My father

My father had a stroke yesterday morning. I didn’t find out until today.

I got home from having another good productive day, exhausted. I walked in and told my husband I needed to lay down.

He came to me and sat down and said, “I know you’re tired but I have to talk to you.” He took my hand and looked serious. I thought my god, my dad died. He wasn’t dead and in fact is already out of the hospital and doing quite well. But it scared me and I cried .

I’ve been out of touch with my dad because after spending three one week stints with him last year and getting yelled at by him I regressed back to sixteen and hated his guts again. He was my abuser as a child and caused me a lot of trauma. Before visiting him repeatedly in the last couple of years—for necessary things like him almost dying due to a heart attack and having to care for him and then moving him to my sister’s town and then staying with him while I spent time with my dying brother—before all that I thought I had let go of all my hurt, pain and anger towards him. I used to call him once a week and we would talk  mostly about food us being both foodies and good cooks. I often called him to ask for suggestions while cooking too.

In any case, he opened up all the wounds when for no good reason he screamed at me on a few occasions while I stayed with him and I pulled back when I returned home I stopped calling him. The withdrawals made me emotionally delicate and being drugged and numbed out from the tender age of 19 meant I never really dealt with all the pain he caused me with his abuse. So I just didn’t want to deal with him anymore.

Now I have to rethink things. I’ve called him twice today. He was happy to hear from me. He sounds good and he may be fine for another little while, but he has heart disease, COPD, emphysema, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, he smokes and does not exercise and he’s 80. Chances are he won’t be around too much longer.

I’m not sure what to do with this reality. My brother died just a few months ago–I am not in the least bit at peace with death.

I will start calling him weekly again. When I thought he was dead today I was mortified and I wept. I was greatly relieved when I found out he was going to be okay.

I can’t travel to see him. I’m too ill and really I don’t want to see him, but I do want to find some peace with him. I love him, in spite of everything. I don’t understand why I love him, but I do.

17 thoughts on “My father

  1. waterlogged,
    I appreciate your input. It’s clear you understand the kind of trauma I’ve dealt with at his hands.

    I will stay away while I’m fragile. I hope that before he dies I will be healthy enough to see him again….

    I won’t stay with him, but seeing him for a lunch or a dinner would be fine.

    otherwise you’re quite right I need to settle the past on my own, in my heart and soul.



  2. Gianna, I got here by a circuitous route I no longer remember, but your situation with you Dad touched me and I wanted to respond. I don’t think that the kind of tension that results from years of bad experiences can be settled by seeing your father. You can settle with the past on your own. He is unlikely to be of any help to you and probably too old now to change at all. On the other hand, he can still hurt you. I agree, stay away and stay calm.


  3. Hi naturalgal,
    thanks for sharing your story.

    One thing I do know—in his limited way my dad loves me. I have no doubt about that.

    And before the reopening of wounds we spent some good time together—he has come close to death several times in the last 5 years—and I had at one point felt like I got closure and was ready for when he went….

    ….then he just kept hanging around! and I was forced to spend too much time with him in my delicate state and he was nasty to me on a few occasions…

    but really…I feel all I need to do is start calling him again…we have plenty of small stuff we talk about that I really do enjoy….especially about food….

    He will never realize what he did and he will never read a self-help book, but as I said, most of the time if you’re not spending a whole week with him he is sweet these days. and he even says he loves me.

    When I called him in the hospital I told him I loved him and he returned the words….

    I think I will be okay….I was lucky to be given this wake up call.

    I do have to say I’m not ready for another death in the family period. My brother has not been dead a year and that is still a source of horrible pain….I know my father’s death would trigger that again…

    I won’t be seeing him any time soon because I don’t think I could handle traveling, not now anyway….but I will talk to him often. If I get healthier I’ll visit him…I guess that isn’t inconceivable so much anymore…I really am still doing better and better! I just won’t stay with him!

    thanks again.


  4. Gianna and all,
    I debated posting about my relationship with my father. I guess I don’t really want the whole world to know about it at this point.

    I will just say this:
    He had a heart attack. I refused to visit him. He recovered. He changed his ways. He showed to me that he was truly sorry and that he loved me. (Although I never doubted his love…I just couldn’t be with him)

    He lived for a few more months after his heart attack and his changed ways. When I went into his house I found all kinds of self-help books.

    When he died I had a comforting feeling of love, forgiveness and closure, all though he was much too young die.

    It was risky for me not to visit my dad. He could have died. Luckily for me he did not and we had a chance to reconcile.

    Gianna, If I could give you anything it would be the acknowledgment from your father and a chance for forgiveness and a comfort from God. If he can not acknowledge what happened, I pray that you can someone learn to forgive (not condone) him so that you can heal.


  5. thanks Pat,
    sharing that about your own life is much appreciated…

    and Doe, thanks for letting me know you’re out there….that alone makes me happy!


  6. Gianna,

    I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this….more later…I’m having trouble with writing much lately! But I just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you! xxoo


  7. Gianna,

    I understand and relate. My story is one of betrayal and abandonment. Yet, I still sought his approval and affection well into my middle years. After my cold turkey induced breakdown, and having been diagnosed with PTSD from my childhood, I tried to talk to him, for understanding, forgiveness and closure, and he snapped “you’re having a nervous breakdown!” I decided to accept the fact there would never be forgiveness and closure. But still, somehow, I love him, as you realize you love yours too. I guess the best we can hope for is peace and acceptance – that would be ok, right? Sounds like you have a good head start on that one!



