Late yesterday afternoon, as I was taking a study break and playing Overwatch, my phone rang. It was my dad. I was in the middle of a match and I decided to finish before calling back. I figured he was calling to say he hadn’t gotten his internet password yet so we wouldn’t be able to FaceTime. Not unexpected – I’d sent him the iPad weeks ago as a way for Tai and Miriam to get to know him better but he didn’t remember the password to his internet. He lives in the dark ages – no computer, no cell phone. In a break between rounds, I listened to the voice mail “Hey, its Dad. Call me when you get a chance.” I knew it wasn’t about the internet. I called him back.
He asked if I’d talked to Quin yet. I think he was hoping my brother had already shared the news. But I hadn’t. Apparently Dad had been in the hospital again and this time he’d sworn my step-mom to secrecy so she didn’t call my brother or I. And he’d gotten some bad health news. He was clearly shaken, not his usual self. I took notes to consult Dr. Google after we hung up. Then I called Quin. We hashed it over – tried to figure out what the real story is – ‘Harmon men’ have a bad habit of sugar-coating stuff so as ‘not to worry you’ but that means you don’t understand the gravity of the situation until it’s too late.
Quin wants Dad to move out here from Michigan. He is going to need to move anyway – somewhere with a single level, no yard to take care of. Quin wants to put a small place in his back yard for Dad and Roseanna, and we can help them as needed. In Quin’s eyes, it’s what families do, come together when someone needs help. Shore each other up. On the one hand, I agree. While our Uncle lives in Michigan too, he’s in his 80s – and he and Dad have a sometimes-fraught relationship. Neither Quin nor I have seen much of Dad in the last… many years. Dad doesn’t travel, and flying to Michigan with kids isn’t cheap. I went back a year and a half ago, spent a weekend with Dad and Roseanna and it was the first time they had met Miriam. They hadn’t seen Tai since he was two. Dad hasn’t met any of Quin’s kids, or his wife. Having Dad here would alleviate the guilt.
But there are other reasons I haven’t been close to my Dad. Boundaries were crossed when I was a teen, and that was just the final straw to a endlessly complicated relationship. In the intervening years we have made some efforts at amends, and though our relationship is stilted – we both want healing. I’m learning to accept that he is who he is, flaws and all. Learning to parent the little girl in me myself, because while she still lives in my heart, I’m an adult.
So there’s a question – would having Dad live here be healthy for me, and my kids? It may be a moot question, Dad may never agree to leave Michigan. If he doesn’t… what do I do then? How do I negotiate our changing relationship as his health wanes? Maybe that’s the real question, no matter where he chooses to be. And maybe I won’t know the answer until I live into it.