Today is my daughter’s birthday. I’ve already talked to her on the phone, but wanted to use my blog to extend my wish that she has a great day today.
Happy Valentines Day everyone. This is the day when, each year, I pause to reflect on the amazing fact that my wife still wants to keep me around. Why today? Because we began dating on Valentines Day in 1999. So, any babies born as we started our relationship are now old enough to buy liquor in any bar in the US, as far as I know.
Well, to my wife – Happy Valentines Day. Thanks for keeping me around and putting up with all the trouble that has caused you.
Having given my mother several “second chances” over the years, I felt the need to call my father and extend to him the same courtesy. Today I called him, and told him that I remembered many birthdays when he’d called me and said “Oh, by the way, your mom wishes you a happy birthday, too.” Not to mention several times he’d attempted to relay written messages from my mother, as he did on the day after Christmas last year.
So, this afternoon, I called him. I prefaced my entire conversation with the admission that since I gave mom several chances to change, I felt that I owed him at least one. Then I asked him if he remembered how many times I’d asked him to stop playing relay for her. He said he couldn’t remember me ever making that request – until I reminded him of all the birthday messages he’d relayed that I specifically asked to never hear again. Then I reminded him of all the times he’d gotten written messages from her and tried to relay them to me – including my most recent birthday when he showed up at my house and surprised me with the card I did not want. I told him that while I was sorry that things went the way they did, it was pure self-preservation that caused me to reject his visit on Dec. 26th.
Then I said that, if he could agree to NEVER attempt to relay another message from her, I’m willing to give him the second chance that I gave her. I didn’t want to be disconnected from him, but he had to agree to my simple limit on what we talk about. No more messages from mom. EVER.
He said he didn’t think it would be a problem, in a tone that sounded like he’d already talked to her and told her that he wouldn”t be able to help any more. So, I confirmed that, on that condition, we’re still good, and I’ll continue taking his calls and visits.
I really hope this works.
This is a very special edition of my Saturday Posts series, because today I get the privilege of wishing my wife a happy birthday, On her birthday, on a Saturday Post.
Sweetheart, we’ve certainly been through a lot together, and I’m thankful every day that you still want to keep me around. I hope you have a wonderful birthday.
I’ve written before about the struggle I’ve had with trying to convince my father to stop playing relay man for messages from my mother. For some reason that escapes me, he’s never been willing to see my side of the issue. Without fail, every time she’s asked him to forward a message, he’s willingly accepted the assignment, and dutifully attempted a delivery.
While I was sleeping on December 25th, 2019, my father called and told my wife that he had a card from my mother he wanted to bring over. She told me about it when I woke up. On the 26th, he called again to say that he was ready to make the trip over. I answered the phone, and told him to save his gas. I knew why he wanted to come over, and still wanted nothing to do with it.
As if he thought I was a total fool, he suggested that he could still come over to visit if I just wanted to spend time with him. That cut me like a knife through the heart, because I would have loved to have the chance to chat with him under friendly circumstances. However, by his own actions he’d already made this a hostile encounter. He told my wife that he had the card from my mother, and now there was no way I could trust him to come over for a visit and NOT bring that card with him. He’s backed my mother on every attempt she’s ever made to reconnect.
So, I made a very, very difficult decision. I told my father to save his gas, and that he’s burned the last bridge he had to me. I told him that I’ll miss him, and that I’m sorry it came to this, but he is no longer welcome: in my home, or my life. He couldn’t stop pushing me to reconcile with mom, and the result was he pushed himself out of my life.
We just have oppositional views on life. My view is that if you have a right to associate with whomever you choose, you also have a right to choose who NOT to associate with. My dad believes that, in some sick way, biology binds you and forces you into relationships that you are not allowed to ever deny. It is a terrible outcome, but we can’t continue to function as relatives.
Wednesday was the start of the worst 3 days of my life.
The morning started off easily enough. All I needed to do was call our local internet service provider to find out why the taxes on our bill went up by $17 in a single month. I made the call, and learned that they were already aware of the problem. The Customer Service agent said that there was a meeting going on to sort out the problem, and she’d call me back with the update as soon as she had an answer. All I needed to do on my end was stay awake until the call came in. So, I started watching “Hell’s Kitchen” on the tubi app on my Playstation 4. No problem, right?
