A few days ago I visited my dad at his apartment. It was his 72nd birthday.
It’s his first since he and my mom split up in the fall. Everything is just so… fucking weird. Right now at least. I feel for my dad more than either of my two brothers, which is kind of by design. Because my mom feels guilty, too.
She started crying last night when I was on the phone with her, talking about how fractured our lives have become since everyone split up. My older brother is living with her to save money for a bigger move later on, and my younger brother just turned 20 and is unemployed and not going to school and doesn’t have a driver’s license. He lives with her, too.
Then there’s my dad, who lives by himself. On his birthday we sat on his back patio, similar to the one at my apartment but with a few feet of additional length, and spoke of mostly meaningless things. It was his birthday so I didn’t challenge him when he said completely fact-free sentences, or slipped that “Ted Cruz is my guy.”
It wasn’t important, so it didn’t seem worth it.
Sadly, he did mention something that stuck with me. He said “What I miss the most is just having someone around to talk to, when I feel like talking about something.”
For my dad, whose biggest deficiency is communication, for not being there for the important and not-so-important times when his family needed him, it’s tragically ironic how he can be so oblivious to such a vital aspect of his marriage and fatherhood.
The reason it’s sad is because he’s oblivious. I tried talking to him in the past, usually after I had a few whiskeys (if I’m being perfectly honest), but it never made its way in. I could rant and rave about how he neglected my mom and how he doesn’t know a damn thing about either of my brothers. He chose to ignore my hints, tell me how his work hours were to blame. And that it was he who was the real victim in this.
But he couldn’t have known that, by the time I tried to help him — this was 4 or 5 years ago now — my mom’s mind was already made up. I pride myself on being a fair judge and offering a fresh perspective, and being a good problem-solver. Like so many other things in my life I attempted and ultimately failed at, I really tried to help my dad, help him make it work. But it was too late and there was nothing I could do.
My mom was forced to choose between the lesser of two evils: Either stay with my dad and continue to living out a quiet misery, or leave him and feel the guilt of abandoning a man who has a hard time taking care of himself. She decided on the one that offers her hope for future happiness. And we all have to live with that.