-- Since I'm pretty sure I've never brought this up here before,
lemmee tell you about my dad, and how he's contributed, especially during
one fateful six-month period, to me being stark raving mad.
Briefly, my dad has always been sorta distant -- not one to talk about feelings and emotions and such. His job (he was a laboratory manager) often forced (?) him to work in cities different than where the rest of my family lived, and a relocation on his part usually precluded a move by the rest of the family. When he was around, he was pretty much seen as being the strict, grumpy disciplinarian-type, contrasted with the easy-going spoiling I got from my mother and grandmother, who lived with us. He used to drink a lot, which didn't help matters either. My mom and he always had a rocky relationship -- they were separated before I was born, and I personally have no happy holiday memories, just them fighting, on cue, every time a holiday or birthday would come up. When I entered my teens, my dad and I got closer, though -- we went to Charger and Padre games together, I worked for him for two summers, he taught me how to drive. I finally became happy with my relationship with my father.
Anyhow, shortly after I started college, he tells me that he has something wrong with him that's probably terminal. He's all mysterious about what it is, but he was adamant that I not tell my mom, less she worry (which would mean having her nag him). After a while I figured out it was some sort of cancer -- but he doesn't go through chemotherapy or anything. Anyhow, he gets worse and worse, and my mom is worrying b/c she knows it's cancer (she is a nurse after all).
OK, now comes the meat of it: At the end of my second year of college, he says he's going to the East Coast on a "secret" business trip. A couple of weeks after he gets back, my mom calls my brother and I into their room, where she tells us that he had lied -- he had lost his job months earlier, and his trip to the East Coast had actually been to Georgia to try and get back with his ex-wife and the two kids he produced with her when he was really young (one of whom refused to ever talk to him). He stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, rented a Lincoln, and bought his ex nice gifts.
He charged the whole thing on my mom's American Express card.
In addition, he hadn't paid the tax on the house, owed cash to the IRS, had run up lots of other credit card bills, and gave the money he got from selling his Corvette to his heroin-addicted cousin (he also gave the money my mom got when my Metro was totaled to this same cousin). He then said he planned to move back to Georgia or Florida. Over the next month or so, he shredded practically every important financial document he had while having furious arguments with my mother. Then one weekend, when everyone was gone, he took off. As we found out later, he had charged another Lincoln rental on my mom's credit card, loaded it up with stuff (including gifts he bought with other credit cards) and bailed for Georgia.
My mom was a financial wreck, since she had a ton of bills that she was legally responsible for, not to mention a lien on the house. When she found out about the Lincoln, she nearly hit the roof. She had to take a second job, so she was working 70+ hours a week as an ER nurse to not only pay off a veritable Kilimanjaro of bills, but also to help continue supporting my education (I got a job in the library at UCLA after my mom turned down my suggestions that I quit school to help her out). Meanwhile, she had to endure constant verbal torture from my dad, who would call her and just tell her the worst things he thought about her. My mom, who was never an emotionally strong person, refused to talk to him, and somehow managed to avoid a breakdown. I didn't want to hear about him from my mom --> it was way too painful for me.
So five months later, after his brother wrecks the Lincoln, his ex rejects him, his other two kids (including the one he sorta got along with) reject him, and nobody else wants him around since he's broke, he decides to come back to San Diego. His cancer (of the prostate variety), went into remission, so his plan to go off and die with "other" family had, unfortunately for him, come to an unexpected roadblock. So he hops a Greyhound and tells my mom he's coming back "home". My mom was in a panic, she had already started with divorce papers, and was talking about a restraining order to keep him away from the house, which was now in her name (he had signed it over to her before he left San Diego, a clear sign that he had no intention of coming back). I was up at UCLA, and so the day before he was expected to arrive in San Diego, she drove up and we spent the day together -- by this time we'd become closer than we ever had been. Anyhow, during that day together, she repeatedly asks me what she should do, and she agreed with my unwavering advice -- Don't let the fucker back in, call the SDPD if he shows his face. We were in total agreement.
A couple of days later my mom calls me at school and tells me my worse nightmare-- my Dad's back living with her and my grandmother and my brother. She had actually gone to the bus station to pick him up. I was upset, as you can imagine. I swore I would never come home so long as he was there, and Ray, who I was rooming with, supported me on this. My mom begged me to come home --she threatened not to pay for my next quarter of school. She said to do it for her sake. So I relented.
To quickly finish up this little bit of expository writing, over the following five years my dad and I have become cordial, talking and laughing about stuff like sports, politics, and more sports -- things that don't matter. He still doesn't work, presumably because the IRS is still looking for him, although he does get a pension from one of his old jobs. My mom couldn't afford to keep the house in San Diego forever, so she decided (with my dad's urging) to move back to Jacksonville, where they first moved after they got married thirty-three years ago. He now acts as a sort of household manager: he tends the garden, keeps the house looking nice and carrying out repairs, helps my mom to pick out a new Acura, etc.
