We had Jake’s “party” today. Really it was just a low-key dinner at my in-laws’. Frank’s aunt and uncle were also there.
My dad and his girlfriend were planning to come for the weekend. They were going to stay with us for two nights. They were supposed to get here yesterday. I woke up yesterday to a message on my cell phone, from my dad. He was sick, and really felt crappy, and didn’t want to risk getting anyone else sick, so they weren’t going to be coming.
At first glance, this might seem noble and courteous. But then, you didn’t grow up in the same house as my dad. My dad’s got a few mental misfirings going on, which isn’t surprising given the abundance of mental illness on my grandma’s side of the family. I suspect he might be cyclothymic or worse- he definitely has a history of periods that I wouldn’t characterize as a severe mania, but could definitely be hypomanic, and he’s definitely had bouts of depression, too, though nothing I would characterize as a major depression though he’s good at getting angry to cover all other emotion. He has what could be characterized as borderline personality tendencies, though probably not quite severe enough to warrant that diagnosis (mostly, he has lots of anger and abandonment issues, and troubles with impulse behavior, like promiscuity in relationships and drinking), but that could be part and parcel to the bipolar tendencies, or vice versa. He also, most pronounced of the lot, has a significant issue with anxiety. He has it and he often deals with it poorly. Last year he had a sore throat and became convinced he had throat cancer. He worries endlessly about stuff that really shouldn’t even take up two minutes of his day, like if he got the ‘best’ presents for my kids on Christmas or their birthdays. (He got Lane dress-up stuff for Christmas, and my brother got her an Imaginext dinosaur, and she played with the dinosaur more in the next couple days, and my dad kept kicking himself that he didn’t get her the BEST, MOST FAVORITE present, like it meant he was a failure as a grandfather or something. This, after prodding me endlessly in the weeks preceding Christmas to try to ensure he was getting gifts for the kids that they were sure to LOVE.) Above all else, he has a major social anxiety. Well, “major” is probably a bit much, but it’s enough to interfere with his normal life activities. If you’ve ever watched Sex and The City — when Carrie is dating the Russian, and he gets all ill and upset before certain social situations, but then once he’s there he’s all confident and charismatic… that’s my dad. I remember all through my childhood, my dad wiggling out of attending parties, weddings, etc. because he “didn’t feel good”. Countless times in the car, we all strapped in and ready to head somewhere that required social interaction (even something as simple as one of my little league softball games), and my dad would sit in the driver’s seat, with his head on the steering wheel, either in an attempt to try to get my mom to say, “well, if you really don’t feel well, just stay home” and/or to psych himself up enough to put the car in gear and head toward the kibitzing. Sometimes he’d sit there for minutes and minutes… and we had to be quiet… oh it was like hours. I distinctly remember a couple instances where we sat for 20 minutes or more. I haven’t lived under the same roof as him for more than ten years, but I’ve heard from at least a couple of his post-Mom girlfriends that the behavior has persisted — they’d be ready to go meet someone, ready to go to a party, and all of a sudden Dad wouldn’t feel well and would try to talk them into staying in.
Long story short, I’m sure a therapist could have a field day peeling away all the weird layers they would find there, assuming my father would ever open himself to that possibility. (He won’t. I’ve lobbied him aggressively to try.)
Given that history… it’s really hard for me to totally buy any time my dad says he’s too sick to do something. And since this weekend meant coming here with his girlfriend and staying with us in our house (foreign territory), then going over to my in-laws’ house for a small party (even more foreign territory, coupled with the possibility of not having bought the BEST GIFT EVER), well, it was a situation ripe for an attempt at playing hookey.
I don’t doubt he actually was sick. I’m sure he had at least a sniffle or a scratchy throat. When I called him yesterday evening to see how he was feeling, though, I caught him at the mall with his girlfriend; they had just gone out to dinner. And he hadn’t had to miss any days of work with this bout of avian flu or whatever he thinks he had. I’m really not at a point anymore where this surprises me, or even disappoints me much. And maybe he was/is sicker than I’m imagining. But he’s been the boy who cried wolf my whole life, so it’s hard to assume the best when it’s probably not the case.
Despite Dad’s shenanigans, we had a nice evening. My in-laws made a lovely dinner and I supplied a from-scratch carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that was sinfully delicious – even though in my quest to drop what is now 34 of the 37 extra pounds I started with (thank you very much) I subbed some Splenda for part of the sugar, some wheat flour for part of the white flour, and some applesauce for some of the oil required. According to the recipe builder on the Weight Watchers website, the changes shaved 4 points (about 200 calories) off each slice of cake.
Jake got a couple toys, some beach/pool stuff for our trip to Aruba in April, and a smattering of clothes. And he loves cream cheese frosting, but only if you let him operate the spoon himself.