Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Stand-Off Continues

What has happened? I don't know. My dad and I aren't speaking, that's for sure. My mom comes over every now and again, and I think my dad knows. My brother sees my dad daily, I'm sure. It's all very strange, with everyone living so close. I don't feel as sad about it. It does make me uneasy, though.

I had been avoiding making any contact with my dad, waiting for him to make the next move, because the last time I had tried to arrange an evening at my parent's place. I had been talking to my mom, but my dad's message was that he "needed more time" before he could see me again.

Since then, my brother made an ill-informed attempt to get the whole family together. Long story short, he had the general idea in the company of my dad, but then invited me later on by phone. I said I would come, but not if it was going to be an ambush. Dwayne said that mom and dad didn't have to be part of it, and then called them, without my knowledge, letting them know not to come.

Well, of course my mom called me shortly afterward letting me know how insulting I had been. All of a sudden, I had to defend myself to my mom so my dad wouldn't, what? Disown me? AGAIN!?

Of course, I called my brother back, but he was just awkward and saddened. I don't think he had meant to start anything.

All of this has John crazy by now. He has anxiety whenever the phone rings with my parent's phone ID. He tells me he's sick of me answering the call, having an hour-long debate, and then emerging in tears and distraught. I hadn't been aware of how often that happened, but when he said that, I finally understood his frustration.

The last time my dad called was after the attempted "family day." It had been long enough that I decided to answer it, but John was - anxious about it. I went into the bedroom.

It started off okay. Dad explained that it really wasn't his turn to call, since I hadn't actually spoken to him when he had communicated through my mom that he "needed more time." The ball had apparently been in my court the whole time.

Then, of course, it got nasty again. I remember trying very hard to keep things civilized, but my dad's demands are too much. The fact that he has demands is too much!

He insists that he and I can have a relationship separate from my husband and kids.... it isn't a bargain, it's just a demand. If I want to have a dad, I can only have one if while I see him, I pretend that I'm not married and I don't have kids. I just can't do that, since, I don't know, I have more than a tenuous connection to this plane of reality.

Straining to put a reasonable spin on my dad's request, I think he means that if I allow us to meet alone, he will later allow us to meet with John and the kids. Even if this is the case, I'm insisting that I have my family around me for the foreseeable future because I don't trust my dad not to regale me with criticism if we meet alone. Hence, the stand-off.

Oh, and he offered once again that we could call our relationship off once and for all. Again. For the third time. I came out of the bedroom in tears again, and black smoke curled out of John's ears.

But really, is it so odd to meet with your daughter and her family? Is this not what normal people do? The extended family gets together in the grandad's house, with food and wine, and in-laws are polite and jovial, and the kids get spoiled?

It's too late for that with my parents now. You can imagine how insulting all of this is to John. How can I ask him to go back there and pretend he doesn't know what my dad thinks of him? I always thought my dad was so smart. How does he not see how impossible he has made my situation?

Since then, nothing much. My mom comes over. We don't talk about my dad. I text-chat with my brother, and sometimes talk on the phone with him. Nothing about my dad. I'm only sad when I remember the good parts of my dad, the times when I could talk to him without the discussion ending with an offer never to speak again. Otherwise, I'm just relieved.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How my mommy helped me feel better

I was feeling a little down about the situation, I have to admit. I haven't been thinking about it consciously 100% of the time, but I was just having trouble getting started one morning. The kids were roaming among the clean laundry heaps like wild things. I was bobbing around the kitchen, assembling food items for breakfast: this one eats this, a little of that for the other one. What will I eat? I had a sadness in my throat.

I set the kids to their joyous morning devour and floated into the living room with the vague thought of tidying. I picked up my iPhone and started fiddling with the podcasts. I looked up just in time to see a nice hulking SUV pull past the house and turn into the driveway.

Mom!! She came! My mommy! Oh, happiness!

I was holding the door open for her before she reached it; both of us were beaming. "Aren't you sneaky!?" She had to admit she was. "I didn't know I was coming until I left the house!" She had left for work, and then taken a detour to my place. Dad probably didn't even know she was here.

The kids went nuts when they say their grandma! Jack started showing off some of his moves, and Jill squealed with glee. I looked alive, started clearing the dishes into the dishwasher to make a path to the coffee maker.

