My dad bailed when I was 3. I saw him off and on until I was 9, then my mom and step-dad moved us to California and I didn’t see my dad nor hear from him until I was 15–a few months after he quit drinking. I spent less than 2 months with him before he shipped me back to my mom because I couldn’t get along with his secretly alcoholic and abundantly abusive girlfriend. She was the controlling sort and ended up tearing him down to almost nothing before he left her. Or at least I blamed her for years. I no longer feel this way.
I thought it was timing that made this mouse of a man hard to deal with when he divorced her a year after marrying her. He avoided his family and didn’t even tell my sister or I about his marriage. We both found out about it after the divorce and it was too soon to confront him about his absence, I told myself. Give him time, he’ll recover. Except he never did. He wasn’t going to because there wasn’t anything to recover from. It would be a couple more years, after my sister killed herself, before he’d start making a consistent effort. I was 23 when she died and for 15 years I’ve been building a relationship with this man whom I called dad. I thought that he was ready to be a dad, finally. That he’d embrace his role as a parent to a self-sufficient adult-child like gangbusters. No such luck.
I embraced him. Forgave him even.
Five years ago I started bugging him about moving over here where he can be closer to his grand-kids. I was pregnant with my third child and I wanted my children to know their whole family, including my dad. I explained how easy it’d be for him to sell his house and find property over here. I let him know that I would be there for him and support him through it. I’d even let him stay with me while he worked out the buying end over here. It would have been easy for anybody else who had also built 2 houses and bought and sold 2 houses by this point in his life. The man he pretended to be on the phone never indicated he was incapable of this “small” but complicated task. The issue would reveal itself after only a few short months of living together.
This man-child was fully incapable of taking care of himself. He subsisted on donuts, cookies, chips, Coke, cigarettes and coffee, and maybe the random sandwich. I was floored by his bad habits but was willing to overlook the eating issues just to have my dad nearby for my kids to get to know. I found out the issues exceeded executive functioning and bled profusely over into daily decision making. So much so I thought he was coming down with dementia. I was reassured by his doctor that he shows no signs of dementia. I even attended an appointment with him and realized the helplessness he expressed to me was an act. He expressed concern for being able to ask the doctor questions and retain the information given. When I spoke with the doctor privately about the possibility of dementia and observed my dad interacting with the doctor, nurse and other people in the office, that he had absolutely no issues with handling this level of self care unlike he had expressed just the day before. I had skipped a very important class to attend this appointment to find that the issues he was expressing was a manipulation tactic to get more attention. He could only take care of himself if I removed myself from the equation, otherwise he would lean heavily on me for all his care.
When someone is broken, and I mean completely broken, sometimes it’s best to just let them be.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed his behaviors were hedonistic and based solely on feeling. My 18 year old son saw it too. He eventually started getting irritated with grandpas “inability to be a man, about anything.” And my son isn’t the type to show stress. He’d make a wonderful nurse or pediatric something or other. Anyhow, in the past couple months he and I have been arguing more. He reminded me just the other day that grandpas behavior was affecting him too. He’s so even keel all the time (read as superman), I forget he’s human too sometimes. And I forget how observant he is. It must be all those times he pretends to not notice anything.
It really wasn’t until this week that I realized that my father had not changed one iota from when I was a child. His hedonistic behaviors were claiming his health and he didn’t care. The clearest indicator was when his recent and first colonoscopy revealed that he had precancerous polyps and will need a colonoscopy every 2 years for the rest of his life. The ping pong ball sized lump I found in my breast last year was enough to change how I deal with life–it wasn’t cancer, but scary enough. One would assume these polyps would be just as scary. They’re precancerous for fucks sake! The doctor indicated that his eating habits caused the polyps. He responded by continuing to eat exactly the way he was before the news. (Have I explained how I’m a health nut and know more about liver function and nutrition than any civilian should know?) Nothing scared him and that’s when it hit me, he had given up on life. His behavior was that of a 14 year old kid whose parents went on vacation and left the kitchen fully stocked with the only food they can get him to eat. Except my dad is 64. One would think he’d have learned a thing or two by now.
