Where or where has my real dad gone?

A week ago, Friday, I got a message from my dad’s probation officer.  That’s right.  Probation officer.  My dad has a probation officer.  Unbelievable.  Am I really related to this person?  I don’t know why I was so shocked.  Someone had been draining my dad’s accounts.  Dad was trying to buy things and pay bills.  Every check bounced.  Pass bad checks, get put in jail.  Get out of jail, get a probation officer.  That’s pretty much the process as I understand.

Anyway, the PO, I’ll call her Moira, asked me to give her some background information on dad.

Oh, boy.  Really?  Let me just exhale the page and a half of material I’ve given every last doctor in the past twenty-seven years.  Chronic alcoholic. Three alcohol in-patient rehab stints.  Unmedicated  bipolar I disorder.  Heart patient.  High cholesterol, unmedicated.

Surgeries and hospitalizations?  Let me see …  Michigan, prior to and just after retirement:  In-patient, 28-day alcohol rehabilitation, times three.  After retirement:  Kalamazoo State Hospital, mental health evaluation.  January through October, before I moved him to Florida with me:  Severe frostbite in extremities caused by lying unconscious in a snowbank for a few days after being robbed.  (Docs wanted to amputate his hands.  His fingertips wound up falling off).  Punctured back, left lung by someone who robbed him.  Third degree burns on left side of body after being thrown into a burning barrel after someone robbed him.  Concussion, three broken ribs, broken arm after someone robbed him.

After I moved him down with me:  Pins put in an arm broken by people trying to rob him.  Quadruple bypass, dual carotid endarterectomy, dual femoropopliteal bypass (fem-pop), gallbladder and hernia removed, and then another fem-pop.  All that in under a year.  All those before he moved to North Carolina.

After he moved to North Carolina?  Hmm…  It didn’t take but a couple days before he broke his leg.  Take a guess as to whether alcohol played a part.  He and his new roommate, a childhood friend he hadn’t seen nor spoken with in a good twenty-five years, were celebrating dad’s move.  God only knows how many hours of drinking went by before they both passed out for the night in their relative rooms.  Dad told me he got up in the middle of the night, forgot he had his suitcase by his door, and tripped over it on his way to the bathroom.  His friend, I’ll call him Ted, was so out of it, he didn’t hear dad yelling, so dad told me he rolled himself over onto the dog bed and scooted his way to the phone to call 911.

Lovely.

As for all the other hospital visits, I have no idea.  I’m just beginning to get an idea, I told Moira, because I changed dad’s permanent address back to mine.  I’m getting all his unpaid hospital bills and explanation of benefit forms here.  At this point, it looks as though dad’s been in an emergency room every other month or so since  Fall 2008.  I know the last time I saw him in the flesh last October, he had several staples in his head.

I didn’t ask.

Dad’s hygiene has become horrible since he moved.  He frequently urinates in his jeans, even did so as I was speaking to him when I saw him last year.  Prostate problems again?  Who knows?  He obviously hadn’t bathed in months.  He’d gone back to not taking off, let alone changing, his clothes, most likely for months.  Last time he was in this shape, he didn’t take off his clothes for nearly two years.  He was also wearing a woman’s sweater and eyeglasses he’d found in the dump, smoked like a fiend, and rattled on and on.  Clearly, he was in a manic state.

He also managed to lose his best friend, Blackie, a Scottish Terrier mix who had never left dad’s side since 1997.  Dad was doing something outside his room in a hotel for the homeless, went inside for something, came back out, and Blackie was gone.  By the time dad had someone call me, Blackie’d been missing for two weeks.  Since dad never renewed the microchip subscription, we’ll never know if HomeAgain tried to call.

I could have gone on, but I only have so many minutes on my phone.

Apparently, she called because she was concerned about my dad.  He didn’t seem like any of the other people she had on her caseload.  He just seemed like a lonely old man.  She told me that she sees him quite often just walking the streets of town.  She also said that word on the street is that dad has money.  Dad gets his Social Security and pension deposits a couple weeks apart from one another, and that’s about how often she sees him with anyone.  Those “anyones,” she said, were using him.  They take him to the bank, get his money, maybe take him to get something to eat, load him up with liquor and beer, and drop him off somewhere, not necessarily his apartment.  They leave him to fend for himself.

Everything she told me, I already knew.  Moira got upset with me, because my reaction wasn’t what she’d expect.  She couldn’t believe I could let my dad live like this.

Really.

I gave her some background on me, how I was thrown into the caretaker role my first year in college and how I’ve continued to help dad out of bad spots to the point of becoming his legal guardian and taking him into my own home.

I have a problem when anyone tries to put me in the “bad daughter” column, especially when I know it’s after dad has worked up a sob story.  He’s all alone.  His kids don’t care what happens to him.  He’s just a retired, disabled veteran trying to make it on his own.

All alone, my ass.  He wasn’t alone when he wasn’t drinking.  He had friends, played cards every day, had his dog, went places, was liked by all his neighbors.  Granted, my brother and I are all who’re left alive in the family.  It’s just us three and my brother’s family, but dad never developed a relationship with his grandkids.  While they were growing up, he was drinking and he never even acknowledged them at holidays.  And forget about birthdays.  He never visited.  Never called.  Never sent cards.  He started to make headway when he lived with me, because I kept him sober and my brother allowed him to come visit; but once he started drinking again, his temper flared, and he was too dangerous to have around.  My brother cut off all contact.

