I appreciate and welcome visits from my father. But I find him such bloody hard work.
Having decided when the visit would be he phones me up 3 times afterwards to confirm that he’s coming. When he did that last night I said, “yes I know” and his response was that he’d just rung his hotel to confirm again with them.
As his arrival becomes imminent I find myself incapable of settling to anything and wonder round tidying up. I tell myself it’s because I’m waiting rather than I want to make an impression on him that I can live in a clean tidy home.
Before he arrives I have worked out our itinerary for the visit and run it by the children. He’s perfectly willing to go to different places but if I don’t suggest them then he always chooses familiar territory which bores me and often the boys, who don’t find their grandfather quite as exciting as they used to. So I’m negotiating between him and the boys to find a workable solution that keeps everyone relatively happy. He and 1sis take 3son and 4son out for a few hours this afternoon while I go and do something else. He asks, as he always does, whether 2son will come out with them. I say no, but he’s welcome to and you’re at liberty to ask him (especially when you’re in the same room as him). I’ve already said, as I do on every visit, that 2son doesn’t leave the house except for his appointments and those he doesn’t always attend, but yet every time he still asks me whether 2son is coming out with us or not.
He and I go out for dinner. It’s a chance to talk. Conversation has become increasingly stilted over the last few years. He’s not good at asking about details of my life and when I try and tell him things he doesn’t really ask follow-up questions so it’s impossible to have the idle chit-chat I used to have with my mother, that he would half listen to and occasionally interject. He is no good at asking the casual questions of “how’s work going” and we usually end up talking politics as a way of circumventing personal discussions in an arena we don’t want to visit. But even politics has become less of an escape as I get bored of the “we don’t understand anything about Britain these days” argument from him and we’ve never really agreed on politics either. Since he doesn’t debate, but argues and plays to win, when I make what I think is an interesting point that doesn’t fit in with his belief system, he just ignores it and changes the course of the conversation. So I stop trying.
We had a little discussion about how few friends he has and how he doesn’t keep in touch with people. He’s remote; as a couple they both are. They like living in their ivory tower and not joining into the “real world” and doing things their way. He’s constantly astonished that people may want to live in a way different to his and that goes from whether you have milk in coffee to bigger issues. It’s taken him 20 odd years to finally learn that I don’t like sherry. Not ever. However much he does. He tried suggesting that most people his age don’t have many friends so it’s not a big deal. I said this was a lifelong pattern for him and we drifted away from the topic before I got the chance to say anything more.
I don’t know how we got onto it, but I said I found it offensive that my mother had been discussing 2son’s issues with his other grandmother without telling me. He got the hump, saying it was natural concern and conversation between two grandmothers and why didn’t I try to make up with other grandmother. Why doesn’t she was my reply. And of course because my mother’s not really talking to me I don’t know what else has been said or discussed. I did ask him why he assumed it was my fault and he said something about a pattern of communication but again conversation drifted away into silence.
I do try and go into these conversations with a positive attitude, to talk more about my life and me and not just what the children are up to, to be more personal in a non-confrontational sort of way. But he doesn’t do personal conversation. He tells me what he and my mother have done. Dry facts without emotion. He’s not telling me about the wonderful times he had. Even when talking current affairs, Syria is distressing because they’ve been there and like it, Somalia, well they’ve never been. Does that make it less distressing? Or maybe they shouldn’t be considering these events from the point of view of how it affects their holidays.
So even if I wanted to confront him about anything, I find I can’t and don’t. Mainly because I’m struggling to have any sort of normal conversation that lasts more than a few sentences before disappearing off into silence. Silences that never used to exist because I would bring up topics of conversation. Now I’ve progressed to not bothering if I can’t think of anything nice. Today I brought up local history in conversation and gave him a book to have a look at. As I was giving it to him I was aware that I was doing this to prevent an awkward silence. He sits down in my house and goes through several books, looking at any new arrivals instead of having a conversation with me, or asking me what I think of these new books. Am I allowed to get on and do other stuff or should I strike up conversation or just let him get on with it are the thoughts running through my mind. Yet I couldn’t actually think of anything to say to start up a conversation.
Time passes slowly. He’s my father and I do love him (don’t I?) He did ask whether I wanted him to continue his regular visits and I said I felt that if he didn’t we would lose all communication and lose touch completely which would be a bad thing. He agreed. But I can’t relax in his company at all. I’m not interested in his views on the world. I’ve either heard them before or know what they’re going to be and I’m not going to try and argue with him as it’s not worth the effort. I try talking about life, but he doesn’t really respond so that vanishes. We don’t talk about books/films/music as we live in completely different worlds. We seem to have less and less in common the older we get and I find it harder and harder to make the effort. We shall spend time together with 1sis tomorrow which is always good as she acts as a catalyst between us at the moment.
I just find it sad that we’ve got to this point and I still don’t know what, if anything I want to say to him. The connections that we had are diminishing and I’m really not sure how much effort I can put in to keeping them going. But at the same time I wish there was more.