Can't Choose Your Family
I didn't recognize his voice at first. After all, it had been five years since I had last heard it. "Well hello there!" The voice greeted me over the phone. I paused, a bit taken aback by this strange familiarity. "Hello?" was my response, cautious and inquisitive. Then I realized who he was, but did not indicate so. "You know who this is, don't you?" It was more of an insistence than a question. But I am stubborn and bitter, and would not give him the satisfaction. "No, no I don't." He sighed. "It's your Dad." he informed me, a grain of expectation clearly glinting in his voice. I quickly debated whether or not to end the call then and there. I paused, but my curiosity insisted that I find out what the hell he wanted. "Oh. Hello." I finally responded, a bit coldly.
"How are you?" he asked. This annoyed me, so I kept my answers short and curt, as though I was speaking to my ex-husband's lawyer. "Fine. And you?" "Well Kiddo, I'm not doing so good here. I was laying in a hospital bed while you were laying out on the beach getting a suntan last month." I was aware of his recent medical misadventures, but was instantly annoyed that he knew nothing about his own daughter. I don't tan, I burn. I would never lay out on the beach. I cover up as much as I can, and slather on the sunscreen, yet still manage to get sunburned. Anyone who knows me would know that about me, and he is my father. My response was less than sympathetic in tone. "I heard."
He went on to tell me that his heart is failing, as are his kidneys. He told me that if he can get his kidney issue cleared up, then the doctors can do something about his heart. Instantly I knew why he called me. He never said it in the conversation, but I think he wants a kidney. How dare he.
To say he was not the best father would be an understatement. He abandoned his four children and wife when I was eight. That winter he had the propane tank, our only source of heating and cooking fuel, emptied and his account refunded. He moved away, calling to argue with my mother every now and then. He played games with paying child support, paying it whenever he felt like it, if at all. Because of him, my siblings and I went hungry, cold, dirty, and without adequate medical care. He knew how we lived, but did nothing about it. There was a lot more to it, but this is what I am comfortable sharing. Suffice it to say, he was not a good father, and extended that into my adulthood, randomly choosing to be angry with me and deciding not to speak to me for months and years at a time over some imagined slight.
The last time I saw him was at his mother's 85th birthday party. He visited with everyone except me and my children. When it was time to say goodbye, he said goodbye to everyone but me. I sought him out, I stood in front of him, waiting my turn to say hello, goodbye, something...... It was as though I did not exist. I watched him drive away, as he was planning to go back to my grandmother's house for a private family gathering for which I was not invited. I had no idea what I did to deserve this rejection. Sadly but quietly I herded my children to my van. It wasn't until we had driven out of town and were on the highway that the rain started, and so did my tears. I was thankful that my kids were tired and fell right asleep. I was thankful they did not hear me cry over my father's rejection. I drove home and cried for an hour in the pouring rain. When I approached my own town the rain stopped, and so did my tears. When we got home and I explained what happened to my husband, he was not terribly sympathetic. I just wanted him to hold me as I cried, but he would not do this. "Crying about it isn't going to do you any good!" he said as he squirmed away from me. I was left to sob into my pillow alone. It was then that I decided not to continue to expose myself to this pain. I decided that I would not make any effort to contact him. It was safer to avoid this source of hurt and disappointment. Maybe I couldn't choose my family, but I could choose not not have him in my life.
Five years later, my father and I engaged in a bit of cold, distanced small talk, two states away from each other over the phone. I coldly wished him better health, and we closed our conversation.
Once I hung up the phone I sat for a second and mulled over my thoughts. I SHOULD be sad. I SHOULD be upset and feel bad for him, after all, he is my father. I wasn't sad, so what was I feeling? Annoyance. I was irritated that he attempted to stir up my emotions. I was annoyed that he thinks he can just pop in and out of my life whenever he feels like it. I was angry that he thinks he can just skip over apologizing and all of the hard emotions just because he is dying. I was outraged that he dared hint to me that he needs a kidney. He's not getting mine. I would give mine to a stranger before I give it to him, the ungrateful bastard. As I thought this, I realized that I felt guilty for feeling this way.
Why should I feel guilty? What did I do to him? Fuck off and die, Dad.