A strange thing to have the rains come incessantly right when we arrive in Austin. It’s like someone flipped a switch. I am glad we aren’t running around in the searing heat, but we aren’t really doing much outside now, either. I know that I should be letting my brain rest before it begins running marathons for the next 3-4 years, but I can’t really handle too much of this state where both of us aren’t working or going to school–it’s like one of us should be doing something, or we should all be on vacation in an actual vacation place. Instead, we are cooped up back where I lived for thirteen years, waiting for the rains to end so that we can at least walk around the neighborhood.
The dreams have all been varied and scattered and seem to play off of my fears of things not going well here.
I am still nursing a rather tense ending to my dad’s visit, where he felt his usual need to not politely accept a suggestion I’d given him and go on about his business (like a normal person would), but had to rather aggressively assert that he was going to do what he was going to do regarding getting out of our neighborhood to go home, and that he had only asked about one particular thing. I am rather sick of being around him most of the time. He is obnoxious and refuses to act like a normal civilized human being. I have a hard time remembering what he was like when I was a kid–most of my memories are of an angry man who preferred to read his books and drink his beer downstairs or in his chair after we went to bed. Come to think of it, I never really saw him interacting with other people out in public much, and when he did, it always seemed to be embarrassing–a level of embarrassment above and beyond the normal amount teenage kids feel.
He can’t stand receiving help from others, but is always eager and anxious to leap at the chance to help me with something. The dynamic ends up feeling rather much like an awkward power dynamic–his help comes with the deal that I have to be made to feel like I am five years old again as he hovers over me and critiques every single thing I do. Any offering of help to him is generally rejected–I think the last time I helped him with anything was to clear brush on his land during the severe wildfire season, and that was limited to him asking me to pick up brush he’d put in one pile and moving it over to another area.
I think that I put up with a lot of it patiently because I felt so bad for him and Mom after H died and they had no one left there in the house with them and I was nowhere near ready to start a family. Then, just as I was kind of getting out from under that, Mom died and so I felt bad for him again. Most of the time I just tried to write it off as being vaguely cute eccentric behavior from an old man set in his ways, but my patience has worn thin. This is largely due to the fact that I can see so much of what is messed up about me socially and emotionally comes from him–and I don’t think it’s necessarily genetic, but more like learned behavior where I assumed because he and my mom had a lot of friends once upon a time that his behavior must be what is deemed appropriate for social situations.
My guess is that he did a much better job of covering up the purely awful aspects of himself–the pettiness of getting worked up when a lady friend comes over and rearranges a single cabinet and the refusal to graciously accept a son wanting to help. He poo-poo’s any and all of my suggestions I’ve ever made, because the idea wasn’t his–he might take a similar suggestion later if he’s trying to impress a lady friend. I don’t know if he doesn’t want to feel beholden to me, or feel like I have some upper hand of power over him, or what. Surely he knows that at some point he’s either going to have to die or give up his independence to a fair degree in order to continue to live in his last years. I am pretty sure he will die, and I am not especially sad about the prospect of this, anymore.
I know that this sounds terrible–me not really feeling much of anything at the idea of him dying today–mostly just annoyance that he would be leaving behind a house and property full of junk that I would have to sort and sell, and the annoying fact that my estranged brother would suddenly reappear hoping to get something out of it as well. In short, my dad dying today or really any time at all is going to be more of an inconvenience, because it is now pretty clear that he won’t bother to get his shit cleaned up before he dies.
He’s shown little or no interest in L. For that matter, he rarely asks much of anything about what is going on in my life–I have to volunteer that information, and he kind of grunts and barely registers that he’s tuning in to listen at all. He loves to talk about whatever his latest gadget or project is, and what he’s done this week with his friend M, who is this lady about ten years younger than he is–at one time he was terribly smitten with her and I think he hauled a ton of brush off of her land in hopes that she would suddenly decide he was virile enough for her. I don’t think he expects much from her anymore, but I think he’s tired of trying to find companionship online, and this is who he’s stuck with.
He has said on more than one occasion that he would visit us more now that we are living in Austin, but I hardly doubt that will happen. He (and my mom when she was alive) always seemed to find plenty of reasons not to visit me, even as they both would have business here in Austin–mom with her classes and Dad driving patients for ACS into a cancer place right down the road from where I worked.
I think all of it is especially difficult to communicate with other people. My dad has never been absent from my life, but he has always managed to make himself not quite present like you would expect a dad to be present. In other words, he’s done the minimum required of him as a dad, and doesn’t seem inclined to ever change himself. I’ve rarely received any words from him that would make me think he’s approved of anything I’ve done–most of the time they’ve been rather contrarian and pessimistic–like when he said I could only find work flipping burgers if I moved to San Francisco when I was at the peak of my web design/development knowledge. Even this past year, he softly tried to discourage my decision to become a pastor, offering recommendations for me to be psychiatrist or social worker.
I guess you probably think I’m a spoiled brat, what with plenty of children around the world throughout history not getting to have a father around in their lives at all. You wouldn’t be the first person to call me that. I suppose you have to know I don’t give a shit what you think about me, either. The fact remains that I’ve always felt this great sadness when it comes to my relationship with my father. Me trying very hard to get his approval, though I have at least to some degree wished to live my life on my own terms. The fact that we never really do seem to connect or communicate. A sense most of the time that my dad just likes the feeling of still being smarter than me about things, and likes to see me ask for his help with things that render me into a helpless child, and him the all-powerful father.
Quite frankly, I have too many days now where I catch myself kind of envisioning him just up and dying somehow out there. I mean, if he plans to never clean things up and get rid of his junk, it’s going to be a pain in the ass sorting it out today as much as it will be ten years from now. At least today, it might fetch some money. That sounds awful, but I get sick of feeling awful for days after I talk to him.
I recognize that I will have to get used to pocketing all kinds of insults from various people, and always seeking to be the humble person in a conflict. I guess I sometimes just feel like my dad should know better and be better, or that as long as he is as immature as he is, it spells doom for my own chances of becoming a better person.
The thing is, I don’t want to end up like him, and I really don’t want to end up like my mom, either. I want my faith journey to see me progressing toward a place where I am able to regularly help people who come to me for help. I want to die far removed from the kind of person I was through most of the years I last lived here in Austin.
It is paramount that I meet a few folks who seek spiritual renewal by being contemplative and seek to be like Christ by helping the poor and disenfranchised. And, I mean folks who don’t just talk about it, though I am going to need a lot of opportunities to talk about things with people. If I don’t make the right connections while here at school, I am terrified that I will continue to drift–perhaps seeing my pastoral career come to mean as little to me as my web design career did: just a way to make money and put food on the table and appear to be useful to a handful of folks.