Open Letter to Dad on his 99th Birthday

Hey Pop –

You tolerated that name, but you preferred Papa. You were Papa when we were alone or in Norwegian mode, but you were always Dad regardless, even Daddy. A pretty awesome Dad too. I just wish you had been truthful. I wouldn’t have stopped loving you. Mom on the other hand…….

I still miss you, especially today. I enjoyed this day more than my birthday! You figured that out, I know. Dad’s special day and Mom couldn’t screw with it. Ever. She did enough in every other aspect of your life, didn’t she? Hell, she took your life, even if she had dementia. She had to lie about everything with anyone just to get her way. She had to be right, even if it harmed others. Or herself. She almost finished me twice. She got you, though, with help from your PCP who had dementia. You listened to him since your cardiologist was on his sabbatical which he had delayed for your surgery and recovery? You listened to him and Mom instead of the man who assured you at least another 10 years of life? What he couldn’t do for his own father, and you threw that away because Mom didn’t want you addicted to drugs like coumaden? Since when had Mom gone to medical school and become a cardiologist? Or become an actual nurse, not just a CNA? What the fuck did she know? I almost died from a penicillin reaction, because no one in her family had that allergy. She was a malignant narcissist. It cost you your life! But, you warned me, she wasn’t well. No, you knew she had the first stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia and she would need me. Why? Because you knew without the coumaden your heart might stop? An exit plan because you couldn’t deal with anymore of her bullshit and keeping things private, even from medical professionals? When was she locked up in a psychiatric facility? She kept harping “they” wouldn’t lock her up AGAIN. That wasn’t during my lifetime, but sometime  before. Before you? Uncle John knew, didn’t he? Took that to the grave with him. He bailed his little sister out of too much shit, especially when she lived in Denmark. She left home when she was 19 and never went back if she could avoid it. Her family didn’t know her either. Not like we did.

You always said there was nothing we could do to change her, but why live with that year after year? Was she THAT good. She told me stories when you were gone. Sick shit a daughter should never hear out of her mother’s mouth. Can’t bleach my brain! I should be so lucky to have a caring and attentive man like you! Bleh!

God she was sick and disgusting. Even blamed me for trying to steal you. Uhuh. Yeah, that sick fucking Bitch. I did take care of her, just as you feared. Even with 25+ years warning, it was worse than you figured. And you left! That was where she went. Dying was leaving. How could you do that?! Honestly? What took you so long?

Yes, I know she was sick. You warned me, not just the Narcissism, but she got Alzheimer’s and that nasty crap she always did ramped up like she was on steroids. But, her family just did the typical crap. Now some of them bitch because I’m speaking ill of the dead. As if we could have said anything and if she had found out? Hell hath no fury than a narcissist having her reality restored to actual time. They didn’t know her like we did. She left them before she became the heartless, self serving malicious narcissist we knew and had to love. But your family knew her. Thank God she wasn’t Karstan’s stepmother. Poor guy wouldn’t have made it out if his teens before she ruined his life, and fighting her on two fronts would have killed you sooner. I doubt you would have made it to 70.

Remember your birthday when we went on the MSV Hawaiian Chieftain? That was so cool, Or that time we went on the USS Jeremiah O’Brien and we all got a lesson on calls from the Bridge to the Engine Room. Even the Docent thought you should be one, you knew more than he did. Or that Harbor Cruise and Mom stayed below deck so her hair wouldn’t get icky. Just like ’85 on the way to Halsa. We relived that moment. And we had a good laugh again. Didn’t get the same reaction from the crew the 2nd time, but I still recall the dignity and respect they showed a Captain. You always had the bearing, even when the Bars were retired. She put the kabash on that, didn’t she.

Being on ships with you, that was always the best. Being near or in the water holds so many memories. Not with Mom, just you. All those days at the beach or going to the docks or walking on the decks of the Hawaiian Chieftain or the Christian Radich, I’m speechless, though my heart and mind are full with happiness.  Your moments of peace were here haranguing had no effect.

