I don’t know how many times I’ve heard those words, or variations of, in the last 20 years.
Lately, it’s progressed to “Ohhhh well at least you’re getting to spend quality time with your dad, right?”
Every single time I hear these words, I feel like I have no choice but to nod, dumbly, and pretend that everything’s ok. I have to pretend that, yeah, sure! He’s so precious to me right now.
He’s not precious to me.
He never has been.
Sadly, now, he never will be.
Do I feel guilty?
No. Because I came to terms with this about 18 years ago.
It drives me nuts because there seems to be this thing where suddenly,completely out of the blue, I’m supposed to forge this amazing loving, father-daughter relationship out of nowhere. With a complete stranger. And I do mean, complete stranger. Considering he’s my father, he knows pretty much nothing about me. There’s so much of my childhood (read: all of it) in which he had no connection with me, or with anything I did. We were strangers to each other. There was nothing.
NO. THING. AT. ALL.
He’s a stranger to me. We have beliefs from other ends of the solar system. In a bajillion ways, he is the polar opposite to me. And after many years of being forced (forced…) to see things his way, he never saw the life I lived.
Which is weird for that to happen, when two people live in the same house.
It’s also a shame, because you know, he’s still my dad, right?
I’m not angry about how we turned out. I have no hard feelings, and I don’t hate him or whatever for the way he treated me as a kid. However I do hate what I’m being put through now.
Being made to feel like I failed at “keeping the family together”, being made to feel guilty (intentionally or otherwise) for staying in touch with him (forgive me for asking, but…conversation is a two-way thing, right?). I hate all of that, and I hate all the assumptions that go along with the current situation.
But the toughest part? It has got to be the assumption that I want to “spend quality time and share final precious memories” with him.
Nope. I don’t want to do that at all, actually. In fact, what I want right now is for this horrible nightmare to be over. I want to stop being made to scratch at wounds and scars which healed and faded a million years ago. I want to stop feeling like I failed somehow, even though I’ve done nothing but bust my backside non-stop for the last however many weeks/months.
I don’t hate him. I’m wary of him, for so many current reasons. But I don’t hate him. Because I don’t know who the fuck he is. He doesn’t know who the fuck I am. Currently I feel sad because in the times I have been to visit him, particularly during the last 6-ish weeks, he still hasn’t made any effort to know me. And what’s even more sad is it’s partly because he doesn’t know how. I always thought, as a kid, I was the “weird” one of the family. My friends were different, I stressed slightly unusually (black goths weren’t exactly popular back in the 80s/90s…) and I did things which…weren’t exactly typical of a teenage black girl (cello playing, bell ringing, bmx biking, cider drinking goth, with blue and purple hair? Yeah…huh…)
Looking back, it was always going to be one of those “relationships” which was a complete non-starter. It took me a while to get over that, or at least get used to that, but I got there. Eventually. To be fair, he made it easier in many, many unfortunate ways.
On one of our many looong and busy round trips from home to hospital to flat, my older brother asked me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why am I giving up so much of my time? Why am I making such an effort? He lives in Sheffield, and is immensely frustrated that he can’t be here to help more. The answer, to me was very clear from my point of view. They’re not all great answers, but they’re what I think and feel.
I might not see him as my dad (and I actually prefer to call him Mr L—–y), but he’s still another human being, whom I’m related to whether I like it or not. If I cared for him like someone who had been my dad, then sure, maybe I’d do the hand holding, and head stroking, and hugs when he cries and stuff.
But I don’t. Because I can’t.
Sometimes I wonder if what I’m feeling and how I’m dealing is the same way nurses do it. Show the necessary outward emotions because they’re dealing with human beings, but don’t get too close because it’s still just another patient.
I also do as much as I do because no one else can, right now. All the paperwork has been signed over to me, because I’m the closest sibling mature enough to deal with it all.
Last week, after picking up his paperwork, I was AMAZED at how I actually managed to figure it all out. And writing appropriate legal-ish letters, to be signed by Mr L, was pretty straightforward. I hereby elect J Mountford to be executor of my estate.
It was weird writing those letters; I thought I should feel more emotion, but I pretty much felt nothing. How could I possibly feel more? Everything has become so matter-of-fact for me, now. I know that makes my brother uncomfortable, though he’s being amazing in understanding where I’m coming from. My younger sister, however, probably despises my very core.
I hope one day she might actually be ready to listen to what she needs to hear.
I think, sometimes, perhaps I was the one who was meant to deal with the formal side of all of this. The rest of my family members struggle, understandably for many emotional reasons. It seems only fair that, since I can sort of deal with what’s happening with a reasonable level head, that I should do the paperwork.
It was still pretty tough getting Mr L into the nursing home, and then filling in 8 sheets of paperwork, asking about his daily routines. That was…frustratingly odd. It was a firm reminder that I was filling this stuff in for a stranger. but at least I was getting shit done.
My head hurts.
I’m having regular dizzy spells now, and I’m stupidly (blindly? Hah!) ignoring them. I have to keep going, because everything keeps going.
But some days…some days I want to go around with a sign that says “yeah, but he’s not my dad, you know?”
I wish all of this bullshit was easier somehow.