Tonight, I phoned my dad. He is 95 years of age and remarkably still with it. My relationship with him has always been fractious. Since as early as I can remember I have hidden my heart from him in fear of judgment. My earliest memories of our relationship are not happy.
Yet, I love him. And I will always love him. Despite the hurt I have felt about us, there is something inside me which will always be his child.
At first, when I rang, he did not recognise my voice. Then he said he was surprised as he did not expect to hear from me. I am not sure what he meant by this, but I presume it has something to do with the fact that I do not phone him for money. You see, that’s how my dad has always worked. He would offer money as a lure so that we would do things for him.
I have many memories of his verbal abuse and criticism, but then he would dangle money in front of me so that I would do what he wanted. In my teens and early 20s I turned away from this type of relating and I know dad has never understood me. In fact, I think it hurt him.
Looking back, dad has never understood how to relate in love. Love is not a thing with my dad. Money is. Instead of the vulnerability needed to relate in love, he chose to manipulate with money.
On the outside I’m sure the locals thought we were lucky with the occasional new car or something else that only money could buy. But what could not be seen was the emotional pain between us.
What I needed was his love. I needed the security of a stable relationship with my father, but this he could not give. So, I ate to compensate.
Years have passed and now I see that life is what it is. Nothing can change the past and nothing can take away the pain but love. Dad is this way because of his history. It is up to me to change the way I relate so history is not perpetuated in my life.
So, from the time of leaving my family I have sought to live in love. Because love is the only answer.
When I got off the phone, I felt lonely. Instead of my usual self-berating about what a failure I am to him, I acknowledged that he feels lonely, and I am sad for him.
No matter how much hurt we carry from our family, it is not worth pursuing justice or breaking our heart over relationships that will not change. Instead, the best thing to do is to pursue a life filled with the thing we lacked the most. And this is what I have done.
In love, Jenny