to my grandfather from 1904.

In this bag, was a link to the family I never knew, never got to know and brought to light who my parents were before they were my parents.

My mother was HOT, I mean SMOKIN’ HOT!  And my dad was no slouch himself.  I learned through some reading and from my sister that she was a talented artist (again, I never knew of this). She was a real shit disturber during her Air Force days, and spent most of her time on her hands and knees, scrubbing airplane hangars with a toothbrush.  The pictures I have of her as a young woman shows a free spirit, full of fun and life and mischief.  Dad was the same way – some of his Air Force stories had me rolling with laughter (some of the crap he was allowed to get away with in the 1950’s is considerably different than what they can get away with today!)

mom and daddadmom

I’m sad that I never got to know my parents beyond them being ‘mom and dad’.  I did a little bit with my dad, but my mom remained tight lipped until the day she died.  It’s only now that I’m learning to appreciate who they were as people, as a young man and woman in the 40’s and 50’s.  Why they were the way they were – what happened to my mother to turn her into an old, manipulative and excessively codependent woman?  Why didn’t she share her life with us, her family?  Was my dad truly happy?  Did he live a good life and was he able to achieve some of his dreams?

While I’m writing this post for me – it’s mostly for all of you who might still be lucky enough to have your parents with you.  Learn from them.  Ask questions – not kid to parent questions – adult to adult questions.  Ask about their past, their dreams and what some of the best parts of their lives have been.  Would they have lived life differently?  Do they have any regrets?  Encourage them to tell stories about crazy Aunt Helen, about their first kiss – even their first job.  Get to know them as people; you’ll be pleasantly surprised about the things you learn – after all, they’re human too.