After reading my blogging partner in crime’s beautiful and moving post, I knew I had to share some of my story too. I’ve been writing about it a lot just not for the blog. But now I think my story might help someone else have a different ending.
I’ve told you before that my dad cheated death on multiple occasions that I know about. He fell in a pool and a manhole in a third world country. He crashed cars – multiple cars. During his last year the doctors called multiple times to tell me this was it and I wanted to shout “Do you know my father?” Seriously, how many times can a doctor say that and you rush up to say good bye and then it’s not good bye…thankfully. And then when good bye comes you have already said good bye so many times and the real end comes so fast that you can only whisper good bye via a telephone.
I haven’t told you what put my dad in so many death cheating situations. My dad died from complications of cirrhosis and leukemia. The only treatment for him was a liver transplant and the world renown transplant center at Georgetown made it clear that wasn’t an option. One of the reasons was the leukemia. The drugs that are used for a transplant suppress the immune system and would allow the leukemia to flourish. But none of that is the heart of the story.
My dad had cirrhosis because he was an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic. He was able to work, start a business, maintain relationships and live a full life. No one found him passed out on the street. He didn’t smell of alcohol and wasn’t a mean drunk. That made it easy to hide and excuse even from those who saw him everyday. I am sure this admission came as a surprise to many of you. As I reflect on the last few years, I know now the drinking was a problem. And I felt it was a problem when he stayed at my house and I would hear him in the liquor cabinet in the wee hours of the morning. I believed Dad when he said he needed it so he could sleep because his restless legs and his back hurt so much. To be fair, at some point he did fracture his spine. But to be honest, the alcohol helped no one.
I never told my dad when something he did bothered me. I never told him it hurt my feelings when he asked me to stay with a neighbor rather than at my stepmonster’s house. I excused his absence at countless important events and I never told him I wanted him to stop drinking. I wish with all my might I had. Because, of course, it is implied that a daughter wants her dad to be healthy and not addicted but someone who is addicted probably needs lots of people, especially daughters, telling him to stop. I was able to make the tough decisions at the end as the person with medical power of attorney but I wish I had made some enemies and told him to stop drinking years before. Part of me says I shouldn’t feel guilty and I should just cherish the many, many awesome memories I am left with. But I do guilt well.
Dad never went to AA. When he realized too late that his drinking was a problem he recorded his daily drinks in a Word document. Kind of like counting calories, the record should help you slow your intake down. AA would not have been my dad’s style. Although, he would have charmed the whole group and found a support system that he was lacking in his area.
I think alcohol numbed the pain for my dad. The pain of too many regrets and unanswered questions and the depression that lurked behind the curtain made a drink – or seven – an easy panacea. I know at the end my dad wished more than anything that he had made different choices and that he could be around for his grandkids….and his kids. But it was too late.
My dad’s addiction didn’t make me love him less. Instead all of the love, the anger, the sorrow and the helplessness jumble all up into one and make a complicated mess of devotion. I am mad that he probably could have survived the leukemia for a little longer if the cirrhosis had not been an issue.
I share this with you so you know that it can be too late very quickly. Help someone find help if you can. Cirrhosis is a physically painful and mentally painful way to die. This is not the last I have to say on the subject…it’s just my introduction.