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Returning Home, a Father Quest

July 21, 2011 11:11 am

It was Sunday, and I hadn’t set my alarm clocks. I thought I’d sleep in a little, although I hadn’t intended to sleep as late as I did. A sharp rapping at my bedroom door and an impatient bark of my name roused me out of my dream (which, unfortunately, I can’t recall–unless it was the one in which a group of older women were being forced to receive anal sex from a battery of well-hung young men, like something out of Dante’s Inferno, which seems to me related to my fear of my own monstrous sexuality–but this is another story).

My father had been holding in his complaints, for the most part, and now the valve blew open with an angry burst of steam and smoke. My cat had been screaming for breakfast for three hours, in her most desperate, most demanding, scratchiest voice. (My cat is a little hoarse, or at least she eats like one. Haha.) Dad was concerned that I was not looking for a job. He would have to lock up his stock of candy, as it kept disappearing. I was allowing my daughter to languish in an extended adolescence.

She needs a father, BD, he said.

So did I, I replied under my breath, thankfully too low for him to hear.

Here is the crux: my father makes many assumptions, always has, and always has worked himself up over these assumptions without first checking his facts. My path right now is to tolerate, bear the burden of, keep compassion for, and love my father, regardless of what he does. Not just because he is dying of cancer. Because making peace with him is making peace with myself. My serenity, my recovery, my mental health depends absolutely on my relationship with my father. (Speaking of this relationship on a psychic plane now, my relationship to the father I have incorporated into my psyche over the past 40 years, the one who mirrors my physical, biological, sociocultural father in the warped silver of my subjectivity.)

My father has cause to be disappointed in me: At 40, I am dependent upon him and mom financially. I have had more than one false start at a career. I at least appear to neglect my daughter’s education (in the broad sense) at times, although some of this stems from legitimate philosophical differences between dad and me. I have on one hand never taken seriously the stuff of adult life that my father takes seriously (much of which deserves a great deal of respect), and on the other taken too seriously–at times to a life-threatening degree–aspects of life which he gives a low priority (much of which is best made “not so big a deal”). Does he think he failed me? I don’t know. But at this point, I know the responsibility to correct my shortcomings is mine, not his.

Like many mythic heroes and Faulknerian protagonists and so on, my task in returning to the father is to reintegrate and then transcend. As a child and an adolescent, I formed my personality in reaction to dad. I attempted to escape him several times, cultivating artistic uselessness and impracticality, getting married (to someone very much like him), moving away from Hometown for 13 years … but I kept coming back–like some inverse Frank-Starling law (the more I filled my psychic ventricles, the more I was sucked back toward the eternal venous return of the same)–needing help to navigate the big bad real world. The only way I can fully emerge as myself is to move through the relationship in which I have for so long remained stuck.

Does this make any sense? Over the past few days, things have gotten better between dad and me, as I have remained conscious of the amends I owe him, become more accountable to him, communicated more clearly with him. I think I’m on the right path, but I walk best when I don’t think. So.

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