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Thursday, February 7, 2008


I was trying to think of a witty title for this post, but instead thought I'd just the clean version of the ticker tape that has been going through my head for the past week or so.

The backstory is very long and very convoluted. Just trust me when I say that I am really not a calloused person in general, but I've more than had my fill of the melodrama with my dad.

Short version: My brother and I over the past 12 months have been getting somewhat consistent calls from my dad announcing that any day now he'll have to have surgery on [insert body part here] and that he might not make it off the table. Obviously, we get all upset and worried and then a few days later, he calls back to say there isn't going to be a surgery and he is fine. And then the cycle repeats. We've done this at least 4 times in the past year. It's getting to be an awful lot a bit like the little boy that cried wolf. My brother has much more contact with my dad than I do and has been convinced that my dad has a deathwish due to other circumstances. Since I haven't been that close to the situation, I believed my brother's take on things.

Cut to 2 weeks ago when we get a call from my dad announcing that he was having cervical surgery in one week and he wanted me to be there (if I could), but was demanding that my brother drop everything and go to take care of him for a week and then drive him back to his house. Complicating the situation is the fact that my dad lives in Arizona, but was having the surgery at Stanford. Makes perfect sense, right? [eyeroll] After a series of conference calls (cause, you know, we function like a business. ugh.) it was decided that I would fly up the night before surgery, be there through Sunday afternoon and then come home; my brother would fly up Monday night, drive him back on Tuesday morning and fly home to LA on Wednesday evening.

All the time, he kept driving home the fact that this surgery was very serious and invasive. He quoted a surgery time of 6-8 hours and that there was a good chance he wouldn't make it off the table. My brother flip-flopped back and forth between indifference and being upset. I shared the situation with a close friend and my MIL and they both asked the delicate question of whether maybe he was doing all this for attention. I brushed them off, but that thought did linger in the back of my mind.

The morning before the surgery, he drove up to see my brother for breakfast and ended the meal not telling my brother he loved him. Nope. Instead, he said "Just be sure to take care of your sister." My brother made it back to his car, where he called my mom and started bawling.

That night, my dad picked me up from the airport and we had dinner. You know when you get a cart at the grocery store and it pulls to the left. And you spend the whole time trying to keep it centered? That is the best analogy I have for dinner that night. He kept trying to go on a "poor pitiful me" spree and to give the allusion that it was the last night he may have on earth. And I just couldn't play into it. By this time, I started thinking that maybe this was all being done for attention. And I just couldn't keep playing into the drama. So, I was a happy, upbeat little soul the entire meal. It was obvious this was not the way my dad has thought the evening would progress.

The next morning (Friday) we were up well before the sun was, and off to the hospital for check-in and pre-op. He gave me a sealed envelope before we left "in case he didn't make it" complete was a somber expression. Lovely.

Pre-op went well, but he was still just being weird about the whole thing. Just trying to make things much more dramatic that it needed to be. It was especially apparent when the doctors and nurses that kept stopping by were very upbeat and not in the least worried about anything. Compare this to the man that was next to my dad. They told him they had 6 pints of blood on hand "just in case" and they were inserting a tube to monitor his blood pressure by the second. Hmmm, I wonder who was having the more invasive and complicated procedure? Oh, and that "6-8 hour" surgery time? Try 2.5-5 hours.

They wheeled him in at 7:30am. The doctor was back out to me at 10am with not surprisingly good news. Everything was textbook and my dad would be fine. After hearing his nice doctor speel, it was my turn to ask questions. The most important of which "What were the chances of my dad making it off the table?" I wish I had had a camera to capture the surgeon's expression. I'm guessing he doesn't get asked that a lot post-surgery. The answer: "Well, he does have a slight heart condition, but really, his risk was just the same as anybody else." [Thud] And there you have it folks, direct from the horse's mouth. All the drama was made up. The emotional rollercoaster my brother and I had been on for months was all for naught. It was just for attention and to feed his ego. Livid does not begin to describe the emotion that I was feeling.

The recovery time was 5 hours because my dad was having issues with pain. And once he got back to the room, things weren't a whole hell of a lot better. It took him several days to get off the IV pain meds and with the heavy duty pain pills he was being given, he was still pretty doped up for the rest of the weekend. Saturday night came around and as angry as I was with him, I just couldn't fly home and leave him there by himself. My mom just didn't raise me to be like that. So, I opted to stay til Tuesday afternoon until my brother was there to drive my dad home. I'm happy with my decision because I was able to do as much as I could and leave there with a clear consience.

The next 3 days were just mentally and physically exhausting. I was there every morning before rounds started (around 7am) and would leave around 7pm. Granted, I would take breaks, but it was still a lot to deal with especially seeing as I had no one to trade off with. Even though my dad was doped up, he still found a way to sometimes be a bit rude with the nursing staff. Or, he would try to be "cute", telling them he had no vitals, being a brat about walking around, etc, which was anything but. I spent a lot of time running after the nurses apologizing or just being overly thankful to them to make up for him.

I could go on and on about his antics, but it's just too much to type here. I felt more like a babysitter than an advocate. It's not anything I would wish on anyone.

Tuesday morning finally rolled around. At one point my dad had the nerve to ask "So, how can we make this better for everyone next time?" My first thought, of course, was next time? Hmph. Next time will be just fine for me because I won't be here. But no, I said that I really didn't think we should talk about next time, but he just wouldn't let up. So, I finally confronted him about all the crap he had pulled on me and my brother. Said that I asked the surgeon point blank what his risk was of making it off the table and that he said it was no more than any normal person. And that we can't keep doing this emotional rollercoaster and to lay off the melodrama. I think I was fairly eloquent in what I said, but I was shaking like a leaf. I hate confrontation.

