I scared the ever-loving hell out of a poor AT&T guy today. He was only about 20 or so, and I'm sure he's had no training for the likes of me.
I went in today to talk about rearranging my plan. I've had both of my parents on my cell phone plan for the last 4 years, and I know there has to be a better, more cost-efficient way to handle our needs. I've known that the quickest way to chop about 30 bucks is to cancel my dad's phone, and I've known it for a long time. I just haven't been able to do it. Every month, I pay the bill, and I promise that I'll make that change. Yet I don't. It's a promise I never keep. Sure, it's only $30, a drop in the great Cosmic hat, but it could definitely go to use elsewhere. This is logic.
My dad has been in a nursing home for the past two years. We haven't given him a phone for lots of reasons, most of which I'm sure seem heartless to anyone who isn't in our situation but hopefully save everyone the smallest of heartaches and heart attacks. I lied and told him it had been stolen after a hospitalization. It was hard because I'm not one to lie to my dad very often. It was terrible because he's always been able to see through them when I do.
I confessed to a friend last weekend that I'd been paying the bill even after he went into the nursing home. This is not logic. She wasn't shocked, but it's been in my mind since then, wriggling worm-like, begging the question of why.
I don't know why. There is not a sane or logical or remotely understandable reason to keep it. If this were happening to anyone else, my dad would've already scolded me into cutting that cost months ago, telling me to "toughen up" and "let it go". But it is happening to my dad, and as I've learned, outlooks and opinions change drastically when he's at the center of them.
My dad has Parkinson's, and that will never change because there is no cure. And he is getting worse, causing me just this week to postpone a visit because he wasn't well enough. Even his medication treatments bring little relief to his continual muscle freezes and immobility, and when adjustments are made, we risk his mental stability and the emotional stability of my entire family. The last 5 years of his treatment, trading sanity for independent movement, have been a damn work of art in how to rob Peter to pay Paul. A mural, painted entirely with false hope, disregarded opinions, and monkey shit.
My dad has changed so much -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- that he feels less and less like the man I grew up with every day. He's still in there, so sly and sharp some moments that it's scary, but there are others that disconnect me in a way I once thought unimaginable. That's hard to say, especially to someone who doesn't have a parent at all. But my whole life, I thought the worst thing that could ever happen would be for him to die. It is only after years of watching him slowly disintegrate, of watching all of us fall apart, do I concede that perhaps there are far worse things than death. Maybe that's naive or selfish or cliche -- it certainly feels that way -- but I know that I wouldn't wish it on my very worst enemy. I don't hate anyone that much.
Keeping that phone line has been a habit, a secret that I've pushed down in order to make it feel as if he's not gone. Because he isn't gone. But it also doesn't bring him back. I talked my dad into a cell phone to make myself feel better when he was out working alone, when his moments of physical fallibility were frequent enough to give me worry but infrequent enough to make him stop. Now, he cannot dial the numbers himself or even often make his voice loud enough to be heard over it. I gave him that phone so that he would have a way to reach all of us, and now we are all so desperate to avoid a phone call because in my family no one ever calls with good news. Never before has $30 made such little sense to me. All my life, I have done what my dad advised, and here I was, yet again, needing my dad -- my not-sick dad -- to just tell me what to do.
Nothing in the world makes me feel less like a grown-up than to actually have to be THE grown-up. I feel like a 5 year-old, playing in my mother's make-up and jewelry.
And these are the thoughts that snaked around my brain while I waited at the AT&T store. While I waited on their psychotically bright orange couch, questioning why I couldn't do such a seemingly simple thing. And for me, waiting is the hardest part. Waiting gives me time to think and feel and fear and doubt. I'm not good at waiting. In fact, I'm almost as terrible at it as I am at lying.
So, when that poor, unsuspecting 20-something asked me how he could help, I didn't know how to explain that I was here to get rid of my dad's last tie to his own independence and dignity. I burst into tears and barely managed an apology, leaving him blank-faced and staring after me as I scuttled out the door, desperate to save my meltdown for the car, away from the orange couch and befuddled looks.
And to top it all off, they still got my 30 bucks this month. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, my old dad just shakes his head.