We had a good talk. The kids had a good cuddle. I wasn't the first to mention Dad, and when Mom brought him up, the talk was light - funny, even. I won't get into it now. The point is: it was so nice to see her! It gave a good start to the week.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the list, Off the list, or DEAD

A couple of days after that crazy speakerphone conversation, the phone rang - the land line, almost always a sales call or family, so never fondly anticipated. Our phone speaks, saying aloud the name listed on the caller ID, so even before I got to it, I knew it was a "call from... YOUR DAD." These days, this announcement freezes my arm in mid-reach, and I am sometimes so undecided that the call goes through to the answering machine while I curse my cowardice, and realize I'll most likely pay for it later, since no one is much fooled by my call screening.

This time, I answered, dreading the discovery that I had made the wrong choice.

My dad had finished his workout at the gym, and was driving nearby. He wanted to come over for coffee and a talk. I hate these quick "convenience calls." It's much harder to refuse a visit when you know that the person is already en route in your direction. After our previous discussion, though, I couldn't say yes. I repeated my assertion (feeling like a broken record) that I didn't think it was a good idea to meet at my place, for all the reasons previously stated. He wanted me to take a chance so he could prove that he could "behave." I said that even if he did "behave," my messy life would still grind on him. He may not mention it today, or next week, but it would inevitably burst forth again, just like it always had. I would feel immense pressure to prevent it, and inevitably fail, since I physically can't attend to all the flaws he perceives in my home and life.

It was particularly sad for me, this phone call. My dad wasn't angry, as he had been the other night, and he really did want things to be fixed between us. His way of fixing things, though, was to forget that destructive things had been said, or done, and get "back on track," so things could be "like they were." I felt terrible reminding him of all the key points that had emerged from the last discussion: my house was a mess; I was an eternal disappointment; and he had twice suggested breaking off our relationship.

My dad is a successful relationship terminator. When someone crosses him in a way that he considers to be irredeemable, that person drops off the face of the earth. Did you miss his father's funeral? You're off the list. Did you refuse to shake his hand for any reason? Off the list. Did you thoughtlessly finger the ham right in front of him? Off the list, my friend.

In fact, back when I was "on the list," we used to joke about how easy it was to lose your List privileges. We would run through many names from his past, and label each as being "on," "off" or "dead." Most fell into the latter two categories, and some were still "off" even after they were dead!

When my dad said that we could break off our relationship, I knew he was considering cutting me out of his life completely. He was angry, sure, and he may not have meant to speak so strongly, but I knew this was one step he was absolutely willing and able to take. It was not an empty threat that I could feel secure ignoring. This was the ultimate threat: "Do as I say, or you're off the list." Ignoring it would not make it go away.

This is why, when my dad called that morning, I couldn't immediately continue as before. I was still reeling from the shock. Didn't he know how much I needed him? Didn't he understand what losing him would mean to me? I needed time - time to deal with the hurt, and time for things to get back to normal between us for a while. "That's what I want to do. I don't see how time is going to help. We need to just get back into it," he insisted. He was very persistent!

"You've said that you are thinking of breaking off your relationship with me. You said it twice; once before Christmas, and once after."

"I don't think I said that."

One of the most frustrating aspects of this conflict has been the denial. Luckily, I was able to point out that, "mom was right there when you said it the first time, dad. And John and mom were both there the second time. You definitely said it, twice. And you know you've cut people off before. So that really hurts, dad."

The conversation wasn't all on topic, though. Sometimes, we talked about other stuff, unimportant things. I think he was trying to demonstrate that we could have a relationship without continuing this fight. It just made me more sad. I did want to talk about those other things.

For some reason, I was dumb enough to mention that although my dad shouldn't let my house offend his eyes again, at least anytime remotely soon, mom could still visit. It's the kind of thing that you can't fix once you've said it. I'm doing the very best I can with this conflict, trying to set things right, even though they're all wrong, but I'm still making mistakes. I'm just so very sad to lose my dad at this point in my life. If it means I have to lose my mom as well, it takes the breath out of me.

And I'd like to scream: WE'RE NOT EVEN DEAD YET!! Why, WHY does it have to be this way!?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm Pretty Normal, It Turns Out

No one is more surprised than me that this conflict is happening in my family. You probably think I'm pretty normal! Growing up, I thought our family was exceptional.

We came from another country - emigrated to this far-off English-speaking country to "start over." I was five. To me, it wasn't even scary. At that age, you take everything as it comes; I didn't understand the implications of the move.

The implications of the move were that my parents couldn't get along with their parents, so after four and a half years of trying, they just left.

