Father's illness a wake-up call to shore up emotional reserves

Father's illness a wake-up call to shore up emotional reserves

Q: My father, my only family, is having a biopsy soon. He's not telling me much. All I can think about is, what do I do if my daddy dies? I feel alone, scared and angry. I don't have a "best friend" or significant other, and I want to scream and cry and kick. I realize I need to calm down and wait and hope for the best. Any words of encouragement you can offer?

D.C.

A: There's always encouragement to be had — it's just a biopsy, even bad news is often news of something treatable, etc. — but encouragement is ephemeral.

Daddies last a little longer, but they, too, are impermanent. That's why living in the past (where your father is immortal) won't be of much comfort; it's fiction and you know it.

Living in the future, on the other hand — where Daddy dies eventually of something — needlessly extends your grieving period to include the time he has left, possibly years of it.

So the only choice that's both practical and reassuring is the present. You won't have your daddy forever, but you have him now. Talk to him, spend time with him, appreciate him. In no case — good biopsy results, bad, inconclusive — will you regret it.

Something else you won't regret: From this place of comfort, start to tackle the issue of your reliance on him. The problem isn't that he's a generation older, and likely to predecease you; it's the dependency, period, and would be problematic if it were on a spouse or child or "best friend." The fear and loneliness are telling you it's time to strengthen your emotional resources, not just external ones, but internal, too. What are your strengths? What gives you a happy sense of anticipation? Of purpose? These are lifelong companions.

Finally, when you're talking to your dad, implore him to talk to you, too. His "not telling me much" is not protecting you, it's hurting you. As you've just learned the hard way, futures you can't envision are always more frightening than the ones you can, even if you really don't like what you see.

It's not your temperaments, it's how they fit together

Q: My boyfriend of eight years is temperamental and I tend to be calm, nonconfrontational and rational. We have had big arguments in our relationship, but now we have calmer days because I don't respond, so we don't have blowouts and we can focus on the issues. Do you think we have a shot at everlasting happily-ever-after? Or do two people who are calm complement each other more and make better partners in relationships?

D.C.

A: I believe it's two temperamental people who make the better partners.

Joke.

Two calm people may have fewer "blowouts," but that doesn't make them better partners. The value of a partnership lies in what it brings to each person. If you are grateful for what you have, and you're happy and energized by the accommodations you've made, then, mazel tov.

But if you feel at all depleted from being the Calm One, then drawing a smiley face on it would be a disservice to you both. Please assume that what's annoying now will grow difficult, what's difficult now will grow burdensome, and what's burdensome now will be unbearable. Pessimistic, yes, but better bleak than sorry.

Father's illness a wake-up call to shore up emotional reserves 01/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 3:30am]

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