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.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh.... there is little that compares to the stress of a strained parental relationship.
    I wish you the best and hope your father can bring himself to see what is really important.