Dad informs me daily that we are trillionaires. Punctuated with a raised fist in the air, he declares, “We are the richest family in the world!”
In addition to owning Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, Toyota and the blockbuster (and fictional) conglomerate Soup, Soup, Soup, among many other things, dad was also recently running for Secretary General of the United Nations. It was this looming Secretary gig that caused some friction after his last neurology appointment.
Dad had a great check-up. Medication – good; talking to imaginary friends – sometimes, but with no agitation; sleep – generally better; cognitive clarity and memory – improved from last appointment. As things were wrapping up, he asked his neurologist to diagnose his condition. She chatted with him about amyloid angiopathy and expressed how pleased she is with how well he’s doing. After she left the room, I was getting our things together and dad reminded me not to forget the “letter.”
“The letter?” I asked.
“Yes, the letter from the doctor,” he said.
“Oh daddy, she doesn’t give you a letter. She makes notes and keeps them in her file.”
“Honey, I need a letter from her saying that my condition is cleared, when I run for UN Secretary.”
This was the first time I’d heard of this impending job, but I’ve been through these “creative stories” enough to know how to navigate them. Usually. It’s a delicate balance between going with it and shutting it down, and timing is crucial. After some back and forth and back and forth with me madly trying to think of a “creative” solution that would satisfy him, his repetition and agitation escalated until he finally looked me dead in the eye and said, “Honey. I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a smart girl.”
This is the new normal we’ve been living with since dad’s stroke in 2012. That he’s surpassed statistics and doctors’ predictions that he’d be dead by now is no surprise to us, his family, since, as I’ve said before, he’s kind of a rock star. He lives at home with his wife and requires 24-hr care, so I have to give her props. Whoa. Trust me, my sister and I have a “complicated” relationship with dad’s wife, so that ain’t easy to say Sally. But it’s the truth as I see it, so there it is.
With a constant looming potential to lose my shit every day, I realized awhile back that I needed strategies to deal with dad, with his wife, with normal. To be clear, dad is usually in good spirits, funny, loving, cognitively balanced, right on the money. But there are some days, some moments when I really have to bite my tongue, temper a challenging situation, not take things personally. Because God willing, dad will forget an unpleasant episode tomorrow. Hopefully. But every so often, he’ll fixate on something and ruminate for days. That’s what martinis are for.
When it comes to bringing dad a bit of comfort and joy, I’ve decided to just go with it. Because really, why should I care if he wants to wear his beloved shearling lined leather mittens in the summer. Or belt out, with no warning at all, the Korean national anthem or any other song on Wheel-trans. My dad’s now eccentric. Deal.
I know why dad thinks we’re the richest family in the world. It’s because, as part of the first wave of Korean immigrants to Canada in the 1960s, he worked his ass off to be successful for himself and his family. It’s not an original story, but again, there it is. For him, success meant financial comfort. And at certain times in his life he had that. And then he didn’t.
We never talk about the incredible debt he was in when he had his stroke. When he brags about all his companies and homes and new business deals we congratulate him, while trying not to encourage the stories. It’s important to him that he’s providing for and taking care of his family. I don’t want to take that away from him. When he says things like, “Honey, just take money out of our account. Buy whatever you need,” those moments break my heart. It reminds me of when I was a teenager, and dad and I were on our own, my sister away at university. He’d call from work, saying, “I’ll be a bit late, order some food, there’s money on my dresser.”
Ever the doting dad. And now, Secretary General to boot.