My father had filed for divorce three days before.
I knew his wife had not allowed him to go home to their house for a year, which left him sleeping at his office and staying with a friend, no access to his belongings or clothing. Homeless and ill.
My mother, long since divorced from my dad and newly remarried, had also leveraged a judgment against him for unpaid alimony.
My father’s attorney came to the hospital with power of attorney and healthcare proxy papers. I had been begging my brother to come and be by my side, like the father of our child (my father), to help me, and he said no. Flatly. With no explanation other than he had just arrived in LA where his girlfriend lived. He didn’t want to fly again so soon. I don’t know how But I guess I did not do a good enough job conveying to him the seriousness of my reality, or, he was just abandoning me. So, I took power of attorney and healthcare proxy responsibilities. I did this because I feared what seemed to be his wife’s reckless disregard of his well-being and also because there was no one else.
I understand his attorney’s rush to complete the paperwork and I’m glad we did, and in his mind, that is what mattered. He told me about DNR and told me to think about it. My father asked me years ago, after visiting his parents, to promise him that if he ever ‘got like that’ to “take him out to the river and shoot him in the back of the head.” I didn’t think it was real in any way. When I found the handgun at his house much later a chill went down my spine.
My dad’s attorney did everything right advising me about the divorce filing and getting the paperwork signed. Then he left. He was my father’s attorney after all, not mine; and now my father was not really a client anymore, he was someone who might die, and his daughter was there to deal with that.
I feared his wife storming in and trying to kill me or trying to kill my dad. I feared my mother’s honeymoon trip would last forever. I feared my brother didn’t exist anymore somehow. I feared no one cared about my dad anymore because he had dementia. No longer a citizen. No longer a human. I hadn’t lived in South Carolina since I was 15 years old. I had no net to catch me, no community to surround me, no power behind my name in this state, no career to leverage. There was no. One. I. Could. Trust.
I stayed at my mother’s empty house once my dad was transferred to rehab. Exhausted depleted and hollow, I scrounged for food, started my period without proper supplies and couldn’t give myself the time or energy to procure them, so I improvised, but really I just bled. I felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic world, only the remnants of human life around me, a sick or dying father and a cold emptiness permeating the streets. Boarding up at night, getting traces of sleep with one eye open. At the rehab hospital, people talked to me like I was a person but I wasn’t. The social worker or the nurse talked with me like I was a human being making the decisions and had no idea they were talking to a ghost. A ghastly scribble half-erased. When my dad woke up he cried. He needed this ghost more than this ghost needed a tampon. I would never leave his side. Even if I was a ghost I wanted to be by my father’s side. That is my one job as a daughter, and even though everyone else’s apathy was wearing me down like acid, it wouldn’t stop me from doing my duty as a daughter.
This is where the mission for I, Ally comes in.
Women need someone they can trust when they encounter life’s obstacles.
It’s common that a woman would not have anyone in her life she feels she can talk to or who can give her advice. Maybe she has someone — I had my father’s attorney — but not someone who is there just for her and her interests.
A woman needs an ally who is just there to help her make decisions or stand up for herself or know exactly the right thing to say. Maybe she needs to weigh the pros and cons with someone who has been there before and knows what it’s like — and that can be impossible to find. She needs someone that transcends the exchange of money, red tape, restriction of legal advice or religious mantra — someone who is present purely on principle. Someone who, out of the desire to be an ally for another woman, will fortify her and be her backbone and her voice while she forms her own.
Harnessing the sheer power of the Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and other places across the country, the will to listen to each other and to help each other, the alliances built out of the #MeToo Movement and Time’s Up — this is putting our money where our mouth is. I, Ally will be a platform not just for support but for real, tangible solutions and resources. Thoughts and prayers do not enact concrete changes.
When I found myself newly married and suddenly with power of attorney for my father who had a stroke, I expected my family to surround me, or a community to envelop me with support. I was so wrong. I had a social worker, but she didn’t know me or my father, and she had a million other cases throughout the hospital — not to mention she was not there for me; she was there for the hospital. It was clear that a stroke victim goes straight to rehabilitation. When that was done, it was a question mark, my father was released because insurance ran out and I was alone. My husband was with me, but no one else, and no one else was interested in helping me whatsoever. Not only did I have to make ridiculously tough decisions, but I also had to deal with the emotional devastation of realizing my family did not care to come to me or my father’s side.
I NEEDED AN ALLY. My father had friends and colleagues who visited him, but that never translated into real action, and the visits stopped when he was released. I needed someone who was just there for me. Someone who could help me stand up for myself, stand up for my father, and figure out the right decision. I needed someone to tell me to spend money carefully and to ask for the right things. I needed a voice, and I was too weak.
It’s been a year, and I still feel this way. My father and I both have been suffering in silence and I want someone to tell me what to say.
The problem? There is no person like this. I am already getting care from a mental health professional. Legal counsel has helped as much as it can. I simply don’t have anyone on my side, that I can trust.
If this is what has happened to me, this has to be true for other young women. Women tend to suffer in silence rather than ask for help. We try to be the ‘good girl’ and we are ‘nice.’ We are ‘natural caregivers’ and we assume too much responsibility without standing up for ourselves. We accept status quo mantras like ‘Boys will be Boys’ or ‘it’s always the daughters that end up taking care of the parents.’ ‘Men just can’t deal with their emotions.’ ‘Death makes people uncomfortable.’
I don’t accept that.
I’ll never accept that. I am going to be loud, and so many other women have also decided to be loud, and I am going to do everything within my power to keep future generations of women from feeling powerless. If this is what I had to go through in order to be spurred into action, so be it. Now comes the action.