The old man’s move into rehab was delayed by a lack of available beds and a flu epidemic which ruled out a facility in nearby Wilmington in favor on one up in North Andover.
We kept in touch through texts and phone calls, but I didn’t bother visiting him in person. When this shit started to go down, I vowed to myself that I would not take ownership of my father. I didn’t even want to provide his caseworkers the opening to suggest it. He was my father and I did love him in a particularly qualified way, but the basis for that kind of caretaker relationship died when my mother did.
This tweet from December 19 summed up my attitude perfectly:
My dad in December 1988: “I’ll let the social workers handle it.”
Me in December 2018: “I’ll let the social workers handle it.”
The circle of life is now complete.
It wasn’t my intent to dump those responsibilities on Lil Bro. I encouraged him to adopt my approach and I think he wanted to, but the tendrils of kinship managed to ensnare him. He’s a lot like the old man in that way, driven by a sense of honor-fueled obligation. But to Lil Bro it means more than the selective lip service our father paid to it.
Even if I’d wanted to help, I couldn’t have. Maura’s mom took a turn for the worse around the holidays, and my time was spent making sure she was free to deal with her own family obligations. It wasn’t an either/or competition between our two ailing parents. We were simply following pre-established trajectories based on our familial culture — the daughter of a close knit immigrant clan with a beloved matriarch and the son of an inveterate shit-stirrer whose interactions turn ugly after a short span of time.
I told the old man this point blank — that when push came to shove, my allegiance was to my spouse. There was no way I was going to allow things to lead to another fight with Maura, especially not when she was dealing with the loss of her parent.
My father said he understood. He said it in a way to make it seem like it was his own gesture of self-sacrifice. But I could tell he was fuming with envy over it.
Jealous resentment had become a thing with him in recent years, kicking into overdrive around the time my maternal grandmother’s health started to fail. She had hated the old man from the moment my mom first brought him home, and was extremely resistant to his powers of manipulation. The fact that my dad had been a violent drunk who dragged her daughter down with him, then had her ashes exhumed from the family plot and moved to Bourne, didn’t help matters, but the bottom line is she never liked my father.
When Lil Bro and I got power of attorney over my grandmother’s estate, the old man began to let fly with unsolicited advice seasoned with lashings of resentment.
“How come I’m not in the will?” (Really, Dad? Really?) “You should really do this…” followed by some nonsense that we’d already told him was a non-starter. “What if..” introducing some absurd hypotheticals on par with the moon falling to earth in a shower of gold coins. It would’ve been annoying in the best of times, but was the last thing Lil Bro and I needed to deal with when we were worrying about our grandmother’s health and financial solvency.
It got so maddening that the two of us independently told him to shut the fuck up and mind his own business, forcing him to retreat into his fallback stance of self-pitying martyr. “I just want the best for you boys but you don’t need my help a bloo a bloo bloo.”
Now it was the old man’s time in the tragic spotlight, but the audience was distracted by other events. When we did pay him attention, he was more interested in talking shit and playing games than getting serious about his long term plans. There were services to set up and things to attend to, but getting him to commit to starting the process was an exercise in frustration. “You won’t need to” became “I guess that’s your problem” in the space of a single conversation. He’d accuse me of not taking proper care of his cat to Lil Bro, then turn around and tell me how Lil Bro was saying crap about me — without ever considering that the two of us were in close communication and had told him so on multiple occasions.
The one thing I did agree to was to pick him up at the rehab. Because Lil Bro was going to be out of town and it was a handy excuse to take a Friday off work.