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Asking My Dad to Leave

I've long said that this blog is "mine" and that I write here solely for my purposes. Posts here contain my thoughts, my opinions, and my point of view. I've not shied away from writing personal things in the past, and with this, I've decided not to do so in the near future either.

Last night I had to ask my father to leave my home. Carey's parents and my parents joined us for a small Independence Day cookout. My dad got riled up about an incident that happened over 15 years ago, began to make rude comments, and I had to ask him to leave. That synopsis doesn't do the event justice, so I'll tell it in full below. Feel free to skip this one, folks.

My parents have always been fairly negative people. My entire nuclear family feels an incessant need to "be right," and it's a trait I've worked hard to overcome. "Being right" all the time doesn't really lead to successful interactions with others, and it's a large part of the reason my father - who exhibits the trait to an extreme - doesn't have many friends. Nobody in my family suffers fools lightly, but my father doesn't suffer them at all - even when he's the one being foolish.

For example, when I was in fifth grade (or so), I played Little Gridders soccer. Soccer at that level is typically best described as "a clump of kids, all kicking, and loosely grouped around a soccer ball." It's a social event, a reason to exercise and get some sun, and something to do twice a week. One game, we had a bad ref. We all knew it, but nobody really cared if we won or lost. My dad, however, felt the need to stand up for the principle of the thing, or something… He yelled "awww, come on" and "nice call, ref" and "what the hell was that, ref?" a few times. Enough that he was asked to leave. When he refused to leave, an off-duty cop was called over to ask him to leave. He insisted on staying, saying things like "my taxes pay for this field, and that ref will leave before I will." There were a few mild obscenities mixed in, and the game was halted for 10-15 minutes while the "discussion" took place. Needless to say I was a tad embarrassed. "Barzeski" isn't exactly a common name, after all, and my dad was the one making a stink.

At any rate, last night was going fairly well. My dad shared his master's opinion on every topic from grilling to fishing to General Electric and their "stupid" safety policies, and I kept mostly quiet. I'd learned through the years that so long as I say nothing trouble is less likely to visit me.

At some point, the fact that my dad had coached my soccer team came up. This was a few years before the "off-duty-cop" incident. My dad was a horrible coach, and I'd wished he'd never done it. He didn't know anything about soccer, which meant that we were in trouble because third graders didn't know anything about soccer either. My dad played everyone equally, and told the story about how he'd told one player - a girl named Shannon - that she should not be allowed within 200 yards of a soccer field. You see, she had a habit of picking flowers, talking to friends, and tying her shoes during the games.

It turns out that Shannon was my wife's best friend for well over a decade, and her parents were good friends with my in-laws, who kept their mouths shut the whole time my father was telling the story. That my dad didn't consider this possibility while sharing what a poor soccer player Shannon was is a further telling of his general attitude towards others, but is in relation to the main story here nothing but a diversion, and one I shall end now.

At any rate, the "Shannon" story quickly lead to a re-telling of the "off-duty cop" story. At its conclusion, I remarked that it was somewhat embarrassing to have to wait fifteen minutes while your dad argued with a ref, a few other parents, and a cop (off-duty or not). Heck, most kids are embarrassed simply to have parents, let alone parents that make a spectacle of themselves. Again, my last name isn't exactly common… no hiding from that.

My dad, in response to my "I was embarrassed" comment, made some remark about how many times he had been embarrassed by the "teacher conferences." As a kid, from kindgergarten onward, I was a bit mischievious. I stole a few knick-knacks and, in general, talked a lot. I really did little more than talk - I was on ritalin (it didn't help) for a year or two - but I got in plenty of trouble for it as a kid. Looking back, it's easy to say that I was bored - unchallenged - and my misbehaving continued through tenth grade. 11+ years ago. My mom, a teacher, bore the brunt of my misbehavior more than my dad, who began working second-shift shortly after the "off-duty cop" bit.

I tried to ignore my dad. He made another comment about how the teacher conferences began as early as kindgergarten. I looked at him and he glared back at me. The look in his eye is one I'd seen several times, often just before I was held against a wall by my neck for a few seconds. I'm grown now, and I was at my own home, so I quietly told my dad to "grow up." He made another comment to the effect of "Grow up? Let me tell you something about…" I said "… or just go home, Dad." He said "Fine, let's go" (to my mom) and off they went. In the aftermath, honestly, I was kind of happy to have a house of my own from which I could boot my dad.

