When My Father Calls, It’s Worse Than When He Doesn’t
I always feared my father growing up, though this fear was not inspired by his presence, nor did it arise from the assumption he may hurt me; I was always afraid he may never acknowledge me at all, which would inspire much more pain than any physical ailment ever could. At his best, my father was nothing more than an ideal placed upon a pedestal by my own self, and at his worst, a barrier with direct intentions to oppose anyone that may try to cater to my self-esteem, or, even more severely s, a roadblock in which I would spend time examining with great disappointment, rather than trying to free the path in which it stood.
During early adolescence, my father took it upon himself to fulfill the agreed upon obligation that required him to pick me up from my mother’s house every second weekend for a visit, where I was to remain until lazy Sunday afternoons. During this brief time, I had believed him to be a figure in which I could invest trust, and did so with such abandon that I blinded my own self with images of his false intentions, for they were much more beautiful, and certainly more fulfilling than the understanding I would soon come to.
On occasion, he would arrive in a timely manner, and await me from the rear of the vehicle; I knew this because on the Fridays I knew he was due to pick me up, I would spend long hours waiting nervously by the window, turning objects over and over in my hands. I was always apprehensive, nearly resembling the only degree of foresight a child could possibly acquire; until the very moment his truck swung into view and careened to the familiar stop below the expanse of lawn, I truly believed he wasn’t going to show. When he did, it was pure exuberance on my behalf, and I found it was simple to forget past instances where he had found no discomfort in allowing me to wait. When he refrained from showing without so much as a phone call, I did not leave the front bay window in order to keep hope alive, even when my mother would approach to tell me, always in fragile undertones, that he wouldn’t be coming by this week.
Despite the patterns of absence that began to expose themselves no matter how desperately I fought against the realizations, I still pined for him to show, and often cried crocodile tears when he didn’t. Eventually, he never did show up again; I’m unsure of the exact date that this happened, and I’m certain there may not be one at all. It was a gradual process he executed slowly, graciously, like leaves spinning down from tree tops to take their suicide plunge, and left to be promptly raked into the pile along with the rest. He became just another expressionless face amongst the crowd, one I was certain I would hardly notice if it passed in my wake.
For a long time upon the conclusion of the visits, there was a radio silence that I wasn’t sure suited my needs any more fittingly. He did not call to make excuses, which would have been unwelcome, nor did he call to apologize, something that had been relatively expected at the time. As a child, I was left to ask myself questions hardened by my own guilt, for if I had been abandoned with such ease, it must have been because I was somewhat inferior; this is what my adolescent mind conjured. While the realization that he had no interest in me yawned open to reveal both itself and its’ darkened chasms of thought, I took to unhealthy habits to indulge myself, and to rid of what had currently begun to eat away at the edges of my mind, only to leave nothing but self-doubt.
I attached myself to people and created dependencies out of thin air, for I knew the sensation of rejection all too well, and I wasn’t prepared to face its’ depths once more. I invested entireties of myself into people as though to prove a variety of points, and to cater to fabricated self-affirmations; I’m good enough, I would assure myself when someone indulged me in the ways I was seeking, He was wrong. My father’s supposed wrongful choices acted as another consolation prize when I found myself considering him, when I managed to seek a shred of self-esteem and expand upon it. I would repeat the mantra to myself that he was making a variety of mistakes in his life and this was the most severe, though even as I insisted, I was entirely unsure.
As I grew older, my father made another reappearance; he did not visit, nor did he call with any pure intentions, such as to inquire about my schoolwork, my friends, my thoughts. His drunken tone appeared in the form of typed text on a screen, the words themselves poisonous with the intent to hurt, and delivered sharply enough to render me speechless. He told his teenaged daughter of how she was an irrevocable disappointment, never to amount to much, and certainly not anytime soon. He spoke of what a failure it was to lose him from my life, and what I failure I was for allowing this to occur. As I read I could practically see the alcohol blurring the screen, viewing the harsh text through beer goggles that did nothing to make sense of the words. I felt the cracks and fissures in my heart become impossibly deep, the ridges and lines blurring into another to the point where I was surprised it did not shatter within my chest.
Of course, this was the first time something of this bombast nature occurred, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last; each time I promised myself it would be, that he would learn in all the ways that would lead him to bettering himself, and slowly, the broken relationship we now had. I thought he may reflect upon my child self and feel weak for the past, to the point where he could analyze his actions appropriately, and validate me all in one effort; these were acid trip dreams. He spoke only of how poor of a deal he received from having me as a child, how much I had let him down, and would continue to. In one million years, he would never stoop to such apologetic levels.
These poisonous remarks continued for years to come, and as they came, so did my consistent self-evaluations; as I wondered what I had done to deserve such a situation, I began to treat other people in similar, severe ways. Friendships and romantic relationships fizzled as I would be quick to leave them, in the same ways I felt I had been left; abruptly, with little explanation. I would love people until I didn’t. I would care about them until I felt doing so was dangerous, and then they would be reduced to nothing more significant than the soil upon which I walked, the sky that stretched into great distances above me, but was never considered for more than a moment. People began to understand me to be this person, and would stray from my path altogether to avoid what they did not, and could not, entirely understand; I became cold in the process of attempting to warm myself, and as the messages from my father resurfaced in a routine manner, I lost the realizations that had been so clear to me as a child. I felt that if I could be hurt so severely with the utilization of unfair methods, it could only be just if others felt the sting of it all, too.
I had once feared my father forgetting me altogether; during the days of radio silence, I would weep with the wondrous suggestions that he had simply allowed me to slip his mind, and remain in realms of thought left unexplored. I worried that he wasn’t picking me up on Fridays because he had forgotten; after his abrupt vanishing act, I worried that he would recall that he wanted to reach out to me. I worried he would take my existence into account and act upon it in the vile ways in which he did, because when he made an appearance, I became only the shadow of myself, only a fraction of what composed the entirety of my existence. I had once spent all my time hoping for a phone call and anticipating breakdowns on his behalf, anything that would offer some degree of acknowledgment; it didn’t take long for me to resent the mere thought of this. When he introduced himself into my life, I became a carbon copy of his persona; if you lined them end to end and examined objectively, we would be identical in intention.
It’s been a couple of years since I told my father I wanted very little, if nothing at all, to do with him. His girlfriend had attempted to manipulate me into an altered way of thinking, and I soon discovered their thoughts were alike, their consideration for me non-existent. On occassion, I would feel unwelcome surges of joy in the wake of him having found someone so suitable, for despite the possibility of it ending on negative terms, it still would not have been wrong; and he’s been wrong a lot. At the end of it all, each conversation, each message of ridicule, each confrontation, it always resulted in hatred on all sides, the bitter thinking always undeserved- because of this, I was a version of myself I would surely never like to meet in anyone else, nor see in the mirror when I bothered to open my eyes.
Since his absence, I haven’t felt the need to bring fierce abandonment upon others in order to save my own self from such a feat; I no longer have the poisonous urge for someone to hurt if they’ve done the same to me. I no longer wonder where he is, rather, I wonder where I am going, and how I will get there. I hope he is proud of me in the most raw, real sense of my emotions regarding him, but if he proved not to be, it would make no real difference in my intention, nor my life. I have concluded that if he is not proud of the compassion I’ve grown to give, the things I’ve recently accomplished, or the person I am certainly destined to become, then I will not seek acknowledgment from a leaf’s suicide plunge; he will remain there, beneath my feet, and I will walk easily by.