My mom's background is lower- to middle-class. Her dad worked in a mine during the war, and survived three cave-ins. After the last accident, which injured him, he became a mail-carrier. He used to drink merrily, eat heartily, and smoke cigars. He died recently. Her mom, my Gran Eveline, was a housewife. When times were hard, she took some cleaning and sewing work on the side. She's still a skilled seamstress.

My mom was never expected to get an education, and in fact, her parents thought she should leave school as soon as possible to start contributing financially to the household. Thankfully, my mom held her ground, continued through school, and then, to my Gran's dismay, went on to post-secondary. Eveline rented my mom's room out while she was gone.

My dad's background is also middle-class, but with a bit more education and strong upper-middle class pretensions. His dad was an accountant, and thought he knew an awful lot about money. He put his money into stocks, and refused to buy a house, thinking this was the wisest financial decision. My dad's parents were openly scornful of my mom's parents, who went into debt to purchase their house. As it turns out, my dad's parents were dead wrong, and my mom's parents came out ahead financially in the end, but my dad's mom, Anne, still feels herself to be a higher quality person than Eveline. I think her attitude is at least partly bound to that financial idea that holding stocks was morally superior than holding a mortgage.

There is a rumor, possibly fabricated and occasionally perpetuated by Anne, that her family has blue blood. It's not entirely impossible. I could be the bastard great-great-granddaughter of some distant relative of a duke. I'm more interested that the rumor shows the strength of Anne's yearning to be marked out as superior.

Anne bequeathed her yearning to her son, my dad, and until recently, I had believed it about our family. In fact, although I'm no longer convinced of our social superiority, I still feel it as part of my personality. It's one of the things I'm struggling with, because on one hand, as any false notion is bound to do, I think it holds me back from fulfilling my potential. On the other hand, it's such a powerful component of my upbringing that I'm afraid letting it go will destroy me.

I'm not trying to sound dramatic. This is how I was brought up.

My parents, my brother and I moved to this new country, wide open and wild, full of people with new and different ideas, none of them related to class identity. We were isolated from family, from anyone we had known. In addition, we were culturally unique. We dressed differently, spoke differently, used strange vocabulary. All of this would set us well enough apart; now add our inherited superiority complex. I suppose it helped us get through the hardship of our move. We didn't have many connections, but then why would we? We were strong, we were smart, and we could survive on our own. Anyone making friends with us would themselves benefit. Few did.

In school, it wasn't easy for me. I was different for many years, before my accent and mannerisms blended of their own accord. I didn't ever have many friends. I endured extreme hostility from the popular girls, and hated my situation throughout middle-school and junior high. I was miserable. I may have been suicidal.

All though this time, my dad comforted me with the knowledge that I was better, really fundamentally better, than everyone around me. I could play any instrument I picked up. I could sing better than everyone, and won awards proving it. I got top scores in every subject. I succeeded at everything I tried. I was beautiful, I was brilliant, and I was going to have whatever I wanted if I could only get through school.

So you see, believing that I'm superior was a survival mechanism. Now that I've survived, I have to look at my superiority complex, and figure out which parts are true, and which are the family fairy tale. I'm having this crisis now because my dad's approval meant so much to me all through my life. Now that he has disowned me, I'm struggling to find my own confidence, and stand apart from him.

It still surprises me, though, that we're having this fight. Our family was tight. My dad was the best! We were so close, all four of us, such good friends. We were the unit we could always count on - the only unit, I see now. So, we're normal, as it turns out, and it has blindsided me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Talk, On Speakerphone

Between Christmas and New Year, nothing happened. I felt some tension from the expectation of further conflict with my parents, but we had those days to relax and unwind from the Christmas ordeal. It was a much-needed break! It was ferociously cold, so we decided to stay in through New Year's Eve. Dwayne and Doug were going to watch the fireworks downtown, but the cold froze even them in. They decided to visit us for the evening, even though I warned them I wouldn't make it through midnight.

The next day, my mom called wishing us a happy new year. She invited us over for drinks, and we said yes.

When the kids were ready, we bundled them up in the appropriate manner, winter gear on, extra gear in the trunk. As often happens with me, I was the last out the door, making sure everything was packed, ensuring everyone had ample protection, and then gathering up my own things and sweeping out the door in a final rush. Since I was wearing three layers of shirts and sweaters, and we were only going a mile down the road, I threw my large fall jacket over top and bundled myself with a scarf and mittens. Northern winters are a challenge for young families!

Things went alright at my parents' place. I don't remember anything specific from the actual event. We came home relieved, eventually had dinner, bathed and bedded the children, and sat together in the living room.

