My father and I have vacillated between having a great relationship and not speaking. We’ve often butted heads because of our similarities and my inability to kowtow to him like my siblings. He’s done silly things to try and control me when I was younger: threatening his financial support when I was dating someone who he did not approve, bartering with me – I’ll help you buy a new couch if you stop fostering rescue dogs and so on.
The caveat: I know I should be lucky that I have a dad who does love me unconditionally even if he cannot always control his verbal diarrhea. He has and will continue to be there for me when I need him. Dad, just please stop sucking me into your drama.
He calls me recently to discuss how he wants to talk to me about something. Considering his health issues and recent health CT Scan I get concerned. He tells me not to worry and it’s just about some stress in his life. I know he’s been depressed about an upcoming eviction of a long time tenant and despite inviting me to join him in meetings, never follows through. It’s not that, he assures. But I also know how he lied to my sister about his cancer and mislead her into thinking he would be visiting so I do not trust him.
The two times I call, I’m distracted enough that he does not want to “go into it”. Finally I get through and he begins his speech.
His back has been hurting which I believe this has a direct relationship to my back pain the previous week. He attributes this to stress. He is stressed about our relationship. And apart from me rushing him off the phone when the kids distract me by spilling a bucket of paint, he cannot pinpoint an incident. He’s asking for my help to assure him of our relationship.
Despite being a writer, I have no idea how to respond. I answer his request to tell him I don’t hate him. I mention how we’ve seen each other almost every day of the summer and with no concrete examples except my abruptness on the phone when he is detailing his most recent workout his claim has little foundation in reality.
I no longer ask my dad for money and rarely seek his business advice. And I think it pains him not to have that persuasion over my life. There is no threat he can make to manipulate me to appease his wishes. My role in the relationship is determined by what I want not what he wants and expects.
It’s been liberating for me to define our dynamic on neutral terms and not by a sense of obligation. My mom used to forgive my dad’s antics saying, he’s doing the best he can. I’ve come to accept him for who he is and set realistic expectations of my dad (he’ll rarely be on time and doesn’t follow through with half of his invitations). Hopefully this will be enough for me to get engulfed in his drama.