What Would You Do?

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    Oct 20, 2008 11:33 PM GMT
    I'm a little surprised I haven't generated a topic until now seeing as how much I seem to babble on all the other topics, but I've got something on my mind I'm currently wrestling with and realized I may find some good input here over this uncomfortable personal issue. So any advice would be welcomed.

    Background: Early Sunday morning I got a call from my mother telling me my father had been rushed to the hospital with chest pains. The diagnosis was a heart attack. Obviously mom was in a state of frenzy and fear so I rushed home as quick as I could to be by her side. Notice my main concern was for my mother.

    Here's where the problem begins. The whole trip home I was getting more and more angry looking back at the past relationship I have had with my father. To say it's got it's dark moments is an understatement. My father repeatedly cheated on my mother openly and pretty much left the task of raising me and my brother up to my mom. There were more than a few times as a teenager I ran into some of the women he fucked around with and each time felt completely embarrassed and humiliated. What compounded that situation is that my father was and remains a very highly respected man within his community. On the surface he created the perfect facade.

    My fathers approach to discipline growing up was very physical and verbal. There was nothing that ever seemed to please my father. I will not get into all the degrading comments made to me and my brother growing up.

    I suppose I can thank him for some of my successes because of that cold behavior. At an early age I became a perfectionist facing most tasks. The downside to all of that has been exhaustive at times and I've applied self therapy in trying not to cater to complete perfection. In the process of gaining my own independence a seething hatred grew for my father. I have said on more then one occasion I am forever grateful for the lack of a man he is as I use all that garbage to keep myself in check. In short, he is everything I never want to be.

    So I arrive at the hospital and there he is laying there looking very vulnerable to life. And what does he do? He reach's out to me and starts crying and telling me how much he loves me and how proud he is of me. I wanted to vomit. To me this was typical behavior of someone who was facing his mortality and feared all the bad was about to catch up with him. I played the role in that moment perfectly and told him I loved him as well and assured him he still had many years left to ease his fears. My skin was crawling playing this role. I was astounded watching my mother express her fear in possibly losing him after the many hours we talked privately about his abuse and infidelity. It was as if none of that ever happened. I said nothing but inside I can't even explain the repulsion I was feeling. Honestly, my thoughts were very selfish. I kept thinking... How dare he ruin my Sunday with all this.

    So, it appears after many tests dads got a good chance of making it through this wake up call in regard to his health. By 8 last night I was told to head on back home and should anything change during the week I would be notified. Again, privately I was so disgusted with the whole routine I actually needed to get out of there and felt so much guilt for feeling that way it was hard to get to sleep once I got home. I will be going back home this weekend to spend some time with him but here's my request for some input.

    My feelings over all of this have really been eating at me. I firmly believe in open communication. I want so bad to address my feelings to my father and get them out in the open but wonder if it's a mistake? There is a side of me that wants to try and build a "new" relationship with him but in order to do so I can't just bury the past and allow him not to be accountable for his actions. I'd like to pretty much hand my anger I have for him over to him to deal with and see if he will acknowledge his past or if he is going to blow it off. This way I will know if it's emotionally worth it to suddenly be his loving son. I think I've secretly found pride in hating this man. I think it's been my way of becoming me and saying to myself I conquered all his abuse by putting up a firm wall. I actually enjoyed coming out to him knowing it would hurt him.

    Am I wrong to address all of this with him at this time? Should I just play his game of avoiding the past? What would you do?

    I apologize for the mini novel but hopefully I've offered enough information so you can give some good advice. Thanks in advance.

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    Oct 21, 2008 12:04 AM GMT
    Hope this wasn't too touchy of a subject to present out in the open. I've gotten some incredible advice through email so far and really appreciate it. Thanks for all that icon_smile.gif

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    Oct 21, 2008 12:20 AM GMT
    Hey Mark

    I used to be in your position. My dad, just like yours, cheated on my mom many times and bragged about it to his friends. He was never part of our life and when I came out to my family, he said I was dead to him.
    Just like your dad mine had a heart attack and yes you are right, they see their mortality and maybe, just maybe, realize how much they fucked up.
    However when I went to the hospital I did not talk to him. I addressed the doctors and the nurse and my family, but as I told my family, I was dead to him so I had no reason to talk to him.
    Weeks later he was the one who called me and asked me over. He apologized and I told him every single way he had messed up my life. It was the most liberating thing I have ever done. He kept apologizing but I kept going. He apologized to my mother and my sister and he made a promise he would change.
    Today he welcomes my husband and I to their house, calls me to check up on me and always invites us over for the holidays.
    Can you get a clean break? If you both want it, sure, I think you can. But that is the main thing, you both need to want it, and let go of the anger. It will not help if you tell your father how much he hurt you if you will carry that anger after you confront him.
    Good luck buddy and know you are not alone on this.