Well, that was at 9:00 am local time. I didn’t get the call back until about 1:30 pm, at which point I was already feeling pretty worn out. I was watching “Captain Marvel” just to stay awake. Shortly after I got the call from the Internet company, I decided to finish watching the movie I was already in before trying to get some sleep.
That was a bad idea.
Before that movie ended, I got a call from my sister, Tammy, telling me that my dad was in the hospital. He’d had a stroke. I told her I’d be there as soon as possible, and called my wife to come get me. Because she was on the hiring committee for a new staff member at the library she works in, she was supposed to pick up a candidate for the job so the staff could meet her for supper. Of course, she arranged for someone else to do that, and left work early to come get me.
Just to be up front, my dad is going to be alright. He’s suffering some speech slurring, and has a minor amount of motor control trouble, but he’s alert and communicative. The real problem was something that happened while we were visiting in his room.
He got a call on the hospital phone from my brother Wally. While he was on the phone with Wally, dad expressed that he wanted someone to call my mother. I agreed to do it – IF I could use dad’s cell phone to make the call.
It was probably the single biggest mistake of my life. I still awake from nightmares – 21 years later – of the single worst sentence I’ve ever heard anyone say. It was my mother telling me that she’d prefer that I was dead than following my heart to practice Scientology. I’ve never experienced a worse betrayal, and I was 36 at the time.
So, when I called her to tell her about dad being in the hospital, she did thank me for the call. But she couldn’t restrain herself from trying to have the last word on our relationship. Ever since, the only way I can get any sleep is to get so drunk that I pass out. It’s been nearly 3 days. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, and I can’t bring myself to return to dad’s hospital room because she might be there.
As anyone who’s been following my blog for very long will realize, today completes my 57th lap around our sun. Nothing very special about that, at least in my opinion.
Through the course of the day, I was called with birthday greetings by my dad and my daughter, at different times (of course). When dad called, he suggested the possibility that he might be traveling into town (he lives in a very small town about 17 miles away) today, and if he did he’d stop by for a cup of coffee. I welcomed him completely.
Please remember that I’ve not only written here several times, but I’ve also told him several times, that I do NOT in any way, shape, or form, appreciate his willingness to be a conduit for my mother’s efforts to reestablish contact with me. I’ve told him over, and over, exactly why I discontinued talking to her, and that IMHO she’s already dead. Mostly because she specifically stated that she wished ME dead as a preferred option to being an adult who made choices she didn’t approve of. Still, every year when he called for my birthday, he also relayed the expressed birthday wishes of my mother. Last year, I told him that I didn’t care what he did with her, but I did NOT want him to ever relay that message again.
This morning when he called, he wished me “Happy Birthday” just like usual, but did not attempt to relay a message from my mom. Instead, he suggested that he might be coming to town, and would like to share a cup of coffee. I was happy to oblige. I very rarely get visitors.
I should have known better. I know, I already said that. Still, whether you call it optimistic, naive, or even dim-witted, I hoped for a good visit with my dad.
One of the first things he did when I opened the door for him was produce an envelope, addressed to me in care of him, from my mother. He said, “I hope you’ll accept this in the spirit that I believe it is offered in.” I immediately threw it in the trash, right in front of him. He expressed confusion, and suggested that I might actually want to open it before tossing it away. I had to explain, yet again, that no matter what I ever felt for her, I can’t erase the pain of hearing her say, “I’d rather you were dead than a member of (that cult).” I was 36 years old when that happened. The day she said that was the day she died as my mother. IMHO, every effort she’s made since to regain a relationship with me has just been her insistence on having the last word.
Still, I’m uncertain about leaving that letter in the trash. Is there anything she could say, that I’d actually trust to be the truth, that could be a step at healing that deliberately inflicted injury? I doubt it, but not 100%. I don’t want to open it, but a small part of me believes that I should.
What do YOU think?
I know there are a lot of people who will think that of me, after they read what I’m about to write.
I don’t care.
Almost exactly 21 years ago, my mother tried to kill me. My step-father, who was an ordained minister of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), stood by her side and used religion to justify her actions. That was the day my faith in organized religion of any form died.
Today I got a phone call. The caller was informing me that my step-father had passed on.
I feel no sense of loss. I’m not sorry he’s gone. I intend to hold a mostly private party, with my wife, tonight – to celebrate the first step to the end of a 21 year long trial.