This is long, I’m sorry, but it’s been a big weekend and I’ve got a lot to process.
My father turned 90 yesterday. My mother organised a party. I was dreading it. Dreading my father being critical and nasty to me, or humiliating me in front of everyone (a familiar experience, but hurtful even after all these years). I was also dreading seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time, and them quizzing me about my life (or lack thereof) – my endless embarrassment about not being married, not having children, etc etc etc. And I was dreading meeting my other half-sister.
My therapist said I shouldn’t go, but I didn’t have the heart to disappoint my mother. In all, it wasn’t as nearly as bad as I anticipated.
The day didn’t start off great, with my father being his usual critical, horrible self but once his guests arrived, and he was the centre of attention, everything settled down. The day ended up quite well…good even. My father enjoyed himself and, were he anyone else, I’d say that’s all that matters. But, my father being my father, I don’t really care if he enjoyed himself or not. There is part of me who does care, but I don’t see why I should.
I spent most of the day hiding in the kitchen or playing hostess, but it was nice to catch up with a couple of family friends I haven’t seen for a long time. B – who is a lovely, gentle man. He has always been kind and was one of the few people who looked out for me when I was a kid and my father was going off. Back then I wished B was my father. He’s not, but I am grateful to him for his kindness.
And E, who is also a lovely lovely man. He and his parents were in the displaced persons camp with my father in Europe, and came to Australia on the same ship. Unfortunately he took it upon himself to make a speech, but it was ok. I “checked out” quite a bit, but the bits I heard were mostly about those very ancient times, with very little eulogising, so they weren’t really that traumatising.
Even meeting my other half-sister and her husband wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. We didn’t get a chance to talk that much, but her husband spoke to me a few times. He seemed nice. He said that he and my half-sister are grateful that I found it in my heart to share my father with them (their words, not mine). I didn’t really know what to say. All I could think was, “my god, if only you knew…” but thankfully when any of those moments came up I was able to make a quick escape to the kitchen and relative safety.
My father went beyond himself afterwards and thanked my mother for the party. She said he’d been an obnoxious a$$ all week. Rationally I know that this doesn’t make up for his bad behaviour – that a single thank you, a nanosecond of gratitude, can never make up for the decades of abusive shyte he’s meted out against my mother and me. But there’s still a little kid inside who thinks “omg, I did something right. Everything is ok now.” I don’t even know where this comes from, because rationally I know I can never please him and he will never be happy with anything. But for some reason that little kid, the little girl who could never do anything right even though she tried and tried and tried again… for some reason she hears everything he says, and responds in the same way she always has.
This might sound silly, but I’ll confess that I woke up this morning hoping that my father had died overnight now that he’s reached this grand milestone. He didn’t, but perhaps this will enable him to start (and finish) checking out. (Don’t even suggest that it’ll give him the zest he needs to reach 100 or I will personally come out there into the blogosphere and whollop you!! LOL) I still feel bad wishing him dead like this, even though I know I shouldn’t. I should go back to my therapist’s little mantras: “Just because he’s a sperm donor doesn’t mean he’s a good father” and “You owe him NOTHING.”
I survived the party. More than survived, I even came away with a few things I am proud of:
- When my father was being horrible, I said to my mother, “Mum, I’m not staying if he’s going to behave like that.” She wasn’t happy, but I also said, “I’m only here for you, Mum, and to help you. Not for him.” This was the best I could to do stand up for myself this weekend.
- This is the first time in over a year that I’ve seen the parents and not had the urge to binge eat, cut or do something else destructive afterwards. (Ok, the eating thing may have had something to do with a mild hangover and an ice pick-headache, but I’ll claim it as progress anyway!)
- This is the first time in over a year that I’ve driven home from the parents’ house and haven’t wanted to run my car off the road. Actually, it’s better than that – it’s the first time I’ve driven home and thought, “you know, it’s important that I DON’T drive my car off the road. I am important and I don’t want to die today.” 🙂 (I’ll admit that the inner critic piped up with some commentary about, “who are you important to?” but I chose not to listen. Just turned the music up and kept going.)
- This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve felt reasonably comfortable talking to people in a social situation. Even, or perhaps especially, people I know. Ok, that might have been Dutch courage, but I think it was more than that. I think, or at least I’m hoping, that it’s a sign I’m no longer as embarrassed as I was to be me. No longer as worried people will find out about the dark secrets. And no longer as concerned about what they think of me.
- My bathroom at the parents’ house has a hideous mirror that displays far more than any mirror ever should. That fact not withstanding I did notice that some of the awful stretched skin is coming back. Strange as it may seem, this makes me happy. I’m hopeful it means that some of the evil anti-depressant weight may be starting to shift.
- I even remembered some of back-up therapist’s advice about preparing myself to see the parents, not berating myself afterwards… and, are you sitting down? I even remembered to be gentle with myself afterwards. I’ve listened to nice music, put my favourite sheets on the bed, and just been generally gentle. I even did the ironing, which isn’t exactly soothing, but does help turn my brain off and help me process stuff. There’s something about the repetitive motion of the iron… back and forth, back and forth, and the “tshshsh” of the steam that I find … almost restful. 🙂