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    Oct 21, 2008 12:30 AM GMT
    es2577 Thanks so much for the solid advice man. I definitely want to let all this anger and hatred go. My feelings of conflict over this have really been eating me up today. I feel like a complete bastard for not having much sympathy for his current condition and I don't like this side of me. So finding that resolve would help release that guilt. However, I want to make sure he clearly understands where I'm coming from. I guess what I'm saying is that I want to hand him all my anger and hatred and he can do with it whatever he wants. I just need to keep assuring myself I'm headed in the right responsible direction with all of this. Thanks again I really appreciate it icon_smile.gif
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:45 AM GMT
    Hi Mark,

    I can only offer my opinion and I have a good feeling you'll give this matter enough thought to come to the right solution - for you. I think I would try to put together the plan of action that would best suit me (you) for the future. On one hand, you could forgive your Dad all his trespasses and then when he does die, you're going to be feeling pretty good about it all. Or you could stay angry and have little or nothing to do with him - letting him die someday without a reconciliation. I wonder if you'll eat yourself up inside though, with this latter course of action?

    I'd say that if the man seems actually sorry for things he has done wrong by you, your Mom and brother, it might be good to consider forgiving him and maybe enjoying a good relationship for whatever time he has left - much like the the example above (es2577). It seems like this might be the way to go - for you - for your peace of mind in all the years to come. Good luck!
  • EricLA

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    Oct 21, 2008 12:45 AM GMT
    Wow. I can identify with some of the general issues you have here. My father is a total dick, too. I'm sure he cheated on my mother. He kept money from her during the marriage and then didn't pay her all he owed as part of the divorce settlement. At least she got the house.

    He is a selfish and self-centered man who has pushed his family away, and yet he blames them for it. The last time I saw him was at the service we had for my grandparents, his parents (they died within a few months of each other). Towards the end of the evening, he approached my mother and starter berating her for the bad relationship HE has with me and my sister. I'm not a violent person, but as I crossed the kitchen floor to put him in his place my first instinct was to pummel or strangle him. But I was born with some sense, and instead raised my finger in his face, remembering where we were, and simply said to him, "Don't you dare make this day about you." He retreated and with a flourish said, "I hope this is the last I see of any of you," and he stormed out the door. I think he was the drama queen in the family. Anyway, he's gotten his wish so far. That was about eight years ago.

    The funny thing is, despite the way he treated my mother, I bet she'd still be married to him today. She would never have left him.

    Anyway, I do still think of him. And from time to time I imagine a scenario that you're going through. I don't know how I'd respond.

    But, in your case your parents are still together. And despite your feelings for your father, I think you should be there for your mother, despite what you think of her choices.

    As for confronting your father, I think you should. But there's a right time and place. I assume he's going to be weak and requiring some convalescence after his heart attack. Confronting him with this now would be wrong.

    But, I think as he regains his strength you should be honest about your feelings as is appropriate. You need to speak from your own experience. You can't speak for your mother and her experience, though it sounds like his infidelities were exposed to you, too, so you can talk to that.

    I wish you a lot of luck. This sounds like a horrible experience.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:49 AM GMT
    Wow man your post really hit home with me. A few years ago when I was a junior in high school my dad died of cancer. Right before we found out he was still married to his first wife (didnt even know he had been married before, lol), and his niece turned out to be his daughter. We knew he had had other kids out of wedlock before he met my mom, but this was just earth-shattering. His daughter was a total bitch and tried to steal all of my mom's money...long story

    But even when he was alive I hated him. I used to be very overweight, and he would tease me about it. One day my legs hurt for some reason, and he said that my legs hurt because they were holding up too much weight. He would also emotionally abuse my mom, calling her stupid and other stuff. He was never around, and everyone credits my academic success to her. Theres also evidence that he was cheating on my mom, and my mom thinks he was plotting to kill her, but thats a different story...

    Anyways that was 4 years ago, and it still haunts me to this day. But to be honest, something like that I think will always haunt me. Now I wish I could have confronted him about it, maybe have some closure.

