Asking Questions

The last few days have been filled with tears as I talk to my dad and the others about their families. It has been one of the hardest things about spending so much time in the nursing home. Most people never receive any visitors. Most of the residents are totally estranged from their families. Most never see or speak to their children. The few family members that do visit, stop by for a few mins, never sit down, and are looking at their phones most of the time they are here. There have been a handful that spend quality time with the residents, their family member and the others. After the resident in their family dies or is moved to another facility, they do not come back. The other residents are at a loss.

I have been judging people really hard lately because I see how it impacts my dad and our friends to be alone and to feel abandoned. This has caused me to start asking questions and really investigating how my dad feels about this issue. I have been recording conversations I’ve been having with my dad about his family, focusing on his other children. Two weeks ago my dad was in the ICU and I didn’t think I would get the chance to talk to him again. This has prompted my conversations about his children because I don’t want him to die with any regrets. I’m not sure what I am going to do with these conversations. Part of me wants to send them to my half sisters and part of me wants to post them here. I feel so conflicted about what to do for our own estranged family.

For the last few years I have thought my half sisters were awful. There were many things that they did to my dad that enraged me. Then, an amazing thing happened yesterday, my dad shared some things with me that he had never shared before. He took responsibility for things that he had done to them and it lifted the anger and rage that I hadn’t realized I was carrying around. Then this morning I read this article

It really shifted how I feel about the whole situation. I started thinking about how it would change my life and my dad’s life if my half sisters came around. Would it add anything to our lives? Would it make things more difficult? Would we bring anything to their lives? Or would being around us bring them pain or discomfort? I don’t know the answers to these questions but it is bringing me peace to ask them.


2 thoughts on “Asking Questions

  1. Your brave questions remind me of my own family. My little sister was the only safe person I knew in our house, besides my brother who kept himself scarce, and I protected her fiercely. My mother wrestled with demons of her own and my brilliant, charismatic father molested my sister and me during his first breakdown. 20 years later she wrote a letter to my parents, cutting them off completely. I wasn’t aware of this for another year. For my part, I’d decided to work hard to understand my mother (despite my therapist’s insistence that she was the “bad parent”). I began to see she feared me because I was just like her: creative and “crazy”. My father remained a mystery to me. As he was dying 10 years ago, he asked for my sister, smiled when I said she wasn’t there, and never apologized, though I pointedly told him that I forgave him. My mother more recently, died full of shame and gratitude for my presence. I have never doubted my sister’s decision to keep herself safe from them. “if I believe them,” she told me once, “I can’t believe myself, because they’re so pathetic.” Just like her, to acknowledge their pain yet commit herself to health. Each of us makes the decisions we can live with. I seem compelled to reconcile the parts of myself that feel estranged. My mother offered me the gift of working through relationships that sting, in order to heal. My sister has committed herself to developing her own brave family, marrying a kind man and adopting two daughters, one of whom has Asperger’s. She would not trade her family for the world. Nor would I ever trade her! You might take some time to think about your dad from your sisters’ perspective. Part of your process might be to write a letter to them, even if you never send it, asking what growing up was like for them. Seems to me the first step is to “stand in their space” a bit. Later, if you’re able, maybe drop them a note saying you’re trying this. No mention of your dad. This is between you and them. If any doors begin to open, hooray. Thanks so much for the opportunity to think about this and to share some thoughts. Good luck.

    • Thank you so much for sharing with me. You are such an amazing teacher and inspiration to me. I am so thankful you are in my life. I have been trying to “stand in their space” for awhile now. I can see from their perspective and that is why I am choosing to remain separate. I can see how being around me would be painful for them. I also see that even though I can understand their point of view, I don’t agree with their choices. So the friction of those two awarenesses would not be conducive to reconnecting. I finally feel at peace with that.

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