Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Run Screaming

I woke up this morning feeling a little uninpsired. "I really ought to post something on the blog today," I thought to myself, "but I have no idea what to write about." And lo, the blog god overheard my ambivalent plea and, proving himself to be as shifty as you'd expect the god of blogs to be, provided me with something to which I could easily devote a month's worth of blog posts -- and I may end up doing just that.

This post is coming late in the day because I needed a little time to go off somewhere and quietly lose my shit, and then I needed a little more time to gather my shit together again. But I think I can write about this with some amount of rationality now that I've had an hour or ten to get my id back under control. I'm kinda sorry to dump all this on y'all, but this is the closest thing I have to a journal, so whatever happens next, you're going to get to read all about it in grisly detail. Feel free to skip these posts if you prefer; I won't be offended.

I got an email from my dad today. The key word there being "from" -- not like all the previous ones that were merely "about": "your father's in the hospital, your father's had another heart attack, your father's going into surgery and it's unlikely he'll survive." Apart from one single exchange in the days following his own father's death, that's the full extent of my contact with my dad in nearly ten years. And then today, out of fucking nowhere, I get one of his patented disarming messages.

Son of a bitch.

He wants to "come to some peace together."

Yeah, don't we all. But where he's concerned, I don't believe it for a minute. I don't doubt that he thinks he wants that, but I have some very serious doubts about whether he's prepared to do the work necessary to accomplish it. He's always had the power to enter people's lives and tear them apart -- friendships severed, relationships devastated, people left crushed and wounded and feeling strangely compelled to blame themselves for it -- but he's never been brave or strong enough to face the emotional wreckage he leaves in his wake. He's brilliant and charming, but he's also deeply broken and cowardly. I have no reason to think that's changed.

That's not to say I don't want "some peace." I'm more than ready to deal with this once and for all, to let go of my anger, to have this be over and done. I've been ready for a long time, and made many attempts to do it on my own. I've long since forgiven him for the immense fucked-upness of his parenting -- and he did some incredibly fucked-up stuff; stuff that's made seasoned counsellors with whom I've worked in the past look at me and say, "he did what?" I haven't forgotten that, and lord knows it had an impact. But I just don't have the energy to talk about it anymore. I don't care, I'm bored to death with the whole thing. It is, as they say, ancient history.

But as often as I've tried to forgive him and forget about him, it just doesn't work. We are all inextricably tied to the people who made us, and for me that means I get to keep dragging him behind me until the day I die. As often as I've tried to somehow get over it all, it always comes back, because the pain continues on a daily basis; it's an ongoing offense. Every day that passes adds a drop to this bucket of anger I keep trying to empty. His not being there, in the paternal and every other sense, is a much bigger issue for me as an adult than any of the fucked-up things that happened during my childhood, and that has never ended. All I could do was get used to the idea, learn to accept that this is the way things are, that he's just not capable of giving me what I need from him.

And then today he shows up again, talking about the blues and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and "I've no defense of any sort" and how he wants to "come to some peace together."

Part of me, the part that's still five years old, thinks, "Daddy! Daddy loves me again!" and wants to run and throw my arms around him. The pissed-off, teenaged part of me wants to do or say anything that will make him hurt as much as I've been hurt, throw things, fling accusations. The grown-up part of me recoils at the thought of contact, reluctant to rip open all my vulnerabilities and old wounds, taking offense at his familiar tone. The hopeful part of me begs him please not to dangle in front of me the one thing I've spent half my life chasing, not if he doesn't really mean it. I can't bear going through this rejection again.

Because that's what it's always been about. The rest of it was ugly, and I'm not saying it didn't matter, but it's incidental at this point. The thing keeps me angry, which I finally defined for myself only a couple of years ago, is this conviction at the center of my identity that there was something so disappointing, so repulsive, so wrong with me as a girl that he decided he didn't even want to know me, didn't want to call me his daughter. He left me convinced that I was unlikeable, unlovable, critically flawed in some way that I couldn't perceive or understand, and that my efforts to prove myself worthy of his affection only demonstrated my essential failings.

I don't need anyone to tell me that's not true -- I know it's not. Sometimes I have to make a concerted effort to make that point to myself, but I do know that as human beings go, I have a lot to offer. The thing is, there's always going to be a part of my mind that can't and won't be convinced. It's not unique to me, but it's part of me, and the best I can do is try to learn to minimize its influence on my life. And as distorted as this thinking is, to that part of my mind every day that passes in his absence is further evidence that I wasn't good enough for him to love me. Every rejection and failure gets filtered through that lens; every victory and accomplishment retains a whiff of desolation over the one thing I still haven't won.

He left when I was thirteen. The years immediately after that were a constant storm of drugs, booze, abuse, violence, poverty, and eventually death, and he wasn't there for any of it. When I tried to flee to him, I was left alone every night, all night, locked in the house, forbidden to read his books or touch any of his stuff, stranded in a room in a frozen city a thousand miles from my closest relative or any trusted friend. When I was dying of depression, he was off with his new family, taking care of someone else's kids. When I had a film I'd helped make screen at a West End cinema in London -- still one of my proudest moments -- he wasn't even around, much less proud of me. When I got crunched by a car and spent three bedridden weeks waiting for bones to mend and wounds to heal, I received get-well wishes from everyone I knew except him. I haven't seen a birthday or Christmas card from him since I was 17; my 18th birthday present was divorce papers and an official end to his legal obligations to me as his only offspring. Since then, almost without exception, it's been nothing but numbing silence.

And now he wants to "come to some peace together"?

Yeah. But it's not that fucking easy, is it?
9:45 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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