My dad had double bypass surgery last year. At first, he improved his attitude about life and eating and exercise, but like with any supposed revelation, the effects were purely transitory. He quickly went back to his old habits of eating and drinking as much as he wanted, as often as he wanted.
If I believed in signs from God, I would say when he contracted an extremely rare, extremely potent form of food poisoning in the summer of that same year that landed him in the hospital numerous times over the course of five months, often because he couldn't even keep water down, that it was a sign from God. A sign that said, "Hey, stupid, quit eatin' so goddamn much! I already saved your ass once this year and if you're not going to start losing weight, exercising, and taking care of yourself, then fine, I'll help you this one last time, but you're not going to like it."
Naturally, since he could barely eat anything for months, he lost tons of weight but, for the first time in at least two decades, he was at a healthy weight. Once the bacteria and its effects finally worked their way out, it was the new year, a clean slate. Of course, rather than keeping the slate clean, he filthied it with grease and alcohol.
My uncle first ended up in the hospital in January. For months, the prospects were still hopeful. In March, my parents went to Detroit to visit and to try to look after some of his business. They stayed with Margaret, my mom's childhood best friend. A few short months later, my uncle passed away.
In June, when we prepared the memorial, the family again stayed with Margaret. My mother and I stayed a while longer than my dad and my sister. One evening while my mom, Margaret and I were chit chatting, my mom brought up my dad's awful health. She mentioned how he can't stop eating and drinking and in fact, those are the only two activities he seems to enjoy.
Margaret, who has a heart of gold and would never intentionally say anything harmful, remarked, "Yeah, he looked pretty chubby when he was here. He looked pretty good last time but he's put on a ton of weight since then."
It turns out, in three months' time, he had gained between 30 and 40 lbs.
Although raised as a true Catholic, when the majority of the damage was done, my father is not particularly religious. Yet, he clings to the faith that there is some governing force out there, that there is justice in the universe, that if he suffers enough by "doing the right thing," in the end, he will be somehow rewarded. As always with the victims of religion, he refuses to see when he's doing the wrong thing, and has no problem idly waiting to be rescued.
In one way, I believe this attachment to religion has preserved him because he knows that, by the laws of the church, if he were to commit suicide, he would surely end up in hell. Instead, the attachment to religion is killing him slowly and painfully. While almost all religions have a principle that suicide is the highest of sins, one so offensive that it sends the spirit instantly to Hell without passing GO to collect his $200, there is no specific clause about reckless endangerment. It seems he has a plan of eating and drinking whatever he wants, overworking himself, over stressing himself, failing to relax for even a moment, and never bothering to move his body other than say, from his bed to the shower, from the shower to the toilet, from the toilet to the closet, from the closet to the car, from the car to the desk, from the desk to the car, from the car to the couch, from the couch to the bed. In other words, no exercise whatsoever.
Not surprisingly, this pseudo-hedonistic lifestyle has landed him at the doctor's office numerous times, each time with a set of numerous medications, each medication with a set of numerous side effects. Naturally, as the faithful are apt to do, he doesn't blame his lifestyle on this new set of side effects. It's, "the medication making me sick." Of course, he remains blind to the warning labels of the medication, most specifically, the warning labels about alcohol consumption, then lashes out with derision against the family doctor and how he's, "trying to kill me."
I understand his pain. He has had a painfully disappointing life. Nothing in his life has worked out the way he had struggled and planned, scrimped and saved for. I also can't help but wonder if all of his self inflicted suffering is a subconscious and constant punishment for making the "wrong" decision at a vital time in his career. He worked in the IT department at Ford Motor Company and when Ford dissolved the department, he could choose a path in the auto industry or a path in the IT industry. He opted for autos and we all know how that story goes.
In any case, I can't shake the hope that if he would let go of God or karma or any attachment to "spirituality" and afterlife, that he would commit himself to a better life. I would hope he would realize that he only has a short time left and when it's gone, it's gone. I would hope he would cherish his last, remaining, autumn years and would go the extra mile to get a few extra laps around the track. I would hope that he'd understand his family's love may be all that's there for him, but that it's a precious gift worth savoring every moment of.
Instead, as stubbornness runs high in the family genes, he will insist that his falsely hedonistic, yet incredibly masochistic lifestyle is The Way to go. Thanks, Catholicism, for fucking up my life, yet again.
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