I found the hell bug I've been fighting,
I got benched during the game.
We lost (out of the play-offs.
I came back to the office, there were three messages.
- mikoy touching base on some administrivia.
- 2) Ariana calling to say 'hello.
- 3) My sister calling to tell me my father had passed.
I got a random message from someone on Yahoo named blessed_be##### (edited for privacy) asking me:
"Blessed be, how is life in California?"
So I suppose the post has had one specific issue that catches most people's eye...and it's not my benching during today's game.
For some..some back-story is needed. In the fall of 1979 I was 11 years old. My sister was 4. My mother was 36 and my father 39. At the time my father was a prominent doctor in a suburb of Philadelphia. Our family was in good shape. Upper middle class and all. That autumn my 6 foot tall, 290# father has a massive stroke. It forever damaged muscular control to his left side. This was not a good thing because his two biggest hobbies were close-up magic and playing the banjo.
Life changed over the next few years. But my parents never let me fully understand what was going on. My father didn't actually carry any insurance for himself. He wound up being out of work for about a year and a half. Over the years my father would become very submissive and my mother, in turn, a tyrant.
Vacations stopped, the holidays and birthdays became empty promises with no intention of attempting them let alone keeping them. See the damage was far more than physical. It's just...no one ever knew it. Personally, my social interactions, grades, and everything else went to hell. I went from being a straight A (4.0) student to a student who got a 1.7 on a good day. I was also told by parents, teachers, and school mates that I had no right to blame any of my behavior on my father's stroke. This was just a cry for pity and anything I was doing wrong was my own fault.
Father got a job again when I was 13 and it caused us to move (pretty much for the first time in my life) to another part of the state. Oddly this would only last for 3 years and we'd end up moving to the other side of the state. Between 12 and 19 my parents moved 5 times. Now by 17; I thought things were improving for my family again. At lease work wise. Oh, We didn't take vacations anymore and holiday/birthday's were still a joke reduced to mother's guilt when we wouldn't all go out and get cards for her. And my mother and father had taken up the popular sport of screaming at each other all the time (well except when mom was trowing pots and my father and belittling him as a human). Mother had decided that she was the only one with any sense and any authority and the rest of us were basically unpaid labour around the house (which was a sty). Once I argued with her that I was becoming a grown up and she laid into me about how I had ruined her life. I was nothing but a mistake; she wishes that I'd never been born. Sadly...at 16; I decided to believe that and had a bit of a breakdown. But (despite having changed districts in 7th, 8th, and 11th grades) I was settling in to my High School. I got to be an exchange student. I went to my father's alma mater. And going to college got me away from the house and my family.
At college I had an interesting problem...My tuition payments always came in a week late. My father wouldn't let me apply for financial aid. He told me that they would turn us down because of his salary as a doctor. Unfortunately, all the jobs on campus were work study. So I had my tuition paid for and no other money. Period. I learned the fine art of surreptitiously using my room-mate's soap...or toothpaste. He caught me using he shampoo once and got very angry. It was the late 80's he idolized Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran...His hair care products were important to him. So I figured I could do without washing my hair.... Actually I did without a lot of things.
It wouldn't be until after college that I'd learn the truth...
The stroke took out more than my father's motor control. It damaged something inside and he no longer had any common sense. Literally. In the years after our first move, my father was fired several times, sometimes malpractice, sometimes sexual harassment, sometimes negligence. By the time I was 16 he pretty much didn't work anymore. He'd leave the house and come back later. I don't know what he did. he lost his license in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He neglected to tell anyone this. He neglected alot of things. Bills, etc. We always had food on the table...that was all i really knew. But then again...by 18... I was out of the house on my own. Sort of. I got food, that was part of tuition.
Oh, yes... the delay in tuition. See, every semester i'd get there for registration only to discover my bill hadn't been paid yet. I was told if it wasn't taken care of within X days (usually under 5) I'd be barred from classes, my dorm, the cafeteria. I'd call home. "It slipped his mind" and 2-3 days later a payment was made. What slipped his mind was the real hidden truth. To hide the fact that he wasn't working or making money, my great-aunts were supporting him. My father effectively bled dry my grandparents on both sides, and my great aunts (i had one ) on each side. Had I applied for financial aid (which I did in my 3rd year) I would have gotten pretty damned near full coverage.
