October 11, 2006

Sober Conversations

I'm sure there are a couple of you who know immediately who this post is going to be about, before I even delve into it.

There are a couple of things that I don't talk about much, if at all, here on this blog. Not necessarily because I'm ashamed or embarrassed of them or because I don't want anyone to know. It's mainly because the issue can be so exhausting at times that it's not worth expending the energy to get it all "out" and written down.

One of those things being my dad and our relationship. To truly understand the situation you need to know him personally and to experience some of the interactions firsthand.

To give you some of the basics:
  • My parents divorced when I was 8. Mom had primary custody of the three of us girls.
  • Dad was (and still is) only involved in our lives when it was convenient for him, or when it made him look good--awards night at school, band concerts, graduations, weddings, etc.
  • He told me once when I was at Michigan State that he didn't understand much of what I did; he didn't understand why I wanted to do the things I chose to do. Because of that, he couldn't really support my decisions.
  • His temper is horrible. I've seen him do things that some people could only imagine.
  • And probably the most significant aspect of our relationship--he's an alcoholic. He'll never admit it but he is.
All of those things combine to make an extremely volatile situation, at times. He can be the most ignorant person and make the most ignorant comments. But because of his temper, many people never say anything to him about it. So he continues on as he is.

A few years ago, the two of us had a major confrontation that changed the dynamic of our relationship considerably. My sister, A, and I were down at the farm to see him. I was living in Utah at the time, had been out West for about a year. He started on my sister about something and being the over-protective older sister that I am, I immediately got directly between the two of them. Literally. I physically put myself behind him and her so he couldn't continue to talk to her like he was doing. The situation quickly escalated and it ended with A and I driving away with many things unresolved. It was the first time that I had stood up to him and I think it shocked him considerably. We didn't speak the rest of the time I was in Michigan and for months after I came back to Utah. Since then, he's been somewhat better with the things he says to me. Somewhat.

When my other sister got married in August, there was some really hurtful things that got said and done on his part. Since then, I've only talked to him a couple of times and the conversations have been really short.

I guess I should explain too that most of our conversations take place later at night. This is due to the time difference between Idaho and Michigan and due to his schedule. He's a dairy farmer (one that's too stubborn to hire extra help) and he usually works until 10 or 11 at night, easily. Most times, I don't even try to call him until it's 8:30pm here, 10:30pm there. Which means he's had all day to stew in his Natural Light.

Yesterday he called me out of the blue, first thing in the morning. He was outside feeding the young calves and got to thinking about me and the baby. Although not incredibly long, our 10 or 15 minute conversation was nice. It was actually light hearted and he asked me questions about my job, the house and the pregnancy. Usually he does all the talking--about the weather, problems on the farm, etc. Rarely asking many questions about us. Rarely asking questions about the baby.

I've thought all along that he'd be excited to be a grandpa. When I had the miscarriage in May 2005 he cried on the phone when I told him. He seemed genuinely concerned about my health and tried to follow all the infertility treatments I was going through. When I got pregnant this time, he seemed to withdraw. Perhaps he was afraid to show his excitement because of what happened 18 months ago. Who knows. But it's really bothered me that he's been so blase about the baby.

So yesterday felt really good to have a real, sober conversation with him. Maybe it will be the only one like it that I have for a while. But at least I have that one for now.


KrisAndRod said...

I was a little afraid of where your story was headed, but so glad to hear the end result. It's about time. Hopefully this incident was just one of many to come in the future.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that I could ever say or do to make up for the hurt that you three have endured. All I can ever say is, I'm sorry.
I am glad the conversation turned out to be a good one.
Love you.

Sami said...

I too was afraid of how the story would go. I'm glad that you had the conversation that you did and so glad that he took the initiative. I hope that this is the first of many good conversations... but if it isn't - at least you have this one to think about.

Bean said...

It sounds like that was a long overdue conversation..I am glad you had it. Hopefully it was the beginning of more to come...

Beth said...

Wow Mandy, we really have alot more in common than I realized. Those conversations, even though precious few I've found, will be things you treasure in your heart. I am glad to hear the conversation was a good one and I am counting the days until I get to see pictures of your little one on here.