My dad is in the ICU again. It happens at least once a year, actually it’s been about two years since his last visit, so I guess he was due. I got the call this time. It’s usually my uncle calling me, but I guess dad changed the emergency contact to me. I don’t know why, the last time I talked to him, I told him I was “done.” It means I’m no longer helping him, no longer giving him my energy. He’s one of those energy vampires, and they really like draining empaths.
I told him I was “done,” because he used me to open a checking account so he could steal eleven thousand dollars from the nursing home he was staying in by lying to the social security office. I wish I was making it up. I am done. I’m not done speaking to him, ignoring him and cutting him out of my life is too much effort. It takes too much energy, and I’ve given him enough of that. The opposite of love is not hate, it takes passion to hate someone. Just as nervous is the same thing as excitement, wearing different clothes… No, the opposite of love is indifference.
I’ve had a lot of emotions about my dad. When I was a child, he was my hero. He was the most amazing, fun, and creative dad. When I was a teenager, we had violent fights as I was adultified by his codependent and addictive behaviors. When I graduated college, I married someone who turned out to treat me just like he had treated my mother, because I didn’t believe I deserved any better than that. It took me training as a therapist to realize I had lasting effects from growing up with a mentally ill and self-medicating father. I know he loved me, I know he still does. Of course I still love him, too, but I don’t have anything of me left to give him. He did the best he could. I can’t ever fully understand his reasons for never getting help, but I know part of it was toxic masculinity. So, I am done.
He called me on my birthday, but for some reason, I didn’t get the notification for two days. It started out alright, “Happy birthday, I love you,” the kind of birthday message one might expect from dad. He then started apologizing for not being the “kind of man” he wanted, “not being strong enough” to hold the family together… and more of gaslighting’s greatest hits. A few weeks later, I got a phone call one afternoon. I answered the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. I let him say what he had to say. I didn’t react. I didn’t tell him it was “OK,” I didn’t tell him he was wrong, or right. I said nothing at all. When he was done, I said, “Bye, dad.” Indifference.
I had a dream about him. He came to visit me, in my home. Not his physical body, but his astral body. He was looking at all my things and telling me how nice my place was. I thought about calling him to see if he was still alive, but it’s just as likely he wouldn’t return my call, so I didn’t want to ask the question. Then, I got the call from the nursing home. He’s been taken to hospital with low oxygen and lethargy. I called the hospital and spoke to the ICU nurse. He’s changing channels and complaining, so he’s feeling just fine. I alerted the fam and got on with my day. Indifference.
Someday, he’s going to die and I’ll write a check for his ashes. Until that day, he’s not taking any more from me. He’s had enough.
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