Cat spent twenty hours over the last two days working on getting my dad’s medicines figured out. Finally, at 8:30 last night, she and I were at a pharmacy at Wal-Mart, spending $1,262 dollars on a 90-day supply of my dad’s pills. Another three hours back home sorting those meds into his pill dispenser boxes and preparing the proper document for whatever poor person is next tasked with helping my dad, and we were done.
Today, right before we leave, we’re going to hide my dad’s car keys. He will go insane looking for them. I mean, crazy insane. He dying to drive; it’ll probably be the first thing he runs to do once we’re gone. And he’s so dangerous on the road that morally we can’t let him. So we’ll treat him like the child he is, and simply hide his keys. We’ll probably hear him screaming from our seats in the airplane.
He’s not having anyone come in here to help him after we leave. As gently as she could, Cat laid before him the plan she’d put together with a superb local in-home elder-care type place to get someone to come to his home just often enough to tend to his basic needs (on his own, for instance, he could no sooner manage to take his pills twice a day than I could swim the English channel), but he shooed her away. So, when we leave, he’s on his own. I think my sister might be coming out here to care for him after we leave, but she hasn’t said. We’ll pull out of here having no idea what’s going to happen to him.
I think he might be coming out to live near us in San Diego. That’s what Cat thinks he’s sort of secretly planning. He did make an appointment for this Wednesday morning to see his financial adviser; Cat thinks that meeting will be about him moving into a home near us. If he ends up doing that, it should really help the prices of homes throughout San Diego to finally drop into something more normal.
Of course, my dad won’t make that meeting with his money guy. He won’t be able to find his car keys.
Yesterday, my dad just stopped himself from hitting me. We were driving in the pouring rain; the light at a huge intersection turned yellow; he screamed at me to basically run the light and make the turn; I braked instead; he really started screaming at me, and raised his open hand high to slap me. I thought for sure he was going to do it. He somehow stopped himself, though, and then settled back in his seat and began berating me about how insane I am.
I’ve been having a difficult time pinning down what exactly it is that, in these recent blog posts, I’ve been failing to communicate about my dad. But I’ve known something critical has been missing. Last night Cat identified it for me.
“Constancy,” she said. “It’s the constancy of his anger. He’s never not enraged. Ever. Even when he was just sitting there listening to music, he was pissed off that the DVD player for not telling him what disc was playing.”
Bingo. That’s the true phenomenon of my father: he is always so royally pissed-off that he can’t see straight. And he’s never been different. The way my dad has been during our visit here is the way he was every moment of my childhood. He hasn’t changed a bit. (He barely had a stroke: they’re not even positive he did.) And the reason I’ve been failing to communicate this because I know it’s impossible to believe. You’ve never met anyone like my dad. No one has. People like him don’t exist.
Normal people—even the crankiest, most obnoxious people in the world—sometimes give it a rest. They’ll occasionally relax, and be friendly, and just hang out. My father never, ever, ever does. He wakes up pissed off; he lives pissed off; he goes to bed pissed off. The only other channel he has is, “Pay attention to me while I regale you with yet another story about how much smarter I am than this completely clueless idiot I’m about to tell you about.” If that idiot isn’t you, you get that little break. But that’s it. My dad is 90% angry at the universe, and 10% boring you to death with some story about someone inferior to him.
Two channels, non-stop, twenty-four hours a day.
Two other things that are extraordinary about my dad:
1. He hates me. He simply cannot have me around him. Yes, he hates the world and everybody in it; yes, when she was alive he treated the wife about whom he’s now constantly waxing nostalgic so badly it was purely appalling; yes, he treats my sister like crap. But he really hates me. He always has. He did everything he could when I was a kid to make as obvious as possible the degree of his disdain for me. It’s why all I did when I was a kid was either hide in my room, or get out of our house; I basically grew up outside my home. It’s why I left home altogether as soon as I was old enough. When I say my dad hates me, I’m not being hyperbolic, or emotionally over-dramatic, or anything like that. I’m stating a truth. That man simply cannot stand me. And it’s never been different. I grew up with that. (And he was my good parent.)
2. My dad really doesn’t care about others. We’ve been here eight days. Not once, in even the slightest way, has my dad asked Cat a single question about herself. I didn’t expect him to—but it’s still striking. He knows nothing about my wife of thirty years. And he really and truly doesn’t care a thing about her. He doesn’t know where she works, where she grew up, how she likes her new house … nothing. Same with me. If I try to tell him anything about my own work, he’ll either crank up the volume on the TV, or just walk out of the room. It’s astounding. He actually doesn’t care. He doesn’t lose sleep over me, or my wife, or my sister, or anyone else. He doesn’t privately fret over the state of his relationships. He doesn’t feel pangs of regret over the way he treats others. He doesn’t consider the possibility that he should change. Nothing like that, ever. It’s like he’s missing the Give a Crap gene. If he does end up coming to live near Cat and I, it won’t be because he likes us. It’ll be because he thinks we’ll do a good job taking care of him. He’s told us that’s the only reason he’d move to be near us.
Whoops. He’s awake; I just now heard him back in his bedroom, getting ready to come out here.
When I was a kid, my whole job in life was (for instance) to get up super early in the morning, eat something as fast as I could, and then get back into my room before he came out of his bedroom. To this day I prefer to eat alone.
But how I felt when I was a kid is the same way I feel right now. He’s coming! Get back to my room!
And soon enough I will be back in my room, three thousand miles away.