Dead Man Walking

My sister told me about a month ago that our biological father, sorry bastard that he is, has colon cancer. The first question that popped into my head, and that I asked her, was “Does he really or is this just another lie?”. One time he told my mother and my grandma, his OWN MOTHER, that he was dying of cancer. He was trying to get out of paying his back child support. He’s just as sorry as he can be and if his mouth is moving he’s lying, so I just couldn’t help thinking that and my sister said she thought the same thing when she first heard.

But apparently it’s true, and it’s no surprise since his father died of it, and he’s an alcoholic so all that booze probably just hastened it along. Plus he didn’t go to the doctor until he was passing blood because he’s such a damn fool. Not only is he a fool, but his wife is a few cards short a full deck as well, because she neglected to tell the surgeon that my father drinks himself into a stupor every night, and as a result he ended up in the emergency room the night before the surgery because he washed down his pre-op antibiotics with a bottle of scotch. She didn’t even tell the doctor until he’d been in the emergency room all night that he’d done that. The doctor was apparently PISSED. He delayed the surgery a day to let him recover from his stupidity. She still didn’t tell him, at that point, that my father is an alcoholic who’s going to wake up from surgery jonesing for some booze and lose his mind when he doesn’t get it. Maybe she wants him to die.

My sister said he woke up from surgery and started hallucinating (D.T.s, anyone?), pulled out his IV lines, tried to get out of bed, etc. They had to take him to the ICU and sedate him to get him to stop it. The surgeon finally asked my stupid stepmother if it was possible that he was suffering from alcohol withdrawal? She said oh sure, he drinks every single day. I just bet he wanted to slap the face right off of her. So they kept him sedated in the ICU until the worst of the withdrawal passed, but he still woke up with some pretty bad symptoms. My sister said he swears he’s stopped drinking, and I said yeah, I bet he did. The surgeon said if he’d known he wouldn’t have operated because there’s no point operating on an alcoholic with colon cancer.

My sister said to me, what did he think, that I was going to drop everything and fly there to take care of him when he told me he was sick? I know what she means. It’s funny, because as much as I just don’t have any feelings of love for him at all, and as much as I know that that is completely his fault, there is this little nagging guilt. I haven’t called him, and I won’t. But why the hell do *I* feel guilty for not having any feelings for him aside from disdain at this point, when he’s the one who’s caused his children and his sisters to say “Enough is enough, you’re too toxic to be a part of our lives.”?

I sit here and wonder how I’ll feel if he dies. I honestly don’t know if I’d even go to his funeral. Does that sound cold? I can’t help it. He’s wasted his entire life being a horrible human being, and he tried to drag us down with him. I know that there might be a lot of hurt underlying why he turned out the way he did, but I also know this from all the hurt he heaped on me: what happens to us is not our excuse for hurting other people. When you’re grown, you have to look back and find a way to put it behind you, and grow beyond it. You can’t take it and spew it out in a big plume of hatred and filth over the people that you’re supposed to take care of and love. If you do, well, you end up like my father. Sick and possibly dying, with four grown children who don’t want to have anything to do with you. Drinking yourself to death because you can’t stand to be sober and consider why you’ve done the things you’ve done. I just can’t think of too many things sadder than that.

I would wish for him that this is a big enough catastrophe that he takes an honest look at his life and tries to make it something good before he dies. I just don’t have any faith that he has the slightest ability to do that.


  1. WOW – This post really struck me and you have helped me to realize that I am not crazy. As I feel the same way about my the Woman who birthed me as you do about your Dad. I feel nothing, No love, No hate, no compassion just nothing. I used to feel guilt for not feeling anything – I know strange but I really think you understand. There are really not too many who can grasp this concept and for a very long time I really thought I was nuts or worse totally insensitive and a bad person. Thank you for expressing so well what I have been trying to for so many years. My Mother is not an alcoholic but she is mean, selfish, bitter, angry, negative and has major heart problems – Hmmm when you carry emotions like this no wonder your heart is sick. There are 3 sibblings and only 1 has a relationship with her. I wonder why that is and for the life of her she cannot understand why all 3 of us do not think she is the greatest thing on the planet. Thank you again for this as you have really helped me more than you know.


