Posted by Anonymous.
My husband’s step-father, K, has been in our lives for almost as long as we’ve been together. They got married the year before we did. Since my husband had never had a father in his life, he was thrilled that his mother had finally found someone. Thrilled that she was happy, thrilled that he could finally build a relationship with a ‘father’. They both enjoy sports, and fishing (zzzz)… they both are pranksters that love to laugh. K is indisputably the most outgoing person on the planet – any time someone new walked by, he wants to say hi, see if they need anything, give, help, love. My husband is loving, but not nearly as outgoing and open.
We had our son in 2005. Immediately there was a bond between he and K. Immediately, my husband and I noticed that K was not being quite as supportive as we needed him to be as new, young parents. I struggled with breastfeeding my colicky son. “Just give him a bottle before he starves to death.” As he got older, we set boundaries and rules. Our son thrives on a rigid schedule. K didn’t understand. “Why is he going to bed so early? It’s the weekend.” He gave him loads of sugar that our high-energy, spirited son did not need… and then sent him home for us to deal with. He didn’t understand that smoking around our asthmatic son was probably not the best idea. He would volunteer to watch him for the weekends, and when he returned to us, our son would be miserably overtired, wheezing, and in desperate need of something OTHER than fast food or junk.
We had numerous conversations with K and my husband’s mother about how our rules need to respected. Yes, we understand that grandparents spoil their grandchildren and bend the rules – but we know what he needs to thrive. Within our rules, spoil him. Yes, he can have a piece of cake. No, he can’t have half of a cake. Yes, he can go to bed a half an hour late. No, 10:30 is probably WAY PAST HIS BEDTIME. Yes, he can watch TV. No, not for three hours straight. AND NO – shoot-em-up action movies with monsters are PROBABLY not the best idea for a three year old with an overactive imagination.
Yes, I’m a bit overprotective. Am I ridiculous? No.
Two and a half years ago, K had brain surgery for an aneurism. He was told to follow his doctor’s advice on nutrition, since he is a diabetic. He didn’t, and never has. He was told to quit smoking before his surgery. He didn’t. He was told by his doctors to a lot of things that he didn’t do. He was emphatic that he was going to die. He spent as much time as he possibly could with all of his grandchildren.
Yes, just his grandchildren. No, my husband has never gotten the father figure he wanted. K ignores him, mostly, and myself, unless our son is involved in the conversation. He spends more time greeting strangers than talking to us. We’re told that he has nothing but good things to say about us to others – but he really hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know either of us. So… I’m not exactly sure what it is that he says.
He survived his surgery.
And less than a year later was diagnosed with cancer. Lung cancer. He still didn’t quit smoking. Eventually, the cancer went into remission. And then came back. He still wasn’t following any advice from his doctors - he had to be coaxed into the radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and would postpone them or skip them whenever he felt the need. (I do understand that radiation and chemo are not easy on your body and that it is probably easier for me to say JUST GO GET IT BECAUSE IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE than it is to subject yourself to those kinds of treatments. But. It is still difficult for me to reconcile why someone wouldn't want to take these steps when there is still a very good chance that they could heal you. And also, knowing that the quicker that you respond to cancer, the more of a chance that you can get rid of it....)
He still was convinced that he was going to die.
Now, a year and a half later, he is terminal. The cancer has spread to his liver. And although he has quit smoking, I am angry with him. I am angry that he never listens to anyone. About anything. Not doctors, not us, not his wife. And that someday soon, my 3 ½ year old son is going to lose the grandfather that he loves so much, and there is a part of me that feels like if he had just listened to his doctors along the way - about the diabetes, the aneurysm, the smoking, the nutrition, the resting, ALL OF IT - maybe we wouldn’t be here. I am angry that he let my husband down, and – unintentional as I’m sure it was – that K reinforced his feelings of rejection from his own father. I am angry that strangers are more important to him than we are. I am angry that he is depressed, because even though it isn’t all his fault, I feel like he does have a degree of guilt.
I am angry that he is dying. And I am angry that I could never tell him, or anyone else, any of this.