Hey, guys. Hey, I very much want to thank those of you who sent me such love via your very kind notes around my recent post, Father’s Day is Coming; My Father’s Night is Here. Thank you! I live a pretty shut-in type life, actually, so these Across the Cyberspace Universe transmissions of affection are really, well, affecting.
Relative to this business about my dad, though, I thought I might take a moment to … bore you even further about it.
So — because with your friends why not take the time to clarify such things? — as cruel and/or callous and/or emotionally pretentious and/or flat-out crazy as I know this sounds, the unadorned truth of the matter is that when my father is gone, I will not miss him. He’s played no role at all in my life for thirty-five years.
Which isn’t actually the point. The real point is that (as I wrote relative to my mother in I Just Found Out My Mother Died — Five Years Ago) I’ve made it my life’s work to emotionally detach myself from my parents. I’m not proud of that; I don’t think it makes me wise and cool. I just did it because by about the age of eight I was very clear on the fact that if I didn’t do that, I’d be screwed for the rest of my life. My parents weren’t about to give it up for their kids. They were on the crazy train, and having children wasn’t about to derail that bad boy. Very early on my choice was perfectly clear: stay aboard the Bonkers Express and surely end up in my own version of Crazytown, or bail, and make sure I learned to roll with the fall so it wouldn’t kill me.
So bail I did. I got out. I got out physically, and — and I’m saying this took twenty, thirty years of work to do — I got out emotionally.
I’m not conflicted about my dad. I don’t have any unresolved emotional energy around my dad. I don’t lie awake at night, lost in the morass of my father’s unrelenting indifference toward me.
Been there. Done that. Never been anywhere or done anything but that, is what I’m saying.
You watch the same scary movie over and over and over again, and pretty soon it’s not even almost scary. It’s just … what it is. Actors. Script. Make-up. Boring.
Here’s the real deal: My father has the emotional life of a two-year-old. If it’s not about him, then as far as he’s concerned, it doesn’t exist. Not sometimes. Not conditionally. Not when he’s hungry, or late, or stressed about something. Not when he’s in certain moods. That is his mood. The man doesn’t have another channel. He gets, and sends, one signal, and one signal only, twenty-four seven. Everything else is immediately filtered out before it can become anything at all.
And you know how he arranges to never have to take into account anyone but himself? He throws constant temper tantrums. He is seriously pissed off, all of the time. Anger is his modus operandi, and no two ways about it. For him, to breathe is to fume. It’s all he knows. Last time my wife and I visited him and his wife, the four of us were playing Trivial Pursuit, and within ten minutes he had slammed the board off the table, and was storming around the room screaming like … well, like a two-year-old. And it was like how, when you put ice in your drink, it gets colder. Happens every time. There’s no warm ice. There’s no not-angry my dad.
The next day, my stepmother and wife went out shopping (amazing story there, but … another time), and my dad predictably spent the day screaming at me because some of the (mega-dorky) pants he wanted to give me didn’t fit me. Ice in a drink.
I mean, we’re talking here about a man who really and truly, down to his bones, doesn’t care that he has a son. It just doesn’t register with him that I’m out here in the world, that I’ve been out here in the world, that I’m married, that I’m a writer, that … I just bought a new house, or whatever. All of it just bores him to distraction.
Anyway, of course I do have Big Deal Feelings about my dad. It’s just that I know those feelings, and have for so long been so directly dealing with them that, thirty-five years later, they’re … well, known to me. And something that you really, really know — that you’ve spent your life combing though, exploring, discussing, and in every possible way dissecting and analyzing over and over again — loses its grip on you. There’s no mystery left to it. It becomes just … a movie that you’ve seen a million times before.
I wrote about my father’s body because (besides his insane sense of humor; humor being the hyper-intelligent blood-brother of anger) that was the most extraordinary thing about him. The magic hand of God touched his physical creation. (And — should I say this? — mine. I’m not a lot of things, but physically coordinated isn’t one of them.) But so what? He had no control of that, and completely took it for granted.
What he could and should have controlled, he didn’t. And, as with his body, he took, without fail, everything that came to him — especially the love that those nearest him were naturally compelled to lavish upon him — for granted.
He could have been so happy. He was so loved.