Then, the phone rang. It was my mom. From habit, John started to leave the room, giving me privacy, but I gestured for him to stay close. I had a bad feeling about this one.

"Can we talk?" Always an auspicious start to any conversation. It means: I'd like to upset you for a while, so get ready. For the first time ever, I had the presence of mind to respond, "If it's going to be a big meaningful talk, is it alright if I put you on speaker so Jason can take part?"

For the last few years, speaker phone has not been my ally in discussions with my parents. My dad has taken to broadcasting me on speakerphone, not always informing me in advance of who was in the room. The logic behind this is supposed to be that my parents both want to hear from me, and neither parent wants to be left out. In effect, it prevents my mom and I from communicating privately. Taking ownership of the speakerphone tactic for my own protection felt satisfying.

So, with my parents, John and I all on speakerphone, we had The Talk.

"We're worried about you. Is there something wrong? Is there any way we can help?" my mom asked.

This was getting off to a fishy start. What was it all about?

"I'm fine. The weather is a bit confining at the moment, but everything else is going fine."

"We're concerned that there is something wrong - that you're not taking care of yourself."

"I'm not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate?"

"Well, it's really cold outside, and you only wore a light coat. We're just concerned that you aren't taking good enough care of yourself."

I explained about my layers, my logic, and the extra gear in the trunk. "I don't understand what this call is about. If there's anything wrong with me, it's that dad has said he would break off his relationship with me, and I'm upset about that. Other than that, this call is out of the blue."

"Just tell us what's wrong, because we'll do anything we can to help."

I suspected that my dad was trying to set our relationship back on track by putting me in a victim position, and taking control by "helping me through my difficulties." I had to resist spewing forth all my own perceived failures, and making excuses for myself: I know the kids don't get out much, but they're getting older now, and the weather will improve soon. I have plans to get Jack into more programs.... A grown-up doesn't need to explain all these efforts to her parents. She just does what is right, no matter what criticisms are hurled at her.

Unbelievably, when I held my ground, my parents started to fumble. I could imagine my mom turning towards my dad when she ran out of prepared statements. My dad was twisting, "It's just that... uhn... we're concerned that ... oh...." He truly couldn't clarify their reason for calling! I was amazed. I almost smiled. I had been right not to fall for the pity bait.

Then, my dad rained down upon us every old argument in his book. Every way he had helped us in the past, we had thrown back in his face. John was an inadequate husband for having accepted help from Wes, his father, in securing our fence when it fell in the wind. We were endangering the children with our home renovations. I rebuffed everything. John kept his cool, and played peacekeeper as long as possible.

Finally, one of the criticisms hit John the wrong way. He said, "Basically, you're saying that I'm stupid and inadequate."

When you ask this kind of thing, you're giving the other person a chance to clarify in the negative, but of course, my dad said, "Yes. You're stupid and inadequate. I'd say it again."

This was, of course, a breaking point in the phone call. I made it clear that I couldn't allow John to be spoken to this way. Several times, John uncharacteristically threatened to hang up. At some point, my dad repeated his earlier statement that "we can break it off. We don't ever need to see each other again." We were nowhere near my mom's initial statement that they were "worried" and "wanted to help."

Somehow, as often happens in these conversations, order was restored, and despite his anger, John took the tone of the peacekeeper again. Then, my dad made some kind of summary statement about how we were "all friends," and told a bad joke, which everyone felt compelled to laugh at before we got off the phone.

I was completely befuddled. It was embarrassing. As far as I could tell, my dad had attempted to use a power-play, asserting his authority by assuming a protective role. My alternatives, in retrospect, were to submit to his controlling care, or be bereft of parental relationships. It was painful, because even as an adult, I do love my parents. I just don't want to be controlled by them. My parents had failed me in exactly the wrong way. Again.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Secret Life of a Wonderful Husband

I'll take a break from telling my history to tell you something wonderful that happened today.

John has played guitar all his life. He is an Information Technology consultant, but his passion is music. He studied it with zeal in University, picks up tunes quickly, and is more skilled at playing than anyone I know.

When we first met, I wondered why he didn't play music more publicly. It seemed an eccentric hobby, to be such an expert, but never perform. He explained that although he excelled in music in school, achieving top scores and developing close personal relationships with the professors, his father had insisted that John pursue a practical career. John hated his IT courses, and dragged them out miserably.

