When I go to sleep and when I wake up, I am vulnerable. That’s when I descend into sadness and depression – rooted in the profound grief I feel over the unresolved relationship with my dad. I had such high hopes when my dad was in the hospital. As a friend of mine said, “That was his true heart talking to you.” But for whatever reason, he could not or did not want to or otherwise was unwilling to sustain that humble, vulnerable self who saw his shortcomings and was determined to work on them – to do whatever was necessary to make him a safe person for me to be around.
Shortly after he left the hospital, it was just gone. Which was so odd, because he didn’t just have his insights when they thought he was going to die. Shortly before even getting sick, he began taking my letters to a therapist, asking her to read through them with him and help him understand and respond to them internally.
Where did that man go? The father I could have had.
How can I explain the depths of my grief. I talk about my dad to my friends and the therapists I’ve had over the years . They unanimously tell me that my dad is a narcissist, an asshole, undeserving of my love or my care. So why do I still care? WHY?
I met a girl on the plane from France to the US. She was this totally awesome, vibrantly alive girl, who reminded me of myself at her age. (Yes I was totally awesome.) We talked about very personal and deep matters all nine hours of our plane ride. Somewhere in there, I told her about my dad. Not about the sexual abuse, I think, but about his controlling, manipulative, narcissistic behavior, and about how it led me to feel profoundly depressed.
And I shared with her how I felt so desperate to resolve things with him, because he is now 80 years old. I always wonder why I care so much, and why I care more about resolving matters with my dad but not with my sister – when my relationship with my sister is equally shitty. (And her behaviors are very similar to my dad’s, in their narcissism and uber-victim stance.) And this girl said, “It’s an emergency with your dad.” Meaning, because he’s 80.
I desperately want to reconcile with my dad before he passes on. I do not want to be left on the planet dealing with all the grief and having to deal with the earth-shattering disappointment I feel about how he treated me. I want him to step to the plate and resolve this shit. He can’t take back how he treated me in the past, but he can STOP treating me like this now.
But he won’t. He just won’t.
I think that a large part of why it’s so overwhelming to me is that there was this narrative of who my dad was and what family meant, and how we were all close and so forth, and it went hand in hand with this veneration of Iraqi Jewish life and traditions and so forth. Divine, sacred, holy, pure. But the reality falls so short of that narrative, and yet there is no acknowledgement of that dissonance.
And that dissonance shows up in my life as crashing waves. Contradictions, hypocrisy, unresolved untruths. I am someone who, from the depths of my soul, needs resolution. Clarity. Transformation. I feel extremely frustrated when things remain untrue, unclear, murky, twisted. Especially when it is someone who was my hero when I was a child, someone I still hold so dear, despite his CONSISTENT hurtful behavior towards me.
And then there is the added element that I have not felt safe going to the synagogues here in town, because my dad goes there. So during what quite possibly may have been the worst year of my adult life, when I was badly injured and ended up on the verge of homelessness following a chain reaction of circumstances as a result, and when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was also almost completely alone. Because I was new to town, isolated because of my debilitating auditory injury and desperate need to work around the clock to get back on my feet, and unable to go to the synagogue – a ready-made, add-watter-and-stir community – because my dad, who is the one who abused me, not the other way around, was in the synagogue.
And in my experience, the community is NOT at all, in any way, prepared to deal with the existence or fallout of family violence. There should be a point person in each community, someone to approach if you are experiencing domestic violence or have experienced domestic violence, especially when the abuser is in the community. The victims of domestic violence should not be the ones left holding the bag and paying the price of that violence.