How am I Supposed to Feel?

He’s dying. I wasn’t expecting to hear this news. I always thought I would get a phone call that he was dead, but I did not expect a call telling me that he was sick and dying. And so, today, I am examining my feelings.

Do I care? Doesn’t he deserve this, to suffer? Didn’t he bring this on himself, his choices and lifestyle attributing to his now eminent demise? Am I able to look beyond the pain and suffering he caused me, and most of all my children, and find an emotion not entangled with hatred and resentment?

We were together for nearly ten years, married for the last two. Although not the father of my children, he often spent more time with them than I did. I worked a full time job, and towards the end of it, a second part-time job. Near the end, he would sleep all day.

In my mind I pretended we were still a family, even after my oldest left home at 17. Even when writing 1000 sentences or pulling weeds was used as punishment, I told myself he just wanted to build their character. I didn’t know, but should’ve known, he doled out the more severe punishments when I was away.

I knew we were ending, knew it couldn’t continue the way it was, and that there was no saving it. After years of drug use and mental manipulation, something had to give. The day I came home and my youngest was black and blue was the day I saw reality, saw what was happening right under my nose. I found courage and once I had my wits about me I took action. Changing the locks, the 50B protective order, adding a security notice at the kid’s school – all these actions were steps I needed to take to make us safe.

No words cannot express my regret. I failed to see what was happening right in front of me. For that, I will never forgive myself. My oldest has struggled with life, from addiction to jail to rehab. For years my youngest raged at the world, spending time in a psychiatric facility. I had done the same, for 11 days, some months before it came to this. I should’ve realized then that being with him was poisoning us all. He was an emotional vampire, but also the giver of light. The affect he had on me was blinding. I’m not saying I am not guilty. But I know I was confused.

And now he lays dying, yellow and sick from liver damage. My daughter went to see him and said he did not recognize her. He told her that he and I went for a drive to the lake yesterday. I don’t know if I’m convinced that he believes that, or if he is still playing games, looking for sympathy.

Part of me thinks I should go to the hospital, as my daughter says, for closure. My youngest says he intends to go, not because he forgives him, but just to know he has put the past away. I told him not to expect an apology. He says he wouldn’t accept it anyway.

I turned to Google to decide what it is I am feeling. As someone who was not raised in an emotionally stable environment (my mother suffered from mental illness, but I’ll save that for another day), I have often struggled with my lack of emotional maturity. I have a hard time understanding what it is I am feeling. For most of my life I simply went through the motions, not really feeling a lot of things I should have, could have. I think I have been in survival mode since I was about six years old. I’m also a sensitive, but I was never taught to embrace it. Now I am at the point in my life that I’m digging in my heels, wanting to slow the clock and live in the moment. I need to feel everything, completely. Even if it hurts. I need to feel it.

I feel sorry for him because he squandered what we had, and anger that the family we could’ve been, wasn’t. I feel contempt that he dared to use me like he did. I feel shame that I let him. I feel empathy because he is still a human being, and disdain for him being such a waste of human life. How did he let his life spiral into homelessness and halfway houses? I feel pity for him, but not to the point that I’m willing to help him. I do not forgive him, but I understand that life is not easy for those who are not strong enough. I am strong enough, but I do not forgive myself. I do not wish to see him suffer. I am not that cruel. I do resent that because he is sick, and because my daughter called to tell me he is sick, he is once again in my thoughts. Once again, I must consider him. Only this time it’s to say a final goodbye.

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