November 6, 2007

It's Been 25 Years.

Warning: This blog entry is potentially depressing. So for all you feel-good folks out there, read no further.

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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.

10 comments:

WeezerMonkey said...

:(

E-hug for you. [squeeze]

Christmas will definitely be different, but, rest assured, it will still be wonderful in a different way.

Nanette said...

I understand the feeling you're describing, about the shell of the man you used to know. My father was not himself at all the last year or so of his battle with cancer. He just wasn't "there" and it was so disheartening to be reminded of how full of life he used to be.

Robyn said...

I am sorry you've had such a difficult burden to weather. I am glad you underscore the need to be happy and live life in spite of its obstacles. I can only imagine the range of emotions that go on inside your family. How much you can love, and still not know someone. I cannot say for certain, but there is probably a place deep down inside your dad that knows you are his and loves you more than he'll ever be able to communicate.

I wish you peace this season.

Angie Eats Peace said...

oh, wow.

I am so sorry that you have had to go through this.

Families of dysfunction are so much fun, aren't they?

But, thus is the hand of cards you have been dealt, and it seems like you have dealt with it well, all the best to you, homie.

a real librarian said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you have had to deal with this all of your life. ***hugs*** to you.

But, thank you for the message at the end. It is a very important one.

kim said...

:(

Sorry, dude. I can't imagine...

Lesli said...

I related very much to your posting. My dad had a stroke and although he only lived for about 4 weeks afterwards, I remember thinking he was trapped inside his body and could no longer communicate with us. Your posting has a very relevant message--we never know when life will change or we will lose someone--never take anyone or anything for granted & live your life now, in the moment, getting as much joy as you can.

amber said...

talk about going through hell and then some.... :(

i really don't think you should feel bad though for in some ways being relieved that you're not going home this year for the holidays. while it in no way compares to your situation, 2007 has not been the best year for my immediate family and there are days that i'm really quite happy that i don't live close or that i missed a phone call from them. sometimes it's easier just not to deal with a situation and pretend you're an ostrich.

i hope that the holidays bring you a sense of peace and well-being, even if you are far away from them this year. :)

Brandy said...

I can't fully relate but It was very hard to see Pauls dad slowly lose his battle to ALS. If you ever need to talk...

Anonymous said...

I know I can never say anything that would help fill that gap. I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing your story. ~Melinda