I just got off the phone with Danny. It’s so hard to talk with him. It was always hard to talk with him on the phone I think. When I was in college I’d call home to say hi, and as soon as I got off the phone invariably ask my roommates to never let me call home again.
It’s not his fault. Maybe he’s just not a phone person. And he’s depressed – rightly so. His life is depressing. He knows it. I know it. My uncle took him to a doctor on the hopes of getting some sort of diagnosis, so that we could find something that would help lift his depression. An hour of examination and the doctor called me. “He’s depressed,” she said. I could only think “Duh!”
“His life is depressing,” she said.
It’s not just that. If I were being honest, which I try to be (at least here), I’d admit that before I call him I gird myself. I put up my little wall – just to be safe, harden my heart – so that I won’t get hurt no matter how he is or what he says, take a deep breath, dial, and sometimes hope he’s not there. Because you never know how the conversation will go and sometimes he’s just so clearly not happy, or not happy to talk to me or to hear from me, that it hurts. Even with my wall.
I know he loves me. I didn’t use to know that but I know that now. And I know he also blames me for where he is. Or at least he used to. Not for the stroke, but for the fact that he’s not in the East Village. That he’s in an assisted living facility off of Route 1 outside of Princeton, New Jersey. I don’t know if he’s actively angry at me for that anymore. For a while he was, hiding it as best as he could. Usually. Maybe he’s not still actively angry. But maybe he is.
His anger still scares me. He still scares me. I’ve been married twenty years this month, and my husband has never seen Danny’s anger, but I have. I’ve seen it and felt it and felt it directed at me. And it scares me.
We were away on vacation for four weeks. And we’ve been back for four weeks. And today was the first time I called him. I knew I should call him when we got back. I thought about it often. But I didn’t. I wasn’t looking forward to it and my life seems easier, my mood is happier, when I don’t talk to him. I’ve gotten off a quick phone call and been fine, and I’ve gotten off a quick phone call and been dissolved into tears.
I know “don’t go to a hardware store for oranges.” I know, pretty much, what he can and can’t give me. But sometimes when I talk to him it’s hard not to want it to be nice, to be easy, to be pleasant, to feel and know that he loves me (as much as I think he does).
Sometimes it is nice. Whenever I’ve been on the phone with him and we’ve had a nice conversation, I immediately call my husband, again in tears. I have to let my husband know how great it feels when it feels okay.
I watch my husband and my daughter and I marvel. I never had a close relationship with my dad like that. I’d love to have a close relationship like that. I love my dad. I really do. I wish he were happy and I wish he were easier to be around, so that I could willingly be around him more. I wish I knew that he liked being with me, that he was glad when I came to see him (for my company, not just for the chance to get out of “the joint”). I wish he knew that I love him and that I wish there was something I could do to make his life a little bit better.
Which is why I guess I call him, even when it’s so hard to talk with him.
This post made my heart ache. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. My mother struggled with depression and I remember feeling shut out. I’ve had my own illnesses and worried about “being there” for my kids.
In the end, you’re right to hold on to the fact that he loves you, even if he can’t demonstrate it or be the person he wants to be. That’s what really matters.
Thanks Laura. I like “be the person he wants to be.” I like thinking of him wanting to express his love.
And my heart goes to you for being on both sides of the fence. I get that as well. It is a journey!