In 1991 I dropped out of college. I didn't want to go home. I tried moving the the town where Ohio University was. I had no money, no job prospects, and no support. I had my cat that I'd grown up with, bringing him to college with me. During that summer the cat passed away, I barely ate, and discovered the glory of welfare. My mother on the phone told me that they were going through bankruptcy proceedings. What this meant to me was that they wouldn't name me as a dependent so it wouldn't affect me. Actually, I later found out...what it meant. All it meant is that they legally had no responsibility to support me. And so I spent that summer starving.
Over the next ten years I did everything in my power to uncouple my life from my family. Most of the rest of my non-immediate family had come to the conclusion that my family were losers so, it made it easier to pretty much go into seclusion.I made it harder and harder for my family to track me down. Then a few years ago I heard the latest horror. My parents had 'separated'. My sister had run off and gotten married. Not surprisingly, my father... who'd finally admitted that he wasn't working but had a job prospect coming in the next few months (For 5 years) had been evicted. He called my maternal grandmother who sweetly and foolishly...gave him her credit card. He checked into a hotel. He was a bigger hole to throw money into than a boat.
When I found out...I had the most horrible responsibility in the world. I called him (from california where I'd escaped to and told him that he couldn't go on living off my grandmother (his mother in law) As kind as the offer was. My grandmother was old, retired, and sick. She couldn't afford to support someone who was making no effort to even find work. Someone who was taking the money and spending it in an irresponsible fashion. I told him he needed to find a shelter. I called information and told him where to go. Effectively. I put my father into a homeless shelter. I will never forget that phone call. Never.
Initially, he went to the Light of Life Christian Missionary Shelter. Having been raised Jewish and as one of the "Lords of Flatbush" (No really, my dad was Stallone's character. The story is about my dad. I can explain some other time) he wasn't too thrilled with the accommodations. The shelter assumed he was homeless because of a drug issue and put him into group work with other drug related homeless people.
Shortly thereafter he was put in contact with "Jewish Family Services" which moved him to a more 'ethnically acceptable' shelter for him. They moved him into a facility. Fortunately, someone had the good sense to ask about his military history. Major Tapolow, M.D. had been honourably discharged during VietNam. (A shrink stateside during Nam? A commodity). So there were V.A. benefits galore.
Then in March of last year the story took a bad turn. As a doctor, this made my father one of the worst patience. (Witness the nearly 300# weight of a 6' tall man who had a stroke before the age of 40) He developed...a thing... on his leg. He figured..It would just go away. My mother managed to track me down by contacting my then girlfriend's mother's phone number. Her mother called and left a message. Typically my mother would leave messages, "It's an emergency, you need to come home." When I'd get home, the emergency was that she wanted me to clean her garage. So, I stopped taking messages from her and made it clear that if an emergency didn't have some explanation I probably wouldn't respond...
The message from my S.O.'s mother was, "Your father had a heart attack. He's in intensive care. You family doesn't believe he's going to make it through the weekend you need to call them at:###-###....." Well, it was some explanation. I called my mother for the first time in about 18 months. She wasn't even aware that I'd moved to California (16 months earlier) and this suited me fine. Mother, despite being a raging, psycho, tyrant...is also to be avoided because she still knows which buttons to press. And she had all ten weapons poised and pushed. 3 hrs later I was on a plane and out $2100. But that's okay. Mother said, I'd be reimbursed. You'd think after the first $15,000 dollars I'd lost to my parents I'd learn how big that lie was.
My father had an infection in his leg which had gone ganXXXX. The heart attack was because it got into the blood stream and caused a toxic shock. I had to fly out to authorise the amputation of the leg before it killed him. My mother who at this time notified me that I was there because as his ex-wife (which apparently had occurred 18 months earlier..touchee) she was not authorised to speak. She'd brought me out to be her puppet. She also took this time to return to the old ways of treating me like one of her tools (a word she loved to use to insult me growing up) I lost it at the hospital. Big time. It was horrible. I blew up at her with the fury of 30 years of abuse. This was neither the time nor the place to blame my father's condition on her belief that I was a horrible child. I'm surprised they didn't take me away in restraints.
Father lived. They put him into managed care. I went to check on his old apartment. Apparently, there was negligence in his old living facility that they refused to call the ambulance even though he'd passed out on the floor. The little room was a horror. The room was a mess. it was a health hazard and it smelled. the bathroom smelled like some cheap after-shave had been poured on the walls. And as for what I saw in the closet. It ripped me to the core and I don't know if I'll ever be able to face what I saw there. The room disgusted me and it made me look at some of my own behavior patterns and that also disgusted me.
