Monday, June 16, 2008

A Word About Fathers

I wanted to talk about WB's first Father's Day, which was just lovely. We had a wonderful afternoon driving through the country and going for a wine tasting at a local winery. It was sweet and romantic and we had a great time. But I don't want to write about that, I want to write about fathers. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, ok, the good and the bad.

I've been having a very difficult time with my father lately. And by difficult I mean he reduces me to tears at least twice a week. And by tears I mean big huge messy bouts of sobbing. (Maybe this is where the ugly comes in?) He's been spending every weekend with his new girlfriend- the girlfriend that he started dating a mere month after my mother died. My mother that he was married to for almost 39 years. He barely waited for rigor mortis to set in. Needless to say I had a bit of a hard time listening to him tell me how he was in love with her, so I asked him to please respect my grief and not talk to me about her. After the 5th request (and at the behest of numerous friends and WB) he complied. Since then things have been strained, to say the least. He doesn't really want to talk at all if he can't talk about her, and I'm sure the only reason he sees us is to see the LFM.

50% of my immediate family have died, and the ones left standing when the smoke cleared were the ones who always clashed the most. He is all I have left of my original family, and yeah, I know I'm creating a new family...but that doesn't just automatically replace the need for the old one, you know?

So this has all come to a head with several recent conversations. The other week, when I told him I needed a Dad, he said he was perfectly willing to be there for me, as long as it was a weekday. When I asked if maybe he could take just one weekend away from his weekend for us, for his grandson..he said no, he didn't want to. We could see him any time on the weekdays and on the weekends if we want his girlfriend to be a part of things as well. That was hurtful. He was essentially telling me that he places this new woman above his only living child, above his grandchild. WB was so horrified upon hearing my father say these things that he had to walk away, lest he blurt out exactly what he was thinking.

But that conversation seems like the sweetest sonnet in comparison to the cruelty that was tonight's conversation. A conversation in which I mostly sobbed and asked "why are you treating me like this? why are you speaking to me like this? Please stop yelling at me!" while he ranted at me for 20 minutes. The conversation began innocuously...we were talking about the house hunting that WB and I are about to embark on. Then he starts in on how we don't really want his advice (live in the county, not the city...which would probably make us fairly miserable) and how we should just do whatever the hell we wanted. I was trying to discuss the pros and cons of both options, trying to have a discussion about this major life decision and he starts yelling at me about how tired he is of hearing me talk things to death and how I should just go buy a house and not think about it so much. That I think things to death and just go do it and shut up about it. How he doesn't want to hear about it, just take Mimi's money and have fun with it and stop acting like everything is the end of the world.

At which point I try to tell him that I want to share these things with him because he's my family, and I always talked everything through with my mother. But he doesn't want to hear that. He's begun this tirade, and the momentum is clearly overpowering him. He starts yelling at me about how I'm 32 years old, and how at 32 he didn't call his dad and ask him for advice or want to talk things over with him. Evidently in his world there is an age limit to being someone's child...and expiration date on fatherhood. He continued onward to tell me that he doesn't want to hear about my feelings, because he doesn't really care how I feel, and he's tired of me being so down about everything (yes, he actually said this). I, of course, was crying this whole time, and trying desperately to understand where all this was coming from. I told him that I just needed him to be my dad, to love and support me, and that wasn't a ridiculous thing to ask for, even at 32. He asked what that means, to support someone, and said that if it means listening to me complain he wasn't willing to do it. He told me that he wants me to call him, tell him one or two little unimportant things about my life and hang up. That's it. No talk about feelings, no talk about anything. That I should talk to WB about how I feel, but not him, he doesn't want to hear it. He said he would never be the father I wanted him to be, so I should just get used to it. He mocked me when I asked him why he was speaking to me like this, and that I didn't deserve it, actually repeating it back to me in a mocking a little child does.

This is a man who has already lost one child to suicide, you'd think he'd be a little more sensitive to a daughter who's going through a pretty bad depression. But no, he was anything but sensitive as he literally yelled over everything I tried to say. It was amazing, really, and horribly hurtful. And it was completely out of the blue, we were just talking about houses. And I'm not even asking him for help with any of this (though we totally need help), I was just telling him what the mortgage people said and going over possibilities with him. When the conversation went downhill he still kept bringing up the house stuff, saying I should just take the money and buy a house and have fun with it, and I kept saying this isn't about buying a house, Dad, this is about us.

He's my only family left, and he was cruel to me. I would classify that horrible conversation as doesn't read that way, but picture me sobbing while he yelled all those things at me, unprovoked, and maybe you'll get more of an idea. Then multiply it by 1000.

