I had always been aware that my dad did not love me. He certainly never told me he loved me, and he never gave me a hug, ever. I did not have a huge problem with it, it was what it was.
And with him, it wasn’t anything about beatings or mental torture, it was more about pretending I wasn’t there. He never once said anything to the effect of “You are a worthless piece of crap”. At least not when I was young, but he did when I was in my 40s. And this hate filled comment turned a few seconds in time into an eternity, devastating me, my mother, and I think eventually my dad.
Dad was a hard working blue collar guy, who was very respected in the community. He raised five kids, kept food on the table, and clothes on our back. As the second son, I was expected to know how to fix a lawn mower, repair a bird feeder, weed his garden, and much more. I crapped out on all accounts.
For dad, his pride and joy was his first son, a great athlete and scholar. I was neither of those. So my record was total zero on all good son metrics.
As Mom and Dad grew old, they needed help with mowing the lawn and shovelling the snow. Being the only child to live locally, I was their man.
One day that will go down in infamy, I was called upon to fix the VCR of the now 80 year old parents.
To fix it, my large bod is twisted under the TV table as I try to sort out the kazillion wires involved. Mom and Dad watch from their recliners as my first two attempts fail.
Then it happened. My father let out a hate filled epithet- “You are goddam worthless-you can’t fix anything and you never could.”
I pulled out from under the table-my father’s face is grim with hatred. My mother was absolutely terrified.
I look back and forth at the two of them for 10 seconds. Finally I say, “Dad, you know what, you”re right. But right here, right now, I am doing my best to fix your problem. So SHUT THE FUCK UP or I will throw your ass out the window.”
Dad turned pale. Mom hugged herself and sprouted a gigantic smile. And she did so because I deflected Dad’s hate arrow flawlessly. The rest of my repair time was in total silence. Eventually, i fixed the problem.
Upon leaving, I gave Mom a big hug and told her I love her. I totally ignored dad.
The incident was never brought up again. In fact, Dad spoke cautiously when we interacted and did not allow himself to slide into the dark world that I had witnessed that day. That was fine, I wanted no apology, I wanted nothing, just let me live my life.
Mom and dad both passed away years ago. But now I’m a dad, the father of a young adult, and I always look back toward my childhood as a guide to what to do and what to say. If I ever say to my son what my dad said to me, pull up to my house, run inside, and beat me to a pulp, cause there is no excuse for doing that.