Thoughts by Richard Bleil
This has been an interesting night. Fair warning to my regular readers, tonight I will be blogging some pretty personal stuff about my family in the hopes that it will be cathartic. But, before going on, let me begin by imploring you all to appreciate your support network, and take a few minutes to thank them and tell them their importance to you.
Our support network, in an ideal world, should begin with my family. Mine just reminded me that my support network does not include them, or, should I saw, what few remain. I’ll get to that soon, but I have to add that I have just simply amazing friends. The love and support from them has been unconditional and without reserve not just in my father’s final saga, but for many years, through good and bad, through unemployment, starvation, divorce, and homelessness as my “blood” family has stood by silently when I was lucky, or with criticism when I was unlucky. My friends are truly amazing, and I’m very thankful for them.
So, my regular and recent readers know that my father went into hospice about a week and a half ago and died last Sunday. And, as a reminder, yes, you are only hearing one side of the story (mine). I get that, and you do too, but all I can do is tell you what’s happening with me.
My sister has a great support network. She’s married, has two sons, is close at least with her in-laws (I’m not sure if she’s keeping in touch with the remnants of our family) and no doubt a plethora of her own friends (one of whom I will mention below). When I had my heart attack, my sister and brother-in-law did come out to the hospital when they found out, albeit against my express wishes. Well, my wishes never really counted for much with my family anyway. They certainly were quiet during my divorce (except to criticize my soon-to-be ex-wife), when I was fired, and when I was eating only once every three days.
So, anyway, my sister called sometime around July 17 or 18. She told me that dad wasn’t doing well and suggested that she thought he might be in hospice soon. She gave me a bit of the story, and it sounds like she did all she could to encourage him to get help. I was left with mixed feelings about this. I don’t have money, honestly, so I was stuck with wondering if I should drive out or not.
As I was thinking, I received a text message on July 20 from what I now know to be my brother-in-law that read, in its entirety (which I believe I’ve put in a blog previously, “Hey, Rich, they have admitted your dad to Hospice tonight.” No further information, no mention of which facility, no phone number and no question about if I wanted to speak with him.
I elected to at least reach out. Dad hadn’t tried to contact me for many years (you’ll see in a bit a claim that it had been nine years which is probably correct although I attempted to reach him since albeit only once or twice). I know him well enough to realize what a private and quiet person he is. If he didn’t want to reach out to me prior to this crisis, I’m certain he didn’t want to hear from me otherwise. Still, I wanted him to know that I was thinking about him, and to give him the option of calling if he wanted. Driving would have been too intrusive, so I called Hospice, spoke with his nurse, and left my name and phone number to give to him. I actually called twice, but the second time his nurse was far more stand-offish and nervous about privacy issues, making me wonder if she had gotten a verbal thrashing from somebody in the interim, but she did reassure me that he got the message that I called and could have gotten help if he wanted to call back. That’s just dad, so I wasn’t surprised.
On July 26, my brother-in-law sent me another text message, reading (again in its entirety) “Just a short note. Your Dad passed away early this morning. A peaceful ending for him.” Still, nothing supportive, nothing about if I was okay, just, basically, your dad’s dead.
I’ve posted his notes on my social media site to keep my friends informed, and, honestly, because I needed their emotional support during this time. I may not have heard from my father in a long time, but this is a difficult thing for me, and they delivered. They reached out to check on me and showed me tremendous amounts of love in this time. I’ve also written a couple of blog posts.
Tonight, about 10 PM my time (11 PM theirs), I received a text, from the same number, that read, as you now know in its entirety, “Since you seem confused. Yes. This is my phone. Your brother in law [sic] Phil. Have a nice evening. Enjoy reading your bantering.” Maybe I misread this, but it sounded a little angry to me, and by mentioning reading my blog, maybe even a bit threatening. Still, nothing supportive, nothing about asking if I wanted to talk, nothing about if I’m okay.
Thirty-five minutes later, I received an interesting comment on my social media post announcing my father’s death. It read, in its entirety before it was deleted, “So sorry for your loss. As a friend of the family for 45 years and are [sic] dads being best friends. I know for a face [sic] the last time you had contact with your dad was 9 yrs ago when you told him you would not be coming back for your moms [sic] funeral.” This came from a former neighbor who grew up in our neighborhood, and, yes, she’s a friend of the family but more my sister’s friend. Her comment struck me for several reasons.
First, I’m glad my sister has friends like her who will help support her through this time. But it also strikes me that her message of condolences is probably the most passionate thing anybody has said to me from my sister or her support network. But there is more. See, that was NOT the last time I spoke with my father, although it was nearly so. What’s more, I never said I wouldn’t be coming out for the funeral.
I cannot say if I said something that was interpreted to mean that I wouldn’t be out. I didn’t have money to fly out as I had been living off of part-time wages from a job for about a year, and had just started my first full-time job in several years just a couple of weeks before mom died. This was when I was with the police department, and yes, they had bereavement leave, but having only been there for a few weeks I didn’t think it would have been a benefit for me yet (usually there’s a delay before such benefits kick in). I had been told that mom was cremated, but they were going to delay the internment a bit. As I was gathering information and ideas on how to get home, I received word that the ceremony was nice. I asked why I wasn’t informed when they scheduled it, the answer to which was told that the decision was made that I didn’t need to waste my money to go to the service.
Frankly, I’ve been upset about this since. Yes, it would have been hard (and, no, nobody from my family offered to help), but deep into my forties, the decision as to whether or not to attend my own mother’s service should have been mine to make. Taking this decision away was just, well, it was rude. So, when this “family friend” made the comment that it was my decision not to come to my own mother’s funeral, the only explanation that I can think of is that she was fed that story. The truth is, my parents, at two different times, made comments to me that make me believe that I’ve been something of a scapegoat, taking the blame for things that occurred even when I was barely part of the family. This also makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to attend my father’s funeral now. It will be a difficult time, and I certainly don’t want to hear the critical comments and judgment because “I decided” not to attend my mother’s funeral. Instead of supporting and looking out for each other, there is judgment, criticism and passive aggressive behaviors.
If your family is close, at all, reach out to them. Tell them how important they are to you, and enjoy them while you can.