Yikes! My Dad Almost HIT Me!

Our plane leaves at four this afternoon.

Cat spent twenty hours over the last two days working on getting my dad’s medicines figured out. Finally, at 8:30 last night, she and I were at a pharmacy at Wal-Mart, spending $1,262 dollars on a 90-day supply of my dad’s pills. Another three hours back home sorting those meds into his pill dispenser boxes and preparing the proper document for whatever poor person is next tasked with helping my dad, and we were done.

Today, right before we leave, we’re going to hide my dad’s car keys. He will go insane looking for them. I mean, crazy insane. He dying to drive; it’ll probably be the first thing he runs to do once we’re gone. And he’s so dangerous on the road that morally we can’t let him. So we’ll treat him like the child he is, and simply hide his keys. We’ll probably hear him screaming from our seats in the airplane.

He’s not having anyone come in here to help him after we leave. As gently as she could, Cat laid before him the plan she’d put together with a superb local in-home elder-care type place to get someone to come to his home just often enough to tend to his basic needs (on his own, for instance, he could no sooner manage to take his pills twice a day than I could swim the English channel), but he shooed her away. So, when we leave, he’s on his own. I think my sister might be coming out here to care for him after we leave, but she hasn’t said. We’ll pull out of here having no idea what’s going to happen to him.

I think he might be coming out to live near us in San Diego. That’s what Cat thinks he’s sort of secretly planning. He did make an appointment for this Wednesday morning to see his financial adviser; Cat thinks that meeting will be about him moving into a home near us. If he ends up doing that, it should really help the prices of homes throughout San Diego to finally drop into something more normal.

Of course, my dad won’t make that meeting with his money guy. He won’t be able to find his car keys.

Yesterday, my dad just stopped himself from hitting me. We were driving in the pouring rain; the light at a huge intersection turned yellow; he screamed at me to basically run the light and make the turn; I braked instead; he really started screaming at me, and raised his open hand high to slap me. I thought for sure he was going to do it. He somehow stopped himself, though, and then settled back in his seat and began berating me about how insane I am.

I’ve been having a difficult time pinning down what exactly it is that, in these recent blog posts, I’ve been failing to communicate about my dad. But I’ve known something critical has been missing. Last night Cat identified it for me.

“Constancy,” she said. “It’s the constancy of his anger. He’s never not enraged. Ever. Even when he was just sitting there listening to music, he was pissed off that the DVD player for not telling him what disc was playing.”

Bingo. That’s the true phenomenon of my father: he is always so royally pissed-off that he can’t see straight. And he’s never been different. The way my dad has been during our visit here is the way he was every moment of my childhood. He hasn’t changed a bit. (He barely had a stroke: they’re not even positive he did.) And the reason I’ve been failing to communicate this because I know it’s impossible to believe. You’ve never met anyone like my dad. No one has. People like him don’t exist.

Normal people—even the crankiest, most obnoxious people in the world—sometimes give it a rest. They’ll occasionally relax, and be friendly, and just hang out. My father never, ever, ever does. He wakes up pissed off; he lives pissed off; he goes to bed pissed off. The only other channel he has is, “Pay attention to me while I regale you with yet another story about how much smarter I am than this completely clueless idiot I’m about to tell you about.” If that idiot isn’t you, you get that little break. But that’s it. My dad is 90% angry at the universe, and 10% boring you to death with some story about someone inferior to him.

Two channels, non-stop, twenty-four hours a day.

Two other things that are extraordinary about my dad:

1. He hates me. He simply cannot have me around him. Yes, he hates the world and everybody in it; yes, when she was alive he treated the wife about whom he’s now constantly waxing nostalgic so badly it was purely appalling; yes, he treats my sister like crap. But he really hates me. He always has. He did everything he could when I was a kid to make as obvious as possible the degree of his disdain for me. It’s why all I did when I was a kid was either hide in my room, or get out of our house; I basically grew up outside my home. It’s why I left home altogether as soon as I was old enough. When I say my dad hates me, I’m not being hyperbolic, or emotionally over-dramatic, or anything like that. I’m stating a truth. That man simply cannot stand me. And it’s never been different. I grew up with that. (And he was my good parent.)

