Tag Archives: father

Hey! Hallmark! Where Are All The Dysfunctional Family Cards?

This goes into the books for something I thought of first but someone else is going to have to implement.

I want Hallmark to create a Dysfunctional Families Division.

Yes. I’m putting my idea out there for Hallmark to see.

Come on, Hallmark. Run with it!

I hate searching for a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthday cards for my parents. I’m a crappy daughter. Just ask them. But I’m not so crappy that I don’t send them a card for birthdays and other holidays.

I’m not asking for mean cards. I don’t want them to say “I hate you!” or “You screwed up my life!” or “Thanks for nothing!” I’m crappy but I’m not cruel. But all of this “You were always there for me” or “Thank you for being the kind of (parent) that is so easy to love!” or “I am so lucky to have you for a (parent)!” I’m just not feelin’ it.

I’m pretty organized. I have one of those handy, dandy card organizers. On the rare occasion that I find more than one card that would suffice for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthday? I buy them all. Then I stick them in my handy, dandy card organizer so I’m ready for the next year. Luckily, last year was one of those banner years. I was armed and ready for this Father’s Day.

My husband? Not so much.

“Damn. Publix was closed by the time I got there. I couldn’t get a card for my dad!” He looks at me with a sheepish grin on his face that means, “So you’ll go get a card for me tomorrow….right?”

Ahhhh, no.

“Kroger is open until midnight,” I say, not even looking up from my book.

He sighs and heads back out the door.

An hour later. Yes, a full hour later, he arrives back home. With one card.

“Uhg!” He flops into the house and slams the single, one ounce card onto the counter.

“Picking out a card for my dad is like going through therapy,” he laments.

Yep.

I know exactly how he feels.

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When Father’s Day Is A Fat Hen’s Day

(Warning: Possible downer post below. I say possible because I’m not sure how I’ll end this. I’m not feeling hugely optimistic and upbeat, learning some kind of lesson through it all. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see a bright, beautiful rainbow at the end of this post. I truly have no idea where this post is going to lead me. All I know is I feel crummy in this moment.)

I’m writing this on Father’s Day night. But not posting it for a few days. I want the fun and the good thoughts and the raves about all the dads out there to die down. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.

Don’t get me wrong. The Father’s Day we had, together as a family (kids and me and my husband) was awesome. We went hiking. We ate at my husband’s favorite German restaurant. We came home and he napped. Then, it was off to Tai Chi class. It was the perfect day for him. And I’m so glad.

But my phone call with my own father, 1000 miles away. Lackluster. Awkward. And sad.

The very first Father’s Day gift I ever remember giving him was a card. A card I had made. Out of construction paper and crayons. And he laughed. “Fat Hen’s Day? What in the world is Fat Hen’s Day?” I was probably about 7 or 8. With the penmanship of a 7 or 8 year old. I was crushed. I had worked hard on that card. So there was a space between the t and h of father. So my r dipped down a little and looked more like an n. He didn’t have to laugh. And it didn’t have to be part of the family jokes in the years to come. “Hey, isn’t Fat Hen’s Day coming up?”

Reflecting on this early memory? It feels a little out of place. I have so many happy, fun, loving memories of my father. He was silly. He loved puns. He could always make us laugh. But my Fat Hen’s Day card? In that moment, I was the butt of the joke. And it didn’t feel good.

And then there was last year.

I have always given my parents something, some kind of gift for Mother’s and Father’s day. My husband would just call and sometimes send a card to his parents. It wasn’t until we were married that he (and by that, I mean I) started sending a little gift. His parents were always so appreciative.

There was always a twinge of expectation with my own parents. And last year was no exception.

My dad, a voracious reader, would appreciate a gift card to Barnes and Noble, right? Of course right. (You can’t buy my dad a book because invariably, he’s already read it.) When I called him on Father’s Day, he thanked me for the gift card and said, “Yeah, I’ll be able to buy a…..newspaper with it.” And laughed. Money was tight for us. I couldn’t afford a lavish gift that year. I sat there stunned. And then defended my gift, suggesting some latest new releases (in hardcover) that he’d be able to purchase with his card. My heart sank. I’d disappointed him again.

