This has not been the best week. It started with the crappy Mother's Day phone call, followed by my run in with the "voice of reason". Then I got a visit from Aunt Flow, which has made me feel icky. There are some things I could do around the house today and maybe I'll get to them eventually. I guess I feel kind of guilty. Watching your parents get old and decrepit is painful.
I have a lot of complicated feelings about both of my parents. I do love them and I do feel a sense of duty toward them, I guess. I don't always like my parents, though... especially my dad. Maybe now is not the best time to dwell on the past, but it always seems to come up anyway. I suppose the only way to avoid the angst is either to stay away and be thought of as negligent or show up and keep my mouth shut.
My mom asked me a question-- "Was there a reason I didn't want to visit my dad?" and I answered her somewhat honestly. I'm not exactly sure what she was expecting me to say. Would she have preferred it if I lied to her? I don't think I would have been very convincing. I can hear it now...
"Is there some reason you don't want to see your dad?"
"Oh... of course I want to see him. He's an even more brilliant conversationalist since the dementia set in." Saying something like that just didn't seem appropriate. I guess the old advice about not asking questions you don't want to hear the answers to applies here.
It was a strange question to be asked in the first place, especially given the fact that I had called my mom to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. I was in a good mood when I made the phone call and was feeling pretty attacked and angry by the time I hung up. I sure didn't feel like getting in the car and visiting my parents.
I started to think about the times my parents made me feel less than loved and accepted during my lifetime... like the many times my mom told me how upset she was to learn she was pregnant with me and how her friends hated going anywhere with me because I was such a brat... the times my dad would refer to me as his "retarded daughter" or would tell me I'd never amount to anything... the times my dad would lose control during an alcoholic rage and hit me or try to choke me or scream at me. The times he would force me to give him back massages or pluck his eyebrows... or put his hands on my love handles and tell me that I need to lose weight... The times he would criticize my friends... And the times he put me in dangerous situations...
I still have a deep scar on my arm from the time he made me use a box cutter to break down boxes when I was ten years old. I was slicing the cardboard improperly and the blade flew off the cardboard and went right into my left arm. I cut through all five layers of skin. Dad didn't bother to take me to the hospital, so I didn't get stitches.
We had a neighbor... a weird, older man who went to our church... My dad thought the man was weird, but never discouraged me not to hang out with him. As it turned out, there was a good reason why my dad thought this guy was weird. It turned out he was a bit sexually deviant. When I was ten or eleven years old, he used to regularly show me his stash of pornography. I often used to visit this neighbor because he paid attention to me... I didn't realize at the time how inappropriate it was for me to be looking at porn. I spent many hours with him. It wasn't until I was a lot older that I realized that the guy probably belonged in jail. Thankfully, he is no longer living.
My father used to force me to attend Sunday school with a teacher I didn't like. In fact, I disliked the teacher so much that I used to hide in the bathroom. I did so for weeks until one day, the teacher ran into us at the grocery store asked my dad where I'd been. Dad didn't want to hear what I had to say on the subject. While at the height of anger, he gave me a spanking that I still haven't forgotten. He rarely behaved with much compassion or understanding toward me. Physical violence was his way of dealing with me.
When I came home after two years in the Peace Corps, my father unexpectedly met me at the airport. I had actually asked him not to come, since my sister had met me in Europe and we had traveled together. She was coming home on a different flight and I had the key to her condo. But my dad showed up, hurled a couple of insults at me, and told me I could either come with him or take a bus home. We got in the car and he proceeded to scare the hell out of me with his driving. Then he told me he was going into rehab for his alcoholism the following day. I had no idea about all of this on my way home from overseas. It sure put a damper on my homecoming.
My dad was also good for public humiliation purposes. When I was almost 30 years old, my spouse and I were asked to attend my sister's grad school commencement. We weren't really there because she wanted us to share in the celebration. We were there because my parents didn't want to have to drive around the DC area. So my sister figured she could call on me and my husband to do the driving. I knew what she was up to, but went along with it anyway. We sat in a gymnasium with all the other people... there was a lot of talking, bell ringing, horn honking, etc.
I was talking quietly to my sister's boyfriend. Apparently, the lady in front of us was disturbed by our conversation. She complained to my parents. Mom told us she could hear us. A few minutes later, I guess the woman got upset again. Again, she complained to my parents instead of me. My dad turns around and, in front of everybody, shouts, "Be quiet! You're disturbing people!" I will never forget how shocked, humiliated, and enraged I felt at that moment. It was as if I were six years old instead of thirty!
To be sure, I was pissed at my dad, but I was also pretty pissed at the fucking twat who was sitting in front of us, bitching about me to my parents about the quiet conversation I was having, instead of turning around and addressing me directly. I hope she had a fiery car accident on her way home. By the way, the following week, when my husband got his master's degree at the same location, no one from my family bothered to attend. Actually, that was a nice thing.
And there was the time I decided to take voice lessons. It was something I wanted to do for myself. Dad found out about it and promptly signed up for lessons as well. It wasn't because he wanted to share this experience with me. It was because he wanted to compete with me.
Yes, I know... it's not good to dwell on the past. There were good times, I guess. My dad was only occasionally violent and ill tempered. Sometimes he was a good dad and we could sit down and talk to each other. And he was always home, which is more than a lot of kids can say about their fathers. He was a good provider and was intelligent, attractive, and talented enough. There are certainly worse dads out there.
But... as you can see... I have a lot of angry, unresolved feelings toward my father. There's no way to resolve these things now, because he's not in his right mind. My mom tells me to put all of this stuff aside and "man up", as it were... come see her and my dad and pretend everything is hunky dory. She acts as if the feelings I have are all my fault and I am being childish, selfish, and petty for having them. I don't think I'm wrong for having these feelings or for being angry. My father expected me to show him respect, but he has never reciprocated. So now that I'm at a time in my life when I don't have those painful feelings anymore, I don't really feel the need to reopen the wounds with a visit to my father, who will no doubt ignore me and make crappy comments, or my mom, who will treat me as if I'm an ungrateful, obnoxious, pain in her ass.