I’ve always felt like the protector of my dad and my younger brother. Maybe being the only girl growing up with two guys brought out the motherly instinct in me. Or maybe it comes from an innate desire to reciprocate the security my dad offered me. Whether instinct or reciprocation, my self-imposed duty to guard my family against harm was always appreciated with a heavy coating of ridicule.
My family has a tendency to leave doors unlocked and garages open. I, on the other hand, am slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping things secure. My dad and brother have mocked my lockup tendencies hundreds of times, insisting that I not worry so much.
Unlike the majority of the population, my brother and dad have never been known to surrender their free time at the sound of a repeating cell phone ring even though they knew that if I couldn’t reach them after three attempts or so, I’d come looking for them. And when I did, the mockery ensued, usually ending with, “Casie, we love you. But you have to relax.”
How can one relax without knowing the people they love most are okay at all times? It’s just always been inherent for me to worry and to feel responsible for their safety and wellbeing.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer last March, I felt as though I had failed. As if my efforts during all these years were futile. So, I kicked it in high gear and did everything I could think of to help him fight. Researched, talked with doctors, checked in with him day and night, made him laugh, thought positively, brought him healthy foods and vitamins. And when things got real bad… slept in the hospital, learned how to become a “nurse daughter,” and fought the need to talk about death because he asked me not to bring it up.
But it wasn’t enough. I now have a huge emptiness in my life because I couldn’t protect him. And I honestly feel responsible. I keep thinking about what more I could have done. I retrace steps and question decisions. I feel like my heart has been hollowed out and replaced with guilt and resentment. And I can’t even guard myself against the hurt.
Some protector girl I am.