Monday, December 7, 2009

Nobody Should Ever Wish On Their Deathbead That They Spent More Time At Work

A short while back, J. Money posted a cute story about an American Businessman's enlightenment about the balance between work and personal life.

An Anonymous commenter posted: "It seems like the old myth that no one on their death bed ever wished they'd spent more time at the office. The sad truth is that millions have reached the end of their life, locked away in some Dickensian nursing home, thinking to themselves - 'Hum, I really wish I would have tried harder to make something of myself.'"

Interesting, since I've come to the opposite conclusion, especially from my dealings with my dad.

My dad's an "old-school" man, stuck in the custom and culture of the old country. He was never active in my life, other than to provide (i.e. pay for) shelter, food, education and other necessities. When I was an infant, he rarely (if ever) changed my diapers or fed me. When I was a child, he never played with me or took interest in my personal life. I doubt he was ever able to name any of my teachers or my friends. He delegated my entire upbringing to my mom.

Anyhow, my dad was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment several years ago and my parents are emotionally, if not geographically, estranged from each other. Notwithstanding the emotional alienation, my mother still performs basic caregiving functions for my dad such as preparing meals, laundering and cleaning. As a result, mother is suffering from caretaker fatigue and resents my father.

I get stressed and depressed when my dad is around too. My dad claims he is starving for conversation. Yet I have nothing to say to him and he has nothing to say to me, other than to badmouth my mother. Because of his memory impairment, he can't converse about any current events. Even if I blather about nonsense to kill the awkward silence, he doesn't respond with anything meaningful to move the conversation further.

Truth be told, I don't really like spending much time with my dad. I have nothing in common with this man and never did. And since he didn't make any effort to spend any meaningful time with me during my youth, we really can't reminisce about the past either.

Don't get me wrong - - I am grateful to my dad. He gave me life and he supported me. That's why I've resigned myself to care for him when neither he nor my mom can care for himself. I hate to admit this, but he is a burden that I am not wholeheartedly eager to take on.

My father will likely die with no one, not even his daughter, truly missing him. (I am grateful that he is oblivious to this fact.) His monetary support has bought my gratitude, but not my affection or love. I think in the end, I don't think anyone ever thinks about whether they should've spent more time in the office. But I think some may wish they invested more time and effort in their relationships, since no one wants to die unloved.


Money Funk said...

You link is not working for me. Brings me back to blogger sign in.

That is quite a heavy comment.

But, I have to say in ways I agree with him. My mother is a manic depressive who will let anyone guide her life. She will give it to you to do with as you please. She wants somebody to take care of her and chooses not to take her own path. And it can be a burden. Like the unspoken word that it will be up to me or my sister to take care of her as she has not planned for her older years.

As she gets older I feel the pre-pressure both financial and emotional. Yet my own path getting older I am realizing where I want to be (traveling, wine, and cheese). I sometimes feel like my financial and emotional future will be sabotaged by my mother's needs.

Well, now that I have spilled all that...I think the Anonymous commenter has a valid finishing point.

Hope your holidays are treating you well! ~MF

Sallie's Niece said...

I'm sorry your family is going through that.

Yum Yucky said...

Gulp. I can see someone very close to me feeling this way about their dad one day. :~(

Miss M said...

Wow, that is tough. Was your dad too busy to take an interest in you, or was it a function of his personality? I wonder if he realizes what he has lost, obviously it is too late now with his mental decline.

Shtinkykat said...

@ Christine: Whoops. Corrected the link. Thanks for the heads up about the broken link. Ugh. Sorry to hear you're in the same boat as I. I guess it's all about the balance in life of being finally responsible yet not at the expense of our relationships.

@ Sallie: Thanks. I often read your posts about your parents with great envy.

@ Yum Yucky: I have a feeling there might be more people who feel this way, sadly. :-(

@ Miss M: I think his failure to be active in my life was part cultural, partly being busy but mostly due to his personality. My mother has always criticized him for being self-centered, selfish and inconsiderate. But then again, my mom's biased. This really hits home that don't always think there's a tomorrow to make things right.

Anonymous said...

It's really too bad you feel that way about your dad - I would say that much of what you say comes across as selfishness and a "me, me, me" attitude. Had you considered for one moment that had your dad not spent so much time in the office supporting you and your mom, that maybe you wouldn't be where you are today? Maybe not have gotten a good education? Not had your mom at home because she'd need to get a job too or see your family on the welfare rolls? Would that have made you feel better or happier that you were closer to him? Of course not, in that case you'd be bitching that if your lazy dad worked harder you and your mom could have had a better life.

Ungrateful comes to mind, even though you claim you are grateful.

Maybe you should take the time to get close to your dad now, while there still is time? You might find that you have lots in common with the man. Taking care of him if you need to is a burden you've resigned yourself to? Again, what if he said the same for you and your mom instead of working his ass off to support you?

You could use a major attitude adjustment and a good dose of maturity thrown in.

Anonymous said...

"My mother has always criticized him for being self-centered, selfish and inconsiderate."

Sounds like you and your mom may be guilty of just that. Hypocrite quickly comes to mind.

Shtinkykat said...

@ Anon: My dad was unemployed or underemployed for a big chunk of my youth. As far as I can tell, my family lived off the generosity of my grandparents and some of our relatives during that time. He didn't find steady employment until I was in high school. So my father bears some responsibility for his failure to be active in my life prior to that. Additionally, I see many fathers who are "busy at the office" yet still make meaningful effort to be active in their kids' lives. Either way, I'm not necessarily proud of the way I feel and I'm trying to come to terms with it.

Shtinkykat said...

As a post script, if you've noticed (or not), I'm not complaining about having to take care of my mom. The bottom line is, you get from a relationship what you put into it. Money's a poor substitute.