All I want, all I’ve ever wanted is for my dad to be nice to me. That’s it.
He can’t do it. He’s incapable. I’ve watched him alienate people my entire life. As a child, I watched him bully his own parents, call them stupid, and put them down.
I watched him bully two wives out of his life and countless acquaintances. It never ceases to amaze me that he can’t see this pattern. But he will not relinquish his need for control. He needs control like he needs oxygen.
I wrote recently about how my family went a year in quarantine without seeing my dad because he has a heart condition.
Once we were all vaccinated, my dad wanted us to begin getting back together again. I realized I didn’t. When I ran this idea by my husband and daughter, they supported me.
They don’t want to see him either. The last time Dad invited himself over to our house he screamed at us about Critical Race Theory and other nonsense before my husband asked him to leave.
My husband and I block his number on our phones. I label my dad’s email address spam, grateful to end the stream of racist filth he likes to blast out. I didn’t bother to let him know we were done with him, because I know the conversation will be utterly pointless.
I also know cutting him off in this way will eventually lead him to our front door, when he has no other way of contacting us.
I’ve seen him do this to others. When my mother divorced him, I was eight years old. Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I’d stare out my bedroom window and I can still remember seeing his blue-and-white van drive past our house again and again as he circled the block.
Spending a year away from my angry, narcissistic parent made me realize I no longer want to see him.
For most of my life, I have tolerated my dad. Nothing more. The best I can hope for — from both my parents, actually — is an emotionally neutral encounter with them.
Otherwise, it’s like living in a war zone — my brother and I have never been able to predict what kind of psycho might come our way. You never knew when a quiet day might explode into terrifying drama, with screaming and hitting and false accusations and doors slamming, from the time we were born.
My dad might come over to our house and be relatively well behaved, but always full of himself, telling us stories about his greatness. On the other hand, he might decide to try to start a hollering match about politics just because he’s bored, calling you names and pointing his finger in your face until he goads you into an argument.
It’s sickening. It’s also poisoning. It’s the behavior I’m dangerously close to emulating when I lose my cool and behave like a troll online and I need to stop it.
I never open the front door without looking to see who it is first. But on this day, our daughter is expecting her boyfriend any minute, so when there was a knock on the front door, she opened it without thinking. She slammed it shut again, locking the deadbolt. There’s a reason I will always have a deadbolt on all my doors, and it’s not just because of robbers and rapists.
“It’s Grandpa!” she exclaims, shocked. She’s eighteen years old.
“Hey!” Dad hollers, pounding on the door, the sound ringing through the house. The dog is barking as though we’re being cut up by ax murderers. There is almost never this kind of chaos in my life unless one of my parents shows up.
I almost want to laugh at that moment, the thought of my daughter slamming the door in his face. He deserves it, and I’ve always had to tease out the moments of levity in these explosive exchanges because if you don’t, you’ll lose your mind.
My dad is completely bewildered by the door being slammed in his face because, in his head, he is the nicest guy.
“I am the nicest guy.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard him say this over the course of my life. He believes it totally, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Despite the fact two wives divorced him (he stalked them afterward), his girlfriend ghosted him (he wouldn’t leave her alone either), and a number of his relatives refuse to speak to him anymore, including his own brother.
My husband directs me to corral the dog, who is going absolutely apesh*t. I love this dog. I think he’d rip someone’s throat out to protect our family. In the meantime, my dad is still pounding away on the door.
“Just a minute!” My husband yells. He tells me to go to the daughter and stay away from the door. He’ll deal with my dad.
My husband opens the door a crack, attempting to have a rational conversation with my father about why he can’t come into our house.
I love my husband for doing this, but I know it won’t work. You cannot have a rational conversation with someone who is irrational and self-centered to boot.
My husband’s voice is calm and measured. My dad is raging. “I have fifteen thousand dollars in a savings account for her college and she slams the door in my face?”
His mention of money infuriates me. Money is never given without strings in my family. My dad has no intention of giving his granddaughter money out of love.
It’s for control. He’s threatened me multiple times that he’ll cut me out of the will if I refuse to speak to him. At this point, I don’t care. I’m exhausted. Cut me out of the will. Just leave me alone.
“Grandpa, I’m afraid of you!” my daughter yells from behind my husband.
“Well, then your mother must be telling you lies about me!” Dad hollers from behind the cracked door. Once again, I want to laugh. Yes, the reason his granddaughter is afraid of him is not that he behaves like a deranged toddler. It’s my fault. Never his. Never.
