Posted by: jt | October 14, 2010

but if you try sometimes, you just might find

This feels really fanficcy, but it’s also probably appropriate:

Content Warning: Dark themes, including fantasizing about the death of a parent and discussion of (past) suicidal tendencies. Implied violence (off-screen), utter clichés and really, exceptionally childish behavior. May be triggering.

This post is not what I want this blog to be. One of the reasons entries here have been so sparse over the last…forever, despite having copious amounts of time since quitting my job, is that I like to write things that are funny. Maybe pithy, maybe poignant, maybe ranty, but the part of me that’s always wanted to be a stand-up comedian needs it to be at least a little bit funny. When I can’t access that humor, I rarely write.

I certainly don’t always succeed in finding the humor in things – even when there’s potential for it. But still.


Last night, my father was exceptionally rude to me. I responded in a way that was, admittedly, childish. His reaction was one of the most over-the-top I’ve ever seen from him. I should say, experienced with him, because it was certainly a physical altercation that left me feeling attacked, violated and unsafe. He didn’t actually hit me or physically injure me in any way, but then his abuse has always taken a different form.

The door of the room I’m staying in doesn’t have a lock on it. I barricaded it before going to sleep. Rationally, I know the odds of that being necessary indicate that I was overreacting. Realistically, I knew there was no way I was going to fall asleep without it.

My mom witnessed the entire thing and, after my father had left the room, turned to me and said, “Well, that’s going to take a lot to…” “To what?” I snorted. “Smooth over,” she replied. Smooth over. Because that’s as good as it gets with my father. He’s absolutely incapable of admitting he’s ever done anything wrong. In the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, I have never once heard him apologize. For anything. Not for accidentally bumping into someone, not for farting in public, not for kicking the front door of our house in after he fought with my sister, not for screaming at me every day of my life from when I was 11 – 18.

We smooth over. He stews for a while – minutes, hours or days, depending upon the level of escalation – and the rest of us pretend nothing happened. Smooth.

It’s a total fucking cliché, complete with the fact that he only treats his family this way. To everyone else, he’s smiles and friendly, albeit awkward, chatting.

I’ve been here since the end of August. He’s said less than 500 words to me in that time.

When I arrived from Seattle, I was pretty broken. I left Seattle because I knew, I couldn’t deal with being there any longer. Every day before work, I’d stand in the shower and give myself a pep talk that I could do this, it would be okay, it would be okay, it would be okay. On the bad days, I would wait for a bus instead of taking my usual walk into work because I didn’t trust myself to cross the bridge going over the interstate. Every time I’d walk across it a voice in my head would whisper that it would be so much easier to just lean over the railing. And fall. Headfirst into interstate traffic. Staying in the cold, isolated, dreary, dead-end gloom that was my Seattle, was not an option.

When I got here, he wasn’t here. He knew when my mom and I were due to arrive – we’d called and let him know the time. He was out running errands. When he got back, he greeted me with stilted, “Hello,” and then turned to talk to my mom. He still hasn’t asked me how I am.

I’ve definitely always borne the brunt of his abuse (even my mom and sisters agree with that), but it’s far from limited to me. Sometimes it’s not outright abusive, just him being a completely inconsiderate asshole and deliberately demonstrating just how little he values you. Just that.

A couple of weeks ago it was my mom’s birthday. He went out about half and hour before she was due home and bought her a card. I spent four hours cooking a seriously fucking ridiculous dinner, including melt-in-your-mouth sirloin steaks that I was optimistic even he might compliment. Five minutes after my mom got home from work, he was out the door to a Lion’s Club meeting, without so much as mentioning her birthday. He ate dinner there. He was too full to join us for cake when he got back.

Honestly, my mom and I had a much more pleasant evening without him, but, as was pointed out to her by both her parents and my sister when they called, he really should have stayed home. She agreed. I thought he could have at least deigned to ask my mom if she minded if he went, but I have always been the problematic one with my questions.

I realized, sort of to my astonishment, last night as I was barricading myself in, I don’t hate him. I no longer care enough to hate him. I just want him out of my life.