This year I didn’t send a gift. I sent a card. I called. And he spent the conversation sharing with me all the things my sisters were doing for him. The gifts received. Blah, blah, blah. I barely listened. I’m tired of feeling hurt.

He and I used to have a close relationship. Well, a closer relationship. A relationship my mother was always so very jealous of. And so, my mother has come between us and we barely have a relationship at all.

When the conversation came to a close I said, “Well, I hope you have a great day, Dad. I love you!” And he said, “Thanks for calling.”

Click.

No “I love you, too.”

I suppose that was my sting for this year.

(And because I can’t possibly end on that sad note I’ll share with you a favorite clip from Bill Cosby. One of my dad’s favorite comedians – and one we thought my dad resembled: sense of humor, facial expressions. I could use a little giggle right about now.)

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Filed under family, Lessons Learned

Dancing with Mrs. Happy and Mr. Right

In my younger days my mother would say to me, “Would you rather be happy or right?” and I would reply, “I’m happiest when I’m right!” I was young. Ready to take on the world. I thought I knew what was what. I wanted to go to law school. I could certainly hold my own in an argument.

But it took me until now to really understand what she meant.

And some people? They never get it.

I was at a neighborhood get-together and I met the elderly mother of one of my friends. She was visiting from out of state. We were chatting about her grandchildren, her visit and then moved to the innocuous topic of the weather. “The weather man said today that we’ve had 8 straight days with no sunshine,” I told her. “Well we had four days of no sun,” she replied. I thought she hadn’t heard me. I smiled and said, “Yes, but we’ve had more than a week without sun…unusual for this area.” I was trying to be more clear using the term “week” instead of 8 days. She said, “But we had 4 straight days of rain!” I just nodded as I tried to figure out if week or eight somehow rhymed with one, two or three and that she still just misunderstood. But she hadn’t.  Every topic of conversation continued in the same vein. She had worse allergies, better seat at the event, worse meal on the plane. The draft we were feeling was stronger where she was standing – not 6 inches from me. I kept hearing my mother’s voice in my head, “happy or right? happy or right?” I nodded, smiling dumbly. I was going to be happy.

I would probably never see her again. With some people it’s easy to just smile and nod. Let them be right. With the people you love? Not so much.

And that’s what I struggle with. My husband knows a lot. About lots of things. Even when he doesn’t. My teenager knows everything, too. All the time. In her mind. These moments become defining moments where I pick my battles. The “happy or right?” mantra playing over and over in my head until I can choose what is needed for that situation. Sometimes, I can be happy that the movie we just saw was PG-13 (it was R rated) and wasn’t it pretty violent for PG-13? (really, it was R) I can smile and nod and be happy. “But you said I could go to Sara’s after the concert!” Ahhh, no, I didn’t. Your grandparents are visiting. “But you promised.” I wouldn’t have promised with out of town relatives visiting. You’re lucky you’re going to the concert. Any more discussion about this and you won’t be going to any concert.

Recently, while at a nice restaurant, a server brought two plates of the appetizer we ordered. “Oh,” I said, “We just ordered one.” She got very defensive and told us that our waiter had written down two. Our waiter, was standing just behind her and smiled. “No,’ he said, “It was two soups,” which he had in his hands. He set the soup in front of my husband and I. “No it wasn’t!” She wanted a fight. He just smiled. And I could faintly hear: happy or right? happy or right? I believed him. You know how you can just tell when someone is right? He had proven to be a very experienced waiter so far. I don’t believe he made the mistake. And he wasn’t going to engage with her- not in front of the customers, anyway. But I think he was choosing to be happy.

Knowing when to Pick Your Battles and the Smile and Nod. It’s a dance I do every day. And I’m getter better and better. Pretty soon, I’ll be good enough to try out for So You Think You Can Dance. And I bet I’ll win!

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Filed under family, Growing Up, How We Roll, Problems

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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