Carey's parents - and Carey - had sat in stunned silence for much of my father's tirade. My father takes a perverse pride in the fact that he stood up to an off-duty cop at his 10-year-old's soccer game and delights in telling the story. He still gets fired up, as if he were some crusader fighting against the plight of the common man against "The Man" or something. Instead, all he did was embarrass himself. My in-laws don't care to hear stories about the time(s) he almost got arrested for being a jackass, and the story only makes him look bad.

Furthermore, as Carey and her parents later pointed out, kids are naturally embarrassed by their parents when they're young. My only offense of the evening - besides a) existing and b) not being my sister - seemed to be that I said it was embarrassing to have your soccer game put on hold while your dad screams at the ref, league administrators, and a cop.

I admit that I wasn't the best kid in the world. As I said, I talked in class a lot, stole a few little things (including a $0.55 candy bar that landed me in court - this incident was actually a mistake that came after I'd given up stealing), and talked back to my parents. I also got straight As, didn't get anyone pregnant (or even have sex), didn't smoke or drink, didn't total my parent's car, worked from the age of 15 onward, and so on. For most of high school, my biggest sin was giving up fishing and hunting in favor of golf, a sport at which I excelled and earned several honors and large trophies. Hell, I was a good kid in 11th and 12th grade, and far less evil even in 10th grade, the first year I played golf. Coincidence? No. "Sissy sport," according to my dad? Yes.

But here's what I'm after: my "bad" behavior was ten to twenty years ago. My dad's poor behavior continues to exhibit itself any time he's around company who doesn't know how to ignore him or cut him off so that he can't get himself into a situation in which he thinks telling stories about the time he was a huge asshole to my wife's best friend, my in-laws' friends, and a cop - and doing it all in front of his 10-year-old kid at a stupid soccer game - is entertaining and makes him look good.

I don't like to blame other people for my behavior, my actions, or my thoughts. I'm my own man. Several times as a kid I was told I would be kicked out of the house when I turned 18. Several times I was held in the air, against a wall, by my neck. Several times I was hit. I was yelled at billions of times.

At no point was I asked why I continued to talk during class or to otherwise get antsy or misbehave. Had I been asked, I'm not sure I would have known the reason. Looking back, again, I was bored. Class was too easy. It didn't require any effort, and as a kid I had a lot of energy. It had to get out somehow. But, then again, that's neither here nor there.

Carey said to me later that evening "I wasn't the best kid. I called my parents all sorts of bad names and did all kinds of bad things as a kid. But my parents know that you sign on for that when you agree to be a parent. It's how kids are. Kids get in trouble. And even if you are bad, what are you now? A good guy, a husband, a stepfather, a homeowner, a computer geek. My parents would never, ever see fit to try to embarrass me by telling stories about how I was as a kid. Your parents can't let it go."

As a five-year-old, for example, I learned the Bible song "Deep and Wide." I came home and proudly performed it for my parents, but I got the hand motions backwards. For "deep" I put my hands to the sides, and for wide I put them on top of each other. My parents have never let me forget it, and not in a "ha ha, that was so silly of you" sort of way. Nope - more in a "ha, you're so stupid" sort of way.

Both of my parents, but particularly my father, simply need to "let go." My father delights in reminding me what an asshole, punk, worthless kid I was. It happens a lot less than it ever has, but I don't think it should ever happen. It's ten years old at least and often more.

A few years ago in college, I wrote my father a birthday card. It basically said "I know I've been a worthless jerk of a kid, but I'm sorry and I love you. Can we put that behind us and move on?" It took days to write the eight or ten sentences, and I bawled each time I thought about it for weeks. I was in college at the time, so I published it on my website and sent my dad the URL. My mom later confirmed that he'd seen it, but that was all I heard about it. No discussion. No "sorry." No "OK, I love you too." A few weeks later I got an email on an unrelated topic and it concluded with "Love, DAD" - the "Love" was new. But that was it.

I love my parents. They provided a house and food for me when I was growing up. Though I wasn't spoiled, I also didn't lack the essentials or some of the extras. I had a trumpet. I was driven around to various events. I had my own room. I had bikes and plenty of Christmas presents.

But until they can let go of the stuff that happened ten to twenty years ago, I don't know how much I can enjoy having my parents around. If I can get through a family gathering without bringing up their many flaws and failures, I don't think it's asking too much that they do the same.