I flew back to California. Drained. Angry. Other issues were brewing to drive a bigger wedge between my mother and I. By May I would have written them off entirely. I just couldn't stand it anymore. It all hurt too much. All they wanted from me was to 'pay for it all' and make it all better. More money to support my parents, when they'd really stopped supporting me at the age of 12. they just took credit for it. In hind sight, my elder family died before I knew what had happened. I'd never gotten the chance to thank them for what they did for me. I was simply the relative they spent money on who never talked to them. (typist pauses) I never knew. At least until it was too late.
And then there was September 11. My Great Aunt (Mother's mother's sister) lives in Downtown NY. 1st Avenue. For some reason I'd gotten it in my head that one of her daughters worked in the WTC. After about 5 days I reached her. She was more concerned about me than I was about her family and that was saying a lot as I'd been franticly trying to reach her. I told her about why I'd been so silent. About what I'd discovered ... And what had been going on. She was upset that my mother was going to collect on my father's VA benefits because my aunt didn't believe my mother deserved any of it. And it should come to me. I told her I'd written it off. My aunt told me that it still wasn't fair about the money after my dad's death.
I was confused. She was shocked that I hadn't heard. I explained I wasn't surprised because of the efforts I'd made to be unreachable. My Aunt relayed how my father had passed on August 1st. About 45 days earlier. I really didn't know how to react. I've never really dealt well with this whole situation because it had been so dynamic. I called my uncle (father's brother) to verify with him. My mother had pushed away my father's side of the family when I was still a baby. It didn't surprise me to hear that the uncle hadn't been told. My uncle called me back that afternoon. Another uncle had spoken to my father a week earlier.
Apparently, my mother had now pushed relatives away to the point that she was lying about who was alive or dead in the immediate family. She'd lied to my Aunt. I however had called my ex-gf that night because she knew me better than anyone...especially in respect to my family situation and we talked. No matter what happens between myself and that ex-gf. I will always treasure what she did for me just talking to me after the breakup as I dealt with the perceived death of my father.
Over the past few days I've been getting calls from my sister. (Who managed to track me down. It's always surprising when someone with her background displays the cleverness of a detective. She found my work information by locating me on classmates.com. the whole story is even more impressive) She's been calling to tell me about his condition worsening and how I need to drop everything and fly out again. At work, I am in crunch. I really shouldn't be wasting time writing this, but I will use the excuse that this is what I need to deal with what is going on. See it's not as effective when my sister makes the demands, she doesn't have the brainwashed control. My mother has realized...I'm not talking to her anymore. So I don't have the Pavlovian response to droll on the bell ring.
Today, while watching my team lose, my sister called the office. She has actually been paging me in the office. Something very confusing to most of the co-workers who know me because there is _no_ reason to page me. My sister usually leaves long involved messages about how can I take this out on her, how can I hate the family so much, you are needed, "Oh, brother of mine", you have to ....yadda. It just makes me want to get further away. The message today was very short and succinct. "dad passed away at 1:45pm (Eastern) today. You need to call to make arrangements to have him cremated."
I guess this time it's for real. I mean I told my manager back in September that my father died. I told many friends my father died. I then had to tell many people I was wrong about my father's death. It was just embarrassing. I've called my uncle again. He's calling my other uncle.
When I found out it had (theoretically) happened in September. I didn't know how to react. My father was a good man. He was very smart, clever, funny, and creative. He was good at magic and loved taking us to fantastic places. When I was 9 he took me to Disneyland (were I saw the Main Street Electrical Parade) and took me to the debut of "Star Wars" he wasn't spoiling me...Well, mother was making him spoil me. But he was always good natured. He only took his hand to me once...and I deserved it. I was running around a mall screaming, "Don't let the man beat me anymore." (I don't remember the incident...)
My father was a good man..for 39 years. in September, I came to the conclusion that I was very young when my father was taken from me. But at least I got to know him. My only problem was that I didn't know that my father had been taken from me for 19 years after that. It was a prolonged joke or punishment, or something... Now....Now, I can only breath a sigh of relief. He's free. Somewhere in some state, the man I knew as a child is in some way whole again.
Now I simply have to believe that it's over and I can go on....
At least I think it's true this time.
In the end... I don't know what I feel.