Without going into too much of the gory harps and violins details of it all my relationship with my father is precarious at best, toxic and damaging at its worst. My father is a capitalist through and through and where most people would offer sympathy, compassion, understanding or just plain familial non-judgemental acceptance to their daughter he is out of his league on all of those and instead offers what he knows, criticism, money, anger, judgement, money, opinions that aren’t to be refused or refuted and frustration at human imperfections oh and did I mention money.
I don’t have a relationship with my father where I can discuss emotions or ask for advice or understanding on issues in my life. I want more than anything to be able to have that relationship with my father where we can as two adults with different life experiences, talk about those life experiences and be accepting of and even admiring of each other but I’ve learnt the hard way more than once that anything personal divulged to him is later used against me as proof of my weakness, frailty and not being a perfect human being. There has even been occasion where my personal and private business has been the topic of discussion, merriment and ridicule at the dinner table on Christmas Eve in a foreign country with people who were complete strangers to me. On that occasion when I confronted him, in private, with having crossed my boundaries he went on the attack and blamed me for wanting to have ‘secrets’ in the first place. Suffice to say I no longer divulge any personal detail to my father as he doesn’t hold the respect I require for such information. This makes me sad as I realise that my father will never ‘know’ me and sadder still when I try to accept that he doesn’t want to, at least not in the accepting, non-judgemental way that I want him to.
All of that said he is one hell of a charismatic man when he turns it on and at times, when I can forgive him, that can be fun to be around. Just this past weekend for example we were at a family friend’s house for a dinner party that we’d both been invited to when he spontaneously lead the table in an a capella, round robin version of ‘Going to the Chapel’. It was one of those beautiful moments where I looked around the table as the six of us there sang and thought to myself ‘not many people get to call this a family dinner’ and I’m glad that I get to.
Where am I going with this you might ask? I am learning to appreciate the beauty within the dysfunction, learning be able to feel let down and appreciative of what I ‘do’ have at the same time. And let me tell you that’s not easy at times when all you want is to be able to call your father and say hey I’m having a hard time and I could do with your help. Family relationships can be so confusing to navigate at the best of times, bring into that a narcissistic personality and you get a whole lot more than you bargained for.
It’s hard beyond words to let go of any expectations of acceptance that I have and to get my head around that fact that my father is simply not interested in me as an individual at all. If I am not what and who he wants and expects then I am wrong and need to change immediately to meet his needs of what I am to be, this doesn’t work well between two head strong redheads. What I struggle with the most in it all after grieving the fact that I will never have the type of fatherly relationship that most people get to enjoy, after accepting that my father isn’t interested in who I am at all, after learning to stop taking it personally, after learning to not see myself as a failure because of it. What seems the hardest after struggling with all that is coming to terms with how to love him regardless. It’s so hard to have all of that hurt and disappointment and to at times really just not like him as a person at all and then comes the beauty within the dysfunction, those beautiful moments that you can often only find with truly dysfunctional people. Those moments, for all the pain that has led to them, I wouldn’t change for the world but learning to reconcile that with everything else can do my head in at times. To love and hate, and enjoy and not be able to stand someone at the same time, well to coin a cliché – It’s not always black and white.