I am probably not in a good place to be blogging, but I have to get this out. Whether anyone reads it or not, I need to express myself. It is cathartic. I need to purge these emotions, or I will explode.
Not to beat around the bush, but today I blocked my father’s phone number. It is harsh, yes. But this man is so toxic to my life, I did something I should have done years ago.
My relationship with my father has always been fraught with drama. As far back as I can remember, I put him on this pedestal, and I worshipped the man. He always told me to not be like my mother, and whenever I did anything remotely like my mom, he would chastise me. And I was made to be ashamed of that. Whenever my mom would yell at us, and usually slap us, she would then tell us we had to stay in our rooms until our father came home. And we would have to sit and be quiet. I mean no sounds, no playing, just sitting and waiting. Sometimes it seemed like forever, but my dad pretty much was home by dinner time every night. He will tell you he worked 80 or more hours a week, and went to school full time, so he was not home very often. But not to my mind. By at least 8 years of age, he was home every night. Of course I was a kid then! But we had three wardrobes: school, church, and play clothes. And they could not be worn for other things. Once designated school clothes, you could not play in them. So after school we put on play clothes and played until it was time to get ready for dinner. Then we would have to wash/shower and then we had to be quiet, neat, and clean for when dad did come home. Every night. So, when my father arrived home to discipline us, we were clean and changed, and my brother and I loved it. He never spanked us. I can recall once or twice in my entire life. Rather, he would just talk to us. On and on he would talk. We would go into a coma after about 10 minutes. He droned on and then it was over. We actually preferred being slapped across the face. It was horrible and demeaning, but then it was done and mom was okay, and it only took a couple of minutes. Dad would lecture and brood – he didn’t snap out of it like she did. His discipline was usually mean. He would find what you really loved and take it away. I have never forgotten it. I promised myself I would never do that to my children.
My father expected me to become a doctor. And I tried. But I did not have the killer instinct required in the 1970s to compete in medical school; especially as a woman. I loved history and science. So I majored in Forensic Anthropology/Physiology and minored in Biblical Archeology. He did not support that college major. My brother did not even finish junior college, choosing instead to work for my dad, which my dad supported and funded. And I was on my own. Paid my own rent. Worked to put myself through college. For 10 years, finally giving up because I just could no longer do both well. Even after all those years in school, he repeatedly told me that even with all the education I had gained, that I was wasting my life. Why? Because to his extreme irritation, I chose to spend my life as a wife and mother. He also told me that even though he thought I was intelligent, that if he did not agree with how I was raising my children, he would sue me for custody because “grandparents have rights, too, you know.” At the time, I announced to him we had chosen to homeschool our kids. He thought it was ridiculous and who did I think I was, educating my own children?! Years after they had all completed school and have wonderful, full lives, he conceded the we had done a good job raising our children. Gee. Thanks.
I have not seen my father in more than 15 years. He chose to move to the other side of the country, away from his entire family, and moved near a step-daughter. None of his grandchildren from the marriage he had with my mother know him. They could not pick him out of a crowd. They all know he is bald and has a beard. That is pretty much it. My youngest son is almost 20 years old and he has only seen my dad twice in his life and has no memory of him. The last time he laid eyes on my dad, he was 5 years old.
My step-sister (who he moved to be near) and I had an interesting conversation. Because I have had trouble with my dad, I have always tip-toed and been careful about revealing much, or letting my step-family get close to me. Well, we had a heart-to-heart not too long ago and she explained that she has realized that my dad is a narcissist. I really had to stop and think about it. And I realized, she nailed it perfectly.
a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.“narcissists who think the world revolves around them”
I have always known my dad was obsessed with what he did and who he associated with. He has always labeled people – he always defines their heritage or their skin color or nationality, and then their degree. Sort of like, “Dr. John Smith, he’s this black man I made friends with last week. He runs the entire neurology department at NYU.” Always has to associate things like that about everyone. Even if they are poor and uneducated, he will comment on that, as well. When he calls or we have a conversation, he starts by asking how the family is and how I am, and then he waits for a moment, patiently listening to my sparse details, and launches into the real reason he called – him. He doesn’t really care what I have to say. He never has.