2. My dad really doesn’t care about others. We’ve been here eight days. Not once, in even the slightest way, has my dad asked Cat a single question about herself. I didn’t expect him to—but it’s still striking. He knows nothing about my wife of thirty years. And he really and truly doesn’t care a thing about her. He doesn’t know where she works, where she grew up, how she likes her new house … nothing. Same with me. If I try to tell him anything about my own work, he’ll either crank up the volume on the TV, or just walk out of the room. It’s astounding. He actually doesn’t care. He doesn’t lose sleep over me, or my wife, or my sister, or anyone else. He doesn’t privately fret over the state of his relationships. He doesn’t feel pangs of regret over the way he treats others. He doesn’t consider the possibility that he should change. Nothing like that, ever. It’s like he’s missing the Give a Crap gene. If he does end up coming to live near Cat and I, it won’t be because he likes us. It’ll be because he thinks we’ll do a good job taking care of him. He’s told us that’s the only reason he’d move to be near us.

Whoops. He’s awake; I just now heard him back in his bedroom, getting ready to come out here.

When I was a kid, my whole job in life was (for instance) to get up super early in the morning, eat something as fast as I could, and then get back into my room before he came out of his bedroom. To this day I prefer to eat alone.

But how I felt when I was a kid is the same way I feel right now. He’s coming! Get back to my room!

And soon enough I will be back in my room, three thousand miles away.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Marcelo

    Time for a vacation, my friend. If anyone’s earned it….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      My vacation starts the minute our outgoing plane takes off. Thanks, M!

      • Marcelo

        Yeah, I soon as I hit Submit Comment it occurred to me that’s exactly when it starts! Best of luck. And God bless, John. I know I wouldn’t have the patience. The Good Lord would have to provide me, individually, with a good deal of it in order to get through such a situation. Fortunately, my parents are still around, and despite being stubborn are not filled with rage. I saw how well my father dealt with his difficult father near the end and it made me respect my dad all the more. As I respect you. Peace.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Thanks for this kindness.

  • Mary G

    When he does die, you should ask a forensic neurologist to look at his amygdala. It sounds like he has major brain damage in the emotional center of his brain. Seriously. The guy has more than a normal mental issue. He need(ed)s serious help!

    I’m so glad you were able to mature into the delightful person you’ve become, (mostly) shrugging off his spew of hatred towards you.

    We all love you!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Nah, his problem isn’t physiological; if it was, he wouldn’t be able to do the acting he’s always done, or to be the complete charmer he is whenever he … well, for instance, is being the salesman he made his living being. I should have been more clear: at home he’s always angry. But out in the world, he’s Joe Charming. Or used to be, anyway. He wears that veneer pretty thinly these days.

      • berkshire

        He just sounds like a classic narcissist. No empathy, other people are mere objects in his world. I don’t know what brain structure is involved in creating these twisted personalities, but I wish I did. I have actually met rage-aholics like this, and read about people with similar constant anger, who had frontal lobe damage, either congenital or acquired. But that’s neither here nor there with your dad. He is what he is, whatever the underlying cause, and I’m *so* glad your flight is today.

        I wonder if he’d suddenly become interested in your work if he knew how much the subject has been *him* lately. Might be good for him to see himself as others see him, even if for a nanosecond.

        I’m hoping, for your sake, that he doesn’t go to San Diego.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          My dad wouldn’t read my blog if I published on it a map to where I’d buried a million dollars somewhere on his block. That’s why I can write on it what I do.

          • berkshire

            . . . .um, about that map . . .

  • DR

    I am so glad you have Cat. What a gift.

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    He’s seriously messed up… and I say this as the ex of another seriously-messed-up individual (he was 70% angry, 20% superior, and actually did have a 10% or so — I think I’m being generous — “nice” factor). But yeah, your dad takes the cake. I hope for your sake that he finds some sort of care that doesn’t involve him moving to your neck of the woods, but the way you describe him? I kind of doubt it. Sounds like you and Cat have nailed it: he’ll move to SD because he figures y’all will take the best care of him.

    I’ll keep all of you in my prayers.

  • http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/ Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

    I feel like I’ve met your Dad. Probably because he sounds like he could be my Dad’s identical twin or clone or something. And following along as you’ve dealt with this whole mess has really helped me make a decision about how to deal with my Dad when the time comes: I’m sending my brother.

    Kidding aside – thanks for sharing this. From the kid of one angry asshole to another, you’ve been a shining example of Grace and Love, and it’s made an impression on me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      How lovely of you to tell me. Thank you.

