Archive for the ‘Dad’ Category

Ways to Word Things So That You Don’t Sound Like a Verbally Abusive Ass
June 6, 2010

I know, I’ve been gone for a while. Sorry guys. I’m in the process of finishing up a four week writing intensive summer class, transferring schools, getting the apartment paperwork finalized, looking for a new job, working at my old job, balancing a new relationship and old social life and catching up with my mom who is back from a nearly year long stay in California with her mother and late father. The car is fixed but leaking and/or burning oil which has been a rough spot for both my father and I. We ended up having a spat today because the car has traveled about 1000 miles since I last got the oil changed and it was at least 2 qt.s low when we checked it today. I don’t want the engine to throw a rod… again. But at the same time I told my father that dropping a new engine in an already totaled car (the entire top half of a fully grown oak landed on it in an ice storm causing mostly superficial damage) that’s had a history of acting up wasn’t a good idea. He didn’t listen and now look where we are. This is a letter written in response to the argument we got in today that I’m on the fence about sending. I really want him to know exactly how he affects me, but at the same time I fear damaging our relationship any more than it already has been. Read and any advice will be welcomed.

What you said:
“Since you’ve proven to me that you aren’t capable of taking the least bit of responsibility upon yourself and doing the simplest task, I’ve filled your oil for you.”

What I heard:
“You’re entirely useless and your incompetency with even the simplest of tasks disgusts me so I filled your oil. You’ll just end up failing again when you move out but I won’t be there to save you.”

*** Interestingly enough, this is the type of dialogue that appears in verbally and emotionally abusive relationships; which psychologists have shown are just as traumatizing as physically abusive ones, perhaps even more so because emotional and psychological scars take much longer to fade than physical ones. Often times the one being abused makes excuses for the abuser, telling herself that, “This is just how he shows that he cares”. Eventually, if the abused person is exposed to such negativity over prolonged periods of time, she will come to believe it, thus convincing herself that she is indeed useless or helpless and will begin to act according to the persona that her abuser has created for her.

What you could/should have said:
“I know you’ve been busy with school lately, but you really do need to watch the oil in that car. I went ahead and filled it this time because I know you’re doing homework, but the next time you need to check and fill it yourself. If you need help, just ask me. ”

What I would have heard:
“You’ve been busy and I don’t want to distract you from your school work, but this is also important. I filled the oil this time, but you need to learn to do this when I’m not there. I just want you to be prepared when you move out so that something doesn’t happen to you or the car.”

*** See the difference? While the first is accusatory, the second leaves absolutely no room for retaliation. It’s protective and nurturing rather than condescending and degrading and will allow for civilized conversation to occur rather than starting an altercation.

***As a side note, I think it is important to tell you that, barring physical abuse, you are one of the most hurtful people I’ve ever encountered. You aren’t intentionally malicious, but that is perhaps what makes it all the more worse. You care and I know that, but your method of caring is counter-productive and serves to alienate me more than anything. It’s also highly confusing because if anyone else spoke to me in the way that you did (for example, think of if Gerry were to say half of the things to me that you do), I would eject them from my life and never speak to them again. As you are my father, I cannot do that to you. I really do want a good relationship with you and for all my life I’ve only ever wanted to make you proud. But you are so rarely happy with what talents I have to offer that I’ve begun to stop trying to impress you. Instead, all I get is harsh criticism. Despite what you may think, preaching does not build character, it does not make me a better person, and it does not teach me a lesson. When you begin to preach, I shut down and stop listening. I tune you out because listening to you explain all of my failings and describe the ways in which I haven’t lived up to your expectations hurts too much.

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Big Boys
February 9, 2010

In my house fights are common. Not fist fights, but verbal exchanges. The usual contenders are myself and my father. There’s just something about us, like oil and water, we don’t mix. I love him to death, but I swear that his dying breath with have something to do with the chores that I didn’t get done. It’s been a while since we had a brawl, so it came as no surprise when tonight we let fly with words that hit like freight trains. The following is a poem inspired by just this experience.

 

I once heard my mom tell my brother
that big boys don’t cry.
But I think that’s a lie
’cause I’ve seen my fair share of tears
pourin’ from the eyes of the men that I hold most dear.
And every time it’s almost more than I can bear,
because big boys don’t cry.

But what about the night when my grandma fell,
and I watched my dad fall apart
just like her hip, her spine,
the vertebrae compressed into dust,
like iron left out to rust,
leaving the rest of us
to comfort my 45 year old father,
bawling like a toddler,
because he was scared to lose his mother.
But big boys don’t cry.

Then there was that night,
that same grandma nearly lost her life.
When she came back she said she saw the light
and she touched God.
You know what I saw?
I saw my grandpa, his eyes red,
with tears flowing down the wrinkles in his face,
and I didn’t have to see it,
I could smell the empty bottle of gin at his place!
And he rocked in that chair by her bed,
his hands over his head,
beggin’ “Please God, not tonight!
Don’t take her from me yet.
Take my life instead!”
But big boys don’t cry.

Or what about those days when
life throws me just a little more than I can take an’
a simple exchanging of words
becomes and altercation
where I tell my father that I hate him.
I say, “I was never yours;
in fact, I wish I’d never been born!
And I can’t wait to leave this place
just so I never have to see your face again!”

And I stop.
And I breath in.
And I look at him.
And I can see, clear as day,
the fear and the pain
in the tears rollin’ down his face
as he watches his baby girl say
that she doesn’t want anything to do with him
and his world.
And I realize
for the first time
in my life
that I hold my Daddy’s heart in my hand
and I’m breaking it again and again
with every word that comes from my lips.

