Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sweet old Dad.

...did I mention that I got a new tattoo? Did I?

I didn't. Next blog entry.

Shut off your engine and sit in silence for a moment to contemplate the following earthshattering bit of information: my Dad and I are starting to get along. Yes, you read that right. We're getting along.

He and I have been at loggerheads since I came out of the womb. The reason? We're so alike. SO alike. If you take my Dad, make him female, give him Boomer parents (instead of the grim Depression kind) and the benefit of modern psychology (for all the good it's done me) he'd be me. We're the same right down to the slightly crazy eyes and toes that tend to rise up off the floor when we walk. The laugh, the petulant temper, the generous heart, the constant snacking, the intense and chronic personal insecurity. All of it. We both [demanded] needed the same emotional care from each other and both totally had no idea how to supply it. This made for a lot of yelling on his part when I was a scared kid, which evolved into spectacular screaming matches when I reached adolescence and braved up a bit. And then onto 20s adulthood where I learned that scornful anger could shut him up quicker than anything else. He didn't win many arguments during that decade.

Now, at 30, I've come from "how can I get this guy to leave me alone and give Mom a break while he's at it?" to "evidence suggests that this man is actually a human being of worth and respectability. People like him - look up to him. How do I figure out how to get along with him?" Seriously - I've spent most of my life thinking I have the most screwed-up guy in the world as my Dad and it turns out that there's nothing wrong with him, or at least, nothing's more wrong with him than anybody else. You know how one step in the right direction can sometimes cause the whole problem to open up like a flower? My whole life Dad has reached out to me - has needed kindness and sympathy and a listening ear and respect, and I've given him none of it. None. Or at least the barest minimum. Poor man. No wonder we couldn't stand each other. He was walking around disappointed and confused - wondering why his daughter didn't adore him like children do in the movies. In my defense, I was a kid. It's not a kid's job to nurture their parents emotionally. It's just that I'm not a child anymore (more later on the fact that only at the ripe old age of 30 have I actually thought about casting off childhood, or at least the stupider aspects of it). I've just realized that as an adult I have no business brushing my poor, demonstrative father off like he's nothing to me.

OK, I sound like an ogre. He was never nothing to me. I've always loved him - you can't not love a man who has the best laugh in the history of the world. In the good times he was the best father you could hope for - empathetic to an almost harmful (for himself) degree. He loses himself in other people's hurts and problems and joys. That made him a pretty screwed-up missionary - a good one, one of the best, but he literally came very close to losing his mind trying to singlehandedly deal with two different cultures, bring them together, and patch all of their hurts. Must be a mechanic thing, hey? He loves so generously - I knew from the womb that he'd move Heaven and Earth to give me what I asked for. Ask anybody - this man will go to bat for ya. Take a bullet for your ass. No matter who you are. And I've figured out why I brushed him away with such coldness (always a mystery to me. If you know me, you know I'm NOT cold). I felt entitled to treat him that way. Ever since I woke up from childhood and realized that he had yelled too much, spanked in anger, put demands on his children and wife that we could never satisfy and in some ways really screwed me up I've felt it my right to silence him in any way I could. Not to mention make him feel guilty for what he did. But recently I've realized four things about Dad:

1. Everyone royally screws up their children in one way or another. It's unavoidable.
2. No parent has ever put more effort into trying to do right by us than my dad.
3. He was not raised well - his parents, my beloved late grandparents, also tried their best but were too distracted, too enmeshed in all the wrong aspects of mid-nineteenth-century culture (you know what I mean - the rural, tough, "good for what ails ya" philosophy), and too depressed to give Dad the love and emotional support he needed. He'll tell you, and I'm just like him: we're high-maintenance. We require a lot of love, attention, affirmation and second chances. His parents were good people, but these things they did not give him. At least, not enough.
4. [see above] There is nothing more wrong with him than me or any other human on this planet. Except maybe my husband and the Dalai Lama.

So, now that I've established my Dad as Not Sane and myself as a total effing churl, let me just get back to that step-in-the-right-direction-problem-opens-like-a-flower hooey. I don't know how it happened...wait, yes I do. Ramon (my own personal Kundun) has listened to and watched many interactions between me and my parental units, and has long observed (and has only recently gotten up the nerve to tell me) that I can get preeeeetty impatient with both my parents. Like I'm still a teenager whose mission in life is to roll her eyes, tsk, and huff that her parents are so lame. Eek. Back to the being almost 31 and still acting like a child thing.

So I've been really, really making an effort (now that therapy's helped me to Be Kind to Ramon) to Be Kind to my parents. Tell them I love them before they say it. Hug them or whatever [Dad's head is good for petting, since he's got this sweet halo of fine grey hair that'll just stand on end more as he ages] without needing any particular reason. Tell them what I like about them, tell them that I like them, for that matter. (And hearing from them that they like me in return - you want a thrill? Exchange "I really LIKE you"s with your parents when it's been just "I love you" up until this point. I was inordinately pleased to find out that I'm one of Mom's best friends and she feels like she can really talk to me - wait a minute...hanky needed. Shut up.) Really SEE them, and tell them what I see. Dad had never heard that he really looks scary when he's mad (so do I); our faces get red, I swear we get taller and our eyes - a bit mad-looking to begin with - look like we've launched into another dimension of rage. When the phrase 'piercing eyes' came out of my mouth this weekend he looked inordinately pleased both at the fact that his reticent daughter had made an observation ABOUT HIM that was not un-complimentary and the knowledge that he looks like a bad-ass when he's mad. Anyway. Onward.

