Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Survived!

The weekend with my father wasn't too bad. I think I have found the best combination to handle his visits - a full afternoon of whale watching, and the game Rummy-O. We made meals that he enjoyed (ribs on the grill one night, lobster the next) and didn't let him do the normal thing of plunking himself down in front of the TV. When he started to head over towards the TV - I would ask if he wanted to play rummy-o - and he would head over there and we would play for a bit.

He couldn't make it through the whole weekend without offending me, of course. A quick background on my father is that he has been married 5 times, and has 5 children. He only talks to me and my half-brother Steve. I think from that you can get an idea of how great this man is with maintaining relationships. My mother kicked him out of the house when I was 2, and we had limited contact throughout my childhood. My teenage years had a constant threat of of 'if you do 'x' (dye your hair a funny color, get a tattoo, do drugs) I will disown you'. Needless to say, we weren't close. And we didn't really get closer as I've gotten older. This weekend, he had a bunch of nice gems, but the kicker was when he said, "I feel like I have 1 and a half kids. Steve has only turned out 'OK', and the rest, I wish they would lose my phone number".

Nice.

He has already 'disowned' me once. For forgetting my stepmother's birthday. We didn't speak for 6 months. Some rather nasty words were exchanged. One of the things said during that 'episode' was that my father, being that he spent over a million dollars on my education and supported me in my childhood years, deserved a phone call at least once a week and on all major holidays. I, of course, ran to the calculator and figured out exactly how much money the man spent on me (which wasn't even a 10th of the amount he said) and started thinking.

Because a parent spends money raising you, is there a rule to what they DESERVE back in return? When I have children, will I give them things with expectations from them in return? I feel that your decision to have children comes with a few basic requirements on the parents part - you are expected to fed, clothe, house, and educate your child. Of course, they also expect some encouragement, trust and love - and a decent start in life... but the first 4 are the basics. All children should get those (and of course, there are those that don't even get that, but we don't need to go there). My mother raised me to be a strong, educated, independent woman. We are close. I know she loves me unconditionally. (oh, and I call her 2 or 3 times a week).

My father judges me. He has made it abundantly clear that if a do certain things, he will not love me anymore. Not just not TALK to me, but not love me. I believe it! He has done it with 3 of his children already. It used to really upset me that he would give ultimatums like this... but as I've gotten older, I just don't listen. I'm to the point that it may be better if I don't talk to him anymore. And I know that even if he does 'disown' me, I will still love him. He is my father. But like my mother says, I may have to love him, but I don't have to like him!

To avoid conflict, I do tend to call him about once a week to get 'credit' and on 'major holidays'. But - it is a joke between Aaron and I as to what constitutes a holiday - does Veteran's Day count? And as his birthday or my stepmother's birthday roll around, we joke if I feel like getting disowned this year or not... sick, I know.

7 comments:

Chris said...

There are surely no easy answers here, but it sounds as though you are handling the situation with grace and humor. Perfect!

Samantha said...

You've got to take that relationship with a little lightness and distance! You are definitely a bigger person than your father is.

ultimatejourney said...

I agree with the previous comments.

I also wanted to add that the notion of 'owing' a parent just because they spent money on you reminds me of the notion that a guy should get laid just because he guys a girl dinner. Um, NO! You brought children into the world by choice. You do nice things for them (beyond the basics) because you want to, and then you hope that the relationship flourishes from there.

Laura, the (reluctant) baroness said...

It says a lot about you when you are able to manage a relationship like that. You are a very big person.

You never "owe" your parents anything monetary/physical. My mom tried to pull that on me once.

Again, good job maintaining your relationship with your dad.

Changing Expectations said...

Sounds like you are the adult here! I have a hard time with my parents too. It's tough.

Geohde said...

Gawd. You poor thing.

Sometimes 'family' can be a burden, huh? You're very patient, I have to say.

I'm lucky that my father is wonderful.

My bio mother, however, I refuse to get to know. I don't need it.

Schatzi said...

giirrrrll. I don't know how you do it. I'm glad he's gone and that you have been able to laugh about the whole situation all along.

I'm thinkin' distance is good!