He calls, and I tell him about my brother’s dog, and how Rob and I took care of him, and how the responsibility kept on shifting from one maid to another after Rob left, until now, when the poor dog is chained to the side of the dining room, begging for attention.
He tells me to stop complaining.
He calls and asks what I’m up to, and if I have even the tiniest drop of concern in my voice – for my brother’s schooling or my son’s welfare, for example – he tells me to stop overreacting. Then he lectures me on how to choose a mate, and tells me that he doesn’t know what I see in Rob.
He calls and dives into a tirade, yelling at me, screaming at me, asking me why I fired the last maid. What’s wrong with me? Don’t I know how hard it is to find good help? And so what if she didn’t wash clothes very well, or clean up after my brother’s dogs very well, or refused to do any heavy lifting because of a decades’ old surgery and her belief that lifting heavy objects would cause her bowels to spill out of her belly button. At least she tried.
And then my mom comes for a visit and makes the same complaints that I’ve been making about the dog. And about my brother. And about the maid. And my dad doesn’t call her a complainer or tell her she’s overreacting; he respects her opinion and does something about what’s bothering her.
My brother gives voice to his personal issues, and lays out all his problems, and says what I’ve been saying about the maid – that I didn’t fire her even though I should have done so – and instead of being blamed for having issues and problems, my dad congratulates him on learning how to talk through them.
Our extended family fights all of these uphill battles against cultural downfalls and personal vices and streaks of full-on ignorance and stupidity, and my dad yells at them, then laughs at them for having these problems.
And I think to myself: Why do I bother?
Why do I bother speaking to my father? Why do I bother speaking to this man who obviously thinks lowly of me, to this person who will off-handedly sacrifice my pride and well-being for his own benefit?
And I realize: I do it because he’s my dad.
I do it because he’s my dad and that fact is supposed to mean something. I do it because he’s my dad and I’m a parent, and one day my kids may not understand me, and maybe, if that happens, I’ll understand him. I do it because I’ve been taught that that’s what people do when they love someone. They accept all of them, they work with all the parts of the person, they do their best to make it work, to understand, to help the other person.
I do it because I’m strong, and because I can walk away from a conversation with my dad without feeling bitter or used. I do it because I know I’ve been influenced by him. I do it because dealing with him has trained me on the tactics of dealing with assholes in general, and with my brother in particular. I do it because I don’t know how not to do it; I’m a mom, and I refuse to deprive my kids of their relatives just because I don’t get along with them.
At the end of the day, I do it. I deal with it. I engage in a relationship with a person who degrades and disrespects me. And I wonder: what’s it all worth?