Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Mostly Crappy Weekend with Dad - a Diatribe

I recently went to visit my Dad in PA. We see each other 2, maybe 3 times a year. I was looking forward to this visit: we had planned it in the summer so I knew I could get time off, and he was hosting a race event for his running club. Friday morning I packed my bags and Fred, ran the car through the carwash (someone was stabbed in my neighborhood and used my car as a blood recepticle. The police said he was a bad guy anyways, apologized, helped me take the crime tape off my car, and let me through the blockades. Ah, Manch.)

From the start my Dad was distracted by race details. I know what it's like to organize a big event, so I was there and ready to help. Having never worked on a race like this (crewing is for one person, working on the race is for all of them) I was a little nervous, but the other volunteers were nice and helpful. Registrations got screwed up, then I screwed things up more during our work around, then the computer system they were using to track runners got screwed up, the people taking the tags didn't do it right, and on and on. It wasn't *that* bad, but for the 4th or 5th time of doing this event, it was more issues than it should have been. Dad was running around trying to fix everything. After the race he was pretty disappointed.

Still, we had lunch at Stoudt's with some of the other volunteers. We reviewed some of the things that went wrong to learn from it, and had a pretty good time after that. I was glad the race was done so I could just hang with my Dad. Oh, except LoLo's daughter and grandson were stopping by this evening. Oh, ok. I mean, *I'm* visiting you, so it's a little weird, but she was a pretty cool girl and her son was cute and well-behaved, so it didn't turn out too badly.

Before she came over my Dad dropped an emotional bomb: "I'm toying with the idea of not coming to Christmas this year. It's starting to feel like an obligation." What? The ONE time of year that we have standing plans, and it feels too much like an obligation? I'm sure my indignation read plainly on my face because he started backpedaling and "explaining" etc. "It's not an obligation to visit you, just the family Christmas stuff." Ok, I know my Dad, and I get that. But still... "I still want to see you this winter, when else do you have time?" Um, I don't. I have time at Christmas because that's when you're there so I block it off all year. It's not easy for me to take time off of work when it's not school vacation. "I'll look at my calendar and send you a few dates, you can let me know." Yeah. Sure. Wow was I feeling shitty.

I *like* tradition. In a big family with separated parents, tradition helps you enjoy the holiday and not feel stressed or emotionally blackmailed. It's like, we agreed upon this arrangement, now we can just enjoy it. This year both my parents decided to fuck with my tradition, and it's felt like an attack. (Mom's story is mostly resolved, but that's another entry). I was not totally involved for the rest of the evening, which I felt a little bad about, but my Dad ended up wasted and falling asleep on the couch, so in the end I was hanging out with LoLo and her daughter.

We had planned on going on a hike the next day. It was sunny and warm and a perfect fall day. I decided to put the Emotional Bomb away for now - we only had one day left - and just enjoy my time with Dad. We had a good morning, and a great hike. We went to this lookout and saw bald eagles and red-tailed hawks. We did a little exploring around historic areas by the river. All in all, the kind of day I like to have with my Dad.

On our way home we go to his other favorite bar. We're among the first ones there - it's just 4pm. I order a beer, he gets a gimlet. And another. We get food and the bartender from Stoudt's comes in after his shift. Dad knows both bartenders *really* well. I decide to indulge and get a martini. Dad wouldn't let me drive us home anyways - he's pretty touchy about that. I'm starting to have a shitty time. Dad's not really talking to me, gimlets are being poured for him without even needing to ask. I'm not really talking to him. We head home, I'm pretty drunk, he might be too for all I know. Sound like a pattern? Sound like the apple doesn't fall far? Yeah....

We're sitting around talking. He asks me about My Runner - we've talked about him several times, but this time Dad asks with that same look my mom gets: "I'm worried you started this relationship so soon after the Boy." I give him the same response I give my mom and everyone else: we worried about that too. Now, it's our own relationship. The Boy and I were done a long time before we broke up.

This is when Dad kinda sorta accuses me of cheating. "It's almost like you had him waiting in the wings." I blink. Seriously? I didn't even know My Runner when the Boy and I broke up. He backs down on that argument and we start talking about the Boy - relationship autopsy stuff. "Well, I always thought he was cheating on you." Again, with the blinking. What? "Well, his behavior, always going to his 'sister's' house, you know." No, this would be the first time I would consider that.... "Plus he accused you of cheating when you broke up. Transference." Hmm, let's think about where the transference might be coming from in this scenario.... Still, why didn't you say something? "Well, I didn't want to stick my nose in your business." YOU'RE MY FUCKING FATHER, THAT'S YOUR JOB!! Especially if you think I'm in a bad relationship! You thought the Boy had a drinking problem, you didn't mention that until things were almost over either. Don't you care that I spent 4 years with an a-hole and you never said anything? It might not have changed the outcome, but then again, it might have. And at least I would have known you cared enough to try.

This is about when I stop remembering things. I went to the car to charge my phone and called Face. Basically ranted this entire post to her. I'm sure she was loving and commiserating and very comforting. I don't really remember, but I know her and that's what she would have done. I called My Runner - luckily he didn't answer since I have NO idea what I would have said. I woke up at 2am on the couch, thoughts of all the crap Dad had said swirling around my brain. A shower, water, and some Advil and I was back asleep and SO ready to leave town in the morning.

Dad made raspberry pancakes for breakfast. I had already packed everything up and was ready to go. We went over directions. I apologized for passing out - I remember how I felt when he did it and to turn around and do it to him... well, who knows if he even cared. I loaded the car, herded Fred into his cage, and said goodbye to Dad. "Next time maybe you can stay for more than 2 days, huh?" I guess by now I should have expected the emotional blackmail. I just laughed - what else could I do? I was so not interested in thinking about a next time right now. I just wanted to go home.

My relationship with Dad hasn't always been good. I remember him sitting me down after attending a 4th of July parade in NJ when my parents were separating, trying to convince me that I should tell the judge I want to live with him. I was 8. After a short engagement, he eloped with his second wife while I was in high school. The original plans were for a small wedding, and Brother and I were one of 6 invitees. That made me feel so special - only to have it taken away with the news of their elopement... 3/4's of the way down a card. I didn't talk to him for years, if I could help it. Took me almost 4 years to tell him how bad it was. She turned out to be a douche and it was really hard to not say "I told you so" when they were getting divorced, but I didn't because that's not what people do when someone you love is hurting. It took a long time for us to build up to the relationship we had... Had. I don't know who this guy was that I visited, but if he's Dad now, I'm not happy with the place that he's in. He's my Dad, and I still love him, but I really don't like him right now.

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  • At 1:38 PM , Blogger Heather said...

    After my however-many-year disaster of a relationship with Mike, my dad told me that he never liked him and thought he was bad for me. THANKS. He responded just as your dad did when I asked him why he never said anything to me about it.

    Being a parent means caring enough to be the bad guy. We have a lot of friends. Sometimes we just need a father. I'm sorry your dad wasn't there for you, Leah.


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