Randy and I went to my mother’s house recently. The family was together for the last time until Christmas.
My oldest son, Zach, got a promotion and he and his new wife are moving 2 hours away. I am happy for him and sad for me, but it’s not too terribly far away.
Anyway, we were sitting around the dining room table talking and Zach rubbed my shoulders. It felt nice.
Zach spoke and I realized he was standing beside my chair, not behind my chair. I glanced around the room and through a quick process of elimination, I determined it was my dad rubbing my shoulders.
I discovered this mid-sentence and had the teeniest hiccup. Whatever I was saying, I just turned into a long drawn out “aaaaaaaaaaaa” and then forgot what I was saying. I recovered, but it fell short of graceful.
So much went through my head in those few seconds.
No. No, he doesn’t get to do this. This is the man who told me throughout my childhood that his life would have been better had I never been born. Who told me I was ugly. Who told me I was stupid. Who told me I was an embarrassment. And that I was supposed to be a boy. He doesn’t get to rub my shoulders.
I didn’t say anything to him. My father had a heart episode decades ago that left him slightly brain damaged. There have been a few incidents of cruelty over the past 24 years, but not much, probably no more than a normal Tuesday when I was a child. Mostly, he is quiet. Kind of annoying. Not at all scary.
I wanted to scream at him and slap his hands away, but instead, I stumbled over my words and stiffened up.
I don’t know if he felt my intense desire that he go away, or if he just got bored, but he stepped away and life continued.
I went from having a lovely conversation with my family to feeling like vomiting. I wanted nothing more than to leave and to take a nap. Anything to get a handle on the white hot anxiety fire raging through me.
I looked at my father when we left and I tried to feel something. Anything.
The only thing I have, the one feeling I have for my father is sadness. Sadness because so few people care whether he exists or not.
Very few people on the planet will give a moments thought when he dies. His family. His brother and sister, his nieces and nephews. Around 60% of them will go “awwww” and then they’ll have toast. Or vacuum. Or suck a dick. I don’t know, I haven’t kept in touch.
I will also make some toast when my dad dies.
This makes me more sad than anything. Which is funny, but not in a haha way, more in a “that is fucking tragic” way.
When I was 17, I walked in my parents bedroom because my mom was crying.
She told me that she was crying because she knew that when her dad died, she wouldn’t be sad.
I love my mother. And in many ways, we are alike. In many ways we are not. But in this way? We are sisters.
My mom knows exactly how it feels to have a malignant narcissist for a father. She had one as well. Then, she married one.
I know that taking care of my brain damaged father can’t be super easy on my mom. But I have to think it is easier than dealing with him the way he was. Loud, cruel, capricious and petty. At least now, he is mostly quiet.
We wrapped up our afternoon and Randy I left. I put the whole shoulder rubbing thing behind me. Mostly.
Randy had a play list going in the car. He turned down the music.
Randy: You freaked out a little back there.
Randy: When your dad rubbed your shoulders.
Me: Oh. Yeah. That was bullshit.
He turned the music back up and that was it. There wasn’t anything more to say. He already knows how I feel about my dad. He knows the guilt that comes and goes.
What gets me, every time something like this happens, is how quickly all my progress flies out the window.
How a simple gesture, like a father rubbing his daughter’s shoulders, can make me feel every single bit of the helpless rage that I’ve carried around for so many years.
I remind myself that I have made progress. I didn’t spend hours pacing and crying and ranting. I discussed it with Randy in a few sentences and we moved on.
It’s never quite that easy, though.
But on the other hand, it is easier.
Photo courtesy of Cord Media Stuttgart