Breaking up is hard to do when it's family.
March 6, 2012 2:23 PM Subscribe
My dad cut all ties with me and my siblings and left the country. Now he's back and has repaired his relationship with my siblings...but not with me. What do I do? (It's a long one.)
posted by anonymous to human relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My dad is a child, seriously. He has a history of running if things aren't going his way. He quits jobs about every 1-2 years, almost always because a workmate has it in for him (he says). He has been married twice and engaged several times. He never lives in the same house for long. He is bad with money and has no assets at all - in fact when he left the country he was about to be declared bankrupt and he owed his previous girlfriend thousands of dollars. In the past I have called the cops on him and got him counselling when he threatened to commit suicide and took off - my brother killed himself a few years ago and I have no tolerance for this from someone who knows the impact suicide has. I have supported him financially in minor ways and have been as supportive as I can while being as honest as I can with him when he changes jobs, or leaves his latest girlfriend, or spends all his money on a flatscreen TV.
So that's a bit of background. For my part, I didn't meet him until I was 18 - I was the result of a one-night stand. I have two half-sisters, K and C, and a deceased half-brother through him. K, C and I are reasonably close. I am 36 so I have known him for half my life and until recently he was involved in my family, looking after my kids, visiting regularly, etc. Prior to that I was raised first by my grandfather, who (I found out as an adult) stole my college money that my mother had been putting away for me, and then by my mother and adopted father, who was a physically abusive alcoholic. I had severed any ties to the previous father figures in my life.
Last November, around the anniversary of my brother's death, my sisters and I received a series of abusive text-messages from our dad. He said he was going to cut himself off from all of us and not come to C's wedding. My sisters responded; I didn't, to avoid escalating the drama. I expected he'd been drinking and would be regretting it the next day and pretending it hadn't happened. Lo and behold the following Monday he came to my house and said that he was an alcoholic and had attended his first AA meeting.
Later that week he called the family together for dinner and announced that he was moving overseas to live with a woman he'd met online. He said he'd be leaving within a week. When I asked what he would do with his stuff he shushed me and said it was all sorted with my sisters. We agreed to store a few minor things at my place for him and I assumed he'd made similar arrangements with my sisters. He was living with C at the time.
Fast forward a week and I drove him to the airport to see him off. Everyone was happy enough with the situation at the time.
Some time later he emailed the three of us with a spreadsheet containing a huge list of items with instructions for how to sell it, how much for, what to write, and what stuff he wanted stored where. My sisters were given the responsibility for most of it. The K emailed him back, cc'ing us, saying that it was too much to expect her and C to do all of that work when he could have done it before leaving the country. Then C did the same, saying that as all three of us work full time and have family commitments and lives, we couldn't do all this work for him. She said it was selfish of him to pack up and go and leave his mess for us to clean up.
He emailed us all back and said that was fine, we could all get fucked, throw his stuff out and he would never see us again. At this point I was fed up so I sent what I thought was a strongly worded email with some solutions - yes it was a lot of work to leave my sisters with and yes it could have been done before he left...but why not put the stuff into long-term storage on his friend's farm until he could arrange to sell it himself? We then got another email saying we would no longer hear from him and not to expect him to return home because obviously we wouldn't support him financially this way and didn't care about him, etc etc. So I washed my hands of it all.
My reasoning was that I have spent a lot of my life dealing with shitty father figures in their various forms, and so I am not wasting emotional energy on someone who has nothing to offer in return. I didn't want to encourage any further drama and I wanted to be able to step away and focus on the people in my life who don't seem to suck my soul.
And then fast forward to a week before now. He made contact with K after Christmas and apologised. She encouraged him to call C and me and apologise and now he and C are talking - but he hasn't contacted me. Last week K called to say he is returning home (presumably because he hasn't found work and has no money left) and will be staying with her while he gets himself sorted. She invited me for dinner. I declined and said I wouldn't come until he had made an effort to contact me. I don't want to make the first move here; I don't want to be accepting of his shitty behaviour in any way. To be honest I have been happier without his manipulative actions while he's been out of my life and now that he's back in town I am jittery and tense, waiting to hear from him. I actually wish he'd stayed overseas. So I won't be attending family events until he's made the effort to call me - I have told K that this has nothing to do with her (although yes, I am jealous and angry and sad that he seems to be having a happy, "normal" relationship with my sisters while I am on the outside), but that I still want to do family things with my sisters and our kids - I am just not prepared to play happy families with our dad when he hasn't had the guts to acknowledge the hurt he has caused me. I feel rejected and useless, and I feel like I have placed myself in this position by not backing down and calling him.
Ugh. So what do I do? Do I call? Do I keep waiting? What do I say? I want to go to a counsellor myself...but while it'll help me in the longer term I don't know what to do for myself right now.