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My dad(11 Posts)
Just said goodbye to my 70 year old dad following a visit, and feel terrible that what I primarily feel is relief that he is gone and heavy, heavy guilt that this is my feeling. Basically, I find him irritating, dull and selfish
I loved him as a little girl and was fiercely loyal to him as a teenager as a result, but looking back things are less clear. Small things, like the way holidays were always about him/my mum and what they wanted, which was lying sprawled on the beach for days at a time while we 'entertained' ourselves, got sunburn and nearly drowned on several occasions. Sent my brother and I to school with horrible cheap school bags from the market (social death as a 90s teenager, and we pleaded with him not to - plenty of money so no problems there) and made us wear horrible cheap trainers and clothes. Sneered and jeered if we wanted to watch a soap or TV programme he didn't like.
After our mum died he walked out - couldn't cope, got married again, she didn't like kids so that was that. Had very little contact with him until he left woman#1, took up with woman#2 (who liked us, the feeling was reciprocated) and then took up with woman#3, who is pleasant enough but is similar to him to be honest: a bit irritating and fussy.
He has rewritten our childhood to be this great, lovely, exciting time when the reality was more like he and my mum standing back, watching us nearly get run over/drown/burn alive and then telling us off for it. Being bullied at school, largely because the two of them made us social pariahs. He also makes stuff up randomly and I know he does. It's very strange.
He takes no interest in anything that doesn't concern him directly - no current events or news, he doesn't keep in touch with old colleagues or family I might know so if I say "how is Bill, heard from Maureen?" he doesn't know. A conversation about books involves him wittering for nearly half an hour while he tells you the plot of the novel in such
excruciatingly close detail that even if you wanted to read it there is no point. Went to the cinema at Christmas to see The Hobbit as we'd read it when I was a kid - endless complaining about too much fighting. Won't eat anywhere but Wetherspoons, even when I'm paying: just won't hear of it. Constantly pokes and fiddles and noses around the house to the extent i'm on edge whenever he's here. All he wants to talk about are his own journeys and trips in mind-numbing detail "well we packed the caravan, we saw we needed milk so we went to Asda, but they'd run out of skimmed so we had to buy semi and then we realised we needed butter as well so we went to Tesco and they had semi and we said, ha ha ha, we said we should have just come here in the first place! And then ..."
He treats me like a child, which I know can be par for the course with parents, but it just makes me want to cringe when (for example) we smell cow manure and he wrinkles up his nose and says in a silly high-pitched voice, "OOOH! Have you TRUMPED?" I'm 32, ffs. And every time he says something like that, I feel, just fleetingly, like I hate him.
I feel awful about this, as I just dread seeing him and hate it when he visits, and it seems so mean to describe my dad in this unflattering way. But his rewriting of history and lack of ability to see outside of himself is REALLY challenging my ability to like him as an equal adult when he persists in treating me like a naughty teenager.
What CAN I do?
I think all I can say is, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Your feelings of irritation are natural, and pretty normal, I think. The wittering on, the Wetherspoons, the self absorbtion. All pretty familiar.
Just something is nagging at me - do you think it is possible that there are some cognitive changes going on? Does he repeat himself a lot, ask the same questions. Are his inappropriate comments put of character? Does he get lost, get highly anxious or aggressive? Has he siffered from high blood pressure? Stroke?
I wonder if it might be worth thinking of dementia?
The thing is, you don't have this well of warmth to be able to shrug off those irritating habits, whether they are just him or there is something else going on.
On a practical level, i would say limit the length of your visits to what you can cope with! And the venue. Think of something you do find pleasant to do with him - eg visiting gardens and a cafe and stick to those sorts of things
Are you close to your brother? Can you talk to him about how you feel, and your childhood? If he feels the same about your dad that might be supportive.
Have you got DCs yourself?
If so, this can bring back up all sorts from childhood, and it is sometimes thentime to get professional help to think about our own childhood
Also, the making things up - in the context of dementia, that is called confabulation. It is a sort of psychological mechanism to cover up memory lapses.