  • Barb S

    Wow! I had an awesome childhood! Thanks for reminding me. Love ya-

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Love it. Thank you.

  • Chuck

    John,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your father and his issues. Your dad sounds just like mine was, namely the most selfish person in the world. I just went through all of that with my own father, and can only feel for you and your wonderful wife. My father actually passed away yesterday, and all I can say is that he was an insensitive, selfish jerk right up to the end, and I loved him. My step father gave me the best bit of advice for situations like this years ago. You can love someone without liking them. That you are still trying to be there for him is really all you can do. Best wishes and prayers for all of your family.

    Sincerely,

    Chuck

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m sorry to hear about your father, Chuck. I mean … well, you know what I mean. But it means a lot to me that at this time in your own life you would care enough about what’s going on in my little corner of the world to send this warm message. Best to you, brother.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com/ Ric Booth

    They (EMTs) had to carry my dad out of his house. He never left of his own accord, well until he could no longer breathe on his own (because he couldn’t keep his medication straight). Then he called 911 but I think he still wanted them to just patch him up and leave him there.

  • Denise

    Hey John,

    Really heartbreaking and stressful to hear your stories of your time with your dad. I hope YOU are getting something out of it. I took care of my elderly uncle, who was nice, but he was also stubborn. I used these steps to gain some sanity.

    Some of the things you can do from anywhere.

    1. Call Social Services or the Eldercare hotline where he lives and report that he lives alone and is unable to care for himself. They will send someone in to check on him and FORCE him to have in-home care or be in a retirement home–especially if he is a danger to himself.

    2. Send notification to the DMV, and they will set up a meeting to see if he can drive. He won’t show up, and they will revoke his license.

    3. Sign him up for meals on wheels in his area if he has it and they will at least check on him once a day and bring him a hot meal.

    Hope this helps relieve any anxiety about leaving him alone. There are things that can be done that don’t require YOU to be the enforcer.

    Good luck!

  • Diana A.

    “Today, right before we leave, we’re going to hide my dad’s car keys.” That’s probably a good idea. How about in your luggage? Awfully difficult for him to find them when they’re on their way to San Diego with you. Or maybe there’s a lake you can throw them into?

    “He hates me. He simply cannot have me around him….” That doesn’t surprise me. Men get intense about their sons. They see their sons as mirrors of themselves or idealized versions of themselves or something. Women do the same thing with daughters. So naturally all of your father’s sick rage toward the world and self-involvement is going to center on you.

    I’m glad you’re coming home soon. If he does come to San Diego, don’t get sucked into doing more for him than you can reasonably handle–and I mean without neglecting the parts of your life that actually give something back to you. I’m sure you’re on top of that, but sometimes we surprise ourselves.

  • Shannon

    Pull distributor cap off of engine, cut the blue wire, no the red wire…. Uh – I’m trying to say that if you already haven’t taken off in the plane is to actually sabotage the car from starting! Hiding the keys from a man that angry might not work- he is diabolically evil genius enough to get another set made or something.

    Crap- I overslept and yet when I woke up I was thinking “Tuesday is escape day. What can go wrong?!”

    Oy! Good luck and God bless…

  • Jeannie

    Glad you are leaving. I know what it is like to live with someone who is royally pissed at the world 24 hours a day.

    If he does move to San Diego your issue will be doing enough for him to satisfy your personal morality without being sucked into his garbage.

    So glad you have your wife – what a gift.

    Blessings to you and Cat.

  • Crystal

    I’m more confused after these last few posts about your dad. First, how do you keep it from hurting you? Second, why exactly do you help him. If this person hates you, abuses you and doesn’t give a shit about whether you’re there or not ,why are you compelled to help him? Seriously, I’m not being an ass I’m really confused. Is it because you love him as a dad no matter what. Like how abused kids want to go home to their parents no matter how screwed up they are? With my own parents I at least have some good moments to reflect back on when things are bad, and as I’ve grown up I can see how screwed up their childhoods were so I can see that they really have done better than their own parents . . . but your dad, wow, I don’t know how you endure it without serious emotional damage. It’s really stressful and painful just to read, I can’t imagine living it. Prayers going out for you and your dad.

  • http://twitter.com/mama_kass Kass

    Your description of your father reminds me a bit like Eminem’s two rapping styles: angry and loud angry.

    It’s annoying to listen to that rapping style, and I can’t imagine having to deal with someone whose personality is actually like that. My heart goes out to you.