Over the past couple months I’ve watched this man attempt running away over trivial issues multiple times. Each time I’d call him out and remind him, again, of how that behavior isn’t serving him. I’ve been telling him this for 15 years. I’ve felt like a therapist with him, and I thought I was actually having an affect. I’d teach him little tricks for regaining his lost confidence while I was learning to regain mine after leaving a domestic violence situation. He’d talk a big game on the phone, but I quickly saw once he moved in that he wasn’t doing anything he said he was doing. He was running away at every turn even when he was still physically present. Most of the time was wasted chatting on the phone with people for hours every day. And I mean 4 hours minimum spent on the phone every, single, day.
It wouldn’t be long before my son and I would notice that everything he did was about puffing himself up. I felt like I was living with my ex again. It was a nightmare. He’d yell at me when I didn’t understand what he was saying, but would gaslight and excuse himself if he wasn’t being clear. If I talked to him about a conversation I had with someone that was bothering me, he’d threaten to punch the other person in the face. I eventually stopped confiding in him because I had to explain to a 64 year old man that punching people in the face isn’t the answer to every conflict. His ego was in the way of our relationship just like with my ex. He bought a motorcycle when he already owned one. He would talk about how he loved how people would look at his new bike and admitted that it was purely for ego. Yet complained when spending that money came round and bit him in the ass.
If you haven’t been reading my blog, you won’t know that I have autism, late diagnosis. We’re slowly getting used to what that means, but one thing I know it means is I will not be apologetic about who I am. With that said, I will not tolerate a few things. I will not be told to learn something my neurological condition prevents me from learning, nor will I be apologetic for it. I will not be cursed at no matter how upset you are. I also will not live with someone who uses the silent treatment to get their way and then get even more pissed when I don’t concede to the silent treatment. Finally, I will not be subjected to someone who is completely unwilling to discuss issues and address complaints like an adult. My autism makes it hard for people who are unwilling to understand the condition. If you’re willing to understand how it works, it will be much easier to communicate with me. I’m exceedingly reasonable and scored as savant in logic on my cognitive assessment. In contrast, I also get overwhelmed by seemingly innocuous stimuli and get emotionally drained very quickly with hyper-needy/clingy people, like my dad and my ex. I need lots of alone time or chill time cuddling with my girls. That’s how I recharge in order to deal with the day to day demands of life. When someone interrupts that with expectations, pretense and excessive demands, I shut down and function on needs-only basis.
It seems obvious now that I eventually had to stop coming to him with complaints¹ because they were always met with aggression, martyrdom and the silent treatment. I eventually didn’t want to be in my own home. I eventually resented every moment he was here. I couldn’t communicate with him, I could reason with him eventually but it took days of hard work to do it, and I couldn’t get him to understand that his inaction and expectation for me to take care of him will not work with my being a pre-med student. I have a certain level of responsibility to manage and without support I will struggle, even more so than the average person. And even if I don’t get into med school in 2017, I sure as hell will have tried my best and let nothing but my very sweet, very small little girls get in my way. No one else is worth it to me. Not that, not my future.
So what did my dad give himself for Father’s Day? He bailed and this time without consulting me. I assume he overheard my son and I talking about our difficulties with him last night, so he gathered his shit together today and bailed. Not a word. Didn’t even say goodbye to my darling girls before I took them to see their dad this morning. I am a little concerned, but not surprised at all. I feel like I’ve been beat to shit over the past 5 months and, honestly, quite relieved to be starting summer quarter with an empty house. My sympathy? Oh, yeah, that went out the window when I realized the person who came over here was not the person he pretended to be on the phone. He’ll never realize what he did wrong and I will give zero fucks about it until he does. Someday I’ll make up for whatever imagined slight² he came up with, but until then I’ll continue my life as if nothing happened.
That’s it. That’s my Father’s Day. Lesson learned? Live alone, definitely don’t live with family, stop helping people who refuse to help themselves, and work on better communication. Yup, I’ve got work to do. Gotta get that empowered me going. I know she’s in there somewhere.
¹ The most common one was “please ask where something goes if you don’t know. There’s two people here to ask. Guessing where something goes and putting it away wrong just frustrates everyone in the house.”
² For some reason he was convinced that we would live together and was butthurt when I showed him my plans for a tiny house (future goal) that included a building off to the side for him. The “compound” has three buildings total. I never said we’d live together except for that long off goal. I said he could stay with me for up to 6 months while he looked for a new place or buy property. He never looked. I got tired of waiting.