Daily Archives: August 18, 2009

The Dad He Used To Be

When I got the idea for this post I tore the house apart to find a particular picture of me and my dad. It’s a favorite of mine. I was about 18 years old, walking down the street, holding hands with my dad and my grandfather. My two favorite men in my life at the time. I couldn’t find it. So I said, well, I’ll just find another one. And then I realized. There ISN’T another one. My dad is still alive. I’m in my 40’s and I don’t have another picture of him and me.

Now I believe that every family is dysfunctional. What distinguishes us from other families is the degree of dysfunction. Ours has its fair share. My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder. She is high functioning. When we were kids, friends would tell us how much they admired our family. My sister and I would look at each other like they were nuts! Seriously? You’d enjoy not being spoken to for days? Being pulled around by your hair? Getting in trouble for leaving 2 kernels of corn in the sink? Testing the “waters” every morning to gauge the mood? Doing everything in your power to make sure Mom was happy? Because we all know — if Mom ain’t happy then nobody is happy. That was never more true than in our house.

When I was young my dad was good at diffusing the “situations.”  He’d say, “She’ll get over it.” He’d calm her down – sometimes. And if that didn’t work  he’d take us out of the house for awhile. As a result, we were able to develop a relationship with him. He’d take us fishing. To baseball games. I learned about songs he liked. Heard  stories about him growing up. When we moved out of the house things began to change.

I guess because he no longer had his daughters as a distraction he began falling under my mom’s spell. Things that angered her now angered him. The whole cycle of putting someone on a pedestal, worshipping everything about them and then tearing them down and throwing them in the dog house – he follows now, too. My mother, ever so impressed with titles, would brag about their neighbor “the Supreme Court Judge.” (Before you start guessing who – not the Federal Supreme Court,  the State Supreme Court) Anyway, then she was telling me a story about the Spinster next door and I said, “Wait. I know about the Supreme Court Judge neighbor but who is the Spinster?” And she said, “The Supreme Court Judge IS the Spinster. But she’s not really a Supreme Court Judge anymore. She’s retired.”

I envy my friends who have lunch with their dads. Talk to them on the phone without someone listening in. When my parents lived closer any time I’d stop in to see my dad at the coffee house he ran he’d hurry and call my mom to join us. Oh, I could do things alone with my mom. But I couldn’t with my dad anymore. She’d get so jealous. She’d accuse us of loving him more than her. And to survive her wrath my dad gives in to her demons. I once asked him whatever happened to the man who used to say “She’ll get over it?” He rolled his eyes and said, “That’s minimizing her feelings.”

I read in a self help book on BPD that spouses and children often take on the traits of their partner/parent and can become BPD themselves. My sister and I ran in the other direction as fast as we could. We constantly check in with each other, a barometer of sorts, assuring ourselves that we’re making sane choices with our husbands and children.

I miss my dad. But I’ve come to realize I miss the dad he used to be. Or at least, the one I thought he was.

(I still can’t find that picture. But I promise, if I do, I’ll post it with this entry.)

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