When he started drinking again, his sober friends didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  His best friend, his card-playing buddy, and his wife decided to move near Orlando to get away from him.  Everyone stopped returning his calls.  Some even blocked him.  When he drinks, it’s like he develops Tourette‘s.  He’s not only foul-mouthed, though, he’s aggressive.  He scares off people.  That’s the real reason he’s alone.  No one knows how to handle him.

I do, though.  He listens to me.  I’ve been known to stop him in his tracks in the midst of an attack just by scolding him.  It’s as though he’s a toddler.  Truly.

As for the disabled vet story?  Dad’s never been in the military.

Moira, dad’s not alone.  I care.  I’ve just learned over the years how to set and keep boundaries.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  NO PART OF THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION, ATTRIBUTION,  AND LINK-BACK.

Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Reproduction or transmission of any part of this work by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, beyond that permitted by Copyright Law, without the express permission of and payment to the author, is prohibited.

Text:  Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide.  My Life with Dad™ and related trademarks appearing on this website are the property of Diane Faulkner.

Photo:  Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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Unexpected turns

You know, when I was growing up, I never expected I’d be where I am now:  my dad’s caretaker.  Not the usual kind of caretaker, mind you.  My dad’s far from being bedfast.  He doesn’t even live in a home, let alone with me, though he sorely needs a caretaker.

My dad’s an alcoholic.  Throughout his adult life, his drinking got him into trouble.  Since he was quite beautiful in his day – much more than handsome, (I’ll post a pic as soon as I have the bunch I’ve found scanned in), he was also an unrepentant womanizer.  He was quite, shall we say, quite “active”.  He was, and remains, vain.  He’s always been a flirt, and women couldn’t help but respond.  Sometimes, he didn’t even have to make the first move, which is a little disconcerting when you’re a kid and watching things transpire.  Needless to say, dad never stay married for long.

Before my dad retired, he sort of started to short-circuit.  He worked for Fisher Body up in Lansing, Michigan.  Fisher makes the bodies of General Motors cars.  When it was its own entity, its logo, a stagecoach, was always emblazoned on the doorstep of every body.  They even had a gorgeous garden in the shape and colors of the logo which was taken care of by an old gardener who was let go when GM took over.  GM ripped up the garden.  That’s neither here nor there, I guess, but dad was always a little sore over that deal.

Anyway, dad started to short-circuit.  In his twenty-eight years at Fisher, he’d never missed a day.  One day, though, he didn’t show up.  After a couple more days, with dad nowhere in sight, his boss called me at my mom’s house.  Dad always used his office phone to call me, so they had my number.  I’d had lunch with dad several times when I was at Michigan State since it was so close to campus, so they knew who I was.  Who else would they call?

I had no idea where he was, but I promised to do what I could to find him.  Find him I did, though I can’t remember where I found him all these years later.  I got him back to work, but he didn’t show up sober.  He’d call me from the shop and laugh that he and the guys hid schnapps in the cushion room and would cover for each other as they took naps on the job.

Lovely.  Just what I wanted to hear.

Regardless of dad’s previous record at work, Fisher had no intention of keeping someone in the powerhouse who couldn’t keep himself sober.  Dad was a fireman, but not the regular kind.  Firemen at Fisher loaded and raked coal for the furnaces that made electricity to run the General Motors plants One, Two, and Three.  Dad ran a bulldozer, raked coal onto conveyor belts that lifted the coal into the coal rooms.  He’d rake the coal into piles, throw the coal into huge furnaces, read the different meters that measured the smoke from smokestacks, and climbed the smokestacks up to the top to capture the steam to analyze.  The steam had to be clean water vapor as far back as the ’70s and ’80s.  With all those duties, Fisher needed people to not only be sober, they needed them to not be hung-over.  Dad stopped making the grade.

I negotiated a deal with Fisher to get dad into rehab.  The place was between Lansing and Eaton Rapids.  Eaton Rapids is next to Springport, which is next to the Duck Lake area.  Dad’s friends from all those areas would not only visit dad, they would stop by his room’s window to drop off get well gifts of six-packs and cigarettes.  It’s no wonder he had two more 28-day vacations before Fisher decided to fire him.

When we found out that dad could lose not only his job, but his pension and benefits, my brother and step-dad set out to negotiate an early out that would allow dad to keep everything.

After dad “retired”, his life went downhill fast.  He was constantly drunk .  He got in trouble with the law.  He got in trouble with his family.  I had him committed for a time into Kalamazoo State Hospital where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophenia and chronic alcoholism.  He was released after three days as a result of a paperwork mix-up.

Oh, yea.

My life after his release, at first, turned into a nightmare, because dad was on a tear.  He wanted my head, and he made no bones about it.  I became a target.  I left home.  Lived out of my car for a few days, then moved in with my boyfriend and didn’t tell anyone where I lived – not even my family.  For two years, I was in virtual hiding from a dad who wanted me dead, because it was my signature he saw on the committal papers.  My folks, and from what I heard, my entire neighborhood, had a restraining order out on him.

Life with dad got very interesting.  Frustrating, challenging, and interesting.  It still is.

I think that’s all for now.  Things have happened, and life continues.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings us.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  NO PART OF THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION, ATTRIBUTION,  AND LINK-BACK.

Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Reproduction or transmission of any part of this work by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, beyond that permitted by Copyright Law, without the express permission of and payment to the author, is prohibited.

Text:  Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide.  My Life with Dad™ and related trademarks appearing on this website are the property of Diane Faulkner.

Photo:  Copyright © 2010 Diane Faulkner.  All rights reserved worldwide.