Tuesday, August 04, 2009

He's Terminal

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.


Anonymous said...

I feel for you. My in-laws are the same way, at when it comes to listening to doctors. They have been given 5 years. It makes me so angry that I'm going to have to tell my children about their grandparents instead of them getting to make their own memories.

Anonymous said...

I have a theory about relationships - the more hyphens there are (as in step-father-in-law) the more difficult the relationship is going to be.

I think as you add hyphens, you lose precedent. There just aren't many books on how to deal with your step-father-in-law (or your ex-step-father-in-law-who's-dating-Mother-In-Law-again, in my case!).

Step-families are complicated, and even when everyone involved is putting forth their best effort and being nice, sometimes you just can't say things to someone who isn't your "real" father, brother, whatever. Sometimes those things really need to be said, and it causes a lot of frustration on the part of the person who needs to do the talking.

I've watched my father go through a quadruple bypass, uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease, raging high blood pressure that puts him in the hospital about every 6 months - but he still smokes! I can say, to my own father, "Gee, Dad, that's really f***ing stupid!" but you can't exactly say that to a step-father-in-law.

Or can you?

You are the one who's going to have to live with it for the rest of your life if you don't say anything. So, imagine the worst possible thing that could happen if you tell him exactly how you feel, and if that's something you and your husband can live with (being written out of the will, being shunned by your mother-in-law, being cast out of his family? I don't know - it depends entirely on the people involved...) then go ahead and say what you have to say.

It's part of grieving. It's part of letting go. Chances are, he already KNOWS everything you want to tell him. So give him the opportunity to say "I'm sorry," before it's too late.

Because if you keep all this inside, it's just going to make you bitter. Don't do that to yourself, or your kid. Clear the air, while you still can, so that you can remember him more fondly when he's gone.

Anonymous said...

My Dad is the one who doesn't listen to the Dr --the one who still smokes and drinks heavily even after a series of strokes. Am I angry? You bet! Have I confronted him? Yup - all the time. Does it do any good? Nope.

Then there's DH's dad --completely self absorbed, selfish, and available only when it's convenient for him and DH's Mom.
They ignore my kids' birthdays and only call when they want something.

And in both cases, my kids love their grandfathers and spending time with them.

So I totally understand your anger and frustration --and you have a right to those feelings. But don't let this anger get to you and eat away at you --his behavior is not in your control. I remind myself of this on a daily basis --and I still struggle with it because I want things to be better --to be fixed. Just know that you are not alone --and try not to let this drag you down.

Anonymous said...

I relate to this as I went through this with my own father. He passed away three years ago after two heart attacks, open heart surgery, surgery for an aneurysm, etc. Over the 10+ years we went through all of this, I was angry that he didn't take care of himself, don't think he ever completely stopped smoking, ate unhealthy. But I had to keep reminding myself he was an adult and had the right to make his own decisions. Did it make me angry? Of course. But when he was sick the last 6 months of his life, I spent as much time with him and told him I loved him every chance I got. Do I regret that he won't get to see his grandchildren? Every day he's gone. But I've accepted that those were his choices not mine, and to just remember all the good times I spent with him. And unfortunately, be the one that tells my son all about him and let him know grandpa loved him even though he never got to meet him.

Crazed Nitwit said...

As a member of the health care community, I see self-destructive behavior often. We are not allowed to show judgement or give lectures. I have learned to believe that we educate but we cannot make the patient's decision for him. It makes me sad but one must let go of the anger. Anger hurts you more than him. I truly understand your anger but if you can, for the sake of yourself and your husband, try to put it behind you.

Best of luck!

LazyCrazyMama said...

So sorry to hear that! It sounds like an awful sitaution.
But you must come visit me or email me - my son is colicky and we are having issues with nursing! I want to know how you survived that? Any advice?