My uncle called me Thursday; my father is back in the hospital. He checked into the emergency room, again with pneumonia and apparently suffering from a large dosage of pain pills travelin’ round his bloodstream. He cannot take care of himself. He refuses to answer his phone and so the nurse who was coming to his apartment daily to check in on him hasn’t been there. I didn’t know this. I didn’t know because for the last two months, I’ve avoided Winston-Salem and I’ve avoided my family, particularly my father.
A friend asked me why. I shamefully admitted that I didn’t know the whys, but I knew it wasn’t good and something in my head is fucked up about it. When my dad was seriously ill, I was there every weekend. I set up shop in his hospital room for days at a time. As he became more well, I became less there. Perhaps it’s easier to be there for someone when your responsibility is just to sit. Maybe it’s easier to seem the dutiful daughter when presence is all that is required.
My father scares me. Everything about him frightens me – drug abuse, delusions of grandeur, schizophrenia, suicide attempts. It scares me both because I don’t know how to handle him and because I worry that I could be him.
His presence in my life forces some harsh realizations about both myself and my son. I look at Cole snuggled up on the couch beside me. I think about his genetics, little spirals chock full of everything he needs to make a mess of his life, and I am afraid. He has a long line of addicts behind him, and the only thing between him and that…. is me.
One of the greatest weapons I have against this is honesty. Addicts and the families of addicts are traditionally quiet about the disease. Mothers are especially so. There’s a stigma. It’s embarrassing. Shameful. But I firmly believe that we’re as sick as our secrets, and so — no secrets. When the time comes, I want to make certain the Kaiser is well aware of odds against him, and the best was I can do that is to let him know the facts, the fear, and the love behind it. In ten years, maybe we’ll read this together. And maybe he’ll get it.