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dad’s last visit by pamela lear

Pamela Lear

Why is it that, even as adults, we still want so much to please our parents?

I finally learned to let that go and, sadly, at the end of my father’s last visit, I told him he was not welcome to visit me again.  I call it self-preservation.  If words were poisoned arrows, he shot more at me from a self-righteous bow than I care to ever encounter again.

I recently moved to south Florida from southern California, primarily because my husband has always dreamed of boating on the east coast.   I agreed to give Miami a five-year trial run, and I have fallen in love with the area more than I would have imagined possible.

My father is 78 years old, healthy and vigorous, retired in Santa Fe, NM with his second wife of 18 years.  He resisted visiting my new home because he had a preconceived notion that he despises south Florida. His parents retired to the Fort Lauderdale area in the 70’s and 80’s and, as a result, Florida, to him, meant heat and humidity, and early bird dinners. He was convinced it was “God’s waiting room” – where old New Yorkers go to die.

I planned a week of interesting activities, and was excited to share a city I have fallen in love with.  I didn’t expect my dad to fall in love with it; he didn’t even have to like it, but I hoped he could appreciate what I was enjoying about it.

When dad and his wife visited, we took them to a Marlins baseball game.  We went to a private beach club on Miami Beach.  We ate dinner at lovely restaurants, saw some sights, went cruising on our small yacht, spent a night on a small private island right off the coast, and even went shopping and found a mother-of-bride dress that my step-mom loves for her daughter’s upcoming wedding.

Somehow, my father found a way to criticize every step we took – the weather was too hot and muggy, the beach was too sandy, the traffic was too hectic, the restaurants were too expensive, the boating was boring.  He interspersed all the insults with his “anti-“ diatribe. Sometimes it seems that’s he’s “anti-everything” just to be ornery.  He thinks it’s humorous.

After a lovely day on our boat, a friend of his called from Santa Fe to confirm a bridge game for the following week; when she asked how he was doing, his response was, “I’m sweltering in south Florida, but fortunately I’ll be back soon.”   I wondered out loud why he couldn’t put a positive, or even a neutral, spin on his comments and just say, “I’m visiting my daughter” or “I’m on a vacation in Florida.” Needless to say, I felt hurt.

After five days together, on the way to the airport, he made the comment that was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  I planned to take dad and his wife to a nice lunch.  I parked the car, and as I was putting money into the meter, dad stood on the sidewalk.  A driver pulled up and asked, “Excuse me, do you know the way to Fort Lauderdale?”  My father chose to respond in a way that broke my heart:  “No,” he yelled across the street. “We are from New Mexico and we are on our way to the airport, so we can get back to New Mexico as soon as possible.”

I don’t think I’ll ever understand why someone would choose to say something like that. I’ve given up trying to understand. I decided that I’d had enough, and I calmly suggested that we skip lunch and just go to the airport.  In the car, I had a few choice words for dad, but he didn’t respond.  I drove the 15 minutes there, trying to hold back tears of disappointment. He left without even saying good-bye.

I know my dad is a grumpy, opinionated old guy.  I know that he’s always seen the world through a negative lens; this is nothing new.  I have spent years making excuses for his behavior and trying to be pleasant in the face of his negativity.

But now I’m in my 50’s, and I’m tired of being insulted.  I’m far from perfect – I can be moody, I have a temper, I’m judgmental (wonder where I got that trait?).  However, I would hope that when I visit others, I am not rude to the hosts.  I hope I don’t insult their efforts to entertain me, and I certainly hope I don’t insult their chosen lifestyle or the place they have opted to live. I hope I never sling any poison arrows their way.

I need to remind myself that there is just no pleasing some people.  I guess I am old enough to realize I have a choice about who I invite to be a guest in my home, and that I don’t have to put up with rude behavior, even from my own father.

I vow to focus on all the great things in my life, and to leave this behind.

Comments

  1. I totally get this and I had a wise therapist once who said, some need to divorce their parents. I did it in a different way. I only talked general things. How was your day? What’s new? Discussed great grandchildren and their feats and never brought up topics that would cause rancor but with your Dad it seems that he likes to wallow in his misery. My response to you would be to tell him how disappointing and hurtful he is when he makes comments like the ones you mentioned. And if he can’t handle the truth and your feelings, I would extend no more invitations and I would only talk to him if he calls you. My only goal before my parents died was to have an adult conversation. I tried my best, it never happened and now my Dad is dead and my mom totally disabled and all our conversations are about nothing. She does say she loves me more now than when she was in her right mind. Good luck with all this. I am 64 and I made peace with them in my 50’s as well.

  2. My step-son finally made the decision to limit his exposure to his mother because she is just toxic.Every now and then he lets his guard down, spends more time with her than is wise, and always regrets it. He has us (me and his father), aunts, cousins, a host of good friends, and a rewarding career. He knows how she is, what she does and says to push his buttons, so now he has practiced and ready responses. It is her loss.
    Enjoy life!

  3. There are times when enough is simply enough. Though I have a good relationship with my momma, my sister does not. She has stopped trying, in her words, ‘to be Jo’. Because of that, she hardly calls her mother and her mother doesn’t call her. Momma will tell me she doesn’t understand why her other daughter doesn’t come to see her. It’s sad, but she doesn’t listen when I tell her. Mother never asks to go to sisters house either.