There certainly have been benefits to John's career. We have stability, and John is a great asset to his team at work. He's not passionate about it, but he enjoys aspects of the work, and I'm grateful to him for putting so much energy into it for me and the kids. I can't express how wonderful that is. I don't take it for granted!

John didn't let me know how important music was to him until a few years into our marriage, so for years I didn't understand that he had sidetracked his dream throughout University. He had focused on IT to earn his father's approval, and ultimately, his father had been making sure John would be able to support his future wife - before I was ever in the picture! I realized I was responsible to make sure John felt he could pursue his dream if the opportunity ever presented itself.

John's love of music is multi-faceted, though, so it was never a requirement that he play guitar in a band. John took music theory lessons for a while. At another time, we bought a clarinet and he took lessons in that. We collect classical and rock music, scores and books about music, and we invest in software and hardware, so lots of our family's time and energy goes towards realizing something of John's dream, as it should.

Meanwhile, John has quietly been watching Craig's List for mature bands seeking a guitar player. And today, it paid off. A mature band is looking for a guitarist. They play local clubs, and have some originals of their own. John answered the ad, and will be auditioning in a couple of weeks.

We're so excited! John is beside himself. We have a set list to practice, so we're focussing on learning and practicing them. And by "we," I mean John is working like a fiend, and I'm clearing the way for him.

Nothing is certain at this point, but let me tell you what I do know: I love the idea that John could be playing clubs with real musicians. It makes me warm for him in a NEW WAY. I want to go to the shows, watch him playing up on stage, probably wearing something, I don't know, FITTING, maybe working hard under the stage lights, working up a sweat. Or maybe he's the cool one receding mysteriously into the shadows, sporting something dark and FITTING. Either way.

John caught me looking at him with that smile on my face, and said, "now imagine how I'd look with a new Marshall amp."

I'm very keen to get him out to the mall for some new pieces for his wardrobe, and to book him for a haircut. Apart from making time available to practice, these are the things I can do to help. I can also express my approval in the nighttime hours. These are the things a married couple should do for each other, don't you agree?

I'll keep you informed as we learn the music and work towards the audition. No matter what happens, it should be interesting!

The Early Arrival

After that phone call, I wasn't assuming anything about Christmas. My dad had said we could come over for a meal, but specifics hadn't been offered, so I wasn't jumping to conclusions. We made plans for either possibility: we might be going out, or we might have the day in, just the four of us. We started to think what a gentle possibility that was.

Maybe a week before Christmas, my mom confirmed that we were invited over in a tone that suggested I was crazy to think of anything else. "Well of course... I hope you know you're invited for Christmas." Actually no, after my entire relationship with my dad was cast into doubt, I thought all bets were off.

Closer to the day, when I was trying to figure out our schedule for Christmas, I asked what time we should arrive. Having had trouble with formal events in the past, my parents had decided to have an informal buffet: "It's very casual. We're just going to have food out, and you can come when you want, take some food, sit anywhere. The guys are coming, and the grans will be here. It's very casual and relaxed."

The kids had been napping around 1pm, so I asked, "if they're napping, is it alright if we arrive a little later, rather than coming early and putting them down at your place?"

Pause. "Well. You won't have hot food them. The food will be ready at one."

Okay fine. So it was casual, but the arrival time was not negotiable. I sighed and held my arguments to myself. I said slowly, "So, if the kids seem to need their normal nap, can we arrive a bit early? In case they are acting up?"

My mom started, "Well, sure, if you're talking about coming 20 minutes early, that would be..." I heard my dad saying something in an annoyed tone in the background. My mom came back, trying to repeat whatever he had said fervently from her own voice: "Well it's better if you don't come early because we won't be ready for you... we're expecting people to arrive at one."

I closed my eyes and ran some calculations in my head. I said okay, and got off the phone. It was better not to engage on this. I wasn't taking for granted that we were allowed over for Christmas at all.

Christmas Eve went very well - we had hosted John's family with a catered meal, which everyone enjoyed. Christmas morning was very pleasant, with Jack opening his own gifts, and helping Jill open hers. They both had a fun morning playing with their toys.

So far, two for three! Very good success for a young family, I thought. Lunch time approached - in our family, lunch time is 11am, followed by nap time at around noon or one. There was too much excitement for a nap after lunch, so we decided to coast through the day as best we could. It was Christmas after all. We'd make it through.

Then, at noon, they started acting up, and by 12:20 they were going nuts, whining, fighting with each other. I couldn't discipline them: I knew what the problem was. It was time to load them up.

