Unexpected and unwanted parent's sudden appearance
May 12, 2010 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Estranged parent crisis: I came home to my father -- whom I have not seen in the last two years for reasons of his alcoholism and emotional abuse -- looming in the hallway, waiting for me to return. How do I deal with this?

He traveled seven hours to come see his daughter, whom he misses "so much". As a child, he used me as a punching bag for his own instability, retaining my attention by slurred intimations of suicide. I do not want to see him. He asks if he can hug me. I have two final essays to write for Friday and now I am a mental mess. I don't know what to do.
posted by Aleatoire to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry and I don't have any advice - except to say that I know that people in your situation often really benefit from AlAnon.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:30 PM on May 12, 2010

Tell him you have no place for him to stay and he needs to go to a motel for tonight. Meet him for lunch tomorrow then send him on his way.
posted by amethysts at 7:30 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to see him, you have no obligation. Do what's right for you and find a safe space to clear your head and get your essays done. Is he staying with you? Do you have somewhere else you can go? Take care of your own needs here, and when you're ready to face him, you will, on your own time.
posted by gillianr at 7:33 PM on May 12, 2010

'No, you may not hug me."

You are under no obligation to hug him, see him, put him up for the night, or anything else.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't have any good advice for getting rid of him, other than to tell him to go away, but I will suggest that you get in touch with your professors. Tell them that you're having a family emergency and ask for an extension. Most professors will be very sympathetic, especially if you contact them in advance instead of turning in sub-par work or being late without letting them know. Don't put all of this on yourself if you don't have to.
posted by decathecting at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2010 [27 favorites]

Contact the counseling center at your campus. At the very least, they can possibly help with extensions on your papers--or a safer place to stay until he leaves.
posted by availablelight at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry you are going through this. I have a mentally unstable mother who was emotionally abusive growing up so I understand some of what you may be going through. I'm also in school and ended up having to take care of her for two weeks this quarter as I attempted to juggle classes. If you need to talk to someone, please feel free to MeFi Mail me.
posted by rainygrl716 at 7:39 PM on May 12, 2010

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Obviously, don't let him stay in your house. (I hope he's not there now!) If there's any possibility that he is well-intentioned, you could tell him to stay somewhere else and that you don't want to see him until you're done with your essays.

If you can't get him to go away (i.e. if he's as crazy as he sounds and he has a key), you yourself will have to temporarily move. Go to a friend's house (any good friend should take you in for this reason), work on your essays, and deal with the problem later from that safe location.
posted by k. at 7:42 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, I would have told him it was wrong for him to "stalk" me; he should have called or written a letter first, expressing his desire to see / talk to me. I would add that his having failed to do this much - a simple courtesy - strikes me as remindful of his past creepy and abusive nature and that he needs to please stay away until I contact him.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:22 PM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

A person who is unwelcome and probably knows it has arrived at your home and may not wish to leave. You tell him you do not want to see him, particularly now. If he doesn't leave, you call the police Sounds harsh, but he is behaving badly and manipulatively. You don't have to shout, be mean, or anything else but define your boundaries and enforce them. You have no obligation to allow an abusive person into our home. I'm sorry you have to go through this.
posted by theora55 at 8:44 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, I may be over-reacting by a *LOT* here, based on personal history, but I would leave. Flat out, straight up, leave. And worry about HIS reaction later. (A plausible excuse like "I need to meet with X tonight to do Y, I'm sorry, cancelling is not possible, hug [yes, fake it if that's what it takes to get out of the house] bye" may help delay a scene you're not ready for).

Seriously. I used to fall asleep in restaurants trying to avoid my father across the table from me. I would get so groggy I would nod. If it's really that alarming, which I'm perfectly willing to believe it is, stuff, books, homework, clothes, term-paper can wait. Put some distance, then think. Library, friends house, 24-hour study room. If you decide you can take it, you can always make apologies later/by phone. You can also get a 3rd party to collect your stuff if you decide you can't cope. Then stay somewhere else for as many hours/days/weeks as it takes to work out what you are and aren't capable of dealing with safely.

Less melodramatic option: Convince a friend to come over ASAP. Tell him it was already scheduled & he'll just have to put up with him/her. Most people are on better behavior when a third party is around. It also kind of pre-empts him sleeping on the couch, plus adds an element of emotional protection for you.

Less immediate: Schedule in counseling. Long term. Call your insurance company, do the pre-screening, get hooked up, tell them it's an emergency, that you're in immediate distress. Tell them everything they reasonably need to know to get the picture. They'll hook you up with a professional in your area. Or if money's a problem, call a crisis line & see what's out there. Dorm advisers generally have those sorts of resource listings at their fingertips. As for campus counseling options...well, let's just say I've got hard feelings & heard a lot of hearsay as well. In my opinion, most college mental health clinics are NOT 'better than nothing.'

Papers... Yeah, having someone blow your mind while you're doing something that requires intense thought is not good. I'm assuming you're in College, based on your mother not being mentioned, so my advice is to contact your professors first thing in the morning (leave a message if they're not in). Communicate to them that you're in a distressed situation and ask for an "extension." They do have a lot of discretionary power in that area, and the worst that can happen is they say "no." But your average college professor has seen *EVERYTHING* and many of them will make allowances for unusual situations. There's also the "Incomplete" grade, but hopefully miles beyond what you'd need. That's more like, if the situation gets so bad you need to miss the final exam and re-schedule it for the summer.

