No matter how badly someone has disappointed you in the past, it is still hard to find out they are sick.
I have an estranged father of sorts. He is not completely a stranger I suppose. At one point in my life he was fairly involved... picking me and my sister up and having weekend sleepovers at his house. But while I was still young he simply disappeared - for YEARS. It wasn't until I was eleven going to visit my grandparents that I saw him again. He walked out of the back room of his parents house with a woman in tow and grabbed hold of each of us squeezing very hard. It was a surreal experience. We had to gather our thoughts and rethink who this man even was. Our minds seemed to connect the dots, but slowly. We smiled and continued the charade we would live for the next ten years of our lives.
It turns out he found a woman he wanted to marry and thus needed to reappear to finally sign the divorce papers my mother's been trying to get signed for years. They met at a support group for those who were sexually abused. He is also a recovering addict. He has been successful in his sobriety, but he trades one vice for another.
My sister and I tried to maintain a father daughter relationship as much as possible. We would travel to MD and visit them. We would make an effort, but we were never sure what we were opening ourselves up to. He would never call, remember a birthday, send a letter or go out of his way, but when you were in his presence, he was charming, forgivable, lovable, thoughtful, a father. As I grew older our relationship shifted and he become more of a peer, but the effort was never shown. I believe my step-mother pushed him to contact us and keep in touch. After they themselves had 2 children, their marriage began to dissolve and without her or my siblings to keep us latched together, our relationship with our father began to dissipate as well. He soon met another woman who had 3 kids of her own. Not the most stable woman, fighting to leave her abusive husband and running directly into my fathers arms. She was young, uneducated, and a mess. Her children have grown to resemble her in some ways... weak, judgmental, and uneducated. They are small town red necks... and this they may even admit to. For a while I tried, but soon realized there was nothing left of what I thought my father was and his new family was too unstable to communicate with and be a part of.
It was easy to walk away. Without my phone calls or planning visits, our relationship simply began to disappear. He didn't go out of his way after all. Once my grandpa passed away and he carried on like a child, and I retaliated like a bitch, I decided I'd never go back there again. And I didn't - for a long time, until passing his exit with Paul on I-95 on our way up from Atlanta I decided I'd try and find their house and introduce him. It was May 27th - the day before my birthday. I did find the house (memory is funny like that - a house still being built but not yet lived in) and he was home. He didn't act happy to see me but did offer to stay the weekend. When I reminded him that my birthday was tomorrow and I had to get back to NY to celebrate it, he seemed to just shrug. He didn't even wish me a Happy Birthday. That was in 2005 - we are now closing the year 2009. My grandfather passed away quite some time ago now... It has easily been 6 years. And life is more stable and happy without him.
Until my mother's father passed away last summer (the only father I've ever really known) and less than a month after his passing, I received a phone call that my father suffered a massive stroke that should have killed him. It didn't kill him - it left him blind in his left eye, with very little use of his left arm, slurred speech, and only partial use of his left leg. He can walk again, but awkward. He can use his hand, but not quite right. Despite his ability to move, he cannot control his movements. His brain is not sending signals properly and they expected vigorous therapy was in order. But soon after he suffered multiple other smaller strokes. Not one killed him (probably to the doctors surprise). He became frustrated and violent with his new disability. And with poor insurance, doctors weren't looking very hard to fix him. They eventually concluded it was a deformity in his heart which was there from birth but went unnoticed. After surgery all was to be well.
His recovery was slow and frustrating, and stories spoken by his wife were that he was not trying, he was frustrated, and would at times get violent, hitting the dogs and destroying the phone because he could not figure anything out. Her solution was to leave him. From what I understand, he didn't last long in the house alone (with her daughter and her boyfriend but without her) and decided his life wasn't worth living, but instead of ending it, he drove himself (a dangerous act) to the hospital and told them he was thinking of suicide and that they had to admit him and help him. He was later discharged into a 1/2way house at the church. That was the last I heard of my father. This was the last I heard and this was months ago.
Today I received an email that he is back in the hospital - the doctors have asked him to go to the ER anytime he feels he has a headache. During the last few tests, they found he has a tear in his corroded artery - whatever this tear is, it didn't kill him (which I still don't understand). They cannot perform surgery on him because he might die during surgery with a massive stroke. I found this out this morning... and have re-thought every step of his condition, progress, and lack there-of.
Now when I tell you this has been going on for 1 year and I haven't driven to MD once to see him, would you think I was a devil? I called him after the 1st stroke, but I didn't intend to. I called the nurse desk to find out his condition, and they transfered me so I could speak to his wife. She filled me in in her cryptic way and passed the phone to my father. I was not prepared to speak to him. He was understandable, but his speech was unorganized and slurred. I thought I'd go see him, but every time I tried, I'd break down and discover I just couldn't do it.
Now one year later, I find that I'm colder about it. I honestly don't think I intend to visit him. I ask myself, "If he dies, will you feel guilty and regret it?" and I don't know if I would. I wonder if he does, if I'd attend the funeral - and I don't know if it would be proper. I honestly don't know what this man is to me, but he isn't really my family.
I feel ashamed of what people might think of me - and that makes me feel guilty. How can someone else judge me without walking in my shoes and growing from my childhood.
Sometimes it's better to be cut off completely. Completely estranged. I don't need to know about his health, mental or otherwise. I don't need to know about his lifestyle, however perfect or corrupt. But he is only SORTA estranged. Just like he tried to be SORTA a dad.