FRIENDS, FATHERS AND FRANKNESS
Ever since I blogged about getting kicked out of my dad’s house I have been getting a lot of emails about the whole situation.
I wrote the following blog on February 3rd. I decided not to publish it at that time. I showed it to Glenn and sent it to my in-laws and filed it away. I wrote it for a reason. I didn’t post it as I wanted to protect my dad. I’ve decided to publish it now. It’s exactly as I wrote it, not one change has been made.
I just got a call from one of my best friends Bruce Roberts that his dad Sam died this morning. Sam has been sick for some time and it’s been expected, but that never takes away the sting.
This is the age, and I devote an entire chapter to it in my book BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HOT PLACE where our parents start to die, if they haven’t already. Lately not a week goes by where someone my age doesn’t come up and tell me they have just lost one of their parents.
It’s one of the reasons I am so obsessed with my own that are still living.
People wonder and ask me sometimes why I am so willing to write the things I do for the world to hear, and it’s really simple on one level or another we all have issues and problems, and if one speaks out often times others don’t feel as alone.
I can’t tell you how many people have written to me or told me about their own issues, if I’m writing about grappling with a teen or my coming to grips with the difficult time I have really with both my parents.
Not every one has these problems; a friend yesterday who just lost her father and is in the process of losing her mother adores them both. * Some one was just here at the house who is mad for her parents, it’s not all bad out there but for those of us who is, it’s nice to know we are not alone.
I have focused a lot on my mother in this blog and while it’s the more troubled of my relationships at the moment, historically it has not been the case.
My father left when I was young and it was just my mother and me. I think she was young and confused about many things, but she was there, she took me to school everyday, late, but she did it, she picked me up every day, late, but she did it. She gave me by birthday parties and took me trick or treating she was there on Christmas morning and when I had a cold. She took me to the orthodontist, tennis lessons and the math tutor, the beach club and all over the world. She taught me how to cook, to not be afraid of the world, how to reinvent yourself when the present version isn’t working, I think I felt anxious at times, but connected, or as I have learned in therapy enmeshed.
But she was there when I was in plays, and gave me a fancy party when I turned thirty. It didn’t get really bad until she lost her own mother.
I miss the person she was and I am sad about the fact our relationship did not turn out the way I thought it would.
That is not true with my dad.
I have given him sort of a hall pass here as we have this détente, that I guess we pretend is a relationship as neither one really wants to admit it isn’t a real father/daughter relationship.
We have moments, for the last two years we have had a SAME TIME NEXT YEAR relationship where we meet in Arizona for two days and spend time together. It was my idea when I turned fifty as I realized I had never spent any time alone with him in my entire life.
There are many things I have never done with him, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a movie with him, never on a plane together, the theatre, only in Vegas four years ago for a show.
He did teach me how to ride a bike. I was twelve.
The thing is he means well at moments and makes emotional promises he is incapable of following through on.
This is rather disruptive to one’s sense of self as one, or this one continues to think it will change.
We sort of made a pact a few years ago, that we were both flawed but we were who we were and life is short and we would try. And he has tried, he really has, and then he slips back to his other self or real self, he goes back to his world where my family and I have no designated place.
Now he might say we don’t want a place or claim a place and arguments can be made either way but I would say I have made a bigger effort;, he would say he’s done the best he can and my guess is he has, but sometimes his best isn’t good enough for me. I want what he promised. I want the person he presents from time to time.
I want a real connection. I want him to care in the real way parents care.
It all has to do with what kids want, kids of any age as we are all someone’s kid. They want to be heard if only for a few moments, they want to know they matter, that their uniqueness is embraced and that they count.
I have been rambling on this week about not doing my kid’s homework or hovering over them and reading the books they read, because for me its more about hearing and seeing them for who they are and letting them know they are loved for that.
If I can’t have it then they will. I know it’s important because I know how much I want it.
It’s better than doing their long division for them.
Yesterday I had two phone calls back to back that put many things in focus.
I called my dad to say hi. He wasn’t there so I left a message, I was feeling like maybe I shouldn’t have said what I did in the blog about his neglecting me as a kid, it would make him mad. But then if I’m being honest I have to be honest all around. He did neglect me when I was a kid.
So he called me back later.
He was in a good mood, “This is your father”
OK, well I have one.
Then we talked about his business which he likes to do, and something came up about the placement of his product in WHOLE FOODS… and this is all boring, but what it led to was his saying,
“ I don’t’ care about any of that anymore all I care about is how I feel and how my wife feels.”
ZING. Where am I in the lineup? I don’t make the cut at all. Now none of the other seven kids he and his wife have together made the verbal cut though I know of one that makes it every time.
It’s just not me.
So the conversation went on in a kind of banal tone, weather, and the like, keep it all neutral. Then at one point I told him I was getting my eyes done in a month. It’s a big deal to me and I thought as a parent he might respond. And the reason I have to do it is I inherited my hideous under eye circles from his side of the family.
So I said, I’m finally getting rid of the bags and having plastic surgery. Without missing a beat he said, I got Charlie’s( his schnauzer) teeth cleaned and he had seven teeth pulled.
Charlie totally makes the cut I guess.
As is my way instead of saying did you hear what I said, I said
“I can one up you, Sophie, my dachshund, had twenty-nine teeth removed.”
Then we talked about how many teeth dogs actually have for a minute and he, as he always does ends the conversation first. He had to go to the hardware store and he said good-bye.
Lucy was standing there and said ‘you never say I love you when you hang up from him.”
I told her I did for long time but he never says it back and one eventually feels foolish continuing to say that when it’s not returned.
He has said I love you. But like every thing else when he feels like it and not often.
And that was that.
A half hour later I was on the phone with Glenn’s dad Aaron, who is the grandfather the kids feel the closest to.
And the thing about Aaron, he always wants to know what I m doing, how I’m feeling, what I’m working on. I told him about my eyes, he had twenty questions about it. It mattered to him, the details of my life mattered and consequently I mattered. He ended the conversation with “I love you.” He has said it before but on the heels of the other conversation it took on a much larger meaning.
I wanted to email him and tell him how much it meant.
But I decided to do this instead.
I don’t call him enough. I don’t email him enough. He’s always there for me. He put money in my documentary when my own father would not. Not a holiday passes without the kids getting bonds or money. He helped with Taylor’s college this semester.
But it’s not about money they are just there and they ask for nothing in return.
He is there and I don’t acknowledge it enough because I’m running around with a butterfly net trying to capture this love my father is not capable of really showing me.
I need to focus on Lynne and Aaron, they are there, they love us, they come up here to see us, my father has come once in twelve years.
They want to talk to each girl, how is school” What’s new? I don’t think my father could tell you what grade Lucy is in or what college Taylor attends. These details do not matter to him, so in turn the girls do not feel close to him. He feels its up to them to reach out, in that way he just doesn’t get it.
For a long time I haven’t gotten it. Yesterday I got it.
We often don’t’ take advantage of the love that is there because we are chasing the love that isn’t.
In the same way I regret not having given my grandmother more attention I will not make the same mistake with Lynne and Aaron any longer.