I guess it’s obvious to everyone who follows my blog that lately, I’ve had the blog on auto-pilot. The number of posts I have saved for a rainy day are dwindling as I role them out near daily. First things first, to everyone who sent me a trade package, thank you. I promise that I will get around to individual acknowledgements soon. (I believe I only have one package that needs to be sent out. I’ve got a stack of Twins off the Rhubarb_Runner’s trade list that need to be mailed. I’ll get them out tomorrow David … I promise.) Also, I had several email threads going about potential trades. I apologize for having dropped these, but if you still want to deal, let me know.
So, heed these words of warning, if you have no interest in reading stuff about my personal life, I would advise moving on to that next web page or clicking that next post in your RSS reader. Not only will I not be offended, I might even do the same depending upon the day. This is a blog about baseball cards for Pete’s sake! For me though, acknowledging a few things publicly will be good therapy. So, off I go.
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About a year ago, my Dad had a heart “episode”. After a series of tests, and an attempt at a full “cath”, it was determined that his carotid was 100% blocked. We were told by the surgeon that this wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We were told the biggest danger was from a vessel that was almost totally blocked, because at the point of total blockage, that’s when you could have a heart attack. Dad managed to avoid that. With therapy, and the right drug regimen, he could expect to live for a long time still.
Well, last week, Dad had a heart attack. Turns out, there wasn’t a 100% blockage after all. This past Monday, he underwent a triple bypass. The surgery was a success and all of his heart numbers are looking good. Dad should be on the road to recovery, but he isn’t. Dad is going through the DTs and he is still lying sedated in a bed in the ICU. They haven’t even been able to get him off the ventilator. Yes, my Dad is an alcoholic.
That’s one of those things that I refused to admit to myself for a long, long time. He was always a binge drinker, but he wasn’t someone who used it to get through the day. Still, it was often enough to do damage. 16 years ago, my Mom had enough and left him. My brother and I maintained our relationships with him, no matter how hard it was. Our support didn’t help anything as the drinking only increased as the years went by. Two years ago, he was laid off from his job of almost 30 years. It was, admittedly, a sucky thing to have happen and the way it was handled by his employer was despicable. Still, he couldn’t cope.
Yet, after the first heart episode, he seemed to be getting better. He seemed to be his best version of himself for longer than any period I could ever remember. He was eating better than he ever had. He was trying his best to get some exercise. I was there for him every step of the way to carry him to his visits to the cardiologist. You have no idea how great it was for me to be able to call Dad and know he was sober and would remember the conversation. Things seemed to be going great, until, you know, they weren’t.
I have no idea what it was that triggered his resumption. I suspect it was the usual: he felt lonely and, as usual, he could place the blame on me or my brother or his brother and sisters because we weren’t calling him enough or visiting him enough. For all I know, he was just hiding it from me the whole time. I’ve been told that in the days or weeks before the heart attack, he may have been drinking two boxes of wine a day.
Of course, I’m certainly not the first child of an alcoholic who has lived in denial of his Dad’s problem. It’s his denial that I find stunning. You see, even though he was about to undergo major heart surgery, he neglected to tell anyone at the hospital that he was an alcoholic. If my wife, my Aunt and my Uncle hadn’t been at the hospital and if all of us hadn’t disclosed it … if the ICU hadn’t been prepared for his withdrawal … he wouldn’t be alive right now.
There’s more. There was an incident that precipitated his hospitalization. I have no accurate description of the ins and outs of the situation yet, but it ended with him hitting someone’s BMW with a blunt object and Dad’s arrest. In fact, it was the police who came to arrest him that called the ambulance. Yes, my father, who has been lying in an ICU bed for almost five days now on a ventilator, will have to turn himself into the police as soon as he recovers from his surgery.
I’m not prepared to cut my Dad out of my life, but I can’t be an active participant in it anymore. I can’t be there to carry him to his appointments this time. I can’t help him get a lawyer. I will not handle his affairs if he gets jail time or has an extended hospital stay. I don’t even know if I’ll be there when he’s finally taken off the ventilator. I’m out of the taking care of Dad business. I’m told that if something bad happens, if his life spirals further out of control, I will have a hard time living with it. Maybe so, but where my Dad is concerned, I’ve already had to learn to live with a lot.
I love my Dad and there’s nothing I want more in this world than for him to get sober. If he does, anything he has done the past is gone as far as I’m concerned. We can’t change it after all. However, it is up to him to decide he needs help. Until he makes that decision, I will not actively watch him kill himself and I will not be actively involved in cleaning up the messes his drinking has made.
So here I sit, in a Starbucks near my home, feeling guilty about a decision that I know is the right one, while 160 miles away in a hospital in Columbus, GA, my Dad lies in an ICU bed.