Friday, June 02, 2006

A Very Tough Decision

I had to make a very tough decision. I am feeling extremely guilty for my choice.

My dad will turn 80 at the end of the month. Dad lives two days away from me. My tough decision is that I decided not to go "home" for his birthday.

He won't be alone on his birthday, my sister and one or both of her kids will be there. Still, my son and I should be there to help him celebrate because it is such a big deal. I worry that my dad will feel let down. I worry that by not attending, I am teaching my son to not be supportive of family.

On the other hand, every single time I go somewhere it is to visit dad. Period. Okay, we went to South Carolina last November only because my husband was working there and his company paid for my son and I to fly out, for the motel, and for our rental car.

Every year I spend hundreds of dollars getting to Denver and back. Three times in the past eight years we have gone to Indiana with my dad, my sister and her kids. Dad grew up in Indiana and he wanted us to attend his family reunions. Even though we were in dad's car, he paid for gas and motels, I still spent hundreds of dollars on the trips.

I don't mean to sound unappreciated. I loved our trips to Hoosier land very much. I loved meeting family, renewing some relationships, and seeing the country. I loved, even more, the trip down memory lane -- going on a family vacation with dad. It took me back to my childhood. I loved his stories. I loved finding ancestors' graves. I loved researching our genealogy. I also love going to dad's house, cleaning for him. (I am always cleaning for him!)

Now we are a one-income family. I used to be a professional bringing in a nice salary. In fact, I was the sole support of this family while my husband went back to school for his degree. Now I feel it's more important to be mom and teacher. With that, I knew money would be tight. It is, we make due, and have a good life. Nothing extravagant, but our needs are met.

We have some major projects we have to do. We need a new roof. We need some new windows. We need to evaluate our transportation and update. Money, money, money.

Here comes the guilt. I am putting my needs before that of my dad's.

From a different perspective, traveling is difficult for me. In the summer, my right leg swells up terribly. Who knows why. The doctor gave me water pills. It is painful and uncomfortable. It takes two days to drive to dad's. We cannot afford airline tickets. Amtrak is five hours away and due to my leg, I cannot sleep in coach for one night or I wouldn't be able to walk the next day. When we take Amtrak to Denver, I get a room in a sleeper car. I'm a good shopper and it's usually cheap. Not in the summer. Can't afford it now. Last summer I drove us down. My leg was swollen the whole visit. It was a long haul and I was physically exhausted and in pain.

I also have a little phobia. I hate driving into Denver. Really, I hate it. The last three times I've driven in, we've experienced scary situations. Once, I was driving on I-25 and a car entered and almost drove right into me. I couldn't get over because of traffic. I shook violently. It was very close at high speeds. Another time, I was driving down 6th Ave with what I would consider "medium" traffic. Top a hill and right in my lane is a mattress! I had to slam on my brakes and I was barely able to get out of the lane. I have had nightmares over that mattress.

Finally, the worst was our visit last June. Hating driving into Denver as I do, I went a different route. We drove through South Dakota and Wyoming. (Took my son to see my inlaws.) We spent the night at a friend's house in Cheyenne. I got up at 5 am on a Sunday morning thinking the traffic would be next to nothing going into Denver. We were on the road at 5:30 am. What I didn't take into account were drunk drivers on their way home from late-night partying.

Driving on I-25, just past the Wyoming/Colorado border, before 6am, there was very little traffic. It was wonderful. Until I saw the car swerving in my rear view mirror. I slowed way down and got over as far as I could when it passed me. Sadly, the truck in front of me did not. The drunk hit the truck. The truck spun wildly. I slammed on my brakes, watched the truck come to a stop in the median. Thankfully the guy was able to walk and was only "banged" up. I stayed with the man until the Highway Patrol arrived. The drunk driver was never caught.

So anyway, I now have a horrible phobia of driving into Denver. Face it, I live in a town with a population of 10,000 and 3/4 of that is senior citizens. It's slow. Fast paced city driving is not my thing anymore.

Dad had two strokes last October. Thankfully they were mild and he's doing just fine. I needed to get there but I couldn't drive. We took Amtrak because I was able to get a cheap sleeper car. Thomas and I stayed almost three weeks while dad was recovering. Thank goodness for homeschooling, we just packed it up and did school in his living room. But...I couldn't drive.

So here I am. I'm afraid to drive into the city of Denver. My health isn't the greatest which makes long-distance driving miserable. I'm broke and can't fly. My dad will suffer as a result.

I feel like a heel. I also would like a little fun money to do some fun things this summer. If we went to Denver, that fun money is gone forever.

This was a tough choice. I'll probably feel guilty over it until my dying day. Ugh.


Becky said...

Health, money, and sanity are pretty powerful reasons. Don't beat yourself up. What would your dad say if he knew your reasons?

h said...

I agree with Becky. No need to feel guilty. (True, I say this as someone who invariably feels guilty when deciding between conflicting family obligations.... I can empathize.)

Regarding your leg swelling up, have you looked on the web about this? Turmeric extract (aka curcumin) is an anti-inflammatory, and in larger doses is mildly diuretic. "Flavonoids" such as quercetin and rutin (these are basically fruit and veggie extracts), as well as extracts from grape seeds or green tea, can make your capillaries less "leaky" and much firmer. There are clinical trials showing that various flavonoids are effective in treating venous insufficiency (in which liquid pools in one or both legs).

Check out, they're cheap and they also have a health library you can search for things like "venous insufficiency". Sometimes doctors don't know about this stuff because no one is making a huge profit, and thus, no one makes sure the doctors have heard of it.

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

Stop allowing the guilt to ruin a sound and reasonable choice. Family is important, but the needs of your immediate family is MOST important. It is not the child's job to forsake the needs of their own family to please their parents...and I have had to set some real boundaries and limits myself ten years ago for the happiness of my own family of four.

Don't allow the guilt to get to you, because you ARE being much more responsible by NOT going this year! Now ten years into living outside the grips of parental guilt, I cannot tell you how freeing it can be. Our relationships are now defined in a more healthy and adult, and I can enjoy our time together instead of resenting it in obligation!

Audrey said...

Call him. Tell him why you can't come this time. Be honest with him and I would bet that he'll understand completely. It isn't the end of the world. You aren't saying that you're NEVER coming to visit again -- just that you can't come THIS time. He's a parent, too, you know. I'm sure he'll understand. There is no reason for you to feel guilty at all.

Evil Missy said...

I feel your pain. I don't like driving and can't drive at night because of my vision. I don't get to see my dad much either at his nursing home and I feel terrible! Gas prices are horrible and having one income just doesn't allow for anything extra. I am sure he understands, just as I am sure mine does. I try to mail him things when I can and also I send the staff notes thanking them for taking care of my dad. They know we care.

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mull-berry said...

You are wise to recognize your limitations on driving. We saw some pretty scary stuff on our trip and had a few close calls ourselves. The major interstates were packed with semi's and it was common to feel like a little sardine amongst them ... all at 70+ mph!

Who knows, maybe something will work out and you can see him after all.

mull-berry said...

p.s. Here is a link to a wreck that we passed:

We had stopped for a potty break just a few exits before it happened and I hate to think what we would have been in the midst of if we hadn't stopped. The traffic had come to a complete stop and nothing was coming from the other way ... then a helicopter started circling around in front of us, then a trailer passed on the wrong side carrying a bulldozer ... then two more helicopters joined in overhead.

It would have made me physically ill to see that donkey loose on the highway and even more so if my kids saw it.