  • Pat

    Just found your site a few days ago, and have to say I have been fascinated with your posts about your father. First of all, God bless you and shower you with peace and quiet when you get home! Second, God bless your dad. He has truly made it impossible for anyone to even want to love him — and yet you care. That is amazing. I was blessed with a wonderful father who made me feel special and loved every day of his life until he died very unexpectedly at age 54. 37 years later it is still the saddest day of my life.

    Finally, it strikes me how difficult it must be for someone with your background to relate to the whole idea of God as “Father.” I’ve often wondered and worried about all those around us who had terrible, abusive dads and then have a religion that wants to tell us God is Father. Not saying Scripture is wrong…just thinking that must be a stretch for some folks. Praying for you and your father.

    • Christina

      Thank you for this distinction around the difficulty of seeing God as Father when father is abusive. It absolutely is a stretch for many people (I would daresay all humans); I know it has been for me. I think our parental relationships directly impact our ability to have any spiritual relationship; and for an abused child to be told that God is a father figure, well that’s pretty much a deal breaker.

      • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

        Yes, my therapist has said as much.

    • Mindy

      Fascinating observation, Pat. I have no doubt that the whole “Father” thing is why I cannot buy into the “traditional” Judeo-Christian view of God – narcissism does not become the omniscient being. And my dad is someone I can now honestly say I love very much, and who never treated me anything like John describes. And still –

      Obviously, John’s father is mentally ill and always has been. No “normal” person – anywhere on the spectrum of normal – is angry all the time. Unhappy, maybe – but not completely pissed off. Imagine the energy that man has expended in his lifetime on simply maintaining that level of agitation.

      I am SOOOOO glad you are going home, John!!

  • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ Erika

    once again, i am reminded that my drunk, raging, abusive, douche nozzle of a father was

    Charles Fucking Ingalls compared to your dad.

    i think that i might be actually missing my father right now.

    not really.

    i am so glad you are going home.

    • Leslie

      Actually, Charles Ingalls doesn’t necessarily seem like all that great a dad. He kept dragging his family across the country, looking for something. Every time he got a job, he’d quit it so he could go off and be a subsistence farmer somewhere. His kids would finally get in school, and he’d decide he had to move somewhere else. I’m not sure he’d be nominee for Father of the Year.

      • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ Erika

        ah. you are right.

        how about, mike brady?

        • Leslie

          That’ll work.

        • Tim

          Mike Brady? Men with perms creep me out. Men who encourage their teen sons to get a “twinsy” perm creep me out even more.

  • Misty Irons

    John,

    Probably the reason your dad hates you is that he feels inferior. That’s probably also why he’s incapable of caring about other people.

    “It’s like he’s missing the Give a Crap gene.” — Lol!

  • Tracy irwin

    Brings me to tears. I had a parent like this. It hurts much less when I realize it was them not me. Took years. What was in the water in Cupertino in the 60′s??

  • Tim

    He ALMOST hit you…When you were young, did he show as much restraint? I was just wondering if the fact that he didn’t follow through with the blow is worth pinning any hope on. The 90% rage is almost unbelievable, yet I believe you. That kind of anger is mental and might even be symptomatic of a life-long serious depression. I know a little bit about this. My Grandpa on my mom’s side was like that. He was a monster. Until he had a massive stroke at 58. Completely paralyzed on his left side. After that, he was as mild as a kitten and a sweet as a baby lamb. I enjoyed my Gramps for the last 4 years of his life until he died at 62 of his first heart attack. If your dad didn’t have a stroke, maybe it wouldn’t be wrong that I pray your dad would be so fortunate as well.

    I hope you have peace about leaving him. He belongs to God and I believe he is in His hands no matter what comes.

    • cat rennolds

      in my experience the “almost hit” is a symptom of self-defense. when the abuser recognizes in time that his “victim” is stronger than he is.

      John, we are all praying for you. I want you to know I think you are doing the right thing for yourself, and maybe for your dad. I think that once he was a very, very frightened small boy too, and there’s no way to tell why he ended up like this instead of like you. but I think that if he realizes he cannot guilt you or force you into doing what he wants you to do, he will have to think. or die. it’s his choice.

  • Lee Walker

    hmmm…. I’m guessing, John, that you could be uncomfortable with hugs after all you’ve come through. On the other hand you might be the best hugger / huggee in the world. At any rate, I’d say you need about a dozen right now and if there I’d give them to you.