    My honest advice is that you should confront him, just not now. The shock might be too much for his heart. Weight until he gets better, then confront him and try and get some closure. To be honest man, a wound like that will never completely heal. But it seems like you've been pretty successful, an in-shape professional in San Francisco and all. So no matter what he did or what he says, like you said--you're your own man, and even though it hurts, and probably always will, you, your mom, and your brother made it through just fine.

    Hope it works out.

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    Oct 21, 2008 12:59 AM GMT
    Some men change completely after a brush with death, especially a heart attack. And sometimes it's a genuine change for the better.

    See if this happens to your father, keep in touch with him, and decide if this is a relationship you would enjoy having.

    If he returns to his old ways, I'd be inclined to say no. Assuming your story is accurate, I think the onus for reconciliation rests with him. Do not continue to let him play the guilt game with you, when the guilt is with him.

    But as I said, if he genuinely reforms, and reaches out to you, I think you can at least meet him half way, on your terms as much as his.
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:14 AM GMT
    Thank you all so much for all of this. I do take into consideration the timing of bringing anything up with him currently and making sure it wouldn't add any stress and anxiety to his health right now.

    Again, there's that bitter side of me that comes into play that I hate so much when I think of that. I have to actually muster compassion up for him and hold off confronting this issue. I'm pissed off at myself for thinking in this manner and want those feelings gone. I'm having the hardest time feeling sorry for him but feel an obligation to feel sorry for him but don't know how to get there. I've never felt like this before. His actions created this wall and it's been so honored by me it's very hard to let that down.

    I'll definitely pay very close attention when I see him this weekend and know when the right time will present itself.
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:28 AM GMT
    If you do decide to reconcile, do it for you, not for him.

    Hate is exhausting. It saps you.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Oct 21, 2008 1:28 AM GMT
    I empathize with you on this a lot

    My Father is one of those people who never should have been a parent
    All during my growing years he was mentally and emotionally abusive
    to the point that I did hate him for much of my life

    But as I got older and made a life for myself
    I did come to realize that he had his problems growing up to
    and so did his father and his father and so on

    I'm not saying that you should forgive your Father at all
    but what I am suggesting is that you should let go of the hate
    It's not doing you or anyone else any good
    and will only fester there inside you ... that's why you felt physically ill when your father did his little act of contrition

    Because one day he will die
    and where will all that hate go to?
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:42 AM GMT
    jprichva saidIf you do decide to reconcile, do it for you, not for him.

    Hate is exhausting. It saps you.

    You hit it dead on. The hate is exhausting and it's fucking ugly when you see it in yourself. Those at work today sincerely offered comments of concern asking how his current state of health is. I was so confused by my response because I really didn't want to address his health but offered that like I was playing some role. Deep inside I was so consumed with these feelings of hatred his health was personally not the top priority for me. Thats disgusting. I'm suppose to be at the other end of all of this feeling love, concern and compassion. To get there I know I have to fix all of that for me. It's just a very foreign feeling that I had never been challenged to think about.
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:57 AM GMT
    Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give to someone... even if you know they are not sorry for their actions and/or will never change. Forgiving the Unregretable is, a way of "taking the power away from your agresser/enemy".

    You will only have one biological father. Discuss your feelings with him... don't raise your voice... even if he does--stay clam (you'll controll the conversation that way). But try to forgive for all the hurt he has done to you.

    Family memebers of murder victims usually always find peace when they forgive their family member's murderer.

    Forgiving is easier said than done though.... and may take years--even therapy.
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    Oct 21, 2008 2:38 AM GMT
    Feel you on this one. Normally I'd say it's his job to close the gap, but your mom makes it a different story. It sounds like you and your mom are real close, and a gentle confrontation between you and him might get him to treat her how she deserves for the remainder of his life. Probably no one in the world knows him better than she does, so if you think she would take it well, she might be the person to ask these questions.

