So my Aunt Diane (my Dad’s younger sister) called me last night to check in. I hadn’t talked to her in a couple of months so she was catching me up on the latest family news. She tells me that they’re not having a Memorial Day gig at their place this year because she and my Uncle Bruce are going to Germany for vacation. I was then shocked to learn that my cousin (Diane’s older daughter) is going through a divorce after 10 years of marriage.
But that wasn’t even the ultimate newsworthy item. Diane went on to mention how my Dad was going to be taking my Grandma up to my Uncle’s place in Northeast Wisconsin this weekend.
Dead silence for five seconds.
“You do know you’re Dad is flying in to town tonight, don’t you?” Diane asked. Had no idea, actually. I talked to Dad as recently as last month. He mentioned something about coming to town around May or June but hadn’t made definite plans at that point. My Aunt gave one of those chuckles where she was clearly disgusted but not surprised at Dad’s neglect.
Now one might think I was angered by this development. But the truth is I know why he’s in “not speaking” mode. While he hasn’t had the intestinal fortitude to say anything to me personally, he’s looking for an apology from me.
When Dad came to town last year he basically shouted down my wife when she didn’t agree with an opinion of his. Now if that were an isolated incident, I might have let it slide. But since this was becoming a pattern every time he visited, I’d had enough. So I wrote him a letter just before he left town last July. In the letter, I basically unleashed my hurts and frustrations built up over thirty years. Since I had been seeing a therapist last year, I had finally come to grips with my relationship (or lack thereof) with Dad. As such, he needed to know that I was no longer going to walk on eggshells around him when broaching subjects that anger him. I also pointed out that it still stuck in my craw how he blew off me and my brother Eric virtually our entire childhood.
We didn’t speak about the letter until last August. When he brought it up, he basically unloaded on me to the point where he claimed I had my head up my a**. I guess I held out a glimmer of hope that he might be introspective and realize that his general belligerence is not worth alienating his family. Unfortunately, that was too much to hope for. We ended the conversation having resolved nothing. Nevertheless, I figured the matter was closed. You know, we just basically “agreed to disagree.”
Not the case.
Dad came back to town last October to serve as best man in his younger brother’s wedding. When we saw each other for the first time since the over-the-phone blow out, things were cordial and polite. However, I would learn later that he was looking for me to apologize for the no-holds-barred letter I wrote. Then, and only then, would he consider the matter closed. Now in our August phone conversation I did express regret over and over for not conveying my frustrations a lot sooner (Not that it would have done any good had I done so 5-10 years earlier). Other than that, I felt I had nothing to apologize for. And I still feel that way today.
If Dad feels he’s been wronged, he will need to tell me specifically where he takes issue. I will then listen with an open mind and open heart. I will even answer his objections in a dignified matter.
Until that happens, he will merely do the equivalent of drinking poison while hoping I’m the one who gets sick.