I have given my father 61 years of chances. Sixty-one years to just be my dad. As I have tried to explain, kids do not care what you do for a living. They just want you to be their parent, hold their hand, and love them. Regardless of the choices adults make, kids just want a home and family, mom and dad, and safe space. My father cannot define himself without an hour-long explanation of his career highs and lows, accomplishments, and sacrifices he has made for the world. My father always wanted to change the world in some small way, and to receive the accolades for it. But he never really did. Oh, he was an engineer who worked on the space program and other flight projects in the 1960s. He left that, worked to become a doctor of medical engineering and then worked in healthcare. He did some amazing things with pressure sores and seating for the disabled. He made and lost a small fortune. He worked a lot of hours. We either had a comfortable living or were pretty broke. Life was up and down.
I always wanted my dad to be proud of me. He has, on occasion, told me he is proud of things I have done here and there. But I was always made to feel I was not quite good enough. Never quite measuring up. And certainly not as good as my male counterparts in this world. Because, I have realized, since talking with my poor stepsister (she gets to take care of my dad and her mom, both of whom had forms of dementia) that not only is my dad a controlling narcissist, but he is also a misogynist. It took me over 60 years to get it. He loves women, a lot, but as women. Not in careers. Not as equals. And most of the women he dealt with in business soon grew tired of his treatment and ceased a relationship with him. He would see them as sex objects, but not as equals, and certainly never as superior. And in all his grief about not having a relationship with my sons, he has never expressed the grief towards my nieces, my daughters-in-law, nor my granddaughters. Nope. Only my sons, my brother, my husband. The men in the family. One of my sons said to me that he realized his grandfather was only finally interested in him because he had a degree and would finally be interesting enough to talk to. I cannot even property express how sad that made me…and how true it seems.
The crux of our most recent conversations was that my dad is right, I am wrong, I am a horrible person and each time he hung up on me today, his last comment to me was, “I will see you in hell.” Yeah. From my dad. (After than second one, I blocked his number). He has never accepted the fact that he is not “the most honest person you will ever meet” because my dad has cheated in business, he has cheated in life, and he has cheated me out of a relationship with him. He had an affair on my mother with his secretary, who is his wife. He has loads of regrets; yes. He has said more than once that he has made lots of mistakes and leaving my mom was one of them. But he always comes back to the same saying, “I know I am right. And I am right until you prove me wrong.” About everything. Well, telling him I know he had an affair, and that my mom shared his goodbye letter with me wherein he told her he was tired of us “leeches” in his life, and that he no longer wanted any part of it, did not fit his narrative. LOL.
So what can I garner from this? What is my take-away? Well, number 1 is that I never wanted the same toxic relationship my parents had with one another. My mom is also a misogynist. Weirdly enough. She treats me far differently than the men in our family. Far differently even than my husband and son who live in the same house. And she is too old to be taught anything differently, especially since she has late-stage Alzheimer’s. (I think that is something that came out of the 1950s expectations of marriage). So I married a man who adored his mom and his sister and was standing shoulder to shoulder with his sister, not relegating her to the back row. He respects me and has my back, 24/7. And secondly, I was not going to allow this sort of horrific attitude to influence the way I raised my own sons. I would not raise them to be like my father, nor his attitude towards women. And I have tried to make sure that my sons know they are loved and adored, that I could care less what careers they have, so long as they love God and the lives they are making for themselves. And that my boys would love getting up every day, making their way through this world as caring and competent male citizens. This is a world full of ugliness, but also of love. And I want my kids and grandkids to know love, above all. And then acceptance – full and complete, no strings and no qualifiers. I will not allow my father and his mental illness affect any more family members. I have now opted for no contact. Ever. The End. I will forevermore stop expecting Lucy to allow Charlie Brown to kick that football, because she never will.