But big boys don’t cry,
so he just says, “Goodnight,”
and leaves me standing there
with his still warm heart in my hands
and a trail of tears that spell out, “I love you,”
on laminate kitchen floors.
And I finally understand
that it takes a man
to shed a tear for the ones
that he loves and holds dear
when life’s just a little too rough,
because big boys don’t cry.

Second-String Adonis
January 8, 2010

Written Nov 15, 2009

I can hear it now,
that voice that used to make me want to shit my pants.
That resounding baritone, thick with judgment.
My father is angry… Again.
And my brother is caught in his path,
taking the lashing of disdain,
holding up under the pain
of being informed
once more
by your own flesh
that you’re a disappointment.
That you’re not good enough.
That, for the millionth fucking time,
you’ve failed.
At what,
we’re not even sure half the time.
We’ve come to accept our father’s unexplained outbursts,
seeing them as commonplace,
just another day,
at home.

Home is where the heart is,
but I don’t think our hearts are here,
nestled amongst empty beer cans and tear-stained pillows.
I think maybe they’re still in the bleachers,
overlooking the football field where,
for a little while during the year,
one of us could make Dad proud.
Never me,
just another face in a dim crowd,
but my brother shone under those lights like a God,
my father’s second-string Adonis.

It was as if that jersey masked his mortality
and those pads broadened his shoulders from youthful boyishness
to something more like a man.
And now those same shoulders sag
under the weight of our father’s damnation
and there’s nothing I can do to save him
from an old man’s self hatred.
Like in some Grimm fairytale,
I often wonder if my father asked,
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
reveal to me all my flaws,”
and like that he was given two children
who each display the traits that he,
in himself,
despises.

So we try to do right,
we share all our toys and attempt to play nice.
We’ll keep the house clean,
work and save for the American dream
that our father could never achieve
because how can you please a man
who doesn’t understand
happiness?

Lady Gaga and Daddy Issues
January 8, 2010

I have shied from the musical hurricane that the world calls Lady Gaga. I dislike pop music . Techno bothers me. I avoid clubs at all costs and would not hesitate to throw my own mother under a truck if it meant I never had to step foot in a dark room with a dance floor and flashing strobe lights (Love you, Mom!). I’m just not a fan of crowds and screaming fan girls. And I tend to make that abundantly clear.

However, my mother is back home from an extended visit in California (the full story behind her seven month stay in SoCal will be covered in later blogs, I promise) and my cousin has given her a Lady Gaga CD. Damnit…

Not only does my mother have the CD Fame Monster, but she likes it. And she’s playing it right now. The surprising thing is that I’m not trying to rupture my own ear drums in an attempt the escape the auditory torture that is Lady Gaga. In fact, I kind of like some of her songs, namely Paparazzi. Why? I think it might be the underlying Daddy issues in the song. Perhaps it’s just something that I noticed, reading my own issues with my father into the lyrics. But the line “…I’ll follow you until you love me, Papa-Paparazzi” caught my attention and as I listened to the song I was struck by the thought of a girl doing all she could to win affection from someone, anyone, in an attempt to fill the void left from the lack of affection from a father figure. Not that, you know, I’ve had to deal with that in my own life or anything… >_>

All denial aside, it’s tough to feel abandoned by someone that you love, even worse when that person lives in the same house that you do. It isn’t that my father ignores me entirely, it’s just that there is a certain level of apathy he has towards a lot of the things I’m interested in. For five years spanning middle and junior high school I competed in speech, memorizing and reciting comical stories and poems. I have five first place medals from those years, having never blundered nor faltered during my competitions. As I recall, he went to one of them because my mother could not make it and I’d needed a ride home.

My brother on the other hand played football for two years in junior high and then in high school. He was a bench warmer. That isn’t to say that he was terrible, but he wasn’t a natural player and didn’t have the years of practice that a lot of his peers did. Naturally, the super-competitive coaches played the more experienced players most often. After all, school sponsored sports are about winning, not teamwork! That’s just silly.

But we went to almost every home game. We went to all but the farthest away games. I can even remember my father asking me id I wanted to go to a college stadium an hour or so away because my brother would be playing there. And he played, for all of five minutes. But they were the proudest five minutes of Dad’s life.

Me? I’m not sure when my dad was most proud of me. Maybe it was when I made him a deer antler pen in wood shop my freshman year. Maybe it was when I got a 29 on my ACT or when my CAT5’s came back and I consistently placed above the national and state averages for every field. Physical things like craftsmanship and test scores are things he can understand. But the things that I am most proud of, like my more personal artwork, poetry, and writing aren’t things that he can grasp. So he ignores them and I don’t push the issue. But it’s tough when the man that I love the most, the man that I most want to make happy and be proud of me and to love me, only seems to recognize me when I’ve done something that interests him and not something that I’m truly passionate about.

Of course, there is more to our relationship than just the lack of mutual interests. We have our good times and we have our worse times. And much as it may seem that our relationship is one-sided with me being the attention starved one, there is a certain amount of ignoring on my part as well. But I do owe my father a lot. He’s a provider for our family, working hard to try and give my brother and I what he thinks we need. But being a father isn’t about giving us enough money or televisions or cars (beat up as they might be). It’s about spending time with us. And much as we try to tell him that, he still seems to feel as if he’s failed as a father because we aren’t living in a mansion with everything we could possibly ever want. And I’m too proud to tell him that all I ever wanted was for him to read one of my poems, try his best to understand it, and tell me that he’s proud of me, even if he still has no idea what the poem is about.

And with that all said, the following blog entry is a poem, inspired by my father, that I will never ever let him read.