Author's note: My friends thoughts of his father's financial issues growing up and into adulthood.
I have an issue with switching between past and present tense, feel free to correct!
Summer break. I just stepped into the tiny airport at my birthplace, where my father is waiting to pick me up after I've been away to university. His hair is completely white by now, and he has shrunk together like a raisin. His shoulders has narrowed, and he's lost almost an inch of his height. He's thinner than last time too.
We greet awkwardly, exchange lines like strangers. No hugging. He just grabs my luggage and updates me on casual stuff, that he's been repainting his apartment. He recently had to sell his house and almost went bankrupt in the process, but doesn't talk about it.
He's old considering my own age and has started to have serious health problems. Twice just the last 6 months he has been rushed to the hospital by helicopter. They don't know what's wrong with him and sent him home when his symptoms stopped.
He tells me he has to go grocery shopping and ask if there is anything I want.
"Just some shampoo, I forgot to bring one." I say, "But I can get it myself."
He snorts and says he'll pay for it. Like a soldering fire, he leaks out this cold aura and distances himself from me. That is the sign to shut up and let him pay for it.
It is very nice that you want to do that for me Dad, I think to myself, being a student and all. But I know your financial situation. The last time I was here I found the freezer unplugged because it was empty. Your fridge contained nothing but a fish finger-leftover and a small bowl of the cheapest kind of strawberry jam. You had cleaned out all your accounts, collected any empty bottles and checked the glove-compartment for spare change. You told me to go to my mother's place, whom you haven't spoken to in 20 years.
I told him I was there to visit him this time, and that I could go grocery-shopping. He yelled at me. I get it. He doesn't want his son who is a student to pay for him. I work alongside my studies and have saved up, it's not like I'll be living in a cardboard box if I pay for my own shampoo. I really do understand though. But what does he expect me to do? Watch him starve?
I remember last year. As soon as he fell asleep in his chair with his book, I took his car-keys without permission and drove to the store. I filled the car with gas and bought 4 weeks worth of food and stuffed his fridge and cabinets. Then I paid his electric bill before they shut off his power. Again.
He kicked me out. I ended up at my mothers' that time after all. Getting a lecture from her about what a bad father he is.
In the end I let him pay for the shampoo, picking the cheapest I could find, to not repeat last year. This time the plan is to simply take the bus or the bike to save gas, eat all my meals somewhere else, lunch at a cafe, dinner at a restaurant, go do a BBQ or pick-nick with friends and so on. I don't want to put any strain on my fathers already tight budget. I will even bring food back from the BBQ with my friends, and say it is leftovers, when in reality I'm just going to buy it and put it in a different container. I keep lying in his face but don't know what else to do.
It's always been like this. I spent all my time growing up worrying about my parents' finances, particularly my dad. He never complained or talked about it, so it's not like he meant to bother me with it. But it's not like you cant see the wreck of a car in the garage which hasn't been painted in 20 years. It's not like you can't see he inherits my brothers old winter-boots while my brother gets new ones. It's not like you can't see he wears the same pair of jeans to work every day.
I feel so helpless. Like I'm still that 6 year old kid who asked for a $1.5 Yo-yo at the store, only to feel so guilty for asking for such a useless thing that I cried myself to sleep. I'm 30 and I still have that Yo-yo.