Friday, 6 May 2011

Daddy Issues

I'm holding on by my finger nails at the moment... to everything. I've made it to Friday evening and I just hope one weekend will be enough to muster up some strength to get through the next week.

Last weekend I had a dream about my father. I was in a house and I went into the kitchen and sat down at a dining table. My dad was sitting at the table opposite and I was very surprised to see him (seeing as he lives in England and I don't). My dad didn't really acknowledge me and I felt hurt. Normally the way I deal with my dad's lack of interest in me is to make the effort and be friendly to him; ask him questions and try to look pleased to see him again and chat as if I like him. But this time (maybe because in my dreams I have more balls than in real life) I thought to myself: "Why should I be friendly when he hasn't even acknowledged me? He's the father, I'm the daughter: I don't owe him anything. If he wants a relationship then he can make some effort." So I said without smiling: "I didn't expect to see you here." and I said no more.

I don't really know why I had this dream. I do dream about him sometimes, which seems natural as he has been probably one of the biggest causes of pain in my life and I still hold the grief of how he has hurt me, tucked away; almost out of reach. So the grief seeps into my dreams. Sometimes I'm back at home as a child and he is hurting me in the ways he did for many years. When I have to see him (on his annual visit of doom) I feel ill for weeks beforehand. Last time I saw him was November and as I mentioned recently, was the last time I properly cut myself and I still see the marks each day and am reminded of him and that day.

As I mentioned last time, a friend of the family died this week. I was able to get out of work to go to the funeral yesterday. I was glad to go but sorry that I hadn't seen the lady for so long before she died. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the church and my sister told me that my dad was there. As we walked into the church to find a seat I saw him looking over from the other side of the aisle. He wasn't looking at me, but at my sister. I waited for him to acknowledge me and eventually he made brief eye contact. He wasn't smiling; didn't look pleased to see me; he had the usual glare. I immediately found myself waving and smiling at him and his wife (hard to break the habit of a lifetime). I went and took my seat and the service commenced.

As the service progressed, I got to thinking about my dream, mostly marvelling at how huge a coincidence this was! My inner psychologist was trying to figure out how I could have subconsciously predicted this without realising. I had no idea he'd be flying over and that I'd see him this week. I had the dream before I even knew the lady was so ill. Another part of me was thinking about other premonitions I've had and wondering why I tend to get them during times when I've been dissociating more. But anyway, having had the dream and the time in the service to reflect, before actually having to speak to him, I was able to talk myself into a plan... I would not do what I always do. I would not try to act like everything is OK.

My father has shown pretty much no interest in me whatsoever since the day he told me he had never wanted children and that I was an adult now and could look after myself (not that I felt 'looked after' before). He has not sent me one birthday card (even though he's sent my sisters gifts) or acknowledged any of the birthday/Christmas/father's day cards I sent him (I've stopped doing that now...that was a huge step). I sent him a photo of my graduation and he never said if he received it or not. He never calls or emails. He's visited a few times, never tells me he's coming but then expects me to know and attend the stupid, fake, happy family get togethers (or maybe he's hoping I won't be there). He's never apologised for saying the hurtful things he said before he moved to England, but seems to expect that I would have gotten over them (the way my sisters seemed to do). Once he did text me the day after my birthday to say he'd had a reminder on his phone but hadn't been able to remember who 'Candycan' was. You don't forget your own daughter's name! He was obviously just trying to hurt me. Last time he visited, you may remember, he brought everyone gifts except for me. But more than any of that, the way he looks at me and speaks to me reeks of "I don't want to be speaking to you".

This was me, taking a step into the realms of: "I don't owe my father anything". I watched him, he came out of his aisle at the end of the service, stopped and ruffled my neice on the head, then walked on. I drove to the grave. When I got out of my car my sister was getting out of hers just in front of me and my father in front of her car had just parked too. He hugged my sister and then paused for a moment as though he was thinking about turning to walk to the grave without acknowledging me. I think he thought the better of it then because he said "Hello" and gave me a brief hug. I may have smiled politely... but not warmly. I said: "I didn't expect to see you here"... and I said no more.

As un-luck would have it, I had been asked by my sister to stay at her house and look after her kids that night. I had all my things in the car ready to go straight there after the funeral, but then she told me that she wasn't actually going to be leaving for work until later that night. I didn't really mind, until she invited my dad and his wife to join us for dinner. So I ended up spending the evening with them. It was hard to stick to my plan of not making it easy for him. I was polite and answered his questions (the whole two of them: "I hear you got a new job?" and "How's hubbie?") but I kept reminding myself inside that I don't need to care about what he thinks. Of course I still do care, maybe that will never change, but I think this was a step in the right direction.

My neice found some old family photos and I was looking throught them. My dad was less than interested in the pictures of me and my siblings but more than excited to find pictures of old pet dogs that he'd had at varioys times over the course of my childhood. He was excitedly telling his wife about each one as he found the pictures of them.I wasn't able to tell who some of the babies were in the photos so I asked him. I wasn't surprised that he couldn't tell me for many of them which of my siblings they were. For some of them he said: "That must have been so and so because those curtains were in such and such a house and you weren't born then".

There weren't many pictures of me. I already knew this. I am the youngest of four. I remember clearly being told at the age of three or four that I was a 'mistake' and that they had wanted me to be a boy. I think that by the time I was born, there wasn't much interest in taking photos of me.

My dad seemed uncomfortable as we looked at the old pictures but I reminded myself that I didn't need to care and perhaps even part of me felt pleased. Maybe it was guilt he was feeling.

I was interested to note that he seemed angry when he was looking at pictures of his own father. He talked about my Grandfather and said in a bitter tone that he is a person who: "would sooner show love to a complete stranger than someone in his own family." Funny how he can identify that in his own father but can't see that he's exactly the same (one reason on my list of why I should never have kids: would I be the same?).

Not long after we had eaten, my dad announced that they would need to make tracks (even though earlier he'd said they had no plans all evening). My sister asked how long they were staying for (until the weekend) and then asked: "Will we see you again then?" My dad replied: "Probably not." Funny isn't it, he left the country because and I quote, he had "nothing left here to stay for" yet he has three full days in the country and doesn't have time to see his family. Oh yeah, I forgot: we are part of the 'nothing left'.

Talking about my dad brings up bad feelings. There are a few positives in this story though. Firstly, I am glad I didn't know he was coming because the lack of knowledge spared me from feeling ill in suspense. Secondly, I did not collapse into the depths of despair and hurt myself after seeing him (granted it was only yesterday and I haven't had a minute to do so but I am hopeful I won't). This time I am thinking about how I regret that I have physical marks to remind me of him and that I am not going to give myself any more reason to remember him. This time I made steps in the right direction. The destination is 'letting go and realising that I don't have a dad who loves me and that it doesn't matter because I don't need one'. This time I am giving myself a pat on the back for coping with the encounter rather than destroying myself for being not good enough to deserve love.

Maybe there's hope for me yet.

1 comment:

Meronym said...

It sounds like you handled the visit with marvelous control - congratulations! My abuser was my ex-husband, and I don't think I could have handled a dinner and looking at family pictures with him nearly so well.