Monday, October 19, 2009

my ears have popped

For me grief has been something like this; you know when you're in an airplane or at a loud concert or club and your ears plug up so that everything outside of your own thoughts is muffled and garbled and ultimately it becomes too much effort to attempt to focus on anything outside yourself (maybe that part is just me - I'm both lazy and self absorbed)?

Then suddenly, out of the blue, your ears pop and unplug and you are hyper-sensitive to the slightest sound?

So I was all plugged up for the first few months and that was comfortable enough. But then a couple of weeks ago my bubble popped and I am suddenly aware that grief is not suffered in isolation. It's actually very much about relationships.

Relationships were wounded by the loss of my mother.

Holes were created in individuals and in the way those individuals relate to one another.

My mother was a peacemaker, a buffer, the central point of our family network. The one thing we could all agree on. The safe place. She made home, home. She defined family.

This process of grief includes all of us coming together to fill the holes, or at least to cover them over so they don't do so much damage along the way.

The problem is that some of those holes are like booby traps, just waiting to maim the unlucky voyager.

Alright, enough with the imagery and symbolism.

I'm talking about my relationship with my father.

How to describe how we relate? We're very much all the wrong ways.

Short tempered, stubborn (is there a stronger word than stubborn? 'Cause it seems like an understatement), hyper-self conscious, sensitive, controlling, moody.

Our relationship has always been...difficult (I hear Mom laughing as I type) we're like oil and water, like bacon and tofu, like Miley Cyrus and Radiohead, like The Hills and actual reality, like Perez Hilton and actual news sources.

The fact that I am the one left here to be his day to day support has got to be like some sort of karmic retribution. For both of us.

You see my father never imagined being left without my mother. I don't think he realized just how dependent he was on her. He realizes it now. It's a very scary world for him.

I get it. But, he's making me crazy. And angry, he's making me very angry. And frustrated, very frustrated. And of course I'm taking this out on SeaBass, which is making me even more angry, and crazy, and frustrated.

We're not fighting or anything. In fact, the one good thing is that I feel very close to my mother because I hear her voice in my head constantly as I try to deal with his moods and his short-temperedness.

Her voice guides me carefully through situations that I know for sure would have, in the past, blown up into full scale emotional warfare.

I am silent when I would have snippy. I am patient when I would have been abrupt. I am careful when I would have been heavy handed.

I am on full alert for his every need, yet trying to not step on his toes, not get in his way. I'm walking a fine line between trying to give him his freedom and supporting him along the way.

Unfortunately this is costing me a lot. There's the crazy, the anger, the frustration that I mentioned. There's also this reminder of how much I miss my mother, my support, my biggest fan.

Because conversations with my father go like this:

Me: "Hey Dad guess what? I've finally figured out how to write that novel I've been thinking about!"

Dad: ...10 seconds of staring straight ahead..."Mphm. When are you gonna put yer snow tires on?"

Or (this one literally just happened):

Me: "Looks like it's gonna rain"

Dad: stares straight ahead and turns up the television.

Or (my personal favourite):

Dad: "What should we have for dinner tonight?"

Me: "I'll make you whatever you want."

Dad: "I don't know what I want."

Me: "How 'bout I roast that chicken and do some potatoes?" (Get it? Meat and potatoes? A sure winner, right?)

Dad: "Mphm..."

Me: "Okay dinner is ready. I made a pretty good gravy Dad and did the potatoes the way you like."

Dad: response...

Me: "Dad? You gonna eat?"

Dad: "I'm not really that hungry."

Me: Trying not to look disappointed, "Oh, okay then."

Dad: Ten minutes later in the kitchen making macaroni and cheese whiz.

I don't know what to do about any of this.

I'm trying desperately to support my father but he's hurting me so badly right now.

And I feel selfish for thinking about myself in this situation.

Advice? Anyone?

Seriously, somebody give me something to go on here.


Mary said...

This probably isn't going to help a lot, but he is grieving too. And poor old men, well, they don't get the same emotional outlets we women do. Still at least you recognize how much you are alike and how problematic that can be.

The old guy probably isn't being deliberately hurtful. He's just mad as hell too and you are an easy target and close at hand. Plus, since you two have unfinished business, you are getting the opportunity to get it right.

Isn't the universe wonderful that way?

I find myself in a similar position with my Moms. No one has died, but I've injured myself in a way that has left me unable to function without exhausting pain. I'm angry, frustrated and bitter. My Moms and I have many similar traits (and consequently get on each other's nerves). Since I'm now dependent on her, I am worse than snappish. We have unfinished business in spades.

Be easy on yourself. And keep cooking. Lastly, don't let his grief eclipse yours. Mourn you must and in your own way. But be kind to yourself and let no one steal the joy you can find when things really suck.

Jenn said...

Thank you So much for your comment.
It's so easy to feel like I'm totally alone in this, you really brought some perspective back for me.

I know that his fallback position is anger. I'm totally trying to be logical and philosophical about it - just trying to not be weakened by it at the same time.

Let's try to keep one another sane through the difficult spots and laughing through the better ones, shall we?

Thank you again, any time you feel like be encouraging, I'd totally appreciate it! ;)

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