A Brief Call with my Dad

Five years ago, my father, now 61, was told he had less than two years to live. Diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, the doctor’s said that the rapid growth of his type of cancer would wreck havoc on his body and treatments could only help postpone the inevitable. Five years later, and dad is – not exactly healthy – but still alive and looking forward to the future.

I’m not very close with my father. He’s extremely narcissistic and judgmental  Every conversation I have with him tends to be the same. Today, I called home expecting my mother to pick up, but instead my dad did.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

He recognized my voice and said my name in a sort of overly-dramatic surprised tone.

“How are things with Derek,” he asks, pausing – “I don’t know how to say this but, the biological clock is ticking, and I’d like to be a grandparent…”

He continues later in the conversation “My PSA is at 0 – but I won’t live forever, and your sister isn’t getting married anytime soon. What is Derek doing?”

“He’s looking for a job,” I mumble, because telling the truth about my boyfriend of seven years being extremely depressed and not having sent out one resume yet just would lead to more judgement.

“Oh, so he decided not to go to grad school. Well that’s good, as long as he gets a job.”

The conversation quickly turns into a discussion about when we’re getting married, my health (my dad likes to ask me about my PCOS all the time though he doesn’t understand it at all, I think mostly to understand if I can have kids.)

We close the conversation with him asking if I’d want to buy my grandparent’s 10 year old car, even though he isn’t sure they want to sell. It would make no sense for me to do this as the car is too big and it would require a road trip across the country, but nonetheless he thought he’d try to sell me the car. I declined as the car isn’t even being sold, and noted that I wanted a smaller car with a sunroof. That seemed to get him off my back on the car, otherwise he’d say that I should buy their car. At least he’s accepted that I am not going to buy a new car – for a while he was very judgey about my decision to buy my last car from a private party used.

Then, we said goodbye and hung up. We never have anything to talk about. My parent’s aren’t the type to care about feelings, and it would be awkward to have any sort of emotion towards them other than the occasional frustration. Every time I go home to see them I remember why I moved away. Still, I see a lot of my dad in myself, for better or worse, and I wish I could come to peace with him before he does drop further ill. I’m not sure that’s possible. He’ll always judge me and my choices — I may be successful at my career but I’m not married with a bun in the oven, so I’m a failure (yet there’s still hope, alas, I’m not 30 yet.)

I guess many parents nudge their kids this way – who doesn’t want to be a grandparent who had already gone through parenting their own children? It’s just the way everything he says to me comes off. He talks down to everyone can can’t admit he’s wrong ever. He has been abusive to my mother throughout my life, so in a way I’ve come to terms with being allowed to be angry at him for that. Still, I can’t help but wish I had a better relationship with him now, because I know the time is limited when he’ll be around. I don’t really know a lot about him, come to think about it. I know that he hides behind his anger, he believes the world revolves around him, and he isn’t afraid to call my mother a stupid idiot in front of a bunch of strangers in line at a pizza restaurant, or to cause her arm to be black and blue because she didn’t listen to his instructions.

Hmm… maybe this is why I love Derek… I know he’d never be abusive like that. He might not be the wealthiest man on earth, but he has such a beautiful kind heart. Sure, things can set him off too, but those are things that make sense. Every moment with my parents together is a fight. My dad is constantly taunting. My mother is off in her own world being extremely neurotic and judgement as well, though in a less evil sort of way.

I just wish my dad and/or mom could say – “wow, you’ve saved $200k and you have a serious professional job and a boyfriend who loves you and makes you happy? I’m so proud of you.” But they’ll never be proud of me. They don’t understand my life. And for some reason a big part of me still cares about what they think.

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4 thoughts on “A Brief Call with my Dad”

  1. Your dad sounds very selfish, with very clear ideas about how someone else should live her life, dispensed without sensitivity. My dad was much the same, and I see the same tendency in myself. Seeing it is good!

    In my experience, trying to direct someone's life so strongly is because you've failed to direct your own as you would have liked, maybe due to kowtowing to your own parents too much. Successful folk are able to dispense advice (not orders) in a much more respectful fashion.

    1. thank you for your comment. I think my dad is really selfish (and I definitely also see those qualities in myself.) It's taken me a long time to accept that his selfishness has hurt my own development, and i'm just now finally escaping that. But it's hard everyday.

  2. Your parents seem like the kind of people who would never admit to being proud of you but probably brag about you all the time to their friends…trust me, as we get older, we like to brag on our kids, and older folks always ask each other about their kids as well…My father was abusive to my Mom as well, along with my stepmother after my Mom couldnt take it anymore…so I have nothing good to say about men like that…as for the nudging towards a baby thats pretty normal stuff I think.

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