Thursday, June 22, 2006
Complications

Well, now things have gotten a lot more complex. Last night's post was about me giving my gut response some room to work itself out; today's post was going to be about my intellectual, adult response. See, I have this all figured out.

But now I discover -- and I was really afraid that this might happen -- that my father is now reading this blog. Yesterday, as far as I could tell, it was limited to the other website; that one I don't care about so much, it's neutral space. This one is much, much more personal, in spite of being more public. I'm not angry about that as such -- it's not what I wanted, but it is public so I can't really do anything about it. But I feel compromised now. Control is an issue in all this and now I've lost some of it. That's bad.

But hey, what the fuck, why not? I'm not being anything but honest here, and I have no intention of doing anything differently because of it. This isn't how I was going to do things, but it's done now -- might as well run with it. Damn the torpedoes, etc. I'm just going to keep moving forward, and if it goes badly, then it goes badly. I've got nothing to lose. It'll just be a little weird to figure out how to navigate the "talking about" v. "talking to" thing. It was all going to be said sooner or later anyway. I'm just not sure how it's going to work under these circumstances. It's pretty fucked-up (my favorite phrase for describing anything having to do with my dad), and I'm not sure that's the best way to start, but I'm pretty tired of having to be the one who has to straighten out all the fucked-up things in this relationship. So there it is.

Anyway, where was I... ?

Oh, right. The grown-up part.

The thing is, I understand. I understand all of it. I know my father from the inside out (literally, I suppose); I know the root of all his issues because he played them all out again with me. I don't think there's anything in our relationship that doesn't correlate to his relationship with his dysfunctional, fucked-up parents, and I'd be willing to bet that there was nothing in his relationship to his mother that doesn't correlate to something in her relationship with her parents, and so on, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Round and round and round we all go, playing an endless game of more-wounded-than-thou. He attempted to deal with it by turning his back and walking away, not only from his parents but from his own parenthood. I've made plenty of attempts to do the same thing, with the big distinction that in my case it was usually more like saying, "yeah, well I didn't want to be your daughter anyway, so there." I don't know how he took it, but I think any reasonable person would have seen through it instantly.

The thing that always killed me is that as he sought sympathy, he never seemed to realize that I was the one person in the world who might really believe him and really understand. He said to me once on the phone, "every time I hear someone talk about how much their mother means to them, how loved they felt, I want to cry." And I thought, "yeah, I know what you mean." He confronted my grandmother and she refused to deal with it; I tried to confront him (in my stumbling teenage way) and he deflected and avoided, and then fled. It had the same effect on me as his mother's flat denials had on him, but he never seemed to see that. Or if he did, I couldn't imagine why he would choose to perpetuate what had so frustrated and pained him. If I could see the process at work when I was 15, why couldn't he see it at 37? And if he could see it, why didn't he stop it? Why would he choose to let that damage happen? I still can't make any sense of it.

The first time I learned that my father was unwell, I received a sort of invitation-by-proxy to come see him. It wasn't so much that it might be the last chance, but rather that time might be short and that if I wanted it, I should get started. My decision then was the same as it has been since I reached adulthood: I'm never going to be the one to reach out to him. I refuse to do it. It's not my job; it's something I would find humiliating; and like being told that you're loved, if you have to ask for it, it doesn't count. He'd have to come to me -- and maybe not then. It depends.

Now that condition has been met, and I've got to scramble to figure out what the next step is. And first, I think I'm allowed a few obvious questions.

My immediate question is, why? Why now? What's changed? Why, out of all the years that have elapsed, has he chosen this moment to re-materialize in my life? And what does he want from me? "Peace" isn't a very good answer, it doesn't tell me anything. Does he want a relationship? Or does he just want absolution? Is he doing this for my good, or for his own? The motives I associate most closely with him aren't ones that I'm interested in satisfying; the motives that I would accept as legitimate, I can't imagine him having. I could be wrong -- I'd like to be wrong -- but it's going to take a lot to convince me.

And what on earth could possibly have inspired this? There are a few obvious possibilities on the table, any or all of which could be true. Maybe he saw something of me -- my writing, or whatever -- and decided I finally passed muster. More likely, I think, he's lonely and afraid. I don't know what his situation is except in an abstract way, but I think it's reasonable to guess that time is growing short for him. He hasn't left much of a legacy behind -- his genius never produced much in the way of lasting work -- except for me. Maybe, having blown through all his other relationships and frightened away everyone else who might care about him in his last years, he's decided to come back to the one person who'll always be beholden to him and see if he can wring a little more out of me. Maybe he just wants to feel a little better about how he's lived his life, to be able to go through these last years propping himself up on the idea that hey, at least he tried, he did what he could. It's not his responsibility anymore.

Or maybe he's really changed. Maybe he's truly ready to come back and mend this ragged edge, maybe he's finally prepared to face me squarely and honestly and spend the last part of his life being my father. He'd never be able to change the past, obviously, and I wouldn't expect or want him to even under the best circumstances. I like who I am now (yesterday's post notwithstanding), and whatever got me here is fine by me -- even if sometimes I wish I didn't have some of my weird psychological quirks, particularly the ones that get in my way. (I could really do without the crippling self-doubt and deep-seated inhibitions.) But still, this is me, this is what I have, and I can deal with it. I don't want apologies. That's over, and apologies don't give me anything I don't already have. I don't want him to fix anything -- there's nothing here that's fixable.

What I want is for him to understand me the way I understand him. I want him to see the effect he had on me, and to acknowledge it for what it is. I want him to demonstrate his understanding by never again doing the fucked-up things he does. He doesn't get to be the father of an eight- or twelve- or sixteen- or twenty-two-year-old me anymore; he and I have both lost that chance. Too late.

If he's ready to be the strong, brave dad I needed, though, he could maybe be the father of the 30-year-old me he helped create by not raising me. There's a tiny, fragile chance that that could happen. But it's not something I think I'd want to do if I were him: the 30-year-old me is a lot harder to manage than the twelve-year-old me was. It would be much easier for him, much less taxing, to just let me continue on as I have, waiting for the relief of my father's passing and the day when he finally has a good excuse for not being around. I'm not even sure if I want to do the work myself -- it's easier to stay angry. I don't know how to not be angry at him.

I don't know... maybe it could happen. But my unmanageable 30-year-old self says, not bloody likely. I'll believe it when I see it.
4:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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