My husband tells him his yelling at us, insulting us, and being a vocal racist at our house is disrespectful and won’t be tolerated.
“It’s done out of love!” he hollers. I guffaw loud enough for him to hear. My husband is irritated by this because it’ll do nothing but escalate the situation and I know my husband is right. But I’m so triggered it’s almost involuntary. I spent my whole life cowing to my dad, letting him push me around in the name of peace, and now I’m done.
People like to laugh at the word triggered. It’s not funny. While my dad is there, pounding on the front door and trying to push past my husband as he screams at us, my heart is racing.
My hands are shaking. My blood pressure is through the roof. I can’t think.
I’m in full fight-or-flight mode but fighting is useless, and I can’t run away when I’m trapped in my own house. I know in my rational mind my dad isn’t a real threat to me.
I know his ranting and arguing are nothing more than manipulation techniques.
But that doesn’t stop my body and brain from ramping up into overdrive, as I’ve done since I was a small child. This is PTSD and it’s very real. I wonder sometimes how many years it’ll steal from my life.
My husband blocks the doorway with his body, refusing to let my dad in. I can see Dad craning his neck, trying to look around him, but big as my dad is — six-foot-four and 240 pounds in his prime — my husband is bigger. I’ve never wanted this.
I’ve never wanted my husband to have to get involved in my rotten family business. He shouldn’t have to be my protector. That’s why I haven’t cut off contact with my dad for all these years because I have always known this would be the result.
My husband continues to try to reason with him, even as he dodges my husband’s questions and spits out a stream of his own, trying to keep control of the conversation: “I love my children. I love my grandchild. Don’t you love your child? Didn’t you love your parents? The happiest day of my life was when your wife was born. Why can’t I come in?”
Every time my husband makes a clear declaration, Dad tries to derail the conversation. It’s textbook sealioning.
My dad has been doing this my entire life, but it’s only in the age of the internet does sealioning finally have a name, which is ironic because abusers have engaged in it since the beginning of time, yet somehow, we never named it. When my husband makes it very clear he’s not going to let my dad in our house, Dad explodes:
“Well, then I’ll sue!”
Again, I want to laugh. It’s so childish. My husband stands there for a couple of beats, flummoxed, then replies amused, “Sue us for what?”
I have a guess. See, in my dad’s mind, his children are his property. Therefore our property is also his and how dare we deny him entrance.
Though our doors are almost always locked, I don’t know how many times my dad has strolled through our back gate unannounced like he owned the place, because my husband and I like to spend time on the patio out back.
My dad is your typical narcissistic, entitled white guy. He is the head of the family. Everyone else is to fall in line with what he wants, no matter how demeaning or ridiculous it is.
If he doesn’t get his way, he throws a temper tantrum. He hollers and blusters and stamps his feet and gets in your face and tries to intimidate with his sheer size.
He also backs down if you stand up to him because he’s a coward. My daughter doesn’t know this. She’s afraid he’ll come back with a gun. I know he won’t. (I know what you’re thinking, but honestly, he won’t. He’s way too big of a coward to risk prison.)
I’m more worried he’ll show up at my daughter’s work, the way he used to do to me when I was young and working in retail. Sometimes the encounters were okay. Other times they most certainly weren’t, like the time he brought his video camera into the grocery store where I worked and followed me around with it, gleeful that I was irritated.
I will not allow him to treat her the way he did me. She shouldn’t have to deal with any of this.
It’s not until the very end of the encounter that I think to turn on the voice recorder on my phone (it’s a journalist thing) and an instant later wonder why I’m not videoing the encounter like any other normal person in the twenty-first century would do, but then I remember I’m almost 50 and occasionally I forget what miracle of an age I live in now.
Also, my brain is scrambled with adrenaline. The videoing or recording of abusers is helpful for one’s sanity.
Because you can try to explain these encounters to people, but the encounters are so batshit insane the person you’re trying to explain it to might begin to wonder if you’re little nuts too, which you most certainly are.
Eventually, my husband shuts the door on my dad, when he realizes talking is futile. Dad bangs on the door a bit more and then leaves.
We are all shell-shocked for the rest of the day. My guilt and sadness over our daughter having to be exposed to the bullshit I grew up with consume me.
I may have to file a restraining order to get my own dad to leave us alone. This is not the place you want to be. It sucks and there’s no easy way to deal with it.
I’ve known for years this showdown was coming. I am ashamed my husband and daughter have to go through it with me.
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