Just like many parents, mine drive me bonkers. They call me every day, and it is almost always when I am in the middle of something like work or sleeping. If I do not call them back within a half hour or so, a barrage of phone calls comes my way followed with “Are you ok?” text messages. After a drawn out sigh, I call back.
“Hey! I was just thinking about you and wanted to see what you were up to.”
Right on cue. Usually, I found myself giving myself a CAT scan with the amount of eye-rolling that takes place when I talk to or visit them. The things they say blow my mind. Some of it is straight up old-fashioned or ignorant to the fact.
At the end of the day, I still love my parents to death. I accept them for their perfections and imperfections. That does not go without saying that we have had our ups and downs with the roller coaster called family.
About a week ago, my dad called me while I was en route to a client. I figured he was just bored, and I still had time left on the road anyways. When I picked up, my dad said something along the lines of “I have something to ask you.” I brushed it off because usually it was not anything too serious. “Would you stand for me at my wedding?”
What the fuck did I just hear? For some background to this, my dad has been with his current girlfriend for the last six years. He brought up the idea of their marriage on several occasions but nothing ever serious. My dad has a bad habit of saying things and never truly following through on them. All bark and no bite. However, this was the most serious I ever heard him. I told him outright that I do not like his girlfriend and that I would never do it. The conversation ventured onto the next subject without skipping a beat.
A few days pass. My mom calls me and says, “Are you going to be at your dad’s wedding?” Apparently, my dad talked to my mom about it. With my mom, I always took what she said with a grain of salt. At any given time, our tumultuous relationship wavered heavily on how much I trusted what she said. She often liked stirring up drama or twisted what others said. I shrugged it off with a “I doubt anything is happening.”
Two days later, my phone rang. “Dad” pops up on the screen. I pick up the phone. “Hey! How’s my son doing?”
“I’m okay. Just trying to get some work done.” It crossed my mind to ask him. I let the conversation go on a little longer before my curiosity caught up. “I gotta ask you something. Mom told me you got married on Tuesday.”
“Yeah we did.” I really was unsure on how to respond to that.
“I am almost at my client’s house. I will talk to you later.” I hung up with some time left on my drive. I needed it too in order to process what I just heard.
As it sunk in, so did the pain. It hurt. My dad actually wound up marrying a woman I genuinely did not approve of. It also felt like he hid it from me in that he did not make a huge deal out of me not being there. He constantly calls me his “best friend” but goes and does this. The empath in me cried out wondering what more I could have done. I wanted to save him from a similar fate when he was with my mom.
Over the next two days, I laid low. I was on edge and irritable as it was. I knew I was. My emotional pain manifests into frustration and sarcasm. I refrained from calling him too. If I spoke to him, my temper would have taken over. When I am upset, my words tear into an individual below the belt. Instead, I spoke to a few close friends about what took place. The story elicited a similar response from all of them.
I am glad that I spoke to them though. It genuinely helped to get it off my chest and into productive conversation. My friends generally validated how I felt and also provided constructive feedback. They all almost said the same thing too.
- It was a good thing that I kept my distance. Keep my distance until I am ready.
- It is what it is. To accept it does not mean I have to approve of it.
- My dad is a grown man who is going to make his own choices. I cannot always take on the role of the parent and try to “save” him.
I sat back and let these thoughts stew. The next time I spoke to my dad I did not want it to be misconstrued.
Finally, my cell phone went off. “Dad” popped up on the screen.
Now was as good a time as any. Reluctantly, I swipe up on my screen. “Hey! What’s going on, my son?”
“Nothing. Not feeling all that great. I need to talk to you about something.” I tell my dad how I have been feeling since finding out the news. “I’m hurt.”
He starts raising his voice. My heart starts to break hearing him. “I never meant to hurt you. You’re my best friend.” I can hear his voice choking up simultaneously with tears. I remain calm, yet firm in my tone.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt you. I just wanted to express how I felt about the situation.” I needed to get it out there. I tell him about feeling betrayed and just upset that he actually went ahead with it. A few times, he tried going off on tangents about my mom and how she hurt us. I keep him focused the best I can on our relationship.
“I will talk to you later.” He tearfully hangs up after our brief exchange. I felt disgusted with myself and the outcome of that discussion. A few minutes pass by. I could not leave my own dad hanging like that. I pick up my phone and hit redial.
“He-hello?” I reiterate my original purpose of just wanting to express myself and what I worked through on my end over the last few days. “I just called you to see if I could take you out to dinner next weekend. I never meant to hurt you.” He really had no clue what he did to me. We exchanged our apologies. I told him outright that I do not approve of her and that I probably would never approve of anyone being with him.
“I cannot keep being the parent. You are a grown man and will make your own choices.” I do not know how much more blunt I could have been about my acceptance of the situation with him. It was true though. I could not control his choices or actions. I could have my say, but that was the extent of it.
“Thanks for calling me back.” He hung up after a gentler conversation that time around. Personally, I thought I handled it in the best way possible. It is a tough reminder though. Acceptance does not mean approval. As much as we want to manipulate the situation, much of our world is beyond our control. We must learn to be content with discomfort both internally and externally. Even more important is the ability to communicate that to those we care about the most. Therefore, rather than pushing them away, it will bring us closer together.
-The Caring Counselor