    It’s life and it sucks. But you do get from others what you give them.

  4. My dad is in his late 60’s and is your stereotypical ornery old man, too. He isn’t rude to me or other people in our family but he’s negative about EVERYTHING. It can be exhausting even though he’s repsectful to me. I can’t imagine how hard it is when he doesn’t have a filter when it comes to you, as well. I don’t blame you at all for feeling like you need to protect yourself from the negativity.

  5. Aw, I’m sorry to hear your visit with your dad wasn’t so great. Sometimes I think certain types of people aren’t happy unless they’re complaining.

  6. I am sorry that this happened. I have definitely noticed that my dad is getting more ornery as he gets older. However, he does not criticize. I would have a problem with that too. I LOVE Miami.

  7. I’m so sorry this happened. 🙁 It sounds like you showed him an amazing time…can I come down?! I’ve found that you really do have to cut people off, even if they are family and it hurts. Life is too short!

  8. Pamela Lear says:

    Wow, thanks for all the supportive comments and suggestions. I know that I’m not alone in this boat, and my solution (for now …) is to simply focus more on the things in life that I can influence, and that keep me moving forward. it was a little scary to write this post, but now I’m glad I did. I will surely read & re-read a lot of these comments many times for support. Thanks again!!

  9. I understand how you feel about your 78 years old dad. I also feel the same way with my grandma that is also so opinionated about everything. However we should still love and care them.

  10. It is hard when this happens. Thanks for your tips and its always great to just try and stay positive.

  11. I find that traits my mother always had — anxiety, for example — have gotten exacerbated as she ages (now 89). Like many in her generation, she resisted our suggestions that she try anti-anxiety or anti-depressants. Now that she is finally trying anti-depressants on her doctor’s recommendation, more of her good parts show through. I would urge compassion for your elderly father, not matter how critical he is. It will make his passing easier for you.

  12. I’m sorry. It sounds like you’ve done what feels right to you. I hope it all works out.

  13. You don’t deserve the abuse you received even if it was from your father. Breaking ties sounds like the healthiest way to move on.

  14. Oh what a shame 🙁 he doesn’t know what he has lost and I hope you enjoy your life in a place you love. x

  15. My tears are for the both of us. I too had a difficult mother I could never please but thankfully my children were not tainted by that as they could do no wrong in her eyes. The defining moment came when I had a big promotion and the first thought was to tell my mother to gain her approval, NOT my husband. I realized I’d spent my life trying to please her, an unattenable goal. As a Buddhist, we believe we cannot change how others treat us, only how we react to their treatment. It seems you have reached that point in life and taken control. I’m sorry for your loss because it is a loss and a letting go. It is so sad that he cannot bend to be a part of your life and find the good in things. It is obvious that you can though. Hugs and enjoy your wonderful new home!

  16. Please accept my sincere wishes for your healing. Do not let anyone tell you that your choice to move ahead is wrong! Sometimes we just have to face facts and let go. Just because he’s ‘family’ doesn’t give him the right to dump on you. It came as a huge shock to me when I realized that ‘family’ is the place that feels the most unsafe…. Not what they teach you is supposed to be…. but fighting what is, is insanity. Sending you tons of support and love~

  17. Ohkayohkay says:

    Well, I suggest you have a doctor check out for dementia. Often changes in personality are induced by the aging process or anxiety as has already been mentioned to you. Worth knowing that would rule out him just being around you as the cause of his disorientation ! Best of luck……. sending you hugs and gentle blessings as you process this transition in your life……

  18. I feel your pain, Pamela. My family and some very dear and old friends have become judgmental and for some reason believe THEY have the right to dictate my life.
    Late in life I found my love, my career as a novelist, and myself and while I would think my family would be thrilled, they were instead appalled that I would no longer be doing their beck and call and falling all over myself to make sure they approved of my life.
    It takes a lot of courage to decide not to let others dictate how you live your life. And as I learned first-hand you can build your OWN family.
    Kudos to you for standing up when you did. I, for one, have got your back too.
    Lorena Bathey

  19. I’m having the same issues with my Dad at the present. I hadn’t seen my husband in two months as he was working on a project in New York so my husband sent me a plane ticket. I wasn’t there two days when my father called bawling me out for leaving him after his left eye surgery. I did coordinate help with neighbors who put in his eye drops and cooked his meals. He was laying on the guilt trip and so angry I flew back to stay with him and take care of him. After returning cooked him breakfast, lunch and dinner and spring cleaned his house and porch yesterday and made a fancy dinner for him and his friends. One guest (the same neighbor who had also looked in on him everyday) got off work late so I made him a plate and we ate in the kitchen and then had dessert on the porch while Dad slept. He woke up said our friend was a mooch! Then tore into me. I gave it back to him and told him “I’m leaving and not putting up with you disrespecting me” He just yelled back at me. I’m very upset. We are very close. I do so much for him including buying him new tires for his truck, a new DVD player, dvds, vacuum. I also pay for 90% of his groceries. Every time I cook anything he finds something to complain about. I’m tired of doing for him and its never good enough. He finds fault with everyone and everything. My brother has given up and just won’t do anything for him because he so ungrateful. I don’t know what to do anymore? Thank you for sharing it makes me feel like I’m not alone in this.

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