Warning: This blog entry is potentially depressing. So for all you feel-good folks out there, read no further.
I just realized today that this month marks a significant anniversary in my life and my family's history. 25 years ago, my dad found out he had a benign brain tumor called an AVM. He elected to have brain surgery to have it removed. He and my mom were both 36 years old. My brother was 7 years old. I was 3 years old. The year was 1982.
My dad made it through surgery fine, but when he was in recovery, he had a massive hemorrhage in his brain. He was in a coma for 3 months. He probably should have died, but he didn't. He finally woke up and had to relearn everything. Some things he would never regain. From then on, he could not work, read or write at an adult level, reason rationally, or control his negative emotions. These are just a few things that changed. Although I don't really remember much of this, I know that this changed our lives forever. My brother and I lost our dad. My mom lost her husband. My dad lost himself. All of these things will never change. The loss that my family has experienced is still very real, even 25 years later.
My dad is basically a child in a man's body, who throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way, is incredibly stubborn, and is very self-centered. He acts on impulse. He has no regard for his own safety. He is unable to drive. He does not call me on my birthday. He did not call me on, before, or after my wedding day. As far as I know, he probably doesn't think about me at all. My dad is a shell of his former self. And it is heartbreaking.
For the most part, I have learned to deal with this. Being in a different state and away from all the feelings of sadness really helps. It's not like seeing him is a sobfest, but the experience of being with him is haunting in that I can never reach him. He is just so damaged (literally) that I can't touch him. More than anything, I just want to have a meaningful conversation with him. I want to connect with him. But I never can. This has probably been the hugest source of frustration in my life.
Now that I've moved away, I only see my dad about once a year when I go to Texas for Christmas. This year, we won't be going to Texas due to financial reasons. Part of me is sad about this, because I have never spent a Christmas away from my family. But part of me is so hugely relieved that I won't have to (yet again) relive the loss of my dad when I see him again. I feel so incredibly selfish for feeling this way, especially because he's started to go downhill in the past 10 years. His AVM has grown back, and it truly is only a matter of time - as it is for all of us.
This isn't a happy anniversary. It's more like a "holy shit, I can't believe it's been this long" anniversary. Here's to 25 years of familial dysfunctionality and lost potential and endless suffering. I hope the next 25 years will bring us all some much-needed peace and closure. Hopefully it won't take that long to achieve that.
One thing I've learned from my dad's illness is that you just don't know what's going to happen. You never know when someone you love will be gone and out of your reach. Moreover, you never know when you will be gone, which is why it's important to just live, be happy, and be true. Life is truly too short. And I still miss him. You really can miss someone that you never knew.