Last night, I got the news that my father died two days ago. From what I understand, he had a stroke a few weeks ago, and didn’t make it. He was 77.
Typically, in these kinds of posts, people would post good memories they had with their father, and end on some sappy note, and everyone would walk away full of tears. I wish I could write a post like that, but I can’t.
The last time I saw him was twenty years ago. My last words to him were “You need mental help”. His last words to me were “so do you”. That sums up our relationship, or lack thereof, very well. Especially given the fact that I was already getting some help and had been for years, and he full well knew that. I was moving out of state, and I never saw him again, and only went back to my hometown once. I did not see him or make any effort to, when I did.
In my father’s world, the world revolved around him. Everything had to do with him, in one way or another, and if it didn’t it was a threat. His family was his property, and we did nothing if it didn’t meet with his approval. Other than spanking, he wasn’t physically abusive, but an emotional manipulator like that doesn’t need to be. Why be abusive and break the body when you can be emotionally and spiritually abusive and break the spirit?
He spent most of my early teenage years methodically turning me and my brother against my mother, speaking badly of her whenever she wasn’t around, and fostering conflict that, even though I am fully aware of what he did and how he manipulated me, is still not fully dealt with. He put his religion over our health and well-being, being unemployed for years because he refused to work on Saturdays (at lleast that was his excuse), and forcing my mother to work to make ends meet. We lived in poverty for years because he would not, and then could not, work.
His advice on women to me was simple. “When a woman says no, she means yes,” and “when a woman says No! Don’t!! Stop! she means no, don’t stop!”. That is what taught me that in order to succeed in life, I would have to think about whatever he would do and do the exact opposite. I credit my success in life to that rule. Just be as different from him as possible. Any failures in life have been the result of following his example. I am, by the way, not aware of him ever explicitly following this advice, and I would suggest this was mostly because he didn’t seem all that interested in women anyway, if you get my meaning. If he had have, I’d have been the first to report it, but I don’t think he did.
He believed the world was going to end at any moment and saw demons everywhere. My anxiety over anything even remotely bad that happens can probably be directly traced to this. I remember once seeing some lightning through a window and being scared to death that the world was ending because of an offhand comment he made. I still don’t think I’ve entirely gotten past that fear.
All that said, he had a few good qualities. He liked children and animals (children became a threat as they grew up, but he liked them when they were young, anyway). He was very protective and my school got away with very little when he found out about some crap they pulled. I still remember him charging to the school, demanding to be let in, and reading the riot act to a teacher who was bullying my brother. He somehow managed to keep a roof over our heads and the lights on, though to this day I’m not sure how. Maybe my mother is to be credited for that.
Anyway, he’s dead. I would like to say “good riddance” but I can’t. I’m not happy about his death – death in any form is not something to celebrate. But I am not mourning, either. I think I got that out of the way twenty years ago. I am more sad that I’m not sad. Perhaps my lack of emotion towards his death is his final legacy. A short death notice in the newspaper, a cremation, and having to search to find his son because no one knew where he lived. That, I guess, is the final legacy of a narcissist.
Rest in peace, father, and that’s more peace than you ever gave me.