I’m sorry Daddy that I couldn’t help you in the end. I knew she was sick, I just didn’t realize how bad. You enabled that for too many years. Hell, she stabbed me with my own scissors! Called the Cops because I was so sick of it. But, her lousy doctors wouldn’t believe she was as bad as I tried to tell them BECAUSE SHE DENIED IT of course. She assumed her “I don’t speak English so good, I’m a foreigner” bullshit and it still gave her what she wanted. Didn’t tolerate it in my teens and I was sick to death of it after 30 years. No, it was funny how stupid people were! Yeah, haha. I fucking hated that shit. And in self preservation mode, she disowned me and said I wasn’t her daughter. She tore up the adoption papers, she said, when she realized I wasn’t “right”! She also hit the nurses when they wouldn’t get her a taxi she could jump out of when they got to the freeway  and were going fast. She had a urinary tract infection and we were at the ER. Oh, what a fun Saturday night that was! Not like tonight 4 years ago (only 4?) when she grabbed the wheel and tried to crash us into oncoming traffic coming home from Hemet and a good steak dinner and remembrances of you. She’d forgotten and that was my fault. Worthy of the death penalty in her mind.

Being clueless on the language didn’t work in Norway, did it? Couldn’t fake an English accent or be so dumb she forgot her native language. She forgot enough on the phone though.

I didn’t mean to yack so much about her. I detest what she did to you and your family and her family said nothing! Did nothing. Can’t even get it through their thick Northern Brains what it did to us. Why did we come back after 6 months. Most expensive vacation EVER. Mom lived her episode of the Rich & Famous. You never recovered financially, did you? Mom had access to shopping malls again. How vapid did she have to become before you’d leave her?

She did know what she was doing Dad. I told you that for years. No, no, you would tell me, she’s not that bad, just difficult. Difficult? Really? She fucked up your life, made you stop taking the one drug your cardiologist said you couldn’t stop or die, hell, she threw out my meds and I started having my own mini-strokes! I just didn’t notice until I had the big one that pretty much stole my life. She was gone then. Figures. I was busy taking a care of her, I didn’t have any time left for me.

You should have let me stay here in ’85, Dad. I would have made it. Your pipe dream of returning home and regaining the dignity she stripped from you cost too much and I don’t mean just your pension. Jesus, you were 68! You should have been able to retire, but keeping her stocked in trips to the store cost too much. Shit, you died broke and I had to take care of her! Never stopped until she died, and that stupid punk Freddie (that apple didn’t fall far from the tree and it was just as rotten) claimed I stole from Mom.

We’ve put up with too much over the year’s for the sake of her family. I’m talking to the Anderson’s again Dad. Arvid still remembers your stories from when he was young. And I’ve gotten to know Karstan, at least what we can through the Internet. Times are different. You could keep your secrets – in the 1890’s. I got a Christmas Card from Roar. Your sister hasn’t been well. Boy, does Karstan take after you! It’s a little scary. Why was it so important that we not know each other? Just because of Mom? Why the fuck was she so special that we didn’t matter at all? It couldn’t have been that good. You still had to deal with her attitude. Or her emotional breakdowns fabricated from whole cloth for your benefit and to get what she had to have.

I can never forgive Mom for how she treated your family. She wanted me to treat Kevin’s family the same way, but I refused to ever act like her. Besides, I loved Sharon like the mother I never had. I would never dismiss her just because she wasn’t “family”, but an in-law. You were dead and we weren’t notifying your family because they didn’t care about you? I knew that was as fake as her blonde hair dye re-applied every 6 weeks since 1965. That still eats at me, she threw out all your correspondence during Hospice, your notebooks, your phone numbers and addresses of relatives, but I was just lucky to have you and Karstan didn’t because of her and her reality. She felt threatened by your ex-wife and son. How pathetic is that? That made her a real woman? Yeah, a whorish home-wrecker. Bow-chicka-bow.

I know you two had a daughter in 1963. Is that when you all concocted this scenario? You were too old to adopt in Norway, so you came here? It was easy to find a cute little kid here, a war veteran and a ship’s captain wanting to console his wife after the death of your daughter and your wife’s unfortunate history of miscarriages or stillbirths? She’s listed as a housewife on the revised birth certificate. If she was a trained nurse, why not list that? She claimed the education and standing consistently.

