February 5, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
Darling has never had much of a relationship with his father.
His parents divorced when he was two years old. His father was in and out, gone for weeks and months, would resurface and buy the kids tons of stuff and then disappear for a while. He remarried a few times, came back into Darling’s life and would leave again. Darling always viewed him as a male relative, not really his father. They’ve never had that bond. That bond was reserved for his uncle in Tennessee, a quiet and gentle man who is wise and considerate. But his father? Mega problems. Bi-Polar, OCD, Control issues, passive aggressive, you name it. He couldn’t very well carry on a relationship with his children when he couldn’t get himself straight. No one blames him for that. But the last two estrangements? His father chose to cut Darling (and eventually his siblings, mother and daughter) out of his life. His exact words were, “You are no longer my son. I don’t want to hear from you ever again!”
I won’t bore you with all of the hairy details, but basically it consists of this: Dad disappears for a while, Dad resurfaces in a few years, wants to renew and restore the relationship, Darling is cautious but loves his father so agrees, Dad begins controlling and insisting things be a certain way, Dad doesn’t agree with some of Darling’s decisions, Dad gets angry and gives Darling an ultimatum, Darling calls his bluff, Dad disappears for a while. This happened just before our wedding and we had to change all of our plans (for the better, it turns out) and tried to get Dad to therapy with us so we could work things out and he refused, told us we were the problem, he didn’t need help. This happened when Bug Boy was a year old, although he didn’t try to get rid of us that time. This happened again just after we moved to our current home (he flipped out in front of Bug Boy) while he was beginning divorce #3 and we still do not have contact with him. His was-going-to-be-ex-wife-but-had-a-change-of-heart kept contact with us (she is a sweet woman who means no harm, she just knows that Dad has issues. He keeps promising to work on them. She keeps falling for it. They’ve called off the divorce (which I am glad about, I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone!). But with Dad it is always someone else’s fault, never his. He didn’t flip out at work several times and lose his job, it was all the boss’ fault. He didn’t mean to run the cop over, the cop scared him and confused him. His mother should never have allowed his ex-wife to stay over night, even though he kicked her out in the middle of the night and she didn’t even have clothes with her. His sisters meddle too much. His daughter took sides. His son won’t allow him to just walk into his house unannounced whenever he wants (literally walked in while we were sleeping) so it is his fault. We are raising our son wrong, he isn’t autistic! We just put too much pressure on him! We make him that way! The doctors are wrong, he doesn’t have personality disorder, OCD or BiPolar disorder. He isn’t narcissistic. He isn’t autistic (turns out he may be). He’s right and everyone else is wrong. So there.
A few weeks before Christmas we heard from Stepmother-in-law. Dad was sick. Really sick. Like, advanced Prostate Cancer. She has been working hard on their relationship, he agreed to counseling (although, whether or not he goes I have no idea) and finally went back on meds, after a three year hiatus. He was getting a part-time job, paying bills again, throwing things out (one of the biggest issues he has is keeping everything. Even banana peels.) and functioning well. But he had cancer. They thought perhaps it had spread. Turns out it didn’t, he had his prostate removed and was having radiation. Things were going okay, he still did not ask to see Darling (or his sister) but sent cards with money, the usual pattern. We ignored it, but unfortunately, Bug Boy intercepted one of the envelopes and it opened a can of worms. We still tried to smooth it over and explain to Bug Boy that Daddy was very angry with his father because his father had done things we did not agree with. Bug Boy cried (because he misses his grandfather) but understood.
Fast forward to today. No contact since the Christmas cards. The phone rang, I was just getting up from a nap so I ignored it. Something told me to check the caller ID and it was registered to Darling’s dad. I still didn’t answer it (I can’t talk for at least fifteen minutes when I wake up) but saw that a message was left. I listened to it not knowing Bug Boy was in the room. Darling’s Dad has had a heart attack, 100% blockage in one of his arteries, he was being taking into surgery for a stent.
Now what? We obviously called Darling’s sister and told her what was going on (she is in the middle of a cross-country move. Yes, again. Utah. Yes, again.). She and Darling discussed it for a few minutes. They feel horrible, they wish he was not so sick, but what are they supposed to do? He made it VERY clear to everyone he wanted nothing to do with them. He told them that they were dead to him. They’ve been hurt over and over and over their entire lives. Are they supposed to go to him just because he is ill? Are they supposed to forget what he has said? In one respect they hate that they haven’t been in touch with him for three years and are sad that the children do not know their grandfather but they also think it is healthier for everyone involved. Thing is, I do not want to go to this man’s funeral knowing that we could have at least said goodbye to him. I am not sure Darling feels the same way. He is done, as is his sister. In fact, coincidentally, we went to Darling’s grandfather’s funeral and I had never met the man in the ten years I was with Darling because Darling’s father had refused to allow his children to contact either of their grandparents because he was blaming them for something. I’ve still not met Darling’s grandmother, who is still living, but we do send cards and pictures back and forth.
This is such a difficult situation. I hate that the kids don’t know him. I hate that we don’t see them on holidays. I understand that he is sick and I am willing to forgive (after all, my mother has some heavy-duty issues herself, although she has never cut us out of her life, she just forgets we are there sometimes) but Darling is just not there. As far as he is concerned, this is a done deal. Over. Finished. But is it? I just don’t want my father-in-law to die and have Darling regret not speaking to him or making amends. I don’t want him to live on wishing he had contacted his father. It’s his father! His own blood! The same last name! Darling just doesn’t view it that way. So I have to respect it.
Sheesh. Heavy duty, rain cloud, sad face stuff, huh? I guess the only thing I can do at this point is pray.