And after all that, what was his response?

"Well, that's fair." And then he fell asleep.

[scooby doo noise]

Are you effing kidding me? Not an apology. Not saying it was all a misunderstanding. Nothing but "that's fair"?!? I was speechless. Truly and utterly speechless.

Our relationship will never ever be the same. How can you knowingly play those kinds of mind games with your own children? Like, I seriously can't get my head around it.

I'd like to say that things got better from there. But that would be a lie. My brother said the drive to Arizona was hell. My dad was making ridiculous demands of my brother on and off the whole trip and at one point told him that the walker takes better instructions than my brother. And to clarify, then said "That means you [my brother] don't take instructions well."

Yeah, my dad is still on heavy duty drugs, but I don't believe for a second that he doesn't know exactly what he is saying.

My brother left my dad's house last night and now my dad is there by himself. Because of course, trying to arrange for help would have meant actually putting some thought into this surgery beyond just telling his kids he was gonna crump on the operating table.

I really don't know what the outcome of everything is going to be. I still find myself alternating between worrying how he is taking care of himself all alone in the house and being so angry with him I could scream. I've had a piercing headache behind my eyes for the past week that I can't seem to shake; I'm sure it's a combination of tension, stress and anger. I haven't slept well and my shoulders and back are just in knots. Ugh. Just ugh.

To not end this post on a total debbie downer note, I'd like to share a couple of bright spots in an otherwise shitty last week:
* I got to spend some time with my mom, which I was expecting. She came and sat with me for a few hours each day and took me out to lunch. I love her a lot and so appreciate her keeping me company.
* One of the residents that was checking in on my dad had the most beautiful british accent ever! I swear, it was like he stepped straight out of a chick lit novel. I wanted to just follow him around and listen to him talk to patients, nurses, anyone really.
* I read Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen while I was waiting around. A great, easy read and just like the French Laundry at Home blog, totally inspirational. It served as a great daily reminder of the fun cooking project I have at home, waiting for me once I got through the whole crazy mess.

Even though I've been home for a full day, I still just feel so off. I figure it'll take me til Monday to finally feel normal. I can't wait. To help get back on track, this weekend is the weekend of ME. I have a lot of cooking planned and I can't wait to tuck into my tiny little kitchen in some comfy clothes, with my ipod and a couple of "real" cookbooks on my countertop.

As for my dad, I don't know. I really hope everything goes okay, but at this point, I'm spent and just can't exert anymore effort. If you're the praying kind, if you wouldn't mind sending up one for each of us: my dad, my brother and me. We could all use all the help we could get.


  1. you know i've been praying for you all. that won't stop.

    i literally GASPED when i read about your confrontation and your dad's response. GASPED.

    it's like you're the parent and he's the kid, seriously. i'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. what a nightmare. :/

  2. Wow. Just wow.

    I am so sorry that you have had to put up with this crap. I'm with you: I'm really trying to wrap my mind around how your dad could play these kinds of games with you. There's just no good excuse for manipulating those you love.


  3. HOLY CRAP! This makes me want to kick open his hospital door and tell him about REAL SUFFERING, son of a...

    You handled it all quite well.

    By the way, what's "cervical surgery" on males?

  4. what nanners said, the "cervical" threw me off. :T

    and you are definitely in my prayers. thanks for sharing, too. we're going through some family drama that is nowhere near as nuts as this, and i doubt i will share anything but the essential details on my blog. the way you handled everything the "right" way is really encouraging.

  5. I'm glad I wasn't the only one scratching my head over the cervical surgery. :-)

    O.M.G. I just can't believe this! You really handled it well...much better than I would have. I'm so sorry you had to deal with all of this drama from your own dad. :-\

  6. Yikes. I'm amazed by your patience.

  7. I'm sorry that your dad was acting like a kid. I hope your dad realizes what he put you and your brother through.

    You are such a good daughter.

  8. I don't know if this will help you or not, but have you done any research into Narcissistic Personality Disorder? It sounds like your father might be suffering from it. There might be some support/help/advice you can get in dealing with it. It's always easier when you don't have to go through things alone (and its great you have your brother right now)

    As other people have pointed out it seems like you're behaving like the parent.

    You don't have to. He's your father, and you love him, but he's also an adult and you don't have to play his games. It's not healthy for either of you. He can and will take care of himself. You need to take care of you.

  9. Isn't it sad when parents turn into children? I am sorry you've had so much emotional crap to deal with lately. You're handling it well considering how crazy he's acting.

    Hang in there. You don't have to fall into his crap trap and get sucked in. You are a good daughter to care and be there for him. Such a big heart!

  10. Oh wow, this is amazingly hard. I think you and your brother seem to be handling it with grace. best of luck.

  11. Omg, Amber, this whole situation is terrible. I can't believe your dad's response! You are a saint. Hang in there.

  12. Thank you for sharing. It's true, you really are the parent and your dad is the child. It stinks that it has to be that way. I'm really thankful that you have your brother through all of this crap.

  13. I know I'm late on this and don't know what else to add because I ditto on what everyone else said here.

    I will leave you with a completely non serious and almost pointless comment to your post. Ready?

    You made me LOL at "[scooby doo noise]"


  14. wow, this is a lot for one person to go through. I am so sorry about the whole situation :(

    i don't know you in real life, but i can tell through the computer what a compassionate person you are.

    Hang in there, you are in my prayers...

  15. bonkers. simply bonkers some people :(

    so sorry!

    thinking good thoughts for you,