She had a DNC in 69? I can’t forget Mom’s trip to the hospital. She used “DNC” as the procedure she had to get. Could a 4 year old remember that? She remembers your homecoming after you last trip as Captain! You looked pretty sharp in your regular uniform, dropping your duffle just inside the door and giving Mom a huge hug. I remember laughing and you swinging me up so I could hug you as well. I don’t recall the dress uniform, but I’ve still got the bars from that coat. That was 1968, right? Mom had that DNC at Kaiser and that was before I broke my leg at 5. Amazing what we remember from childhood. And that was before Rocky, my first Elkie. He was such a sweet dog. Why I got Heidi and Fen. Some memories need repeating.

I’m not doing so good Dad. You’d be disappointed and I hate that. I still excel at beating myself up. I’ve almost given up, Dad. It’s been too much for too damn long. I should have walked away when you died, but I stayed because I promised you I would. I would take care of her and I did for another 13 years though it ruined my life and left me with nothing. She was fine with that. After all, she took care of you when you and you left, she had no one to take care of her – even though I moved almost 400 miles and divorced my husband to take care of her, but why did I have to live with her? Why not live next door? When she needed something, she could have me take her where she needed to go and of course I would work, but close by so she wouldn’t have to wait while in pain/confusion/heat/bored/annoyance. You know, not like last time when they wouldn’t interrupt a meeting to let me know she was on the phone. The last straw and the first to go on the layoff. Yay! She never respected my work or me. I was there to do her bidding, to be seen and heard as directed at her convenience, regardless of the time or weather. Did you know I had the ability to change the weather? I could have been rich!

Fuck her. You weren’t there anymore. The beatings started back up again. 1992 to 2012 – a decent run with no violence. We shared a roof again so I had no rights, no privacy, no say-so what-so-ever. But I was older and had dealt with enough assholes over the years, she didn’t intimidate me anymore. At least I can say I never hit her – oh I was tempted, but I feared being unable to stop. I grabbed her forearms, just as I had in 82. Pushed her up against the wall and yelled in her face she WOULD NOT DO THAT AGAIN! You saw one episode when she beat me on the head and kept slapping my face, and you just about lost your shit completely. And that was before the headon collision. You were so pissed at her! OMG the argument you guys had! And she thought I would go with her? Man, she believed her own lies that completely. You fucking beat your daughter and call an 11 year old a whore because she was 10 minutes late by your estimation getting home from school because her teacher asked her to stop by before classroom heading home and she had a note for you, and she will go with you because you’re the better parent? Since when?

Dad, why didn’t you divorce her crazy ass? It would’ve been #3, so? We could’ve been happier and you could have lived a few more years doing things you enjoyed – not just taking her out to eat and shop for Lancome shit, shoes at Nordstrom, or go to Hallmark for the upteenth time. Shit, you could have had some money in the bank and no credit card debt. I took care of that, refinanced the house, paid off the car and set her up with a savings plan and put her on a Goddamned budget and made her stick to it, just like you did with me. She did know how to pay the bills, thank you for listening to me and getting her to do that. She did like her plastic though. Visa her friend in any weather or mood.

I don’t know why I’m doing this. I miss our talks so much. That was the hardest part when I moved up here, no more breakfasts while Mom got her hair done every Saturday morning. I could tell you anything- well almost. You were still Dad after all. I could talk to you about almost anything. You were so different than Mom, it always came back to her and how I disappointed her, failed to do it her way. You never did that. A raised eyebrow (they needed more regular trimming BTW), my name grumbled under your breadth, a query if Chris had anything to do with it, the usual stuff. What I’d read over the last week. Any new music I liked. What I thought about the latest political headline. What were the voting issues and had I been paying attention. The usual stuff for us with a ManU update. I had that with you, never Mom. A hug when I didn’t do as well as I wanted on a test. Or when I had a bad day at work. Or when Mom was on my ass for some made up thing – you gave me the “Look” and I smiled. We had that. Just a knowing look could bring a smile to my face over anything. You may have adopted me, but I was your daughter, body, soul and spirit. You said I had the heart of a Viking and I’m still trying to….

but I’m failing Dad. I can’t work. The stroke stripped my ability to do math like we did. Who needs a calculator? We have our brains! Not so much anymore. I can’t add like we used to. You’d beat me if we went to the liquor store, because that grocery bill addition would have me in a puddle of tears on aisle 6. Subtraction makes me so confused. And percentages? Forget about it. I was beating my head the other day trying to figure out 20% of 20. I had to do grade school math and come at it two ways before I got to 4. Explanation shorter than the time it took to do the actual math. I was a Finance Professional, not anymore.

