Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Man Who Won't Hurt Me

This is a little heavier than I wanted to go three days before Christmas, but there is nothing like airing greivances right before a big happy family I right? (*awkward laugh*). Anyway, skip over this one if you are just looking for upbeat things to read. Come back another day when I am back to writing about how giant and dark my nipples have gotten.

I think I have written at least once about the dynamics with my dad. I thought I had come to terms with who he is and how our relationship is, despite that it isn't what I want from my sole remaining parent. I am a family girl, probably to a in when my dad does something that bothers me, I don't say anything because I have some sort of creepy unconditional love for him or some crap like that. If I could paint my own world exactly as I want it, my family would be exactly how I remember it as a child. We would have family dinner every Sunday over at my grandparent's house and go on barefoot walks around our neighborhood in the summer (man my parent's were hippies!), we would be drinking hot chocolate on Christmas Eve night and reading the Polar Express. Yes I am inching closer to 30 everyday, but these memories warm my heart and if I could have my way, I would participate in them until the day I die.
When it comes to being a grown up can I just say that some things suck ass? For instance, when you reach that age where you start to realize who your dad really is, that he has actually always been that way, and that you have just spent the last 20-some years with rose-colored glasses on. Yeah that's the part that sucks ass. I find myself desperatly looking for my rose-colored glasses and trying to fit the tiny frames over my gigantic head.
Okay here's the deal, my dad is a self-centered ass hat....and what is worse is he has always been that way. I just didn't realize it until I grew up and thought back about him. And it totally sucks because I love him. Why? Why can't I just despise him, at least to a level where I would  feel okay with the fact that it would probably take him a month to figure out if I died in a car crash?
Here's what's the happi-hap. As you probably gathered I basically hadn't talked to my dad until well before Thanksgiving. Not for lack of trying on my part. I left him messages, on the cell phone he finally got so that I wouldn't have to call his girlfriend (now wife) to get a message through to him. So he obviously has always had issues with communication. When I moved back to Colorado we had started this new family tradition of sorts. Andy and I had plans that first year for both Christmas and Thanksgiving, and the affair wounds were still nice and fresh in my mind, so spending what I consider very family-oriented holidays in the company of E.T. (evil temptress for those just joining me) was not high on my list of fun. So Butter, Dad and I decided we would have a solistice party. Where we would get together and do some sort of activity, then have dinner and have a present exchange. When the next year rolled around we had another Solstice Party, thus solidifying it as a tradition in my brain. It seemed perfect! It was something different, therefore did not infringe on those traditions that were unique to our family when my mom was alive.
Well as you might have gathered, I am a bit of an extreme planner. My calendar is usually well laid out weeks, if not months, in advance. I like knowing what is happening at all times. So I started asking my dad about Solstice in October to try to get an idea of when he wanted to have it. I get this trait from my mom. My dad is a "call two hours before heading down to Denver for a visit" kind of guy. Which drives me nuts! I can't tell you how it makes my skin crawl to get those phone calls on a Sunday morning asking if I am available to meet in a couple hours. It feels like a direct assault on me. Like he has so little respect for me, or maybe knowledge about who I am, that he is okay not making the effort to make advanced plans with me. Like I have to fit into his whims, but he could give a crap what I have going on. But what is sickening, is I then feel guilty if I am busy. Like it is my fault I am not getting to see my dad because I had other plans. So wrong.
Anyway, as you might imagine, Dad didn't have an answer for me back in October, but I thought bringing it up would get his mind rolling. Nope, that didn't happen. He finally called, I think the week before, to tell me when the Solstice party would be. But we weren't having our own solstice party, we were crashing a family friend's party instead. Um what? This is when I realized that my idea of what our Solstice party was supposed to be and what he thought it was, were totally different. The kicker was of course that I had a birthing class scheduled for that day down in Colorado Springs. The Solistice party was going to be up near my grandmother's house up north. To give you a driving perspective of this day, it would have involved Andy and I driving 1.5 hours south, spending about 5 hours at our class, then driving 3 hours north to the party, and then another 1.5 hours home later that night. Just from a resource prospective, that is a ridiculous day. My dad had also asked if the next day I could come over to his house to finish going through stuff. So 6 hours of driving on Saturday and another 2 on Sunday. At first I was trying to be accommodating, but then I remembered that I am supposed to like take care of myself and shit. So I backed out of the Solstice party.
Dad called me on Saturday to figure out our plans for meeting at the house the next day. He wanted to get up and go to the rock gym, so we set the meeting time at 1pm. My bestie was coming through DIA and had a 2 hour layover, but I told her I wouldn't be able to make it due to the plans with my dad. Sunday morning rolls around and at 11:50am, as I am getting ready to take off, Dad calls to tell me they stayed up really late the night before and were just getting going. They still wanted to go to the rock gym, could I meet him later on? Problem with that was that I had dinner plans that night and I told him I couldn't push it much later, but I agreed to push it a little. And all of a sudden everything hit me at once. I realized that I wasn't a priority to my dad. The rock gym was. He hadn't seen me in over two months. We barely talked. Someone could have kidnapped me and be impersonating me at that very moment and he probably wouldn't have figured it out....okay that might be a stretch. But seriously, when you haven't seen or spoken to your kid in that long, is it really that big of a deal to give up going to the rock gym to keep your plans?
I think it was the fact that here I had been putting extreme priority on my family and he obviously wasn't. I had told my best friend for the past decade, who I haven't seen in several months, who has been my rock through thick and thin, that I couldn't meet her for lunch at the airport because I thought this thing with my dad was more important. But it wasn't important to him. He is important to him. I was just coming over to get more shit out of his way so he could put the townhouse up for rent in time to be beneficial for his taxes or some shit. So as I went down to the bedroom to cry (hiding from Andy) I realized that my dad's world revolves around himself. And it always has.
Thinking back, this is a man who called my grandmother to ask if she could come pick my mom up and take her to her chemo treatments, not because he had to work, but so that he could go bike riding or climbing or skiing. This is a man who cheated on my mother while she was undergoing a stemcell treatment with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. This is a man who would not go to church with my mother when she asked, but then allowed this E.T. to try to convince my mother that they weren't cheating, she was trying to minister to him.
Thinking back further, this is a man who didn't want my mother to go back to school to get her BSN or her MSN and told her he would leave her if she continued on to get her PhD. Yet she had always allowed him to do all the things he wanted to do. She let him work three days a week so that he could spend the other days playing guitar or doing one of his many outdoor activities. She was completely accommodating of his wants and needs, but she wasn't allowed her own? Of course, she did it anyway (that a girl) and would have pursued her PhD, if there had been time.
Basically, I came to the realization that this is who my dad is, he has always been this. This is who I am left with. And what makes me feel guilty, is I would do anything to trade him for my mother.
As the tears fell down my cheeks, I realized what I needed. I needed my bestie. Stat. So I came upstairs. Told Andy where I was headed. He realized what was happening and talked me down a little. He reminded me that I should not let my dad upset me this much and he told me to cancel the whole day with him. 
I got in the car and drove out to DIA. Bret was still in the air, so I left her a message that I would be waiting nearby and if she still wanted to come out of security, I would meet her. I wasn't certain it would work out, she might not turn her phone on after she landed, or check her messages, but I had to take the chance. And thankfully it did. When I saw her standing across the Terminal the tears started coming. I was just so relieved to see her. Turns out she had had a rough day the day before, so we both needed each other at that exact moment. We sat down to a basket of chips and guacamole (which I am counting as a green vegetable) and were there for each other.
And I realized this was my family. Andy and Bret and the friends who I hand picked along this road in life, they are the family that I have been searching for these past 5 years without mom. I can't sit here and try to make my dad what he is not. I can't be hurt or be surprised when he doesn't become what I want him to become. I just have to find those people that fill those holes in my family and pack them in there.
So as much as I wanted to go into the townhouse, face my dad, and tell him "What the hell is wrong with you?". I took the passive aggressive road. I left the airport when Bret had to get back through security, which made me 45 minutes late to my dad's house. I decided if he wasn't going to make spending time with me a priority, then I would treat the situation the same. I would show up when I damn well pleased, because that is what he does.
I have finally decided that this man who hurt my mother to an unforgiveable degree will not hurt me.


