About my Father
Today, Father’s Day 2015, my Facebook news feed is filled with posts from friends proclaiming their love for the “best dad anyone could ask for”, along with pictures from childhood and adolescence.
I have not taken part in this. Perhaps I have on a few occasions in the past, but generally, I do not write tributes to anyone on Facebook. The most someone would get is a joke or childhood reference, or simply just a short acknowledgement. The world does not need to know my deepest feelings about the people in my life, no matter how positive they may be.
But I don’t have much to say about my father. At least, nothing that I want all of Facebook to know about. I cannot truthfully write that my dad is the best dad in the world, or that I couldn’t have asked for someone better. Because that would be a lie. I could have easily asked for someone better. But that isn’t the way life works. Your parents are your parents, you don’t get to choose them.
The early parts of my childhood were great. I was close with both my mom and dad, and, after he was born, my little brother as well. But once I began elementary school, my dad stopped paying attention to me. He wasn’t involved in my life anymore, and when I asked him to do anything with me, he always declined. It’s not that he was even busy. He just didn’t want to. I guess I was boring to him. Go ask your mom instead.
Also when I was in elementary school, my father developed a drinking problem. I did not notice anything was really wrong until I was about ten, when I would hear my mom yelling at him for it. He became even more detached from my life. Looking back on it, I should have known something was wrong when I was seven years old, the day he threw a plate at my mother and it hit her in the face. I knew this picture wasn’t correct, but I was too young to fully comprehend what was happening.
This sort of sporadic violence, accompanied by plenty of angry threats, continued until I was 20 years old. It only ended because I called the cops on him one day for hitting my brother. That’s what it took for him to stop being so threatening. And let’s not forget the nights of drunken driving, the accusations that I was a whore for having a boyfriend, and passing out at other people’s homes from drinking too much wine that happened up until that point.
My therapist mentioned something interesting to me a few weeks ago. I was telling her about my last boyfriend, and how when he had tried to leave me on several occasions, I had begged and pleaded with him to reconsider, to work things out with me. I told her how pathetic it made me feel to have to beg for someone’s affections like that. To have to beg for anything at all.
She told me I was suffering from something called “repetition compulsion”, which I looked up soon after our session was over. According to the internet, repetition compulsion is described as:
A psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again. This includes reenacting the event or putting oneself in situations where the event is likely to happen again.
She said that because I had tried many times to get my father to pay attention to me without success, I now do the same thing with people I date. When they express a loss of interest or affection or trust, I try hard to make them see why staying with me is worth it. Why I am worth it. It’s like each time is a new chance to “get it right.”
This means that unless I am able to let go of all this fucked up shit from my childhood, it will continue to disrupt my romantic relationships, should I have any in the future. It makes me feel ashamed to think how much of a hold my dad still has on me, even though we barely have a relationship. Or maybe it’s precisely because we don’t have much of a relationship.
My father isn’t all bad, though. He worked hard and made enough money to support the family. We always had enough food to eat and a place to live. The bills were paid on time. He paid my college tuition.
While grateful, a part of me still feels as though this isn’t enough. How can you give praise to someone who did the bare minimum? He kept me physically alive and off the streets. But that is the very least you can do for your child. There was no nurturing, no feelings of comfort, and many feelings of danger when I was at home.
Once I was in my twenties, he started treating me like a real person. Now that I am in graduate school, he brags about me all the time. People tell me I must be so happy that he is so proud of me.
But I’m not. Because it’s too late. When I needed his love and attention, I didn’t get it, even when I asked for it. I am an adult now. I no longer require his approval. And I often wonder how he would treat me if I wasn’t successful, if I wasn’t pursing a difficult degree from a prestigious school that he could tell others about. Would he still be proud of me?
Probably not. Because as much as I hate to admit this to myself, I never believed that his love for me was unconditional. He only loves me when it is convenient for him.
Happy Father’s Day.