I think I now know that my every family gathering is unique, full of as much stress and awkward moments as joy.
I survived another Family Christmas party with dad in attendance. To me, the one he abused for 16 years, it seems unreal that I should have to see him, speak to him, even acknowledge him. It seems that no matter how terrible he is, he continues to be my dad – at least in title.
We barely speak to each other at these gatherings, other than hello and goodbye. Same for the kids. This is made easier by the fact that he is in late stage emphysema, can not stand on his own strength, and has oxygen tanks. He now weighs about 90 pounds. And yet my gut reaction when I see him is fear and disgust.
And also a warped sense that I still want his approval. Still there just a little. And no matter how he hurt me, it still hurts me to see any human suffering the way he is now, so inner conflict is the name of the game.
I don’t know if I’ll ever tell my kids how terrible their Grandpa was. But they are certainly not old enough yet. I decided long ago that he lost the right to know my children. So other than the occasional family gathering, they don’t even know he exists.
And I still try to show him I am doing well at work and expect a “good job” from him, but I am never shocked when I don’t get it. He is truly a psychopath and does not share the same emotions as the rest of the world. My brain knows this. But my heart still knows he is my dad.
Sometimes I wish I had told the entire world about his abusive, creepy nature, though I don’t think it would have changed anything. And now at this point, so many years later, it doesn’t seem right, or even to matter any more.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmingly guilty that I did not tattoo him as a pedophile, a scarlet P perhaps, or have him castrated. I hope to God that he did not hurt any other children, but I will never know this for sure, and have to resolve that part of me. I was too busy saving myself to think of anything else. And now that I have the strength to help others, it seems pointless to label the dying man as a wicked threat.