Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A bit like cancer

Cancer. It is like a cancer, isn't it? I need the metaphor to explain the disease itself; the way you deal with a scare, get the all clear, then wait for the next one to arrive. And sooner or later it does.

No all-clear this time. Someone in the family, not Beloved or the kids, but still close enough, has had some precautionary lumps removed, only to find one of them isn't benign. It's in a place where prospects are not always great.

If you're a regular reader you'll know who someone is, because this comes in the middle of a rift, a rift that came in turn on the back of decades of struggle, some hits, many misses. Although I haven't blogged about it much lately, things have improved a bit since I wrote a fairly raw post a few months ago. In his usual, screwed-up way he's moved on and acted as if nothing was up, sending me books he thinks I'd like and getting chatty again on the phone. In some ways when I stop to think about it this makes me quite angry in itself, but I've generally resolved not to dwell too much and just accept it as the latest instalment in a long melodrama.

In fact the angriest I've felt since was when someone told me I needed to forgive him completely or I would never be able to move on. I couldn't fathom the logic of this, as much as the person may have meant well. I've relinquished, started talking to him again, decided that even though he won't make the effort to visit us I would still give his relationship with his grandkids a chance and visit them, from time-to-time. I'd partly-accepted, if not entirely excused, his conduct (and indeed a lifetime of it) as that of someone who was badly abused as a child, who is emotionally damaged and imperfect. What the fcuk is forgiveness in this context? A dishonest act of quasi-religious ascetic transcendence? In my heart I won't forgive the rejection entirely, and frankly with a personal philosophy that believes people should be held to account, it would create cognitive dissonance within me to try.

I found the statement, delivered in lecturing tones, akin to blaming me. After all, if forgiveness is what we should do, and we can't do it, then we aren't doing what we should do and apparently any lingering sadness or disappointment we carry is our fault. Isn't it possible we aren't actually the cause, that's the emotionally-abusive party who rejected us? And while clinging to daily bitterness won't make us happy, trying to take a happy-clappy view of things won't either? Isn't letting them slip back to normal like nothing happened, continuing to facilitate what contact they choose to have with their grandkids, continuing to talk to them and effectively accept the screwed-up status quo they have insisted on defining, isn't this all enough?

So. Cancer.

I will put my (apparently unacceptable) residual anger aside. I will take the family up to visit soon, far sooner than I previously intended. I will let the most important things take precedence, provide the opportunity for grandparent and grandchildren to find moments together. Perhaps because, despite my previously posting the worst of my fears and concerns, I believe this deeply repressed and self-centred man still cares. He may leave this world wondering why he didn't make more out of the past 3 years, regretting pissing his days away between the garage and the garden while his grandkids were growing up. He should. I won't do anything to make it worse.

We haven't got to that point yet, but the prognosis is currently uncertain. He's an old bugger, but I don't want him to die.


Mindy said...

I am so sorry to hear that armagnac'd. I hope things go well for you. If it helps I discovered, in a similar situation and its aftermath, that you can still love someone while not liking some of the things that they did.

Elisabeth said...

It's so sad, the poignancy of your mixed feelings here.

I spent many years raging against my mother but more recently - she's ninety years old - -I've turned the corner. I don't call it forgiveness, more like some sort of recognition of where she's come from, but there are others in my family who cannot get over their grievance towards her.

There's the story of a couple, married for years and years. Their relationship is riven with rancor and bitterness. Then suddenly one of them dies. Everyone imagines that the one left behind will be relieved, but not so.

In contrast there's the couple together for an equally long period of time whose relationship is marked by love and mutual respect. They are great companions to one another. One of them dies suddenly and everyone imagines that the one left behind will be devastated

After an initial period of mourning the one left behind in the second couple gets on with life, is joyous once more sustained by memories of an experience of a good loving and nurturing relationship.

As for the first couple the one left behind cannot get over the grief because the relationship itself was not sustaining. There are no good memories to feed off.

I'm talking here about a marriage.
It's not the same as parent to child and yet some of the elements remain.

For you I'm glad you're trying to make some sort of peace before your father dies. It will be better for you all in the long run, I suspect but you can't force it or pretend. It comes as it comes.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Oh yes, very difficult. I can see why the whole 'forgive him' thing got up your nose, though. I think in your situation I'd be rejecting the 'closure/resolution' model for a 'process of continuing negotiation, one day at a time' model. These stories are never over.

MsLaurie said...

In an eldery person, cancer sounds so... final. Even before it is.

In a young person, the words are 'fight it' and 'what treatment next'. I have recently found that for an elderly person, apparently the words are 'how long' and 'a good run'.

An awful, horrid disease.

After finding out my beloved grandmother's diagnosis this weekend (acute leukaemia), I can only be glad that in some sense at least we'll all have time to say goodbye, whatever small comfort that will be.

For you, although you may not have happy memories, at least you have the time and a chance for Mitt and Bear to create some happy memories with their Grandpa, even if you don't always share them.

Armagny said...

Ah, I do have plenty of happy memories. It's probably part of the problem, he largely did things right for the first 14 years, and we still sometime see eye to eye.

It's probably fitting time to write about that one, balance the ledger and all.

cristy said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this Armagny. Take care of yourself.

I agree that reaching a level of understanding or acceptance is far more reasonable than any concept of forgiveness... Particularly when it comes to anything that affects your children.

Guy said...

Good luck mate - sounds like a tough wicket for both of you. But then it often is with family...

ThirdCat said...

I keep coming back and almost leaving a comment and not quite knowing what to say. So, fwiw, coming from a complete stranger and all (long time lurker and all that...), I just want to say this is bloody hard stuff all round, and I feel for you, I really do. Take care.

Armagny said...

Fanks all and sundry....

Penthe said...

As ThirdCat said. I'm so sorry. Too hard. Look after yourself and your beloveds.