After I swallowed my mom’s smooth over comment, I told her that my life would be so much easier if she’d just divorce him. It’s not the first time I’ve told her that. I once swore that I never would, but I broke down on the drive out from Seattle when she was, in her own perverse, emotionally-stunted way, trying to prep me for the reality of spending time under the same roof as him by rehashing every moment she could think of when he’d treated me like shit. I finally lost it and told her that she didn’t have a clue; That the incidents she remembers so vividly as being awful are all just a blur for me because they were entirely normal. They’re just tiny, ordinary drops in the massive bucket of abuse. I told her how I used to pray that they would get divorced – the kind of blindly fervent prayers I was only capable of as a small child. I didn’t mention that I remember them starting when I was around 7. There’s a myth in my family that things only really got bad when my father “retired,” when I was 11. We’ll leave that small mercy for now.

As I sat in the chair where, 30 minutes prior, my father had accosted me, it occurred to me that divorce wouldn’t really work at this point. I think it might have helped when I was a kid. Only seeing us on weekends or (the real hope was for) every other weekend might have made time spent with us actually of interest. Now, though, my mom would always yearn for some kind of reconciliation (even as she continues to promote the oh-so-healthy smooth over method) and I know: divorce is never going to happen here. They’re both far too codependent and there’s just no way my mom would ever face the (self-inflicted) shame and humiliation of a divorce a) in the small town she lives in and b) with her stupidly conservative family.

The only time this cycle is going to end is after he’s died. I wish I could feel bad about writing that, but I can’t. He is not and has never been a father to me. He is, and has only ever been, a negative presence in my life. I came to terms with that years ago and now, I just don’t want to have to deal with it any more. It’s just tedious. I’ve stopped letting him hurt me and, at this point, it’s just boring and annoying putting up with his stupidity. When he dies, I don’t know what I’ll grieve, because I’ve already done my grieving. I’ll grieve for my mom, I suppose. For the years she’s wasted with this asshole. For marrying the wrong man. She’s essentially admitted that. My father was her rebound guy, she was raised that sex outside of marriage was evil, and hormones were flying fast. 36 years later, it’s unhappily ever after.

My father is only 63, so odds are, we have a ways to go here. A long, sullen, angry way.

Y’know what my fantasy is though? After my father is gone, my mom will find someone who actually cares about her. Maybe I could come home to a happy place where people try to be kind to each other. It won’t be perfect, but it would be comfortable – the sort of place that has a few wrinkles around the edges that you can acknowledge and recognize, and learn from, without having to smooth them over.


This post? This isn’t what I want this blog to be. That’s not a judgment or a statement of disappointment, it just annoys me because it’s not what I want.



  1. All I can say is, holy hell do I know how you feel. And, as cruel as it might sound? My dad was only 65 when he died so… who knows what the world might have in store for him.

    Although always better to plan for some sort of coping mechanism should the old bastard live to be 100.



  2. I figured you would either be, RELATE, RELATE, RELATE or slightly triggered. I guess it shouldn’t really be surprising to me just how many people I know who would fall into that category. There are way too many asshole “fathers” in the world. :P

    Today’s coping mechanism is just ignoring him – essentially pretending I’m in my better place where he doesn’t exist. It’s not a long term solution, but it’s working for the moment.

    He’s on medication for a gazillion health problems – you can’t be that angry all the time without it taking its toll, but yeah.

    Also, thanks. (((())))

  3. I’m past being triggered (most of the time anyway)… all I can say is, it sure is nice to be able to go to Augusta and RELAX. I go to my mom’s house (it feels awkward to call it “home,” since I have my own home… semantics) and can just chill, do whatever, not have to constantly be on edge. I think it was on a visit a few months after his death that I first noticed that STRIKING difference and was just blown away by the fact that I wasn’t constantly sitting there with TENSION in my body.

    When I was little I prayed to the God I didn’t even really believe in (and only had a vague concept of) for them to get divorced. Later I stopped praying for that and just starting wishing he was dead. After he overcame cancer in the early 90s and was consistently given a clean bill of health in the years afterward, I was continually blown away and just resigned myself to the fact that he’d be one of those people who does all the wrong things and lives to be 100. Even after he had his first stroke in 2006 I figured he’d hang on for fucking ever. Imagine my surprise when it all ended so quickly.

    And yes, I cried at his funeral but even now I can’t say exactly what I was crying about/for. Grief is complicated.

    Not to make this all about me, but… just thought maybe a little empathy would be helpful.

  4. Even though I haven’t been the friend to you that I should in the past couple of years, please know that I love you very much. I think what is “best” about all this is that you have not perpetuated the anger that he has brought down on your family. If anything, you have focused your life on helping people understand one another for the better. Even with his “asshattery,” that’s a great smack in his face.


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