Not So Merry and Bright (12/23/08)
I thought for a minute he was talking about my stepfather, Carl, but he obviously wouldn’t be making the trip from South Carolina to Virginia–still too sick. So two and two make his question a reference to my other father, my “real dad”…who currently resides in Texas, whom I haven’t seen since a brief day-long visit over two years ago, and five years prior to that.
“Is he still alive?” Duane continued. I snorted, shaking my head. It was a fair question.
“As far as I know,” I replied. This set off a lengthy discussion about how completely disconnected various and sundry members of my family were. It’s difficult to comprehend, and hurtful, still, after all these years, how people that you are related to can be less involved in your life than acquaintances. How you can exchange fewer words with them in the space of a year than the woman who works at the company that sold you life insurance. How the bonds of family could snap like a rotted rubberband with the stretch of half a country, even with all of the measures and advances we’ve made as a culture to prevent that very thing from occurring. As much as I seek to ignore it, it is difficult, and it is hurtful.
I first learned the meaning of narcissism shortly after delivering my second child. Lawson was an amazing thing to me, full of grace and so undeserved. I remember my emotions at his birth…I was so full…full of wonder, awe, joy…and a little guilt for feeling the faintest tinge of disappointment at his ultrasound, when we had first learned that he was to be a boy. Inwardly I pouted–I was having such fun with Autumn; I wanted another girl! I struggled against that disappointment for the duration of my pregnancy, and prayed for God to change my heart. The change I experienced upon first seeing his face was overwhelming.
I wanted to share this child with everyone. You have to know him to fully understand this, but there is just something special about that boy, and it was there from the moment he entered this world. I particularly wanted to share him with my father. You see, when Autumn was born, she was GrandDaddy Dan’s girl from the moment she arrived. She was his spitting image. She recognized his touch. Although she was born after 3:00 a.m., he was still there in the hospital, waiting for her. I remember him sitting with her laying on his knees, both of them studying the other soberly, with intent, as if to say, “I’m for you.”
I think Dan expected the same from Lawson. My Law-Man was mine, though. When he wanted comfort or a cuddle, or just to look soberly into someone’s eyes, it was to me he turned. And from the moment he was born, no matter what anyone tells you, he looked like my daddy. He’s really looking like his daddy now, but he looked like his Poppa Bill there for a while. I really wanted, quite desperately, for them to have that same instinctual connection that Autumn and Dan had. It seemed as though it were intended to be so.
But as I said, it was shortly after Lawson arrived that I learned what narcissism was. Although he had been coming for several many years, and Autumn had come to expect and look forward to his visits, Dad decided not to make his annual Christmas pilgrimage. I probably could have dealt with it okay if it hadn’t been for Lawson, but it just hit me completely wrong. Here’s a brand new grandson. Maybe we’ll see him next year, when he’s a year and a half.
As it turned out, Dad met Lawson when he was four. Lawson’s wary expression of this stranger in his living room and opening question were painful and priceless at the same time, “So, who are you, anyway?” From the mouths of babes, indeed.
The purpose of his visit? He was in Virginia for a high school reunion and thought he’d stop by. He stayed the night, spoke awkwardly about returning for Christmas, but never called.
The purpose of this posting? I struggled with writing it–really didn’t want to be a killjoy, but, as many of you are familiar with the Fuentes quotation that’s been present on the blog for some time, “writing is a struggle against silence.” I’ve been silent about how p-od I am about how inherently cruel people are to one another for long enough–families especially. Are we cruel to the ones we love most because we suppose that because we’re family, we have to be there? That’s not the case. We don’t have to be there. It may not sound like it, but I have forgiven my father for being more concerned with self than he is with others. I have come to terms with the fact that he is a narcissist–that nothing he does is because of me, that nothing I do can alter his behavior, and that by this point, nothing is ever likely to alter his behavior. However–and this is a BIG, HUGE however–that does not mean that I am going to stick around to be behaved upon in that manner. I have more respect for myself, and more love for my children than to subject myself to that anymore.
So…Golden Rule, people. It’s pretty dang simple. Even my kindergartner gets it.