About Me

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When Your Father is a Stranger


I can't remember how long it's been since I last spoke with my father. I know I last spoke with him over a year ago, but it may have been more like two years ago. At the time I hung up on him although we didn't really have a fight. I just got sick and tired of him asking me to visit him and complaining that I never made time for him. I'm honestly not even sure if I have missed him or felt guilty for avoiding him all this time.

Yesterday his wife sent me a text and invited me over to his house for my father's sixtieth birthday. The text was cordial and hopeful, and completely out of the blue. My initial reaction was to feel a strange sense of guilt and a brief thought that I should visit him. "You are going to regret it one day if he ever dies," I heard my boyfriend's voice in my head. Then I felt stressed out about going, and contemplated whether or not I should lie and text her back that I will be going out of town for the next couple of weeks. I still haven't responded.

My feelings about my father are complex and confusing. I don't know if I love him or hate him. I don't know if I am hurt deep inside and pretend that I don't care about him or whether I just don't have any feelings whatsoever for him. The only time that I really miss him is when I want to ask him a question about money or investing, two of his favorite topics and the major focus of most of our conversations over the years. I don't know if I want to end or strengthen my relationship with him.

My father left home when I was three years old and my brother was two weeks old. I don't really know what happened, but my mother says that he didn't want to grow up and accept responsibilities while my aunt says that my father cheated on my mother. My younger brother and I stayed the night with my father every Wednesday night and every other weekend. I never really felt like my father was family and always felt uncomfortable in his house. He remarried twice, eventually settling down with his current wife, raising her daughter and becoming a member of his wife's close knit family.

When I was in the eighth grade and at the peak of rebelliousness, my mother sent me to live with my father and his wife for a year. At the end of the year, I chose to return to my mother's house, although my mother was verbally, emotionally and at times physically abusive. When I left his house, he said to me, "If you leave my house, you will never be able to return". I can't remember what I said to him, but I recall him crying and telling me that he didn't know how to be a father because his father had died when he was three years old.

After that incident, I rarely visited my father, only visiting once or twice a year during holidays whenever he insisted. I visited out of guilt that I had to visit. I remember sitting there feeling out of place while his wife, her daughter and her extended family celebrated as a family unit. My father would often sit to the side to talk to me, but I never felt comfortable. Every holiday I ping ponged back and forth between my mother and father's house. Eventually I started lying to my father and later to my mother, claiming that I would be out of town for the holidays or that I had the flu or a migraine. My holidays have been much happier to me as I have celebrated them alone, or with my boyfriend, cousin or friends.

About ten years ago, I told my mother that my father didn't mean anything to me. "Oh, you can't be serious. You are just hurt and think that you don't care because it's a defense mechanism. Just imagine if he died and you didn't have him around anymore. Your heart would be broken," she exclaimed. My mother didn't believe me when I said that he was more like an acquaintance to me and that it wouldn't affect me much if he died. I've always wondered if I really mean it or not. I sort of think I do.

The last time that I spoke to him, he was insistent that I visit soon. He complained that I never visited, although he frequently asked to see me. And I just completely snapped for some strange reason. I told him that he didn't worry about spending time with me all of his life. I informed him that I had better things to do than sit and pass time with someone who is practically a complete stranger to me, and then I hung up on him.

Every year he has sent me a Christmas gift, depositing a stock certificate in my bank account. One year he sent a birthday card, but last year he didn't. I haven't read the last couple of cards that he sent me, and they are all in a bag in my room. He has called a couple of times and last Christmas he texted me. On Christmas I responded "thank you" to him. I feel stress when I think about reading his cards, taking his calls or seeing him. I have no idea why.

I don't know if I should visit him for his sixtieth birthday. In one way, I feel that my life is happier without him in it, although he has really never done anything wrong to me. I feel pressured that I am supposed to like or love someone who seems like a stranger to me. But I also feel guilty because he is trying to reach out to me, and yet I am avoiding him and pushing him away. I am going to mull it over and hope that I will be able to figure it all out by tomorrow.

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