All this has made me so very thankful for WB, and the wonderful father that he is. Not only would the LFM never have to even say "I need you", if he ever did the request would be met immediately with a flood of love and support and never with derision. I am thankful that this is all unfathomable to WB, because I know and trust that our children will never, at any age, feel abandoned by their parents.

It also made me fantasize about skipping town with no forwarding address. Seriously.



Oh baby- I am so sorry you are having to deal with this on top of everything. I am sending you a million hugs through the ether of the Internet.

The only other thing I can say is that this is (unfortunately) not new behavior from your dad, and therefore can't be solely written off as misplaced grief, though that may be a part of it. And while I can see the impossibility of moving away with no forwarding address, I can also see why that seems ideal, and why a much less extreme version of that might be the best solution for now. If he doesn't want to be there for you, don't invite him to be there at all, at least not for the moment. Better to go without what limited support he's offering altogether than to have to withstand his verbal cruelty to get it. I know very well that losing your 'original' family is hard, but at this point it seems like the healthiest and most healing option for you is to focus on your new family- Carlos, Jonah, and all of your many close friends- who are actually willing and able to give you what you need and deserve. In my own life, I've found that blood relations are not in any way necessary to make people family, and that people to whom you have no legal or familial ties often turn out to be the most important and trusted people of all- just look at you and me.

I love you sister, and I always will.

deeceesw said...

Sounds toxic. There's no need for that in your life. I understand how you feel about the girlfriend situation and truly sorry that he does not. Concentrate on WB and LFM and searching for the right place for your family, not what A thinks is right. I know he's your dad, but as the previous poster said, sometimes this means very little. Take it from me, I know. Revel in the positive and rewarding interactions (and reactions) from those you love and who love you. You know who those people are. We have them in common. All my love and positive energy to you, Mama.


laurielou said...

I love you...that is all i have to say...and while I have some thoughts on this....i need to calllllllllll u! i can't bring myself to full expression via typing!!!!!


Lauren said...

I was trying to figure out how to word what I want to say....but honestly, I think Chanteuse nailed it for me. I'm going to try and call you tomorrow. If you need help/advice with house stuff, maybe I can help in some way (we've been going through this ourselves.) Be so grateful for WB and Little Funky Monkey - you are so fortunate to have this amazing family! Your father has always been flawed, and as harsh as he may have sounded, I think he meant it when he said he's not going to be the father you want him to be. (Although I think he can do at least a little better than he is right now.) I love you...

Janine Serresseque said...

Wow, he's a bit of a jerk, huh? How fortunate you are to have a whole new opportunity to form a loving, healthy parent-child relationship. To be truthful, that's one thing I regret about not having children.

I think your dad was just telling the truth when he said he isn't going to be the dad you want him to be. At least he's honest, if not brutally so. And there's no amount of wishing on your part that make him any different.

It's not at all unusual for grieving men to go into replacement mode. I see that all the time, and I'll never understand it. You don't have to embrace The Girlfriend and make like she's family. Just be polite, and you won't regret that.

I don't blame you for your hesitation to buy a house. It was a huge deal for me, and I wasn't a new mom who was grieving and dealing with post partum depression! Don't allow your dad to pressure you into a situation you're not ready for.
He's from the "Just get on with it" school of thought, and though I agree that we must move on through these experiences, each of us has to do it at our own speed, right?

Love you!
Janiney Beaney

Mim said...

I'm speechless. I just read the entire post. I knew about the earlier stuff but not the most recent. I'm speechless. Okay, so I'm not really. The one good thing, if there is any good in it, is that you know exactly where your father stands. Unfortunately, it's a big loss for all. bisous, besos, votre d.m.

Anonymous said...

Oh Monkey!
I so get it. I do. It sounds like many of the conversations I had with my father. The best advice I ever got was from Ru. She said I needed to stand on the mountain top and declair my self a daughter. That is my end of the karmic bargin. Then seperate myself from my father. Your dad either can't or won't hold up his end of the karmic bargin. This is not your fault, it is his path and his karma to sort out. Maybe he'll see the light, maybe he won't. It sounds like your dad is not going to be the dad you need, so you'll have to find away to make peace with the dad he is. It may sound harsh, but a period of complete seperation may be needed, for your mental health if anything. Your family will always be your family, dead or alive, acting like a spoiled brat or not. Its a deep connection that fire can't burn and water can't wash away. The web of love around you extends to your created family, the people with loving comments on this page and the giant net of support you have always been blessed with. You are supported, please stop hurting yourself with this toxic interaction, its so painful to read from so far away.
And my opinion, which I will now freely give, is you and WB should look into your hearts and see where you want to live. And if its right were you are for the time being, fine. Rent for awhile. Let the Earth settle under your feet.

So Much Love

(PS, I everyone!)

Anonymous said...

Ops, I meant to say HI everyone. Little shout out to the extended LFM family