I was in my parents home for about 36 hours this last weekend. A home that is as familiar to me and as foreign to me as any place can possibly be. My parent’s home has gone through refurbishment ya’ll and its beautiful to see. I look at how proud my mom is showing me all the new pieces; the wood floors, the new mats on each wooden step, the virtually new kitchen. I believe she has repeated to me the decision for each piece, the rationale behind the purchase and the path to the purchase at least 3 or 4 times per piece. I can absolutely count on certain other stories from my mom too. I know that in stepping into the house I will hear of how loyal our dog Tyson is and he follows her everywhere, how my father has acquired a new cat (the newest one is called Leonel for anyone keeping track), I’ll hear about how hard of a worker my brother is and most definitely I will hear about how my grandmother nags her all the time.
And as the stories have become staples, the conversations with my father have become more and more sparse. We acknowledge each others presence. I give him a hug, ask him how he is, he grunts some response and goes back to watching television.
Its been particularly cold as of late because since my assault in April, he has yet to ask me how I am doing. Not a one time has he inquired into how I am doing. I wait for phone calls that never come and am naively hopeful every time that I speak to my mother that he will at least ask a question through her – but he doesn’t.
I try not to put my mom in the middle of our beef, its not fair, but she is naturally concerned that her life partner and their progeny do not communicate. In this last trip, my mom let me know that he was mad at me, because I hadn’t called him since April. She says this and my mouth drops “What? Are you kidding me mom?” I feel the wave of sadness wash over me. “Mija, he says that you don’t call him and ask him how he’s doing.” I breathe, not letting the tears prickling my eyes go any further, these tears are unfair to my mother. How do I say this “Mama, I was sexually assaulted and he hasn’t once asked if I’m okay. Not once since. And he’s mad at me because I don’t call him to see how he’s doing?” “I know mija. I’m so sorry. I try to tell him. He just shuts down.” And I watch as tears fill her eyes, because she can’t give me the one thing I want, comfort from my father. “Don’t mama, its not your responsibility, this is me and Dad’s love to figure out.” I smile and tell her that I love her and that I love him. I know he isn’t a bad person, it just hurts.
Knowing this new nugget of information, I swallow my pride and go to him. I say hello daddy, how are you daddy, can I get you anything daddy. And there he sits, unmoving, years of hurt stapling him to a couch with his eyes trained on a television. He makes minimal conversation back and turns coldly back to his one true friend, a screen that doesn’t talk back. It is pain so mutually deep, over years of distance that I can feel it pierce me. I go to the bathroom and grip the sink, shedding the tears that are also familiar to this home. “Let it go,” I tell myself, “He just doesn’t know how to be the adult.”
When dinner comes, he elects to watch TV by himself in his room while the rest of the family sits around the dinner table. And I force myself to not be hurt. But its deep ya’ll. With my dad, it’s not even the stuff he says that hurts as much as what he doesn’t say but puts in a room.
My dad’s always been the kid in our relationship. His responses when approached in conversation are always the kind of responses that you would expect to get from a sullen teenager. I don’t say this disrespectfully, just factually. It’s always about how he was hurt, why he doesn’t care, why the other person is in the wrong. There is no self reflection, no ownership over his role. And for awhile, this was just hard. I wanted to be the teenager. I wanted to be the kid and it was a role that I never had. Not as a kid, definitely not as an adult.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful for the father I have. He came home every day, he put food on the table, he never lifted a hand to my mother and he hugged us. This is more than many can say and I do not take that in vein. It’s just for a long time I needed my dad in ways he couldn’t give to me. I craved a father that would emotionally comfort me and tell me I was his little girl. But I think I’m past that age. It’s not really about needing him anymore. It’s about wanting him. I actively want him to be a part of my life. I think about it constantly throughout the day. I want to know him and exchange friendship with him the way my brother does.
I decided recently to go to Guatemala with my father. My father’s homeland and the place that contains the history that created my father into his current incarnation.
Going to Guatemala is another attempt and to some extents my last to get to know my father at another level.
I’m surprised that it doesn’t hurt more to write this. I would think that it would be painful knowing the last respites of my energy in this particular subject have a timeline. There is finality to it that I really hope I stick to. It helps me breathe through it a little more. I have spent the better part of my adult life dealing with daddy issues. You know, there comes a time when you have to say “fuck it”. I refuse to spend my life crawling to a father figure that has no desire to know me. I can’t keep waiting for him to want to open a space for me. He loves me, that is enough. Liking me is not an obligation that I have to lay out like a grand golden hoop. It’s unfair in a way. But Lord do I ever pray for joy on that trip. If not joy, peace. And if not peace, more reasons to hope.