In Memory of my Father

My memories of my father are incredibly conflicted – and as the time since his death recedes they only become more conflicted. Truth be told, he was also a conflicted person, though I don’t think he understands exactly how conflicted he was.

He kept his own counsel. I often wonder how much of that was because of the family he was raised in, the time he was raised in, his particular mental struggles, a combination of all three or another factor I haven’t mentioned yet. But he kept a lot of secrets. I still know very little about him – I’m learning far more about him after his death than I ever knew while he was alive. And I think this is the saddest thing of all, to me. A man is entitled to his secrets, but if they’re so important to you that keeping them is more important than keeping your spouse and children, a sane person would begin to rethink the wisdom of keeping said secrets.

I don’t think my father was a sane man.

I remember many things about him, but he was kind of a black box, in a way. Things went in, and reactions came out, but no one knew what processes went on inside his head that would cause a specific reaction. He didn’t really like being married, and he didn’t really like having children. We weren’t something he wanted for our sake, we were something he wanted for his own reasons and his own sake. We might even know what those reasons are, but that’s the point – we can only guess. We just don’t know.

I think that is the thing I regret most about my relationship with my father – even though it’s not my fault and it’s nothing I could have controlled. If he had been human with me, I might have been willing to reciprocate. But he never was. We were never truly his family, and when it came to him having to choose between us and his true family – the Worldwide Church of God – he always chose the church. He refused to work on Saturdays because that was the day the church told us to rest. He sent in ten percent of our income, and saved another ten percent, because that’s what they told us to do. Whether or not we had food was a secondary consideration. Somehow we always did – if just barely – but it was in spite of him, not because of him. If my mother hadn’t worked, we would have starved. I even suspect we were born just to increase his standing in the church – men were expected to have a family, so he did.

I find it difficult to express my sadness, because I am not sad that he died. I wasn’t when he died, and I’m not now. He never truly treated me like a son, so I have no interest in treating him like a father. But at the same time, he was the only father I had, and by not being a father to me, he took from me that which no one else could give me. All I ever wanted, really, was to know him and be respected by him. And he could never give me that. And thus, I never respected him, either. He never earned it. You only get one father, and he took that away from me.

All that said, he’s dead, and as I stated previously, he died as he lived. The only people who he cared about being his church, and the only people who cared about him being, well, I guess his church. I’ll never have another father. But I never really had that one to begin with.

I hate God sometimes, I’ll be honest. I think it’s partially because he is known as “The Father”, and quite frankly, he seems to not be a whole lot better father than my own. After all, he created a Universe whose sole purpose seems to die for his own purposes, dragged me into this world against my will, and now demands my loyalty while giving none in return. Ultimately, he’s far more like my real father than I’m comfortable with.

Perhaps that’s the most valuable thing my father taught me. Perhaps God is a narcissist, and he did a far better job modelling God than one would expect at first glance. It’d be the worst indictment, both of him and of God, that this is even something I could consider as a possibility.

I have many memories of my father. And for all the memories, I knew him not. Even in death, his secrets are still kept.

Requiem for a Narcissist

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.