You might wanna read this before reading what I’m gonna write here.
I never did write back to my mom to say I’m sorry she’s going through stuff. It just slipped my mind. Now I’m kind of glad for that because I think she really would have interpreted that as me caring about my father, or tried to use my concern for her as leverage to make me talk to him.
I’d sort of forgotten about the whole Serious Health Issue thing TBH. My mom had phrased it like it was a discrete incident that was now over, whatever it was. But the other day I got an email from my father – sent to my uncle and apparently BCC’d to me (my uncle’s email address is the only one on the “to:” line; mine is nowhere to be found. So a BCC is all that could be, right?). In the email, my dad says his surgery has been postponed but will hopefully happen in about six weeks, and that in the meantime he guesses he’ll have to have a home care nurse back to change his catheter because they’re only supposed to last about six weeks and he’s had one in for seven now. (Because of course he has to tell us – albeit indirectly – about his penis. I’m sure we were all dying to know.)
The email didn’t say what kind of surgery. I suspect my dad assumes my mom told me more detail than she did, and that his email is a reasonable follow-up rather than a weird tease, but I don’t know. I also don’t get why he BCC’d me instead of sending it to me openly. I hope it was only out of privacy concerns – my uncle doesn’t have my email address and perhaps my dad assumed it wasn’t his place to (indirectly) give it to him. My parents have always been really into privacy/confidentiality. Of course, I didn’t have my uncle’s address before this, either, and that was fully on display. I don’t know.
I asked The Dandy what kind of illness would require catheterization, and if “catheter” always meant a pee-tube or if it could mean something else, something heart-related maybe. The Dandy said that “cardiac caterization” refers to the tube through which they do angiograms, angioplasties, etc – nothing that would ever be left in for a week. The Dandy guesses that having to wear a urinary catheter 24/7 might mean prostate cancer (his dad died of prostate cancer so The Dandy knows something about this).
I really wanna know what this mystery illness actually is, and how likely it is that my father will die from it. This vagueness – this sense of things being up in the air – makes me antsy. Because, here’s the thing: I hate this man. Every time I’m forced to remember that he exists (when he sends me an email, when my mom tries to guilt me into talking to him, anything) a bunch of the childhood shit I usually repress comes bubbling back up and I have nightmares for a while.
Once he’s dead (or at least once he’s been dead a while), that all stops. He wouldn’t be out in the world anymore. There would be no chance of me having to interact with him ever again, and a drastically lowered chance of me having to ever hear about him. My mom wouldn’t spin my fuckin’ head sideways for days by whining at me to wish him a happy Father’s Day.
Although, directly after he dies, there would be a funeral. And my mom would probably ask me to come home for that. And if I did that, there’s a very strong chance she’ll use her grief as leverage to try to make me say nice things about him in order to soothe her ego. I don’t mean she’d ask me to give a speech at the funeral (although maybe she would). I mean I strongly suspect she’d push me to tell her, personally, that my father was super great and I loved him.
My mother has, I think, built her entire identity around the idea that she’s great at raising kids (she works as a nanny, that’s why I didn’t specifically say “the idea that she’s a great parent”). And the fact that she sat idly by and let my dad abuse me doesn’t sit well with this self-concept, so all that stuff about my dad won’t stick – it just sliiiiides off her brain like a fried egg off a Teflon pan (even though she directly witnessed a lot of things). For a long time she denied that the abuse ever happened; then her story changed to “I’m sorry, I believe you that it happened, I just don’t remember any of it.” I think that’s probably true, I think her brain simply rejected all those memories so she can still tell herself she was a good parent to me. But I also think that the memories are there, they’re just suppressed*. So it’s like this ongoing thing for her to push me to be closer to my dad and say nice things about him and stuff, probably more so she can feel less like a failure as a mother than for anything to do with my dad himself. And I honestly do think that if she were grieving she would use that as a tool to make me say nice things about him so that she feels validated as a parent. “I’m just so sad right now! It would help me soooo much if you would tell me how much you love your father!” type thing.
So yeah. I wish I knew exactly what this illness is. Should I get my hopes up that he’ll die/brace myself for whatever emotional manipulation will happen from my mom if he does, or is it too soon? I don’t know and there’s no way in hell I’m asking either of them for more info.
Originally, I assumed mom hadn’t given me details about my dad’s illness because she was trying to provoke me into asking so she could tell herself I care about him, or because she knows I probably don’t wanna be all enmeshed in this but figures if I follow up and ask for more details, it’s tacit permission for her to lean on me in her time of emotional turmoil (and I am not interested in opening up that floodgate).
The Dandy gave me another totally plausible explanation, though: my mom thinks I get mad at people for being sick.**
So all I can really do is wait and see what happens, I guess, because I am damn sure not going to ask for details or updates.
*If she really didn’t think my dad was abusive, she would have reacted to my litany of complaints with shock and hurt and confusion, I think. She would have said, “What? Why would you even say these things?!?” Instead, when I told her (not for the first time, because as I said, these things never stick) a list of the traumatizing shit my father has done to me, she snapped, “THAT NEVER HAPPENED.”
**More background that’s not in the linked post because I hadn’t figured it out yet: a bunch of years ago (after I’d cut my parents off for a while but then come back and re-established a relationship with my mom only) my mother started joking-but-not-really about committing suicide. I told her she seemed to be showing symptoms of clinical depression (not just in the suicide talk but other things too) and she should really see a doctor and get that checked out. She was like “nahhhhh it’s probably fine” but kept on making the little “tee hee, today I didn’t make specific plans for exactly how I’d kill myself so I call that a win!” comments. And finally I basically said “Either take steps to fix your super obvious clinical depression or don’t seek treatment but STFU about suicide, but if you continue to casually talk to me about killing yourself without taking steps to fix the problem, I can’t have a relationship with you.” But, see, my mom is a great parent who would never drive her child off by being shitty. So the time I cut her out my life for five years and specifically told her “dad was abusive and you did nothing to stop it so I need to get away from you both for a while,” her brain translated it to “BLARGH! I’m volatile and unreasonable and I’m running away from home for NO REASON!” And later on with this depression thing, “I can’t stick around and watch someone I love talk about killing themselves; get help or get out” has magically turned into “BLARGH! I’m volatile and unreasonable and I’ll threaten to ghost on you JUST FOR GETTING SICK!” – that’s why she didn’t tell me about her hysterectomy and that may be why she’s not saying much about my dad’s mystery ailment.