6 Responses to "Asking My Dad to Leave"

  1. Good story. I bet it feels good to get it out in a large article.

  2. I had an argument with my grandfather a few days ago. I've been living in Stockholm for 3 years and I'm moving back to my home town now, so I haven't seen my grandparents a lot while I lived in Stockholm.

    I told what I'd been doing lately, and mentioned that I had a cat now.

    He blurted out "What do you need a cat for?" in a very condescending tone.

    Cue stunned silence from everyone.

  3. It would seem that we all have problems. But those who write about their problems usually end up with all sorts of wise cracks in the comments. As someone who regularly reads your blog I know you usually don't write posts like this one. But it's very nice to see someone who has a "normal" life also has kinks in that normal life.

    I've got parents that can't let go. But I can't either. I get hung up on thinking I'm dealing with issues no one else has to deal with even when I know that isn't even close to being true. Or it could be all sorts of other things. I really don't understand it, to be honest. I want to change it, but I get so bogged down on the wrong things. I've had to ask my parents to leave my home a couple of times. I feel so guilty for it after the fact. I let them tear me apart because they are my parents. No one else would get away with treating me like that. They believe they are building me up while they are actually doing the opposite. They don't even realize that I wouldn't have such a short view of myself if it wasn't for all the years of dealing with them. And for me to dare speak up to let them know how their words affect me-- I'm just being ungrateful.

    But whatever. I keep this all to myself most of the time because any attempt to talk about it doesn't come out right and makes me feel like I'm whining and blaming someone else for my problems. Even if to only examine the source before moving on to make changes. It's a vicious circle that I'm responsible for getting myself out of, but knowing that, I still haven't found my way out of it. I analyze everything, logical this and that and find no answers, only more questions. What seems like it should be so obvious and simple is everything but.

  4. Well-told story, sir. Oh, the joys of establishing a functional relationship with parents, as real people, with real flaws... Hopefully, you can all move on with relative ease, step by step, day by day.

  5. I just don't understand parents. It seems like once I had my own child my family took an oath to make my life a living hell. I love them, but damn. I hate seeing this stuff happen to others, but I do feel your pain.

  6. I just happened upon your blog, it is interesting as it is very similar to my history with my family. I say "history" as some of my relationships have changed with them since I have started doing things similar to what you did with your dad in asking him to leave. I have had to do this numerous times with my mom, with not much change in her behaviour at our next visit, she too delights in reminding me of how many stupid things I have said. My grandparents and her sisters, my brothers and in the past my dad found it great sport at family gatherings to bring up anything in the past that would embarrass me. Once when we had a foreign exchange student in our home, I asked a question that still haunts me to this day. I am almost 40 years old now, but was 9 or 10 at the time when I asked this girl from Germany if they had cows in her country. Fits of laughter came from every family member and from then on I have been labeled as a total ignoramous. They are all amazed that I graduated high school, college and can make it to the family gathering without getting lost. To this day they will bring this story up with the same mean spiritedness and that will launch a host of others from each family member. I am forced to stand and fake laugh, as they intentionally take aim at how stupid I am, trying at times to even bring my children and husband in on the plot to embarrass the crap out of me. I truly believe they are actually jealous of the success I have had in my life, both academically, professionally and relationally. I am truly one of the only family members in 2 generations who has moved away from the nest of family disfunction and got true healing from the disfunctional way in which they relate to one another. They are totally disrespectful of others, gossiping behind thier backs, having no boundaries in conversation (interupting, inappropriate manners, etc.) and get away with it with so many because they have had so much money and power in the community in the past based on my late grandfather's vocation as town doctor for 2 generations. I have a healthy home and good, safe relationships and my life, while not perfect, is not filled with utter chaos all the time. I am one of the few that has moved hours away and have disconnected from their control. They are simply jealous and frustrated that I have become my own person and don't need their approval of me anymore. I tend to wonder if that might not be the case in your situation. I just got tired of the whole thing and although I do still go visit, I don't have them in my world much and walk out of the room and disengage when they do it now. They have lost thier power and they are not having much fun now since I am not responding. Hope this helps, not that you are asking but couldn't help but recognize your challenge. Good for you for standing up to your dad, you are on your way to putting all this behind you. The ones that respect you in the end will emerge as the one's who are safe to have in your life, otherwise, cut your losses and see them when you have to but don't be suprised when they never change. You be the one to change, sounds like you have. Blessings.