  1. I won't insult your father because you can insult him as much as you want but if you're anything like me, no one else can. But just so you know - I think you're spot on with your revelation and your feelings about your dad. The good news is you have Andy and pretty soon you get to start making all your own new traditions as a family!

    xoxo (and yes, he sounds like quite the asshat) Oops I broke my promise not to insult your dad.

  2. This post really got me. Good for you for realizing that you can only control your reaction to him, not his actions. I think that's the kind of lightbulb realization that you have to keep having over time. Keep reminding yourself that you can only meet him half way and that may just have to be good enough.

    This post was really well written.

  3. I'm so sorry friend! I definitely understand dealing with the failings of your parents, and it sucks. :(

  4. Good for you, Natalie! This post really hit home, since I've had some big issues with my dad for the last couple years. Before that, he was never really there for me, and I remember crying on several occasions (my baptism, my high school graduation) because he didn't have the guts to show up. Now I only see him about once a year at Christmas (twice this year, because we had a 70th birthday party for my grandma). Earlier this year I just decided that I wasn't going to let him hurt me anymore. His problems are his problems, not mine, and other people have filled the holes he left in my life.

  5. Your hubby - rocks.
    Your bestie - rocks.
    You - rock.

    Your Dad - well, you said it.

    I'm glad you're putting yourself first hon.

    ps - I promised to TRY to give you a couple day heads up on my Denver visit. I'm sadly that girl who calls the morning of and gives you two hours notice usually though. :(

  6. Seriously, I thought you stopped blogging but then just realized that you changed your address. So I'm late at posting on this but I really wanted to. I feel like you and I have SO MUCH in common that it's kind of scary. I can totally relate to your relationship with your dad (my mom passed away in 2000 and my dad immediately started dating her hospice nurse. I think they were dating before she passed too). He is selfish and has proven everything in his life is more important than me. So...while our situations aren't 100% the same I can empathize with you. It has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with who my father actually is (and I often have to remind myself). The great news for both of us we are creating our OWN families with our husbands and babies! YAY!