Saturday, July 15, 2017

A long overdue update...

So much has happened in the past three months. We made it through a difficult transition period from England to the U.S. There was paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. There was getting the kids settled in to the new school. There were bureaucratic hoops to jump through. There was the dismay at discovering that our U.S. credit had reset to zero due to inactivity, and our British credit was useless. There was the discovery of a lonely little house that needed someone crazy enough to come along and love it enough to buy it and fix it instead of tearing it down. There was the loan from my parents to make that purchase possible, and the frustrations that entailed. There is the ongoing process of renovation, and the fact that my children and I are sleeping on the floor of our unfinished home tonight because of my inability to get along with my father.

This is not going to be a rant about my Cook dad. It never was. It is going to be me, finally being honest about my very complicated feelings.

My dad doesn't like me. Don't get me wrong here...he loves me like his own flesh and blood. But he hasn't LIKED me for a long time now. I know it's true, and I've felt it deeply since I was about 15. I don't know why he doesn't. Maybe it's because I am too much of a "bleeding heart liberal" for his conservative Republican ways. Maybe it's because I place very little value in the things he chooses to do for fun. Maybe it's because I am too outspoken in my opinions. Maybe it's because I am fundamentally unlovable. It could be anything. I am at a total loss here.

I wasn't an easy teenager to deal with. Something I will freely admit. If I hadn't grown up in an extremely religious household, I probably wouldn't have been such a "problem child". But religion was a big part or our lives (I wouldn't have it any other way) so even though I was a straight A student who was involved in theater, speech and debate, choir, drill team, and newspaper staff, my constant questioning of authority and my boyfriend made me...not good enough? My relationship with my dad, strained before, took a nose dive at age 17. I moved out of my parents' house five days after I graduated from high school, and aside from a brief two month period between years at college, have not been back.

One of the difficulties of moving back to the good ol' U.S. of A. has been leaving family and friends who knew and loved me and coming back to virtual strangers who felt obligated to love me, but don't know me. My dad is at the top of that list.

Since coming here (and staying in his home rent-free, because he is a very good man with a strong sense of familial obligation) we have fallen into our old, tired roles of disapproving father and rebellious teen. Ridiculous, as I am attending my 20th high school reunion later this month. I have felt myself slipping back into daughter mode instead of staying in mother mode. I hate it, and I am trying so hard not to do it. But I fail. Often.

I beat myself up over it constantly. I've tried so hard to be as unobtrusive as possible in his home, since he made it very clear that we were welcome to stay, but he didn't want it to look like we lived there. I've shouted at my kids and my husband because I didn't want my father to be inconvenienced and annoyed. I've offered to help. I've done what I can to be a help instead of a burden. But it's never good enough. I've been a bad wife and mother, in the hope of being a better daughter.

Full disclosure-I have lost my temper as well. Over something that I felt I was right about, and on behalf of my own children, but I still shouldn't have snapped the way I did.

Conversations have been difficult with him, because so many of the things I care about passionately are things he disagrees with me about. So we don't talk about things that matter, because I don't want to rock the boat. I thought I was doing ok at it, but apparently I'm not.

Tonight he went to Lamb Days in Fountain Green. He took a couple of my brothers-in-law and they got mutton dinners. The kids and I came back to their house after being out all day, and Dylan asked how the mutton was. My dad said it was ok. Then he said something about Fountain Green having the best lamb in the world. And I said, "Oh, I don't know..." and then the gloves came off. He yelled at me. A lot. He accused me of always contradicting him, no matter what he said. He said something about the 150 year lambing traditions of Fountain Green. He asked me why I am so argumentative. And I backed down, told him I guessed he was right. That all I had been going to say was that North Lincolnshire might give Fountain Green a run for their money. I apologized. And then I didn't want to be there any more. I didn't want to get bawled out over the stupid Lamb Days celebration. I didn't want to spend one more second under the roof of a man who feels that way about me.

I wish I was angry about this ridiculous fight. Anger would be more in my nature. Instead, I am so upset. I've tried so hard to be the kind of person he could be proud of. And in so many ways, I feel I have succeeded. But my success was 6,000 miles away. He never saw that success. He doesn't known that me. All he sees is that punk ass kid who punched him and screamed at him in a ShopKo parking lot over 20 years ago.

At least, I hope that's what it is. Because if it's not, if he sees the adult me and still treats me with such disdain, then maybe it really is me. Maybe I really haven't done anything in my whole life to make him proud. So that even if he doesn't like me, he can at least have a little bit of begrudging respect for me. Maybe I haven't actually earned that at all?

I guess I wouldn't care so much what he thought of me if I didn't love the man, but I do. He's a good man, and there is so much that I admire about him. I WANT him to like me. I want him to be proud of me. I don't want him to speak to me like I'm a horrible person-especially not right in front of my children.

I was virtually abandoned by my Bowcutt dad as a baby, and that relationship has only existed through my own efforts. Right now, I feel like I am driving another father away. It sounds so disgustingly melodramatic, even to me, but I'm starting to wonder why my dads don't want me around. Because if it's just the one, it might be him. But when it's two, well, you have to look for the common denominator.

So there you have it. That is why I am sitting in an unfinished house at midnight, my children asleep on the living room floor, crying my eyes out while my husband sleeps at my parents' house. Because my dad actually likes him. And because his back isn't up to sleeping on the floor, and my poor husband shouldn't have to suffer because I can't get along with my father.

I really need to buy a mattress.

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