Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What to do with an irrational man...

A couple days ago, I received an email in which my father wrote that he and my brother were "so mad at [mom] that [they] are spitting nails." The anger was prompted by her attendance at a Girl Scout cookie booth during a weekend in which she was sick and hacking. I responded that it seemed silly to be mad at her for honoring a commitment, even if it might have been a poor choice. Mom being who she is, backing out of something she promised to do wasn't really an option that would have occurred to her. I suggested that rather than being all mean and angry with her, they could turn that energy towards being supportive of her recent, very serious efforts to eat healthier and exercise regularly. (She's finally signed up with a personal trainer at the gym and has already lost about 15 pounds. Yay, mom!)

This was my father's response:

I guess I'd like to think she was going to be around for your children and the rest of your nieces and nephews should they ever arrive, but I have sincere concerns over her mid- and long-term health.  You can defend anything you choose, but I hope that you won't refuse to get a mammogram after you turn 50.  That's just plain dumb!

That would be like me refusing to go the hospital when the cardiologist ordered your mother to take me.  I know - I should have recognized the symptoms when they were occurring, but that's denial of a different kind.  If someone had sat me down and explained the situation I would (probably) have gone to the hospital for a checkup. 

Oh well, it's your mother - if you choose to support her in this matter try to make sure you take a lot of pictures when you're next home - you ought to have something to show the kids later.

Yep. Yesterday, when I received this message, I was some flaming combination of shocked, appalled, and pissed. Now it just kind of makes me sad. Dealing with my dad is like reasoning with a five year old sometimes. Any hint of disagreement will send him into a name-calling rage. Jay's response when I told him about the message: "Ah, was he drunk when he wrote that?" I wish that was an unfair question. However, I suspect not. I suspect it has more to do with his own sense of guilt and fear at the thought of my mother not being around forever. In my reponse, I let my dad know that we foolish women in the family had fully expected to lose either him or my brother to a drunk driving accident some time in the last decade, but how would he feel if I nagged him about this on a daily basis? Would he want to be around me still, or would he be more secretive with his dangerous actions? Would he feel free to discuss the problem with me, or would he feel defensive and want to avoid me at all costs?

I'm afraid I was also mean and implied that his condescending rage was part of the reason I enjoyed living 2500 miles from the family... I'm not very good at putting up with abusive behavior anymore. Not even from the mentally ill. I love him. I just won't allow him to speak to me like that without defending myself.

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