My father is a mean, miserable, crotchety old man who never cared a lick for anyone but himself. When times got tough he divorced my mother and married his secretary – but not before secretly transferring his business to her (for a dollar, to make it legally binding) and hiding all of his other assets. He was living the high life with his new wife, while Mom struggled to raise me and my brothers. I was working full-time by the age of 16, just to help make ends meet, while my father was driving around in a new sports car – a “gift” from his wife, who held all of their accounts so he could pay as little as possible in child support in order to keep up with his preferred lifestyle.
Shortly before my youngest brother’s 18th birthday my father’s wife left him, and he was left to rebuild his life with only half of the financial assets. My mother told me not to be so gleeful about his misery, that it was not Christian, and that I needed to learn to forgive; that my father’s leaving had helped to make me the hard working success I was becoming. For my Mom’s sake I have tried to forgive my father, and I thought I had until now.
My father lives two hours away from me and took a massive heart attack last week. He lived through it, but once he is discharged from the hospital he will have to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation, since he lives alone and there will be nobody nearby to help with his care. He will only be allowed a short stay in rehab and then he will be sent back home. My father has called me and told me that I will have to come and care for him; that it is my “duty” as his only daughter.
I have told my father that I already have a full-time job and that I will not be commuting to his house twice a day, before and after work, and on weekends to take care for him. He then suggested that I take a leave of absence from work; I wanted to suggest that he go to Hell, but I remembered my Mom’s words about remaining Christian and instead told him to hire a visiting nurse, that I am sure his health insurance will pay for it.
Tazi, I know that I am doing the right thing by doing what is best for me and that my father is now reaping the seeds he sowed all those years ago…so why do I feel guilty that I am not putting myself out to help the man? Could I be doing more for him? He is my father, even if he is a real stinker of one. More importantly, should I be doing more to help him? He has not asked anything of my brothers, and they in turn would refuse him if he did; my youngest brother hasn’t seen our father since he was 8 years old. On the one hand, I feel like I am his only hope; on the other hand, I feel like he doesn’t deserve to have hope.
Not knowing you I cannot tell you why you feel guilty about not helping your father. I can only speculate that you have been raised to forgive, forget, and move on from the hurt. You need to remember that forgiving does not mean painting a target on your back for people to dump all over you once again.
Forgiveness is not for the other person – it is for you. Forgiveness allows you to free your soul from the anger that weighs it down when it is overloaded with the pain of being hurt. While you may want to forgive your father for his physical and financial abandonment of you as a child, you don’t have to thank him for it. You became the successful woman you are today through your own hard work; the only part his abandonment played was to create the need for the determination to succeed.
You may also be feeling a desire to reconcile old hurts before you can fully put them behind you. Your father’s demand that you serve him in his time of need is a reflection of his selfishness (and sexism, since he is only making these demands of you because you are female) and this is a personality facet that he will have to reconcile on his own. If you feel the desire to be there for your father, you should do so on your own terms, not on the terms he dictates to you. If you have the time to spare a weekend or two to go and see him, I suggest you make the effort. Seeing this once proud man reduced to frailty may help you to sort out your emotions towards him and see him for what he is – a fallible human being who has reaped the miseries he once sowed upon others. Although I doubt a loving relationship will ever be rekindled between the two of you, you will at least know that you have done all you can to help, which may ease your conscience when you give his outrageous requests a firm “no”.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.