By: Revanche

Fathers and daughters, family and formation

December 3, 2012

Since Mom’s been gone, Dad’s compensating, and overcompensating, for the loss and the guilt of having relied on my support for so long by throwing himself into his work, a new project that’s labor intensive, and wholly dependent on his presence.

While I understand the need, and the need to fill the void, I have, for lack of better description, so many feelings, over the sense that he’s shutting out the present because he’s so intent on fixing past sins in search of redemption.

At first, I fought it, trying to draw him out and keep him in the present with me, to move forward with me, but our mutual pain flared and repelled each other. He needed to accept her loss as fact and talk about it as given; he couldn’t bear my tears even so long as a week after the burial and he’d shut down meaningful communication trying to shelter me.  His coping and mine were like magnets pushing against each other.

So I backed away and kept my peace. My pain only triggered his need to protect me; his reactions exacerbated mine, the silences triggered a ticking time-bomb feeling where I wondered when something terrible would happen and I no longer had a reliable way to find out when and what. Mom always understood that even if I couldn’t fix all the problems, I needed to know what was happening; Dad could never accept that sheltering me from the hard truth was the quickest way to an ambush. Not the best way to deal with a daughter who only has a Fight or Fight reaction.

Over the weeks and months, we’ve held a detente of sorts. He tries to convince me that he’s fine. I don’t believe him but try not to lecture, just reminding him that he’s the only family I have left so he needs to take care of himself. He’s more important than money.

I respect the things he won’t say: he needs to earn his own living to get back his sense of stability, identity, and self respect. He needs to feel responsible for his own life again, not being supported solely by his daughter while living to keep his wife alive under the most trying circumstances, a tightrope walk that stretches anyone’s sanity.

I’m giving him his space to do that, and hold my worry back as much as possible.

He’s asked to see some of the household bills since I’d taken them over and gone online with them, with the promise that if they become too onerous, he’ll let me know.

Quite honestly, I don’t believe that promise. He is my dad, after all. We have a history. The only thing I’ve never been able to trust him to do, and ever fought with him about, is to tell me when he needs help and not after it’s too late. But I can make the bills not paperless anymore while retaining online access, and keep an eye on them from afar.  It’s a slightly better compromise than any other one I’ve made even if I do keep wondering whether he’s going to keep workaholic hours, just like in the old days.

As it is, he works just about every day, for 12 to 14 hours. I know he’s injured himself several times and hasn’t gained back the 12 pounds he lost since last year. I can take some small comfort in knowing that his siblings check in on him to make sure he has food enough once in a while, though I certainly see where I get the inattention to meals from, now.

We’re too alike, he and me. Just as, in many ways, Mom and I were alike.

Workaholics, stoic and foolishly so.  Tamping emotions down to some subconscious and primal level where we don’t have to acknowledge their existence. Neither of us ever could ask for help without choking on the words; more than one friend knew I’d let an arm fall off before I’d ask. We have to prove more to ourselves than to anyone else in the world, before we can face ourselves, before we can face our families. Our families are incredibly important to us but at the core, we’re self reliant personalities and because of that, we have to know that our foundations, our identities however we see ourselves are true, first and foremost. So we will push even our families away if we need to in the pursuit of, in the proving of, that truth. It’s a flaw. A gaping maw in our armors some days.

I refuse to let those similarities drive us apart, but in the doing I have to consciously keep some small distance while we figure things out. While we develop a new relationship around our family, our money, and our individual selves so that we don’t chafe each other raw.

It’s not easy. But perhaps we’re making some progress. We’ll see down at the end of the long road.

9 Responses to “Fathers and daughters, family and formation”

  1. I wholeheartedly approve of the online tracking idea to make sure things are okay. If he’s anything like you, he won’t admit to wanting/needing help and will pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. 🙂

    Still, don’t give him TOO much space. Hang out, but don’t talk about bills or money, just enjoy each other. Otherwise, it can become overwhelmingly silent.

    (Sometimes I wonder if I had been more involved in my parents’ finances when I started work and getting out of debt, if they’d be twice as far ahead as they are now with the new budget I gave them and spending/saving rules.)

    • Revanche says:

      It only took me my whole life to start learning how to deal? 😛

      This is only just me figuring it out on paper, too. Making it work for real is a whole other ballgame.

      WRT your parents: Maybe, maybe not. It might be they had to see your successes before they’d listen.

  2. sp says:

    i hope i have a daughter as thoughtful, caring, and as fiercely protective of her parents as you are. 🙂

    It seems like a good approach to give some control back, but still monitor closely. I hope that he takes care of himself – and you, you better be taking care of YOURSELF too!

  3. StackingCash says:

    This is why I’m so into personal finance. Achieving balance with money and life seems so elusive, yet is critical to happiness, IMHO…

    Reading you last few posts has caused me to reflect on my current life. Thanks.

  4. As much as you can see he isn’t okay, the fact that you are concerned, caring, and willing to do things in a way that he is more able to handle shows that he will be okay, because he has your support. You are a great daughter.

  5. Your dad sounds so much like mine and I have some of the same worries. My mom is “gone” in the sense that she walked out on him. You sound very in tune with your emotions around all of it. Please know how much I feel for you.

  6. Fathers and daughters…{sigh}

    If he’s not gaining back weight that he needs to be healthy, maybe you could help by quietly bringing him some food. He may not feel like being bothered to fix something to eat — speaking from experience, I’ll say that’s a common situation for us old bats. Even if it’s just take-out, he may appreciate having you drop off a dinner whose leftovers can serve for breakfast or lunch. Or some high-calorie sweets, which would help to bring back the lost pounds;.

  7. […] I suspected when we agreed that he was going to start taking on the regular monthly stuff like utilities, there’s not been a word from him about getting behind in payments.  It seems […]

  8. […] people who make you feel humble, such as those who have supported, organized and held together their entire family all alone with nary a comp… […]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red