Recently I confronted the question of what I would do should my father request to see me before he died.
Estranged from my family for more than 10 years. I have not seen, written, nor spoken to them in that time. The only exception being the couple of emails my husband sent my parents to let them know of the birth of their great grandchild. A few emails that consisted of little more than, “here is a picture,” followed by a “thanks.” No effort from them to connect, no interest shown in their first great grand child.
Then one day I got a rather long email from my Dad telling me how ill he was; bad heart, poor lungs, lousy circulation and failing kidneys. He says the latest tests show his kidneys are working at only 15%. At 10% he will require dialysis. I don’t know how much to believe. With just a couple of exceptions, my dad was never ill when I was a kid. But the times he was, it was the end of the world as we knew it. He would be dying from the flu, sicker than anyone else in the house.
I feel nothing as I read the email. In fact, my first thought, unkind as it is, is he should have taken better care of his himself. He wouldn’t be in this condition if he had listened to the doctors, taken control of his diet, and taken the meds he was given. I feel no sympathy. His ailments are caused by the diabetes which has been out of control due to his stubbornness and insistence that he doesn’t have to do what anyone tells him. How much sympathy can you feel about an ill person who will not take care of themselves?
I wonder if he will ask me to see him if he gets sicker. Maybe he just assumes that I will drop everything right now and run to his bedside? Would I visit him? My inner cynic considers what would be gained or learned from seeing him after all this time. The little girl in me says I should. Not for myself, but for him. I imagine there could be something to be gained my visit, but for the life of me I cannot imagine what sort of miracle I could hope for. What could he offer me dying, that he never had for me living? Will I sit quietly and listen to him as he discusses his impending death imparting wisdom? What of family confrontation? The rest of my family is also an unknown. Very likely they will feel my presence is to make sure I remain in dad’s Will. (Which is certainly not the case, since Mom is alive and there would be little enough to leave behind for all the kids to share.)
Knowing Dad, and being the cynic that I am, I expect neither. Dad is a narcissist. He needs attention and pouts when he doesn’t get it. Perhaps he simply wants the illusion of being surrounded by a loving family? Pretend, just for the moment that nothing had happened to spoil the fantasy. Does he expect me to tell him what a great Dad he was? I suppose I’d have to lie and I will feel like a hypocrite if I do. Can I accept that to make a dying man feel better about his life? To make this dying man feel better about his life?
What are the reasons for visiting an ailing parent after years of estrangement? Is it the hope of a reconciliation? A deathbed confession? I know a couple of people who were estranged from a parent who didn’t see them before they died. I know one person who was estranged and saw his dad before he died. Chris came away from the experience saddened. He didn’t go to meet his dad expecting anything, yet he came away disappointed. Mostly disappointed that his dad never acknowledged any mistakes.
Visit or not, either way, it’s Karma. At the time I decided that I would liet karma play out. Perhaps when the time comes my choice will be more easily made. I never received any more emails.
As it turned out, my decision was very easily made. No one informed me of my Dad’s death. I found out accidentally a year after his death. I guess that’s Karma. His or mine, only time will tell.