"But we're too early," said John. We're only a two minute drive from my parent's place.

"I know, but what can we do? At least if we're in the car, they won't fight. Jill might even sleep."

"Are we driving around, then?"

"I think so. We can drive through for some coffee and take the scenic route."

John's expression was incredulous. I added, "What else can we do? If we stay here, they fight. We were told not to arrive early." The kids were at each other's throats. "Look, let's just go and talk about it in the car!"

"Okay, okay!"

So we bundled them up and started out. It was a bright, white-and-blue winter's day, the best kind, with safe, still roads and beautiful sights. I don't remember if we got coffee. We drove, and listened to John's iPod. The kids were quiet for a time, and I remember it being a peaceful drive.

Then, the kids got tired of it. Ten minutes to go! John looked at me. I looked at John. John waited. An eyebrow may have raised. "Well what can we do!?" I asked.

"Shouldn't we just go?"

"We can't be early. We can't be late. We have to be on time!"

"Well, the kids are acting up again. You want to get out and just wait outside the door until it's exactly 1 o'clock?"

"Don't be crazy. Just... drive around the block one more time."

We drove, trying to ignore the crying crescendo in the back seat, trying not to ball hands into fists, taking deep breaths and thinking of calm oceans. We approached the house again. John asked, "Do you really want to be exactly on time, to the minute?" We joked about it a little, how blameless we would be arriving exactly at the right time, but then how we'd surely be just a few seconds out either way, and there would be trouble regardless.

I sighed. It was 12:55. "Okay. Let's go."

"There's still five minutes. Are you sure?"

"It's five minutes. Let's not be crazy. It's a normal arrival time. We're here anyway." And we were. We pulled into the driveway.

My mom opened the door, happy to see us. "Merry Christmas!" Everyone exchanged the greeting, and I felt relieved. This would be okay. It was good not to have fought about it on the phone.

Then, from the kitchen, where he was working on the turkey, my dad called, "You're seven minutes early! Nothing is ready yet."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"You can come for Christmas - but that's it."

During that early-December phone argument, after my dad said we could just stop seeing each other, I didn't know what to say that would improve the situation. I knew I couldn't back down from my solution - that my dad couldn't visit at my house anymore - but I didn't want, or expect, that he would withdraw from me completely as a result. I thought - well, I thought our relationship was stronger than that.

I've always been a daddy's girl. We used to talk together. He used to show me things, and teach me things. He treated me, and my brother, as more than children. He didn't look down on us - or that's how I felt. We were smart, and things were expected of us.

I remember going for walks with the dogs, and talking about interesting things, like the meaning of life, the existence of God, evolution, great historical figures, the military campaigns of Hannibal, and so on. He showed me the world, in ideas. He got me reading, and I read voraciously. I bowled him over with words like "minion" and "henchmen," from the Eddings fantasies. "Where did you get that word!?" "I read it in a book." I was so proud. I read even harder.

In my usual image of those walks, it's late summer, hot and bright. We took the dogs, a black lab and his daughter, a lab-shepherd cross, to a nearby field, where we had pioneered a looping path through the wild grasses. It was on the edge of town, so we could let the dogs off-leash. They would wander with us, free as anything, chasing each other, hunting gophers, trailing behind, and then racing past us in a great rush of living energy. Sometimes, of course, it was rainy, or winter, but my most vivid memory is of late summer, when the path was well-beaten, flowers grew everywhere, and some of the grasses had gone to seed.

This exchange of ideas between me and my dad: it became a part of me. We could ALWAYS talk, and about ANYTHING. This is why, even though he had been shouting at me, and, to be honest, always had shouted, I never thought I could do anything so bad that it would turn him away from me forever.

I still think my decision should have a positive impact on everyone involved. My dad can't be in my house without both of us being hurt by his disappointment in me. Shouldn't we just both accept that reality, and move on in the least painful way possible? I thought this logic would work for my dad, who has always been interested in reason, whether in relation to philosophy, or history, or any other field. Shouldn't it work in personal relations as well?

I ended the call at a loss, saying I wasn't sure how to proceed from his proposal to "stop seeing each other." I flailed somewhat helplessly. But what about Christmas? What will happen?

"You can come over on Christmas, but that's it. Nothing else."

I was dizzy, heartbroken, and lost. I needed to be strong for my own family, and that held me up, but this - it made me numb.

We got off the phone quickly after that, and my mom left. John came back upstairs, and held me for a while. I think he did. I don't remember much from that night.