Back to the tattoo. He HATES tattoos. Loathes them. Wants to send everybody with a butterfly or Tweetie-bird or whatever on their fannies straight to the Sheol. When I told him over the phone that I had a new one, a visible one (can't wait to see the pictures? I thought not) - and couched the revelation with the fact that I loved him and didn't want to make him feel disrespected but it IS my life and I figure that we're so close that this little ol' thing won't kill us - he actually took it...pretty well. And when we visited them in Spokane this last weekend, he pulled my shirt sleeve up, observed my wrist, said "huh" and then we all showered him with praise for being a modern, easygoing Dad who could totally take what his kids dished out. He still hated it, but liked being a Modern Dad more than he hated the tattoo. It went OK. And he and I didn't fight or even bristle once. Not once. Mom, for the record, said the tattoo is pretty - if she's wigging out that her oldest child now has two tattoos (one of which is readily available for perusal by the public at large) and her youngest is seriously contemplating getting one, she's letting Dad do the kicking and screaming. Which he isn't even doing. And I'm not going to be the one to tell them that I have two more designs ready for the needle...

So, OK, so I'm sometimes a high-maintenance, petulant, highly-strung bitch, right? My Dad knows that I think he's the shit, and I'm my Mom's best friend. How awful can I possibly be?

Cerise

7 Comments:

Blogger Aly H. said...

Again I ask why you feel you are not a writer?? This is amazing, all-American family goodness right here. Thank you for sharing - I got kinda choked up, actually.

3/21/2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger Morphea said...

Aw, really? Thanks, love. That means a lot that I made you get misty (OK, that's so wrong of me...I made Aly cry! I made Aly cry!). Hey, I'm all about the all-American family goodness around here, baby.

Cerise

3/21/2006 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ramon: (with scathing sarcasm)I for one think that she really needs to read more books before she can be allowed to a acheive writerhood. Her writing would be much stronger.

Ramon: (in all honesty) You are one of best writers I know. If you had a book it would be one of my favorites. I know, I know, I'm your husband and all, but marital relations aside, you paint wonderful day-in-the-life-of portraits. Little miniatures that glow with redemption and alchemy.

4/23/2006 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cerise, you have just illuminated the problem my daughter (adopted 3 years ago, now 12) and her new dad are having. I have forwarded your story in the hopes that it hits a nerve with her and she can see herself and her dad some day getting along. Thanks, I agree, you should be a writer!

5/01/2006 6:51 AM  
Blogger Morphea said...

Why, thank you, luv. Remember, I'm 30, though. However, I can't ever remember, at age 12, anyone saying the equivalent of: "It doesn't show now, but you love your Dad and he loves you, and someday it's all going to be all right." I really think that would have helped.

Ramon, I'm officially sexually aroused. And terribly, terribly flattered.

5/01/2006 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Uncanon said...

For one thing, YOU ARE A WRITER. Whether you will feel offended or not, I speculate that a further branch of the creative river I have enjoyed exploring for years has been coursing and expressing new channels through you. (Forgive me, if you must, but I have long enjoyed the characteristic uniqueness of writings and presentations by both your mom and dad.) Each segment of a river is given its own variations of color, transparency, characteristics of flow/hydrology, nutrients and types of inhabitants, depending on the types of strata, topographical grades and types of geology it passes through. Your writing is uniquely you, and you are fascinating and fresh. (Enough of this verbage!)

You probably have me quite well identified, by now. I think the greatest portion of my confrontiveness was spent on my mom throughout her fifties. It took a long time for me to come to reconciliation with her (but we got there.).

When it comes to your "Dear Old Dad," he has long been one of my heroes, along with your mom. I have seen some of the same things you identify about the two of you. I appreciate the dogged generosity and tenderness, and the determination to travel unlimited miles and times, to encourage and participate in the life of his kids. (Wonder if he'll be at the opening tonight!)

Hang in there! Keep writing, singing and thriving. I'll probably visit the blog again!

You and Ramon probably know who..

8/05/2006 12:34 PM  
Blogger Morphea said...

Oh, my lord. Ladies and gentlemen [drumroll, please], my [long-revered family member]!!

Welcome, my dear, welcome! I'm SO flattered many times over by your many and pretty profound compliments.

I forbade Dad and Mom from coming over. It would be their third weekend straight in Seattle and they surely would have perished.

I don't think family members get a chance often to meet in cyber-space like this - thank you so much for what you've said. I love you, man.

Cerise

8/23/2006 4:31 PM  

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