Last thought: If you do skip on your father: even acquaintances will generally take someone in for the night in an emergency. Don't worry about who's going to say "no" or "yes" or how much you're inconveniencing them. If the need is that great, park your butt on someone's doorstep & tell them they've got to take you in.
posted by Ys at 8:46 PM on May 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you really don't want him there, call the cops and have them remove him.
posted by delmoi at 9:50 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Or if this is in a dorm, call campus security.
posted by brujita at 10:12 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something very similar happened to me when I was in college and I sympathize - it's horrible, it hurts, and it's distracting as hell. Unfortunately I dealt with it poorly at the time, and I didn't do what was best for myself because I didn't want to cause any problems for my father or anybody else. In retrospect, I wish I had called campus security and had my father escorted out. I also wish I had overcome my embarrassment in time to go to my professors and get an extension on my own looming deadlines. Instead, I let him stay, and that made the situation worse. I still regret it, ten years on.

Do you have any family members that could run interference? If (like me) you're the type of person who would feel guilty about calling the cops on your father, this might be a route to consider. The success of this particular option depends on how tolerant and available your family is, of course; I'm lucky in that I have a large extended family that helps to take care of my father when he goes on a binge or hits a low point. Otherwise this scenario probably would have repeated itself several times since then.

Personally, and whatever your feelings re: the cops and/or security might be, I would recommend firmly telling him he is not welcome, especially if he isn't sober. Don't spend time explaining why, and try not to give him any sort of reaction to latch onto if you can. If it's too late for that, just disengage and put some distance between you. Call friends. Get a hotel. Go for a drive. It doesn't matter so long as it separates you from him and provides a distraction.

And yes, talk to your professors as soon as possible. Chances are good they will listen to you, recognize that you're dealing with some seriously difficult issues, and work with you in order to prevent one very unpleasant and poorly-timed surprise from ruining your entire semester.
posted by daikaisho at 10:57 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't reward his bad behaviour. He should have contacted you first, asked whether you wanted to see him, and arranged a time to meet that is convenient for both of you. For this reason alone, you should tell him to leave. If you feel up to it, you could agree to discuss a planned meeting at a later date.

If he's currently in your apartment, for your own mental health he needs to go. If you think he'll respond badly to a direct request, you could suggest a meal at your favourite eatery. Either have the meal with him or don't, but once you're in a safe public place, tell him he will not be staying with you tonight. Suggest a cheap motel and hail him a cab.

Sorry this is happening to you. Know that if you have a person on your property who will not leave, the police can and will intervene. You don't have to deal with this alone. Even if you think you might eventually be open to reconciliation with your father, you don't have an obligation to meet him on his terms, without warning, at the worst possible time for you.

Let us know how things turn out, if you can.
posted by embrangled at 11:53 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're going through this.

He traveled seven hours to come see his daughter, whom he misses "so much".

To me it doesn't sound as if he's trying to reconnect with his long-lost daughter; rather it sounds like he's in the midst of some personal crisis and is trying to manipulate you into taking care of him, just as he apparently did with the drunken suicide threats. He's acting like a child, forcing you into a parental role. You can't stop him from putting you in that position, but you are no longer the child you were way back there when you lived with him and he pulled the same crap. This time, you are actually capable of taking charge of the situation. You can actually be the grown-up. Do so. Tell him, firmly, that you aren't available to him right now, and he can't stay. If he put's up a fuss, call the police / security. When he's gone, shake off the incident, get a hug from a friend, and get back to your work.
posted by jon1270 at 2:58 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding, thirding, fourthing that you contact your profs, tell them you're having a family emergency, get an extension on your assignments.

I had a family crisis not dissimilar to this when I was an undergrad and my professors were all sympathetic. I later became a professor and totally understood when the shit hit the fan for my students.

Otherwise: do what you need to do to keep yourself safe, physically and emotionally and mentally. This is such a hard situation. Be safe, be well.
posted by Sublimity at 10:01 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My father is similar plus has everyone on his side - despite them knowing how he awful he is, they say things like "Yes, but he is older now and slower..." which is ridiculous when talking about a violent crazy men, does this mean I could now outrun him easier? They go to church often and every service they pray that I go back to the family and forgive him.

Me? I'm on another continent and refuse to visit. I am so much happier than I was when he was nearby. If he showed up here I would leave and/or call the police.
posted by meepmeow at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2010

This is coming a bit late perhaps, as it is already Thursday night, but here are my two cents. As sad as it is, the best you can do is cut ties in a very direct statement. If your father abused you, I can't fathom how you can be able to stand around him. What seems the best course of action to me is for you to tell him that no, you don't want to hug him, and that you can't host him. Tell him you don't want to see him. If he refuses to leave, tell him that you are going to get the police on this if you have to, and go stay with a friend for awhile where you will feel safe and comfortable, and will be able to better concentrate on your studies.

For some background, I haven't been in your exact situation, but I do have an alcoholic father whom I haven't seen in a year and a half, and don't really want to see. He didn't use me as a punching bag, but in the past he would be either emotionally unavailable or abusive toward me or other family members. We do talk sometime on the phone, but it is very pro-forma. The above is what I would do if he imposed himself on me in the manner that your father did on you.
posted by dgn at 6:44 PM on May 13, 2010

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