In Which The Salt Girl Loses Her Marbles

Why is it that bad things-stressful things, things capable of breaking people down–always seem to come all together in one big wallop? Two weeks ago, I found out/decided that I’m moving out of my apartment and I’ve been spending all of my time trying to find a new place, which I thought would be easier this time around since I’m in the city and not on Martha’s Vineyard. It hasn’t been. I’ve gone to see a few places, all of which have been either disappointing or… not right.

So, basically, I’m staring down the barrel of homelessness.

And this afternoon, I got a phone call from my father, who’s been having serious health problems in the last few months but was in relatively stable condition, and he said that he was going back to the ER because everything had gone south again, and fast. I won’t go into detail because it’s truly grotesque–I will only say that it’s utterly heartbreaking to see someone you love going through something so awful, something so unpleasant, and to know that there’s very little that the doctors can do to alleviate his discomfort. The condition he has is not life-threatening, so there’s only so much that they can do. He needs a liver transplant, but will only be moved up the list when his organs start failing and it does become life-threatening. To top it off, he lives by himself an hour and a half away, I don’t have a car, and I’m his only living family.

This evening while I was sitting with him in the Emergency Room, he told me we had to fool the doctors into thinking that I was driving him home because they didn’t want him to be driving himself–but I can’t drive him home because I don’t have a license. “They don’t know that,” he said. “I’m fine, I’ll be fine to drive, they just want to know I’ve got a support network.” When I heard him say that, I realized that I am his support network, in its entirety, and I’m ultimately useless beyond conversation and an excessive dose of “I love you.” It made me feel completely powerless, defeated. I am this man’s entire family, and I can’t even give him a ride home. I can’t ask him to come live with me so I can take care of him, because I don’t even have a place for myself to live, and I wouldn’t know the first thing about taking care of what he’s got going on.

So I cried. I cried in front of my father, who’s already upset enough as it is. I cried so hard I almost hyperventilated, or puked. “I’m so sorry Dad,” I kept saying, to which he responded, “Don’t worry about me, worry about your own things. This is not your fault.” But if I don’t worry about him, who will?

I have always considered myself a strong person, a mature person, a person capable of adapting to and dealing with almost any sort of situation, but tonight I felt weak, inadequate and immature. I felt like a child. I wanted someone to come make me feel better, when I should be making him feel better. The problem, I guess, is that I just don’t know how. And in spite of his condition, he’s still trying to take care of me. I know that’s what fathers do, but I don’t feel like I deserve it.

I know in my rational mind that I’m being hard on myself, that I’m internalizing things I have no way of controlling, but I can’t make the feeling go away.

Tonight I got a glimpse of what his daily life has been like for the past few months–a reality which he has masked with reassuring words, either so that I wouldn’t worry, or so that he wouldn’t make himself more depressed than he already is. My father is not one for self-pity, which I fear will prevent others from helping him–he simply will not ask for help. He wouldn’t even call his best friend of 55 years for a ride to the hospital, because he didn’t want to be disruptive or needy. I’m supposed to go to a baseball game tomorrow night, but I know if I do go, I will think only of my father, suffering strongly and silently, alone in his house, and it will make me feel guilty for being there at all.

There is nothing more humbling than powerlessness, and today, I’m humble. I’m low-down. And I want more than anything for my daddy to be okay. There is nothing more heartbreaking for a daughter, in my mind, than to watch the pillar of strength she has grown up with crumble. My father has shrunken–he’s lost over fifty pounds in the past six months. He once looked like Santa Claus–jolly, round, healthy if a bit on the cushy side. Now he looks like St. Nick deflated–skinny arms and legs, sunken cheeks, the light in his bright blue eyes dimmed ever-so-slightly but enough to break me in pieces.

When I was younger, I thought that losing my mother at the age of 12 was the hardest, most painful thing I’d ever have to endure. I know now that I was wrong. At 12, reality is filtered through the ignorance of youth, therefore the pain is filtered, too. The irony there, I suppose, is that I don’t think I’ve ever needed my mommy more than I do right now. But I’ll survive, I always do.

At least I still have Dad. As long as he’s around, whatever condition he’s in, he’s still my rock. I just want to find a way to be a better rock for him, because I’m all he’s got and I don’t feel like that’s enough. He deserves so much more.

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~ by saltgirlspeaks on 13 June, 2007.

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