  8. Just following up with Jazz and naturalgal,
    I think a lot of abuse can be simple family dysfunction, so yes, naturalgal, we don’t know what happens in a family and some people who are responsible for abuse don’t even realize what they are doing is abusive….this is a tragedy….these are people who are not evil, who love their children but they are inadvertently mind-f*&#ing them.

    Families need healing quite often—but instead kids get medicated.

    Anyway, there is a whole spectrum of abuse in families….from more subtle forms of mental coercion to blatant physical and sexual abuse…they are all potentially damaging though.

    Yes I’m hoping this is a chance for me to work on healing some of my pain….I’m glad I was alerted to the fact that I will be devastated when he dies if I don’t at least spend some time talking to him and letting him know I love him before he does go.

    And Sloopy,
    thank you. your insight and understanding is comforting.


  9. I’m sorry to hear about your father. I wish him a speedy recovery. I understand how you can love him, regardless of the past, and yet that conflicting family relationships can also be irreconcilable.


  10. “a lot of people get labeled with mental illness (it’s really PTSD)”

    I truly believe this.

    I also know that no one really knows what goes on in another family. I know of cases where people see social workers and counselors…but if they actually lived with that family for a few days or weeks…the truth about the family dynamics would be seen….and it isn’t that someone has a mental illness.


  11. I don’t think abuse should be ignored either. It truly is amazing how many people out there have suffered some kind of abuse, and I have to wonder how many people are given life sentences of chemica restraint when what they really need is therapy.

    What’s really difficult for me is that if I ever approached my father with my feelings about the way I was treated, he would be shocked and hurt. I truly believe he has no idea what kind of impact his criticism had on me…still has on me. When I was growing up, my family looked ideal from the outside…all my friends who came from broken homes or had abuse issues thought that my family was so perfect…but we had our own issues, it’s just that nobody ever saw that. My dad was always on about “keeping up appearances” and “family loyalty”. He was very insular and private about our family. Outsiders were only accepted slowly and with a certain grudging resentment. My brother and I both took a lot of flak for the people we chose to marry.


  12. thanks Jazz,
    Yes, I understand undeserved relentless criticism too and got it from my dad too….and though I may not be critical of my “art work” I certainly have an inner critic as well and I’m terribly insecure and want positive feedback a lot — and I’m sure that is because I didn’t get it from my dad.

    Anyway, we’re not alone in having difficult fathers. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a good 50% of parents are abusive at least to some degree. Maybe I’m being cynical, but I do know that once I know people well, if nothing else, it seems a very high number have been emotionally abused which I think can be just as damaging as physical abuse.

    And then when you look at the clients I worked with over the years as a social worker the numbers of abuse go up to about 80 percent or maybe even more—it’s actually hard to think of anyone who had a good childhood among my clients. I’m not coming up with anyone right now. I did work with difficult populations—homeless, drug-addicted, and the severely mentally ill.

    Your worldview gets changed when you see what abuse can do to people. Sometimes that’s all “mental illness” is.

    Also, I actually think the emotional abuse for me was the worst part.

    Sorry if this is depressing, but I do feel abuse shouldn’t be ignored. It is the reason a lot of people get labeled with mental illness (it’s really PTSD)…though I don’t believe it was foundational for me. I think I was extremely resilient in the face of abuse and I certainly did not have it nearly as bad as so many people I worked with.


  13. It’s a lot to deal with. My own father was never really physically abusive…well…there were spankings and whippings with whatever came to hand, but…you know, I guess I thought that was normal…and I was a little sh*t. My issues stem more from how critical he was of everything I did. In college I wanted to change my major from engineering to English…I was told that if I did that, all support would be withdrawn and I would be on my own. When my hubby proposed and I agreed, I told my father and I was told I was “marrying beneath my station,” and “the biggest disappointment in my life.” It’s pretty hard to get past that. I have a much better relationship with him now that I don’t live with him and have him commenting on everything I do. And I suspect that may be part of what we’ve been talking about over on my blog, about how it’s really hard for me to let go of that critic and just be artistic and accept what I make for what it is without turning it into some sort of performance/perfection issue.

    It’s amazing how much parents can screw up their kids without knowing what they’re doing. As a parent, it terrifies me!

    Sorry to ramble on…just take heart, Gianna, and realize that your journey toward wellness is going to involve dealing with all those emotions that you’ve had medicated into submission for the last twenty years. But I think it’s a journey that is well worth it, no matter how painful it may be in the moment. One moment at a time, and remember to breathe!



  14. thanks Jazz and naturgal….
    Oh no, my father has never apologized and what he did to me and my sister was criminal—literally.

    I once tried to talk to him about some of his behavior—certainly I wouldn’t even broach some of the stuff he did.

    In any case, his reaction was shock and anger that I would have any issue with how he raised us whatsoever. I never brought it up again.

    He basically assaulted us and there was sexual stuff in there too that I simply won’t get into. I don’t believe he’s strong enough to come to terms with what he’s done.

    The denial of having caused harm in people who do stuff like that must be huge…how could one possibly live with themselves if they let themselves understand?

    Anyway, most of the time he is mild-mannered and even sweet now, but he opened up wounds for me with his behavior in the last couple of years. And like I said I’m having to process 20 years of being numbed out….


  15. Hi Gianna,
    I hope that you will be able to make peace with your father. Has he ever told you he was sorry? Or has he made any effort to change?


  16. Oh, Gianna, I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds like you have a pretty tangled web of emotions to deal with regarding him. I have a similar situation with my own father….and I think it’s something that takes a lot of time to sort out. Since you’ve been medicated all these years, as you say, you really haven’t had to deal with that emotional mess yet. Just take it one day at a time, stay in touch with yourself in your journal if you can, and know that I am thinking of you. *hugs*


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