Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Reckoning

April 21, 2012

I can see my father now—his mouth twisted tight as a sailor’s knot, punctuating each word with his index finger.

He would be saying, “You can go fuck yourself.  My daughter is laying in the Critical Care Unit and you want me to meet with you about MY BEHAVIOR.  I have done nothing wrong.”

Even though I am my father’s daughter, because I am my father’s daughter, I do not say this when the Social Worker calls me from the hospital to tell me I must meet with them before I can see my Dad.  Because of the tension my very existence and proximity to my father creates.  For his wife.

Before the call I already decided I was not going to go see my Dad again.   Yesterday, before the call, I wrote to you about that.

Either he would get better, or he would not. 

Without me there. 

It is clear to me Dad can not take any conflict in his room. 

It would kill him. 

He needs all his strength for healing.  It will take everything from him and then more.

I break down.  I babble to the social worker.

I am caught off guard with a bottle of Windex in one hand, a paper towel in another, having just sprayed my bathroom mirror. 

The cell phone rang.

Unknown the screen said.
“This is the Social Worker at Tacoma General.  First thing I want you to know is that your dad is ok.” She said. 

It is one thing to decide you are going to do the right thing and do it voluntarily. 

Because you love your dad. 

Because you made promises to him.  Promises you cannot keep.

But to be told, “you cannot see your dad again until you meet with us.”


My sister Linda has been unfriended too. 

She does not want to go back to the hospital either. 

She wrote this to the family today.

I have been un-friended. Okay. So what I hear you telling me is that you no longer want or need me in your life. Okay. I am not offended by this. I welcome this as if you think that little of me then I no longer need you in mine. Yet it saddens me that the trust, the friendship and the love I felt for someone and I thought they felt for me can be so easily thrown away. It certainly is not the first time someone in my family has turned on me or any one of us. And if any other member of my family wishes to un-friend me after reading what I say here, be my guest. We are a throw away family. We have learned this well. We were taught to turn on each other as a form of survival. My family is toxic. I have heard this phrase repeatedly over the last couple weeks. It is true. My family is toxic.
I am transported back to my childhood where each of my siblings had a role to play. One is the tattler, one is the butt kisser, one the taunter, one is the name caller, one is the protector, one hides in the corner and so on and so on. We learned these parts well to survive and we still are playing them. Information is given according to the role we play. We choose one target and all gather around the mother hen playing her game so we can stay in the nest. Not speaking out for whatever reason we have learned. Well I want to be the shadow and hide from all of this but I am no longer a child. I will no longer be told what to do, what to say or to be silent. I no longer concern myself about pleasing this sister, this brother, that mother, or my father so I can be accepted. Where were any of you when I needed your voice when an injustice was done? Where are we all now when one of our siblings is being treated unfairly? Are we fighting for her voice to be heard? No! Everyone is playing their role.
Many things have been written on facebook over the last couple weeks. We write our feelings. We write our daily activities. We write anything and everything. Sometimes we write things others take offense over. Personalizing every word, every phrase, and every paragraph. Sometimes we write to heal ourselves or to relieve the pain of what we feel is an injustice. Then friends and family comment adding their input based upon statements made by the post, input made based upon one side of the story. And then sides are taken. You get mad because someone else has posted their side of the story. So are you implying that your story is more important than the other’s? Is your version any more real than the other person’s? Are you now ostracizing them and cutting them off from family and/or friendships because they too told their story, their version. We own our stories not to be broken down by anyone. No one has the power to do that. We have the right to speak our mind just as you do.
You say you are stressed. Own your stress. Do not say it is because of this person or that person. Our stress is based upon how we chose to act and react. It is based upon a feeling whether it be an insecurity, an irritation on past experiences or just because we are angry or scared. Do not tell me it is this person’s fault or that person’s fault. Don’t elaborate the story just to get sympathy for yourself. Own your words and your actions. During this time of dad’s recovery, we all want to know what is going on with him. We are all concerned about him getting better. We all spend time with him as we are able according to our schedules. Just because one person is there more than the other, doesn’t mean he is loved any less by anyone of us. Do not accuse, blame or cut off others just because you are feeling angry or scared. We all are feeling the same way but we all express it differently. Dad said this will be a time for us all to pull together for the strength he is going to need. But in this time of need, you have turned on a few of us. You say this time is not about this person or that person, it is about my dad. Then act like it. Don’t make it about you and what makes you mad. Make it about working together for one common goal. That is what my father would have wanted. I respect the fact that you are my dad’s wife. I am happy he has found someone to love as he loves you. I know he is fighting now for life for you. Be secure in that knowledge. We should not be acting out (as what happened yesterday) in his presence. It is not good for him. Differences should be dealt with as adults, person to person, and not with an audience.
My dad is a fighter. This is just one more obstacle in his life which he has to overcome; with the love and assistance of his wife and with the love of his children. What is happening with this family at this time of uncertainty is definitely not right. I will not do what someone else tells me I have to do unless I feel it is the right thing. I will not be silent. Just as my father is your husband, my family is my family. I will not be silent.
I called Linda. 