The one who counseled other’s in how to get a job, can’t get one herself because she doesn’t remember how it’s done. Her writing is shit. She can’t sign her full name without making a mistake. She can’t write numbers down without transposing some. Her former eloquence when speaking has taken flight through the nearest window, and her diction isn’t too hot either. Can’t get a job at Barnes & Noble, or remember story arcs of my favorite books, all of them. That workaholic I used to be is gone and I can barely read for an hour without having to take a break to give my brain a rest. It gets tried really fast. And I still don’t have an answer in what is wrong and how much of my brain died. I’ll see a specialist though, once the paperwork has incubated for a month. Well, they can book an appointment on after Sept. 1st.

I want to fight. Not let THEM win. I’m just so tired, Dad, and what’s the point anyway? I don’t have anyone. Kevin didn’t steal from me as Mom routinely asked every 3 months, just 20 years of my life, and any lasting hope for kids though he can have them now, I paid for the wedding and divorce, though he left me because I treated him badly. Huh? I paid the entrance and exit fee (can’t remember who paid for the license in Reno, I handled every other thing as his Administrative Assistant – God that got old), but he left me? We won’t revisit the Antoine thing, but when she accused me of running him off because I disappointed him, I could have ripped her head off. And I shouldn’t ever marry again because I have nothing to offer and I’m barren. I wasn’t when I was young, just didn’t have a man willing to tell a doctor “hey, I think there’s something wrong with my plumbing! Let me show you!” Fuck, if you pee like you’re 80 when you’re half of that, take him by the hand and go to a restroom and demonstrate. Then you’re hale and hearty, but “it” doesn’t feel the same, can’t risk getting the wife pregnant because she’s too old and forget about adoption because you never know what you’re gonna get. Well, your in-laws didn’t do so bad. You married what they got, dumb fuck. She still hasn’t forgotten she was 3rd or 4th on your priority list and she wasnt sexually attractive to you. It just gets better and better. I won’t mention the porn he downloaded on the computers and they had viruses. 70’s porn.

Sorry. Still do tangents. Some habits never die, like smoking cigarettes. They really pissed Mom off. LOL Can’t imagine what she did to you when you smoked. Kevin tried guilt tripping me about being old and him pushing me in a wheelchair because I had emphysema. He wouldn’t stay home with me when I slept walked my head into the vanity and had to get 13 stitches at 2:00 in the morning. Remember that? Weeks later, you guys came for a visit and the bruising recovery of two black eyes were now puce green and trailing down to my neck. The brace has been removed from my left leg. I couldn’t see or walk that morning, but he went to work because there was an attendance competition – which he lost because of me and calling in late for that morning. Darn he lost a free vacation day! I lost 3 sick days because my Boss sent me home because I looked like I was a car accident victim. And I was to think he’d push a wheelchair? As long as there was nothing going on that he had an interest in, sure. Maybe.

Remember all the visits to the ER? You were with me when they cut off my cast on my left leg. I thought that guy was going to cut off my leg and how I screamed! You calmed me down. Or when Bill called you at work and told you about that penicillinlreaction and how Mom didn’t handle it. Another time you threatened to leave and take me with you. Or did you want her to leave? One way or the other, she wouldn’t be our problem anymore.

Lack of sleep has brought some clarity. If I concentrate really hard, I can still hear your voice in my head. Your chuckle. Your rich baritone singing Bing or some old Irish favorite. I can’t remember the lullabies you sang to me. The stroke stole those. I could never recall what Mom sang. I’m sure she did, but all I remember is her tucking me in so securely I couldn’t move.

She had me recite the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian. The only Norwegian she taught me, and it was pretty much repeat these noises. You translated and then sang. You taught me. You always did.

I could keep writing, but you know, I’ve gotta wrap this up. Happy birthday Dad. I’ll raise one to you as usual with supper. Skol!

Author: Vykinghart

A divergent catalyst trying to make the world a better place while screaming from a tiny soapbox.

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