    God bless you, and may God grant peace to you and your dad.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    I hope you and Cat enjoy some really nice post-escape peace and quiet. You have both exhibited far more grace in this situation than I think I could dredge up if it was me and tha tman was *my* father.

    Godspeed and safe travels.

  • Hootie Mac

    I am in no way advocating the tolerance of abuse of a parent to a child. it is without question never to be condoned.

    I think you are honoring your father in the most capable way you can. We are called on to honor our parents-not honor if they deserve it.

    There are so many angry people in our world. I am married to an angry man. Whose father was an angry man. Unjustifiable, verbally abusive, self centered and threatening anger.

    It has made me so aware of the truth of the power of the tongue. It leaves its marks and scars. It takes all your energy just to endure.

    I know you are physically tired, mentally battered, and just so sad. But you will recover and God will heal. Peace be unto you beloved brother.

  • Patty

    John, I’m envisioning you and Cat surrounded with the glowing white light of God’s love. Your writing is a gift to all of us. Thank you for giving.

  • http://sunnylockwood.com sunny

    Your writing about your father always makes me soooooo sad.

    Adults who are mean to little kids leave me confused…what is wrong with them (the adults)?

    Since my parents were unusually generous and fun, I never knew that there were parents who frightened their kids and hurt them in ways that can last a lifetime.

    But my husband, my sweet and loving husband, is the only child of a mother who was like your father. When he tried to describe how she never took care of him, how from the age of 8 or 9 he had to shop and cook for himself, clean his clothes, etc. I didn’t believe him.

    Then I met her. She was well into her 90s, unable to walk, used a wheel chair to get around. And all she did was criticize everyone and especially my husband who took care of all her needs. She was cruel, totally self-centered, with no awareness of the evil she expressed with every word and deed.

    There was nothing — no kindness, no loving act, nothing — that could change her outlook or attitude. She inhabited darkness and hate.

    She actually died criticizing the breakfast her caretakers had prepared for her.

    We explain her to ourselves by saying she was mentally ill. She had a personality or character defect. She, obviously, could not control or change the way she behaved.

    Our life has been much more serene since she passed.

    I hope you and your loving wife can comfort each other with your care and awareness…and free yourself from the emotional wounds inflicted by your troubled father.

    sunny

  • Don Rappe

    You must be on the plane or home by now. May God’s peace be with you. You and Cat have done well. I am glad I did not have to live my life being charming to people I despise. Never an option, i don’t have it in me. You are not the cause of your father’s anger, just one of its many victims. You know that. I’m sure the person he hates most is himself. You probably remind him of that person. I think he’s trying to flatter and charm himself now.

  • Melissa Chamberlin

    It is Tuesday night and I think you are home now. I hope that you are ok. No matter how hard I try to not let the crap bypass my intelect and penetrate my heart, it always does. I hope that you are stronger, but something tells me that tonight it is all still really hard to comprehend. Peace out, John.

  • http://dressmytruth.blogspot.com Jeanine Byers Hoag

    It’s heartbreaking, the way you describe him now and when you are a child. Frankly, I hope you never have to see him again.

    Also, I commend you for your vulnerability in sharing your experience with us. I hope and pray that God floods your heart with peace and love.

    Jeanine

  • Julia

    Curiousity is killing me about his Dad; your grandfather. What was he like?

  • textjunkie

    May God have mercy on his soul. Heaven knows you have.

  • Michael Rowe

    This is heartbreaking on so many levels I can barely process them all. Much love to you, however.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    John….I’ve been absent for a few months, but your blogs haven’t gone unread…

    My admiration for you and Cat rose dramatically in the last few minutes…the comforting condolences expressed on this page by these wonderful people reflect the ripping of my own heart ….you are a man of real grace…Cat is a woman of iron strength. When it comes down to it, your dad is to be pitied for his ignorance and self-centeredness. . . someone did that to him…babies aren’t born that way.

  • http://www.twitter.com/chrishyde Chris Hyde

    Are you familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I grew up with a dad who is a chronic narcissist. Sounds like you did too. It is so painful and really tweaks with your understanding of the world. Getting to the place that you have, where you can honor your dad in a Christian way but not let him emotionally devastate you, is a tough place to get to. It took a lot of counseling for me to get there. Good for you…you are a strong man!


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