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Too late

April 21, 2008

A friend recently lost her Dad. Not in the euphemism that he is dead, although that is true also now, but she lost him. Well, maybe more accurately, he lost her and her sisters when he decided to drink and ignore them. I feel such a connection to that because I have also misplaced my father and haven’t really been able to find him for quiet sometime.

Poignantly my friends sister stated that their dad ran out of time to miss them. To regret his mistakes, own up to them and attempt to make amends. Ran out of time to miss them. Missed his chance to realize that they were important and what they felt was important regardless of what was important to him. I feel that all the time now that I have not spoken to my father in a while. He is missing his chance and he is only isolating himself. Does he think he is punishing me by not talking to me? I have a happy marriage, two amazing and engaging children, a burgeoning career, a nice home that we own (well, almost), friends and a nice life. I could share that with him if he chose but he chooses not to. I know for sure he would claim this is my choice but it is not. I do say it is my choice to not call him and reach out at this time because last time we “spoke” he called me a cunt…to my brother no less. I wanted to lend him money so he wouldn’t pressure his elderly mother into giving it to him and he didn’t like my terms. So, he called me names and freaked out and hasn’t spoken to me since.

We haven’t had a good relationship since I was 12 and my grandfather died and my brother was born. My stepmother, at the time as they are long since divorced, hated me, told me she hated me and didn’t want me around. I handled it so well I started peeing my pants again because I just tried to stay out of the house to not bother her and I couldn’t find bathrooms easily and was afraid to ask places. I hid the pee-panties in my closet along with the numerous ice cream wrappers and lo and behold we got ants in my closet and she freaked out. Disgusted that I peed my underpants at 12. They had  a big fight, she told him ‘her or me’ and chose her. I only went back for one more summer and it was for only 3 weeks. That was pretty much it. He moved into a house with my brother and didn’t even tell me he moved. I called my grandparents and they told me had had been gone a year. Everything has always been me…never him. His explanation is he had ‘no choice’ but to leave me at 6 and move to CA from MD. No choice. No choice. Not his fault. I just don’t understand.

And yes. I didn’t understand. I don’t understand. Especially now that I have children. I can not imagine leaving them, no matter how much I hated their father. They are innocent of my whims and it is my duty to protect them from the hazards I may create for myself. Dodge a bullet. Take the fall. Suck it the fuck up and deal because I owe it to them.

I have always gotten lots of praise for my husband from my father. What  a good man he is. How wonderful he is. What a good husband he is. I have never heard from my father, who seems to hate women unless they have big tits and are there for sex only, that I am good woman. He bemoans his luck with the women he made children with and how terribly they have treated him. I do sympathize with him in many ways. My mother got pregnant and he did not want a baby. In 1971 there were few options other than marriage and my mom was determined to have me despite the fact that my dad did not want to do it. He was 22 and did it the best he could and then my mom wanted to leave. She left with me. He left MD two years later to go to CA with his family and start again. We had some amazing times together and in so many ways he was a magical person to me. He loved nature and we camped and hiked and explored and were adventerous. We camped on the beach in Mexico when I was 10 and it was an amazing week for me. I have a deep appreciation for nature and birds especially because of him and will always be grateful and aknowledge those good things. There were lots of good things. Really, I remember. I know it.

It does not negate the bad things. The bad times. The horrible things he did. The bad choices that were never his fault. I do not remember my father taking responsiblity for one thing ever. Nothing is ever his fault. It reminds me of a child when they hurt someone by accident. The first instinct is to assert it is not their fault, that it was an accident and what you have to teach them is that blame is not what comes first. It is concern for the other person you hurt even if you didn’t mean it. Consoling them because you played a part, intentional or not, in their pain and if you care for them you are there for them when they are hurt. What we teach our children is not to say it isn’t their fault but to first ask, “how are you? Are you okay? I am sorry you got hurt.” with a comforting pat or an arm around their shoulder. Stepping up to say even though I might be wrong I can still be a part of your pain and it is okay because you are the one that is hurt and although guilt sometimes feels worse than an actual injury it really isn’t.

That is what I think I have always been waiting for is the aknowledgment that he is a part of things, for better or worse, because he is my parent. I realize we are both adults now but he was the adult first and I have always just wanted him to act that way rather than me being the one to always reach out my hand.

I have heard from family that he wanted to connect with me if I reached out to him before he moved to Asia but I did not. I didn’t know what to say other than non-helpful things like, “Hey, don’t call me a cunt to my brother. Don’t say nasty things to him about me and try to make him be in the middle because aren’t we the adults now? He is just a kid still, although very mature, but we are older and can’t we be protective and courteous? Because we both love him?” I didn’t think that would be received well and the only other thing I can think of to say is that I am not sorry because I didn’t do anything. I want to be there with my hand outstreched and comforting. I do. I want that but my guard is down mean things happen and I feel done with that. Making the first move makes you vunerable and I have done that too many times. So I feel done with that. I am open to his approach but just as my friends sister said I think it is too late and he missed his chance to miss me.

My patient on Friday was 88 and told me out of the blue as she held my hand that I should always talk to my family. Never stop talking and never stay angry. I felt small and a liar as I said, yes, she was right.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2008 1:41 pm

    Oh how I wish we lived closer to one another…we could have many good talks you and I.

    Yes, my sister put it perfectly when she said he ran out of time to miss us. I think as we thought there could always be time but alas there is not.

    But I completely understand how you feel about standing with an arm outstretched in hope that perhaps this time the olive branch will be well received only to have a flame-thrower scorch your hand. It is difficult when you want and need to be the child to have a parent basically say, um, sorry. Not today. Not ever. Because I can’t.

    Becoming a parent shed so much more light on this relationship for me. Because as a parent you can’t be selfish with anything. Not time. Not love. Not attention. And I can’t imagine turning away from my children. Even when I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with the whining and crying and tantrums. Even when it remotely crosses my mind to just run and take some time for myself. My heart aches to think what it would do to them for me to be selfish and leave.

    So don’t feel small and like a liar just because you comforted a patient when they needed it. You must stay true to your heart and what feels right for you and your husband and your children. You are a good mother because you had to be a stronger than should be expected child. And it doesn’t always ease the weight in your heart but you can stand by it as the day is long and your children will love you beyond words for it.

    A

  2. April 25, 2008 4:21 pm

    the patient was right but it takes two to talk. Kids who have parents like yours (I know; I had my own version) either repeat the pattern or make a point of breaking it. You opted for B and so did I.
    The hardest part is that there really is no understanding the kind of behavior you describe. I spent years searching for explanations until I realized that, had there been any (other than the fact that my parents refused own up to their stuff) things would have been different.
    All I can say, cole, is: I recognize what you’re saying. I wish I could say something positive and hopeful but I’d feel like a phony if I did. It’s a bitch of a hurtin place and I know it well. When you can’t stand to think about it you look elsewhere and get on with the rest. When you can stand to think about it, you empty the well a bit by writing. And you carry on, basically.
    best

  3. April 29, 2008 11:05 pm

    I worry that I will regret making true peace with my father before he dies. We have a tenuous relationship based on his drinking and behaviors surrounding that… I’m good with that, for now.

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