I think most adults have heard the phrase “only two things in life are guaranteed: death and taxes,” which isn’t all that wrong really.
Eventually as we get older, we come to realise that our parents aren’t just older like we used to complain about when we were kids, but that they’re actually old. And that they have the health issues that are associated with being old.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to everyone and pretend that I have a great relationship with my parents – I don’t. We speak, albeit barely, and rarely about anything of significance. The last time I had a real conversation with them (before this weekend) was when I had to tell them a couple of years ago about having haemochromatosis so that they could inform the rest of the family and make sure everyone got tested for it since it’s a hereditary thing.
I’ve had a lot of people (who don’t know the details) tell me that I should be the bigger person and forgive them for whatever it is that they’ve done. It’s not so simple. Some things are truly unforgivable. And effort has to come from both sides. Even if I was to forgive, the issues are too fundamental to who we all are as people, and forgiveness will not be forthcoming from the other side. I tried to make amends a few times in the past, thinking that they may have changed – it’s a waste of time.
This weekend I found out that my dad’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Please don’t pray, or give me your sympathies. Death is just a part of life. I just wanted to post about my reaction to the news more than anything.
Back in 2006, I was told my dad had lung cancer. It wasn’t entirely surprising. He’d been exposed to chemical weapons in the Army, and he’d been a heavy smoker. He had surgery, it was removed, he was ok. Then over the course of the next 6 years, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, bowel cancer – and he had 3 heart attacks. Survived all of them. Each time these things happened, I was upset, but I made peace with the poor relationship I had with my parents. It’s never going to get fixed, but it is what it is.
Then I find out he’s got pancreatic cancer yesterday – it’s inoperable – and that it’s only got an ~5% survival rate. He’s probably only got 6-12 months at best. And I suspect 6 months is probably optimistic given his age and prior medical history.
But my reaction now was more like “yeah, whatever“. It’s not that I don’t care (which is what my mother and extended family seem to think), it’s just that I’ve had to go through this half a dozen times before. When my father inevitably passes away (whether it be next week, next year, or next decade – it will happen), I will be sad, but probably not for long. He’s my father. But at the same time, we’re not on particularly good terms – although I am at least on better terms with him than I am with my mother. We don’t speak very often. I see him very rarely. I don’t think that the issues that stand between us will ever be resolved. I can’t change who I am as a person any more than my parents can. Read into that what you will. It’s not that my parents play any part in my life now as it is. I can’t see how anything will change if they’re suddenly not alive.
So to all those people who’ve said to me “you should make amends before it’s too late“? It was too late a very long time ago. I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t wish my parents ill health or anything like that. But it’s also not going to be a huge mourning period for me when they go.
C’est la vie.