My father was diagnosed with cancer some years ago and has been better and worse over the years. The thing he has consistently been is difficult. It’s really all about him and the attempts to guilt his children into things to show him that we love him is too much. We often say no, but I want to be there for him without being an enabler. I also want to help him to let go so he can move on and truly feel well, and eventually pass on in peace. His birthday is 2/20/44; mine is 3.1.80.
Being there for a parent who is ailing isn’t easy. There are so many conflicting emotions at play—not the least of which is that you and your father are in the process of trading places as you gradually take over being the parent in your new role of caregiver. Neither of you is going to be happy about this. Who would be? Your father doesn’t want to be a burden any more than you want to be burdened by your father.
It already sounds like you and your father have different ideas about where to go from here. He doesn’t feel like his children are there for him (hence the guilt trips) and you don’t feel like he’s there for himself (which is why you don’t want to enable him). Your father’s fear of not being looked after enough is matched by your fear of not doing enough and when you’re living in the shadow of a terminal disease it’s hard not to feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s why we make up these rules and expectations. It’s the psyche’s way of projecting some kind of order on to the chaos. But you need to accept that your father is not going to go through this illness in the way that you feel he should any more than you are going to be there for your father in the way that he wants you to be, which is why you’re better off removing these expectations all together. Being a caregiver in someone’s life is enormously challenging—for both you and the person you’re providing the care for. There are no set rules; you pretty much make it up as you go along. There will be many fights and missteps and wounding words and actions. But there will be amazing moments as well where you will draw on strengths and resources and depths of love that you never imagined you had.
You and your father were both born under the zodiac sign of Pisces, which means that you are psychically joined at the hip. You identify with each other and can pretty much read each other like a book. Unfortunately this also means that you can press each other’s emotional buttons like nobody’s business. There is going to be a lot of button pushing in your future and you need to find a way of dealing with it that is your way of dealing with it—and doesn’t involve your father behaving himself. People get self-absorbed when they’re ill or dying. They have to be self-absorbed because they’re fighting for their lives. That’s how the survival mechanism works. You may be asking too much of your father when it comes to getting him to cooperate with your vision of how things should proceed. He may never make peace with what’s going on with his body and health. However you can make peace with him by being there for him in whatever way you can be. You don’t have to be a doormat any more than you have to be Wonder Woman or Mother Teresa. You just need to be you. Do that and you’ll find that this gives your father peace of mind and peace of soul at a time when he needs it.