  2. Cathy, thanks for your comment. A lot of people don’t understand how a person could have no feelings for a biological parent. I gave my father many, many chances and finally gave up three years ago. When the only result of interaction with someone is repeated hurt, there comes a point where you say “Enough, I’m done”. I feel like there is hope as long as there’s life, but it’s not up to me anymore to fix anything. Sorry about your relationship with your mom, but I’m glad that you’ve done what is best for you.


  3. Oh honey, I totally get where you’re coming from. Trapped between feeling like you *should* care about a biological parent and, at them same time, you just *don’t*.I’m proud of you for writing this, truly I am. It’s not easy to come to terms with this stuff, not easy at all.


  4. Kat – Wow our timing is pretty similiar – After a lifetime of her I too gave up almost 4 years ago. I appreciate your words and agree totally that it is not our job to “fix” them – they are the only ones who can do that. Best to you!!


  5. you have to do what’s right for you. sit back and see if you can figure out where that niggling little doubt is coming from. Don’t let societal norms tell you that you have a filial duty – sounds like he gave up that right long ago.


  6. Ohhh, honey. This hits so close to home right now.I don’t have any words of wisdom, but a friend of mine wrote this poem the other day, and it helped me, somehow. So here you are.The thing about loving a drunkis how after a long whilethe love runs outand you’re tootired to craft theobituary.


  7. This is hard. My mom had an alcoholic, sorry father. After the kids were all grown and most of their kids were grown he became very religious. Changed him.. (not in a sarcastic way, I believe Jesus can and does change people) That’s all fine and good, and I do believe that my mom and her siblings forgave him..and he apologized. BUT, after that change he seemed to want his family to come and see him all the time. I felt a sort of resentment towards it. I felt like maybe it was still about him..and that wasn’t right.I think it’s unhealthy for YOU to hate or hold bad feelings. BUT, if you can find it in yourself to forgive him – you still aren’t obligated to follow that up with action. You’re also not required to replace that hate with happy, loving feelings immediately. You shouldn’t feel that guilt.


  8. That’s tough, Kat, and I’m sorry. It takes more than DNA to be a parent, and it sounds like your dad has failed on most counts. But he’s still your dad, and all the social mores still tell you to feel a certain way. It’s hard to figure out where your own best path lies through that.


  9. My husband has gone through very similar circumstances with his father. All the way to the DT’s in the hospital, etc. My heart goes out to you. There’s nothing easy about having parents in that shape. Even lousy ones.


  10. ~t~, it really isn’t easy to come to terms with. It took me about 30years to figure out why I kept picking the same guy over and over again.Cathy, best to you, too, girl. It’s hard to give up on a family member but sometimes it’s the only way to go.Bob, I think that little bit of doubt comes from not being able to REALLY believe that he could give up having a relationship with his own children.Maggie, thanks for that. It’s so true. The only thing I can think of is “What a waste”. Anon, thanks for the comment. I have seen that movie in the store, maybe I’ll pick it up. I adore a good family drama, especially when it hits close to home.That Girl, my father is completely self-absorbed. COMPLETELY. It’s one of the reasons we no longer talk. I think, most of the time, that I’ve forgiven him, but I also think that my tendency to be cold and distant at times is probably residual anger that I should deal with in a better way. Gwen, thanks. I know that the best thing for me was to cut off contact with him, but a part of me still feels sorry for him that he’s very sick and none of us are there. We just don’t want to be.Betsy, sorry that your husband has dealt with this. I hate it that there are so many of us who had these fucked up parents. But then I also know that we survive it, we prosper, we do better. So there’s that at least.


  11. What Gwen said: being a parent involves more than contributing DNA. I’m sorry that your father never realized that fact.I wish you some peace during this difficult time.


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