Yesterday my father came up to me (I’m visiting home), already visibly annoyed, shaking something in his hand. He showed me; it was a cd I bought him just a few months ago for his birthday. At the time he had put it into the player immediately and said he loved it, oh how thoughtful, etc etc.
“Is this yours?” is what he asked me, brusquely, his eyebrows in a twist which these days seems nearly permanent. It made my heart sink, and the only way I could think of to answer was just to say “No.” Well, it was true anyway.
As I found out later, he was trying to find some discs that had gone missing, and he must have been irritated because he considered the presence of this foreign cd to be evidence of someone fiddling with his machine.
It’s not just that he didn’t remember this one specific thing, or that his mind went directly to some paranoid interpretation of his mis-facts. It’s not that he’s the most impossible person to get a gift for; books sit on shelves untouched, ever, colored pencil sets never opened — so you have to wonder yourself what the point is in the first place. I don’t think he even understands a gift as most people do. I think he sees life and relationships as just a series of obligations, and he’s passed that on in a way, a useless obligation to get something for someone who won’t remember it at all even the next week. I hate to feel that cynical about it.
I feel like such a contradiction because family is extremely important to me, yet I have such a negative relationship with someone in it, who by definition I shouldn’t. It might even stem from the fact that family is not as important to him as I would want it to be. And I’m sure there’s a lot of hypocrisy in my attitudes here.
It’s been my whole life, but I still don’t know how to deal with having a father who’s so a-social. Battling against repeating the cycle. And, even unselfishly, I can’t understand how my mother puts up with it. Someone who’s irritable most of the time, accusatory, who has no interest i really being present, doesn’t just want to spend time with her throughout the day. For 30 years she’s just been trying to get him to sit down and have a drink with her before dinner, and it just never happens, there’s always something else to wander off and do. It makes more sense since I’ve found out about a mental disorder that explains parts of it; but then the secrecy just makes it more frustrating. I’m not sure my mother even knows the full story — I only really found out by googling what his prescriptions were supposed to treat. That’s probably wrong of me, but to me family shouldn’t mean secrets, even though now it’s one that I keep as well.
They say you end up marrying someone like your father, that that’s who you’re attracted to, upsides, downsides and all. Is that true? Is it inevitable? To me the idea is terrifying, but I’ve read Oedipus, I know that even by trying to avoid fate you make it happen. I guess I’ll just have to hope that Homer and Freud are wrong, at least for me.