I got a text the other day from my father’s wife (no, I do not refer to her as my stepmother. No it’s not because I’m being a dick. She’s younger than me by more than a few years and as icky the situation already feels it would feel even ickier if I called her mom.) saying that I really needed to call my dad because he had some news he needed to tell me. So I call him up, he answers, tells me to hold on a second to let him light a cigarette, and then proceeds to tell me that he has lung cancer.
“You’re telling me this while smoking a cigarette?”
“Why not? I already got cancer, quitting now ain’t gonna do a fucking thing,” he said this while laughing in what I felt like was an inappropriately lighthearted way considering the situation.
I admitted he had a point and we went on to discuss how long he knew, how far along it was, what the doctors had to say, etc.. Then we got to the real reason he called; he wanted to make sure I would do all I could to keep the bank from taking the family property and leaving his wife and adopted thirteen year-old son with nowhere to live.
“Well yeah,” I said. “They’re family. Of course. What’s the situation?”
My father then went on to explain where they were financially.
“Oh. Well shit… Uh, I’ll do what I can,” was the only thing I could think to say due to finding out his poor life choices extended into his money managing skills.
He then thanked me and suddenly I found we were talking and laughing about fishing, hunting, trucks, and drinking like the first part of the conversation didn’t happen. That’s up until he got a call from, and I quote, “another motherfucking doctor who won’t leave me the fuck alone”.
After I got off the phone with my dad I told my wife the whole situation. There were more than a few moments where we both got choked up a bit, some it from the obvious and some from trying to figure out how someone could owe that much money on two acres and a four room shack with a detached bathroom bought in 1965.
As it is, this is a rough situation to have to deal with – I’ve had other family members who’ve died of cancer, I know how difficult it is on the person suffering from it and on everyone else around them. This is going to be a long, painful, slog for all of us involved.
Or it’s supposed be.
The thing is, I got a call just a couple of days ago from my old man’s wife to let me know that “he’s done lost his goddamned mind”.
“And in which way has he lost his mind?”
“Since your daddy done found out he got the cancer he’s been staying gone all day long drinking and partying and raising hell, coming home in the evening drunk, and then passing out. You need to talk to him!”
“I need to talk to him?”
“Yeah! He won’t listen to nothing I say. If I bitch about it, he doubles down the next day. Goofy bastard’s gonna kill himself ‘just trying to have a good time’ before the cancer gets him.”
… and I don’t know what to do about this because that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.
I know my father. I know the idea of dying a slow, painful death while people look on him with pity as he wastes slowly away from the inside-out is not the way he wants to go. He’s the kind of guy who wants to die fighting a bear with a knife he made by hand. Or by being washed off the deck of a boat while fighting a giant fish during a storm. Or, at least, by partying harder than anyone else around him. Not laying in a hospital bed.
Of course I don’t want him to die, but I also don’t want to get in his way if he’s trying to do it on his own terms before he gets too bad off to have the option.
The other side of it is if he dies sooner rather than later there’s nothing I’ll be able to do to keep the bank from taking the property to pay off his debt, which will leave his wife and other child in a bad way.
So my options are trying to convince him to allow himself to die slowly in a way not of his choosing or just let him do what he wants to do so I get to live the rest of my life feeling responsible for the fate of his child bride and their adopted son.
This is hard.
And I don’t know what to do.
But at least I know that the future will bring me a large dose of guilt no matter what. So I got that going for me.