    I hope you can get this thing out of you . . . nothing sorts out anger like talking about it. Good luck.
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    Oct 21, 2008 4:59 AM GMT
    I am not sure where to begin with this one.
    I am not sure if I ever told you all of this but as you know, I certainly had a difficult relationship with my Dad. When I first found out he had colon cancer, I panicked... thinking about all of the things I wanted to say and resolve before he died. But he got better and I kept up the facade a little longer. I was afraid of saying anything because of how angry I was at him for walking out on us and moving on. I don't think I ever realized how tightly that anger held me until I was faced with his mortality.
    Anyways, he beat that only to get prostate cancer. Everyone was pressuring me to make peace with him for ME and not for him. We didn't fight, but we also never really communicated as deeply as I did with the rest of my family. I kept ignoring it. Until the doctor said he only had weeks.
    I sat at the computer in tears and typed up a letter laying everything on the table. It felt cathartic and truthful and everything I needed it to be in that moment. Looking back at that letter, it was probably petty and sadistic. The wishes of a young boy who was ignored by his dad mixed with the anger of a man who was realizing how much of himself was permanently changed by my fathers poor choices. I was not sure what I really wanted other than to have him apologize and really mean it. I wanted him to ache for the relationship he never had with me and realize it was he who really missed out and not me. Anyways, a day after he got the letter, my sister called to say he was probably dying in the next hour and handed him the phone and he garbled the words " I love you". He was so dry and miserable that it sounded like an animal on the other end. If I could of unsent the letter, I would have. It was about me and what I wanted and needed. It had nothing at all to do with my father and who he really was or what he intended. I have no idea if he read it and I am too ashamed to ask anyone.
    Sometimes you just have to accept your family for who they are and not who you want them to be. We all make choices and resignations in life just to get through the day or to deal with our frustrations over the feeling that we are just treading water. I have yet to meet anyone who has all the answers and we all try to figure it out the best we know how. I know my Dad was lost and scared and how could I possibly be angry when I know what he must have felt?
    I don't know. In the middle of the night when I smell my Dads cigarettes out of nowhere and I call my sister and she is smelling the same, the last thing we talk about is how awful he was. We sit and reminisce about all the parts of our childhood and the good things that have come out of the awfulness. The importance of family and forgiveness and even redemption.
    I would give anything to have him back.. and not to tell him how angry I am with him.. but to get to know him better. If all he had was just more comments about the weather or his golf game, that would be good enough.
    There are lots of things you do not realize about family until you are looking at the pine box in front of the church. I talk about this a lot with others who have lost a parent regardless of how close they were. It changes everything and the last thing you want to remember is trying to tell someone they shouldn't be who they are.. that they were awful and cruel.
    You can only have peace with this when you figure out what it means to you and figure out what kind of man you want to be for yourself and your family.
    I think my father looked at us kids and thought to himself, " I couldn't have been that bad, they turned out pretty good". That is the only peace he could probably hold on to. I think that is why he usually only ever said " I love you and I am proud of you". I would be pissed if I took that away from him when he was on his death bed.
    My mother tried to have a break through moment with my dad in the hospital and he just wasn't capable of giving her what she needed. She left feeling even more exasperated and betrayed.

    You should approach your father like the responsible, emotionally mature man that you are. You can never fix what was broken, you can only make peace with what it all meant. My guess is that if he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done to you, he would be scrambling to get to you, not the other way around. You will get through this and do exactly what you need to do on your journey to find peace. There is no right or wrong way but think closely about what you will be holding on to when he is gone.
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    Oct 21, 2008 8:26 AM GMT
    Thanks again to everyone. Each comment here and in emails has been really helpful in affirming where I'm headed with all of this.

    Jeffrey, sharing your journey ( thank you so much for that ) really does challenge me to embrace your final sentence. What will I be holding on to when he is gone? I know I don't want this hatred. It's so ugly to feel and realize it's always been inside of me but I've just never paid that close attention to it. I think I must have thrived on it. It's tough to find rest when that realization is going on.

    I can't script my fathers reaction to me releasing my anger but I do know me well enough to know I'm not going to be able to face him and offer the role of loving supportive devoted son without first finding resolve for myself. Even if he gets angry or even if he blows it off I think somewhere in there I'm validating my youth and holding him accountable. After that, I think I can provide the role he will need from me.

    I just want to be able to answer that one sentence of yours by saying whatever I end up holding on to when he's gone I don't want it to be hatred. I'm good with not feeling love when it comes to him, but I'd like to at least say I sincerely felt compassion for him.

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    Oct 21, 2008 9:12 AM GMT
    Well this is one of the tougher forum topics I have read. My dad and I did not have a very close relationship when I was growing up, but for different reasons than you had. Our relationship improved after I came out and as he neared the end of his life. I have always tried to remind myself that my father was a human being outside of his role of father. So I always looked at what kind of life he had growing up with his Dad and Mom.

    You may find that your Dad's behaviour has been repeated in other males in your family tree (for instance how did his Dad treat him). Also as another poster pointed out, after a brush with death a person's behaviour may change somewhat. See where your relationship with your Dad goes from here. You may discover a side to him you did not know existed. I wouldn't suggest forgetting what he did to you growing up, that is virtually impossible to do anyways, but try not to let it destroy what is left of your time with him.