He's never apologized for what he did, and refuses to talk about it. Granted, I've never really asked him about it (as if I need to ask for an explanation), but this is what my mom has told me.
Which finally takes me to the issue at hand -- my feelings toward him. The point of this long, and surprisingly painful (for me) entry so far has to try and summarize what I feel is the most significant event of my life (apart from birth, retards). But more than that, I have to come to grips with it.
Like I said, I treat him cordially, and we talk and laugh about things much the way we did before he pulled his "stunt". But I don't love him -- at least I don't think I do. I don't hug him, tell him I love him, or plan to go to his funeral. I feel what he did to my mother and myself (as well as my brother) was unpardonable, especially in the absence of any apology. Had things gone the way he planned, he would have died happily among his "other" family, content in the knowledge that he screwed his other one (the one he lived with for thirty-odd years) to the breaking point. My mother stuck with me and did what she had to do to get by, while he tried a resettlement at my mother's expense.
I feel guilty over having given in and made the decision to get along with him, that even though my mother had asked for it, I felt like I betrayed the family institution, like there was some abstract notion of what a family is, and that by caving in and getting along with my father and supporting his decision to mooch off my hard-working mother, I had failed to support "the family". Mind you, prior to this time, I never had felt much connection to my family -- we almost never did family things like take trips together (we managed three in my first 20 years), and we never all ate dinner together, save for all-too-brief, and all-too-tense, Thanksgiving dinners. And yet, here I am, feeling like I betrayed the familial ideals, as if somebody had to stand up for them.
I've got what Dorothy Kadohata (she's a writer) described as a "primitive morality". I realized when I read that (from her book, The Floating World), that I really do see the world in a very primitive, moralistic way. There is an archaic right and wrong in my head, and I applied it to my family. But I digress...
I suppose I have, or rather had, come to the understanding that I would get along with my dad, and hope that some unfortunate incident would come along and he would die, thereby ending this ugly chapter and allowing my mom to fully get on with her life and to stop supporting his loafing ass. But then Akiyo came along, and she screwed everything up.
See, prior to Akiyo, no one ever mentioned the idea of forgiving my father for what he did. Not Ray, not Nicole, not any of my shrinks, no one. Well, Anna Yim (this girl I had the major hots for during high school and on into my first four or five years of college) sort of did, but we stopped talking about the subject b/c it was too depressing and ruining our dinner. When I first started talking on the phone to Akiyo a lot at work, she told me a lot about herself -- her past and a lot of the shit that it entailed. She could freely talk about this do this b/c she has an office to herself, and didn't risk anyone overhearing what she was saying. I didn't have that luxury -- I had the Deej, our intern, and one of our temps. So on the temp's last day she was like, "OK Dave (she refuses to call me "Haole", tell me something about yourself. Screw the temp, what do you care if it's his last day?" That was a good point, so I spent the last 30 minutes of work, and 30 minutes talking about the whole "Dad Episode."
Her response was not what I expected. To paraphrase, it was "OK, so your dad screwed up your life. Big deal -- get over it. He's your father. You'll only have one father, and you have to love him. You need to forgive him and move on, because your not accomplishing anything by letting all the resentment build up. He's your father, the only one you'll ever have, you have to forgive him and love him, end of story." Well, she wasn't nearly that brief, but you get the picture. She recounted a story involving her late father that had a few parallels to my own -- and I guess she had a much rougher childhood growing up with her dad than I did with mine.
This stunned me, and in a weird way, it strongly increased my interest and attraction to Akiyo, even though at this point I had never met her in person. But I don't wanna digress -- the idea that I have to forgive my father, that it was what was best for me, and that it was the right thing to do, and that she was so convinced of it since she had learned it from personal experience, just blew me away. When I had lunch with her a week ago, I specifically brought it up to hear her recount her opinion again so that I could take it with me when I went to Jacksonville to visit. I decided that if I'm gonna make a decision about this, if I'm gonna confront him with how I feel, it's gonna have to be in person, and this is the best opportunity. I shouldn't waste time, because he might be gone soon (you never know), and then I'd have all this hatred bottled up and I would never have an opportunity to completely let it all go. I would just have one more regret to tack on to the other 2 million regrets I already have.
No, I haven't approached him yet (sorry to disappoint you if that's where you thought this was going). I've got about seven days now to make a decision. I guess I hope he won't die in the next week.
This is clearly the longest entry I've ever posted, and if you've managed to read the whole thing, well, then I thank you, and recommend you step away from your computer for a few minutes to try and get over the eye strain you are most likely suffering from. There's nothing more to write. This has been an exhausting exercise for me. Well, not exhausting, more like, I dunno...stressful, I guess. Anyhow, that's that.
And this is the reason why I try not to write much about deeply personal things -- now I gotta edit this monstrosity.