My Dad's wife and I have been playing phone tag. She started, leaving a message Saturday, "Call, your Dad's at the sleep thing, I have a favor to ask."
I called, didn't reach her, left a message.
I suspect many things from the message. I suspect my Dad is aging. He's having more health problems. He doesn't hear from the children he sired. I suspect he feels unloved and lonely from that point of view. I suspect his wife is asking me a favor. Could be call Dad. Call him more. Come see him. Do something special for him for his next birthday.
Yes, those are the right things to do for your father.
But I've gone through this with him before, at other times in his life, with other families. Dad's habit has always been to find another woman and adopt her family. Sometimes he marries them, sometimes he doesn't. He did sire another son from his second marriage and he was there when that son grew up. Dad was there so he made the emotional connections with the boy, my half-brother. And the boy, having the father to count upon, has treated him like Dad. He's included him when he was married, included him when he had children. His son knows my Dad as his Grandfather. This is hugely contrasted to my sisters' children, Dad's other offspring. My sisters' children didn't know they had a grandfather. He was non-existent in their life. You see, then, where that puts the bubble on my emotional level when measuring and squaring life with Dad.
He was not a good father to me and my sisters. I don't understand him. I write that but it's not true; I do understand him. He doesn't like conflict. He likes a simple life. He likes black and white. He has emotions but doesn't like dealing with them. Emotions are not black and white.
Every time he has a crisis, he returns to me. Every time. I've learned that through his previous wives and girlfriends, their children, and my siblings. I can unknot things. I can suck it up and do the right thing. My sisters hold grudges. I hold grudges but I explore them, think about them, put them into context. They do not. One can forgive Dad, the other can't. The one who forgives Dad is my older sister. She has her own problems, though. Dad knows that so he doesn't turn to her.
I'm weary of being the one he turns to for help. I've helped him before. I love him but I'm weary; he won't admit how much he brought his situation on himself. Oh, he sometimes says the right words but words are air; they never lead to a change. I don't trust his words any longer.
His current wife gets some of this. She gets the intellectual side. She may get more. She can put things together. But we're talking the currency of family here. The charges are heavy. The costs are high. Balancing the accounts requires higher math, a math not taught in schools.
And I ended up writing and thinking about all of this today because a funny thing happened between Saturday and today. I wrote a short story, "Sometimes". The main character is a woman, estranged from her father. She is not like me. Her father is not like my father. Our relationship is not the same.
That's the surface read. Now, as I read the story, I see how she is like me, and how the story reflects my relationship with my father through her relationship with her father. It is my story with my father but told in a parable. I didn't see that when I wrote it but I see it in retrospect.
Now wonder the story came so easily. I had things to say but didn't know how to say them. My character knew what to say, though.
The story does not have a happy ending and it does not have an unhappy ending. It's a piece of life peeled back. The character has learned and changed. She has realized things about herself and her life and her relationship with her father. She realizes, without the words being said, that her relationship with herself and the world has changed but she can't change the relationship with her father.
And all of this I realize today by reading the fiction I wrote yesterday.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com