I saw my therapist yesterday and we talked a lot about the anger I have toward my father. As we were concluding our session, she told me we had to work on this – this utter malice I feel toward him, which I foolishly believed would evaporate when the day comes that he dies.
She told me that will not be the case. Dammit.
So she handed me homework. A love letter divided into 5 areas of emotions which I am to work on to release some, perhaps all, of the chains that he has held me captive with since I was a teenager. I can do this. I can write. It’s better than 25 years ago when the therapist I was working with had me take out my aggression toward him with a wiffle ball bat and slam it into pillows as hard as I could. I felt like an idiot doing it, and it had little effect…
And so, let us begin:
- Anger and Blame –
- I don’t like it when you ignore the ideas/thoughts/beliefs I hold that go against your own. Is it because I am female? Is it because I am your daughter and not one of your adoring sheep?
- I resent, god I resent the way you put everyone ahead of your family, even to this day when your wife is dying and you only care about yourself. I resent that you made us live under the condition that perfection = love, which has fucked my mind and my relations with others and with myself for over 40 years.
- And I resent the fact that all through my high school years you called me by my sister’s name, even though you had shunned her from the family for living with a man who she was not married to. Although the rest of us were “banned” from speaking to her, or even mentioning her, you could not escape your Freudian tendencies and called me by her name for four years.
- I hate it when I contradict what you might say, or call you out on your beliefs and your retort is to laugh at me and dismiss any feelings I may have, any beliefs that may not agree with your own.
- I am tired of you ignoring reality, the fact that you are getting older and life has to change for both you and my mother and you refuse to accept this, which in turn will only hurt not only her but the rest of us, but you are too selfish to realize this or care.
- I want you to wake the fuck up and be human. YOU ARE NOT GOD.
- Hurt and Sadness –
- I feel sad when I see other fathers who give unconditional love to their children, and I know the only one you ever gave this to was our family pet(s).
- I feel hurt because you dismiss me, over and over again, because I am not living up to your expectations of how you think I “should” be living my life. When I reached out to you after I had drowned myself in alcohol for too many years after the death of my husband and realized I needed help, your only response was “good luck” and “let us know when you get out of rehab”.
- I feel awful because although I tried for years to be the perfect daughter for you, you have never recognized that and can only see the flaws. It undermines who I am and my ability to live my life freely, because your goddamn voice is always in my head, telling me how fucked up I am.
- I feel disappointed because there were so many time in my life when I needed you, I needed your strength. When I left for Greece and told you I was terrified, all you said was “you are one of us, you can do this”, but it was not encouraging. Even though you sat next to me as I waited for my flight, I felt my feelings and who I was were so easy for you to dismiss. I thought perhaps when I lost my husband suddenly, you would change – you would be the father I had always wished for. Instead you only came the day of the calling hours, spent 15 minutes walking with me down the block, saying things about god and jesus and the the bible, but nothing about the incredible man I had lost or the pain that oozed from every pore in my body.
- I want nothing from you anymore. I do not see how anything you could give me at this point in my life would do anything to change the past or how your actions have scarred my soul.
- Fear and Insecurity –
- I feel afraid every single day. Not OF you, but because of you. I know your goddamn genes are running through my body, my brain, my DNA. I know that my bipolar is from you. I fear that anything will set me off, and not knowing what that might be is terrifying to me.
- I’m afraid that Mom will die before you. And the rest of us will be left to pick up the pieces of your life and live with your depression and grief. Emotions you stuff but will come pouring out…and we will have to deal with you, your neediness, your lack of understanding that you can ask for help, that you can grieve without being weak. I am afraid that we will have to take care of you and no one will want to. The others will, because they are good people. But I cannot see myself being this generous…
- I feel scared because I am terrified that one day I will wake up and I will have become the cold, unemotional, control freak that you are. I know I have these tendencies and watching them emerge more and more in you makes me fear for what the future holds for me and anyone close to me.
- I want to be free of you.
- Guilt and Responsibility –
- I’m sorry that I am not perfect. And that I am female. We all know you love our brother much more than the rest of us, because he is a man.
- I’m sorry for your shitty childhood. For losing your mother so early, having a step-mother who pushed you off to private school because she didn’t want children around. I am sorry you lost your father when you were still emerging into adulthood. I am sorry your step-parents died so tragically. I am sorry that you are still that frightened 12-year old boy, staring up at ivy covered buildings after being rejected by a woman. Perhaps that is why you resent us so much.
- Please forgive me for not being perfect. For disappointing you over and over and over again. For not living up to YOUR expectations. Please forgive me for loathing you so much.
- I didn’t mean to have my life fall apart…I didn’t know I would have this disease blow up in my head when I was 25. I didn’t expect my husband to die when I was 33. I didn’t expect to fall into becoming a highly functioning alcoholic for the next 6 years as I tried to come to terms with my grief. And I didn’t mean to find myself terrified to call home, because I do not know what is waiting there for me…I have become the prodigal daughter, because I cannot handle you, but I never meant to feel this way about myself or you.
- I wish we were both different people. I wish you could have loved us as we wanted and needed you to. I wish you could have found what you needed from us, and not from those who worshiped in your sanctuary every Sunday. I wish that things would have been different for all of us, and I could have a father that I felt supported me regardless of who or what I was.
- Love, Forgiveness, Understanding and Desire (I think this one is going to be hard) –
- I love you because you gave us the magic of the Island, the one haven we had throughout the years of moving, growing up, leaving the nest. It is/was the one place (until recently) that we could come together as a family and forget about the outside world. Your focus was on us, solely, for two weeks out of the year. Some of my happiest memories of childhood are from those summer weeks.
- I love when I don’t have to hear about your craziness, your inanely repetitive question, “if you had to do it all over again, would you?” I loved those moments watching the stars on the dock with you as the mosquitoes ate at our ankles, or when we looked for the archaeological treasure we had discovered one year in the lake. I loved that as I grew and visited less and less, you still let me know that you found it every summer.
- Thank you for my Mom. Thank you for the Island. Thank you for the memories, few and fleeting, that are good. Thank you for taking us to England as children and instilling a sense of wanderlust in me as a child, one that I will never outgrow.
- I understand that you are a fallible human being (even if you don’t). I understand you are confused and in a great deal of pain. I understand the fear and grief that you must be feeling. I understand you better than you think. Because I watched you, for years. I listened more than I spoke. And I know you. Sadly, because a part of you is inside of me.
- I forgive you for being human. It would be nice if you could do the same for the rest of us in the family.
- I want these chains, this anger, resentment, the bubbling vile in my stomach when I think of you to be released. I want to walk into my own sunshine, without your shadow hovering behind me and finally feel free from you.
© Sorrow & Kindness