While everyone is spending their summer vacations in Europe, my first trip is out here to Cedar Rapids. There’s a good reason for this, my oldest first cousin died of a heart attack at 62 year old. I’m out here to support my aunt, who has been so supportive of me dealing with my dad – that’s been a long road.
Our phone call days before was all about how excited she was about being a healthy 85 year old, not on any meds. The next week was the phone call that her oldest son had died. The services had to be postponed for her grand daughter’s wedding the next weekend, giving me plenty of time to plan a way to get out here for her.
I’ve been out here twice before, once when I was 15 then again about 15 years ago when my aunt re-married. We grew up with all my cousins on my mom’s side of the family, we’re all still in touch and friends. My dad’s side of the family was always a mystery to me growing up. We came out here that one time, they came to see us once. My dad always talked about his best friends Jack & Dean, friends we met once. These were his best friends?? It goes a long way to show how my dad is very disconnected from relationships. I knew all of my mom’s best friends, they were my aunties.
The story goes my grandma had them at 16 & 17 years old, then didn’t raise them. My aunt went to family members, my dad was put into the foster care system until his grandma took him in. I found a hand written census that had him under 5 years old as a “border.” When they were teens, my grandma re-married then brought the family together. I knew my grandma a little, they had come out a few times to California. My other grandparents paid for them to go to Arizona for a Thanksgiving when we were little, it’s the first time I’d met her.
Talk about complicated!! Instead of writing a novel about the whole ordeal, for this blog length purposes I won’t go into the details. Just saying that my dad was never very connected to his family or friends (or us). As his mental illness got worse, I connected with his side of the family for some support. The other day I was thinking that because of him, I was somewhat afraid of his family? When it was probably the other way around , they might have been afraid of us?
My dad is in a nursing home in Arizona (another lengthy story). He’s “safe” for the first time in a really long time. This is after about 20 years of out-manipulating him to make sure he gets services. He’s mad at me, he has no idea what I’ve had to do to keep him off the streets (or living with me while I bring him drinks). It really came down to me or him, when I cut ties I said “It’s between you & me & I pick me.” My kids were little, my youngest is deaf, I couldn’t go down with the ship. I never stopped working behind the scenes to get him care through the VA. That was decades ago, my last phone call to the VA they hung up on me. If I would have tried to get those services now he’d be out of luck and on the streets with everyone else.
Of course there’s a lot of guilt that goes with that, I seem to be the only one who feels it. He is my dad, there was a time when he was brilliant and handsome (and entitled). The best example of my dad would be Don Draper on “Mad Men” – they even look alike!! Except my dad never made it big like that. He could have if he ever actually worked, we all worked for him.
Trying to write this all out before I go to my aunt’s so I can make it all about her. As an adult, I’ve grown very close to her. There’s definitely a strain of some mental illness that didn’t hit all of us, it took a long time for me to figure out it didn’t hit me.
Right now I’m in a hotel gearing up, my other cousins (his brothers) come in tonight. Walking around Cedar Rapids last night was odd, streets I don’t know at all?? Yet this is where my dad, his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents all grew up? I know every street of Bisbee. Even this hotel, I think my grandma was a waitress here?? It’s all so strange, I still know nothing about my dad – no childhood stories, nothing. Just these mythical best friends he always talked about. It’s odd he went to my mom’s home town and not to his own? They’d been divorced for decades when he did that.
That’s for another time, for now it’s time to switch gears so I can be of some support for the family. It’s nice that she wanted me here, it’s awful the circumstances. It’s also bizarre that my dad is so disconnected he doesn’t even know this happened.