“You did not put in Trouble Maker.  That was me.”

“No.  You were the protector.” She answers. 

“Great protector I was.”  I tell her.  “I ran away. And left you all in the house with Willa and dad.”

“You did what you could.”  She tells me.

I should have done more. 

But it was all I could do at 16 to save myself. 


And yes the past was the past. 

I think I’ll stick my finger down my throat and make myself puke if I hear that one more time.

Because of my past I have major depression, anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome.

Because the past is never really the past.  It follows you around collecting dust bunnies in its blanket that have to be shaken out once awhile.

There’s a lot of dust in the air right now.

It settles to the floor, collects in piles.  The air catches it, swirls it around, makes small dust devils that dance unpredictably around the room.

Lisa calls your aunt.  “Mom, what kind of family did you get me into?”


I want to ask my Dad, “What kind of family did you get me into?”

One I cannot function in.

“I want to make it clear we aren’t excluding you, but you are on a list of people that is not allowed to visit your dad until we meet with you.  We have to go over the rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior in your father’s room.”

Like I don’t have the sense God gave a granny goat.  I know how to behave in my father’s room.

The social worker has no idea how many hours I have clocked in hospital rooms.  With you.  My child that died.  Your essence following me into the parking lot of every hospital, every Emergency Room, Waiting Room, Hospital Room.

She has no idea that just a little over a year ago I sat by your Great Grandpa Roger’s bed in a hospice center and read him   poems from Yeats.  My favorite line, “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in me…”

Great Grandpa Roger could not speak.  He could not swallow.  He could only project sheer terror in his eyes until they closed and he breathed peacefully under the influence of regular injections.  He squeezed my hand after I read that Yeats line the seventh time.  A few days later he was dead.

She has no idea that I promised my dad that I would be there to ask questions, to get answers, to advocate on his behalf.

To reassure him everything was going to be ok.

She does not know that in my baby sister’s eyes, I am the protector.  That is my role in the family. 

There has been a hostile takeover. 

The social worker knows nothing about me except what she has been told.

And I must meet with her before I can see my dad again.

Depression, PTSD, anxiety disorder. 

I spray the floor of my shower with Formula 409.  Breathe in the fumes of chlorine.  Yes, I know.  This is harmful to me. 

I try to make the shower floor clean.

Cleanliness is close to Godliness.

I need divine intervention right now.

“Family is important to the patient’s healing process.”  The social worker tells me. 

I am crazy with the craziness of this.

Throw gasoline on a burning match and see what happens.

Is this for real?

Was I dreaming this?

“We don’t want to exclude you.  Here’s my number.  You must meet with us before you will be allowed in to see your dad.  I want to make that very clear.  We are a hospital and we can exclude anyone we perceive to be a threat to a patient’s health.”

“I am staying away for now.”  I tell her.

“Staying away is your choice. You have to meet with us before you can see your dad.”

This is her mantra.

I am trying to find my breath.

I am trying to find my mantra to get me through this.

Right now the only thing I can hear is my dad’s voice, that voice, the voice that says “Fuck you.”  Through clenched teeth a mouth that does not move, only makes sound.

My dad will get better, or he will not. 

In the meantime, I will wait.

I will not be the tension.  I will not be the conflict. 

I cannot be the protector.

I need to save myself right now. 

I love you.