Again, this is just a thought.
My guess is that he is a difficult dare I say toxic person and has always been difficult to try and get along with. It sounds like he has always put himself first at the expense of everyone else around him; nothing else matters to him but him. If that scenario is the case then I would not be thinking of dementia.
Pound to a penny as well he's never apologised to you either nor taken any responsibility for his actions. His rewriting of childhood is often par for the course as well.
Does your brother have any sort of relationship with him?.
Do you have feelings of FOG with regards to him - fear, obligation, guilt.
Why do you maintain any contact with your Dad?. Is it really out of a sense of obligation or misplaced duty to him?.
Yes, i agree. Dementia is kind ofmmy hobbyhorse. I thomk ot's worth flagging, just in case
I'm also experiencing something similar - though my dad doesn't sound quite like yours - he is a very long term alcoholic (a functioning alcoholic I would say) and in denial about the fact. While he would hate himself if he knew how much it impacted upon our childhood, it absolutely did and I'm only realising now the extent of that.
In my case I'm pregnant and I think it's because I'm remembering things which bothered me about my own childhood and worrying about repeating history with my own son.
Perhaps it is because when I was growing up I had an image of my dad as this confident, outgoing man and as he has gotten older he has gotten more fearful of the world around him and has retreated into a bubble. He simply will not do the most basic things to improve his quality of life, I've been nagging him for more than two months to make an appointment to have his blood pressure checked for example. It's frustrating and I completely sympathise with your feelings of guilt about thinking of your dad in this way but ultimately they are adults and we can't change them.
I do agree with the other posters who have mentioned the possibility of dementia too though.
I really don't think it is dementia, as he's perfectly aware of everything - quite difficult to explain but I've never had the feeling that he's actually unwell, if you see what I mean. Thanks for mentioning it though.
When he makes things up, it is hard to explain. He invented this long complicated story about a holiday we went on to Belgium and said I had a tantrum on the ferry I know I was definitely in senior school at the time as I remember vividly bringing a postcard back to my French teacher and we had a brief conversation about Belgium so I was at least twelve (September birthday) and would no more have had a tantrum on the ferry then than I would now. I know it sounds stupid but there are so man examples like that where he just invents something - pretty much always something where you behaved like a tit (apparently) when in fact we were well-behaved kids.
I'm expecting at the moment, very early days, and I am terrified of ending up like them. But also and perhaps more poignantly I am just fucking sick (pardon my French) of being treated like a naughty child. I was in a garden centre with him and we were looking at some crockery, I stepped near it and I got a loud and embarrassing "Oooh-OOOH- oooh!" noise (he thought I was going to smash it!) like I'm a toddler, ffs. Then the squealing and "have you TRUMPED?" thing, the hissing and sucking of teeth because I had a (tiny) bump in my (old) car, the disgusted yet amused look because the grass in the lawn is a centimetre longer than it apparently should be.
I have a management role at work. Interestingly I do the same job he did and I am at the same level he was. I am responsible, thorough, about to become a parent myself. Yet he reduces me to feeling like a naughty child which I bitterly resent, try as I do to find it funny, I can't. I find it upsetting and very, very embarrassing.
No it isn't funny and i can completely understand why you can't shrug it off. It sounds like it is coming from a place of vindictiveness.
Some of the others here will be able to give good advice on how to manage him.
If you dread seeing him and hate it when he visits, then why on earth do you put yourself through it? As the adult you are, go ahead and make the executive decision to manage contact in such a way that you do not feel like you have to "detox" from each encounter, such as a serious reduction in face-to-face meetings.
It sounds like he never listens to you.
I know that it is rude, not any more rude than he is being to you, but have you considered developing a talent of not listening to him? It's a grand sweeping generalization, I know: Men have been doing it to women for these several millennium. So imho I believe it is fair game to take a page out of his own playbook.
I wouldn't go as far as earbuds and an ipod, but it's an option if you are feeling particularly triggered in the moment. The potty references would definitely do it for me.
Sorry, not potty references, flatulence.
Also, what Attila said.
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