It’s a funny thing to think of your life as having a thread running through it. Events are like the pearls on a necklace – each separate but tied together by some unifying thread. Buddhists would say that events and phenomena are more like a stack of dice, each one supporting the other but existing entirely on it’s own at the same time. Between the dice is conditionality, but nothing holds them.
Recently I heard about a man named Werner Erhardt who offered something called ‘EST Training’ weekend seminars from the 1970’s to mid 80’s. EST promoted ideas of personal responsibility, accountability and possibility and encouraged participants to step outside what they considered to be ‘themself’ to find a larger expression. I downloaded one of Werner’s talks called ‘Relationships and Making Them Work’. It challenged me. It challenged me to think of the relationship I have with my parents in a new way. In the talk Werner asked if listeners could entertain having a relationship with their parents based on the belief that there was nothing there parents hadn’t done for them. That their parents had done a good job raising the person – no matter what the circumstances. He said that holding this belief was not just to benefit the parents, although it would definitely make them feel good knowing they had done well, but that the main benefit was to the individual. Werner says the point of thinking this new way is to bring a sense of completion to the relationship, the feeling that there is nothing left undone. The idea challenges me, makes me laugh and hits right where it hurts the most – in the painful memories I cling to and use to justify my anger / sense of righteousness in the world. There is a person in my mind who has felt so disempowered so many times that it seeks and holds on to power, puts power over others no matter the cost, uses and abuses power. It’s not all of who I am all the time, but it sometimes feels like all of who I am, sometimes.
My parents were divorced when I was 6 years old. I don’t remember much about my father except what I was told about him by my family, namely: He is abusive and he can’t keep a steady job. I remember visiting him at his parents house on a few weekends where we played rented Nintendo and watched scary movies. I remember he locked us out of the house one winter night, I remember going to the door and telling him I was cold. “Tough Bananas” he told me, and closed the door in my eight year old face. My mother told us not to answer the telephone when it rang, when he was calling her house repeatedly years after they split up. She changed our phone number 5 times before I was 13, told me not to give it out for fear he would get it and start calling again. She opted for an unlisted phone number which she still has today. I heard terrible things about Daryol Eugene George Hiscock from the time I was 6 until my mid-twenties, and I trusted what my mother told me because she is an adult and knows better than me – right?
I don’t understand these people or what they want or why they do what they do. When my parents married they inherited the family farm from my grandparents. It’s a considerable move to gift 100 acres and the family home to an adopted daughter in a family with 3 biological children. That would cause more problems later in life for her, adults bickering over bullshit possessions on the day I helped lower my grandfather into the ground. Let’s sort out our pain by taking it out on each other! I stopped trusting the adults in my family more than myself that day. They showed me they can be petty, mean, poor communicators and selfish as fuck. When my father left he decided to take my mother for half of everything they had, which was nothing. They had inherited the family property which my grandfather bought for 3500 dollars in the 1960’s. Now in the late 1980’s the property was re-appraised at a much higher value, and he wanted half. In cash. Because he’s a selfish bastard. My mother had a choice: sell the family property which she had inherited as a wedding gift to give this asshole some money or, take out a mortgage on that gift to keep it in the family for her kids. She took out that mortgage. She re-mortgaged several times. She’s 62, and still paying for that house.
After 20 years of not talking to my dad i called him up, from a tree planting camp in High Level, Alberta in 2009. It was far to easy to talk to hi on the phone. I had sent him a letter a year before while living in Grande Prairie. After a weekend of heavy drinking and self abuse that left me with 2 black eyes and a bloody bed I decided that it was time to deal with this monkey on my back once and for all.
It’s not a bad thing for father’s day to come around now, I just don’t always know what to do with these thoughts and feelings. Prior to that phone call I had only really pictured one scenario of ‘contacting’ my father. It started in my mind around 2005 when he took my mother back to court to absolve the fact that he had ever owed child support, which he has never paid. Apparently he had been living with a woman while he fixed up her house, and they were considered common law. She was about to become a pensioner and got word that her pension would be garnished to pay his back child support, since he keeps himself chronically unemployed and on welfare which can’t be taken from. Naturally, she kicked him to the curb. And so did the judge, basically saying ‘ you’re an idiot for even asking’. As a result of the court proceedings my mother had his address and phone number. I imagined arriving at the address just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia and waiting in my vehicle outside until I knew he was home alone. Then I would knock on his front door. When he answered I would work my way inside by beating him over the head with a baseball bat or some kind of blunt object. With my father unconscious I would tie him up somewhere where I could torture him for several hours / days. Mostly I’d be looking to inflict approximately the same amount of pain onto him as I and my family had felt in ~20 years. The daydream culminated with me sticking a gun in his mouth and blowing his brains out, either resolving to go to prison for the rest of my life or just ending my life right there with him. It was a dark vision, and so I made sure never to know his address when I had it in mind.
By the time I was 27 I felt reasonably sure I wouldn’t kill him, so I called him up. We chatted and made plans to meet when I was in Halifax again. I made good on that commitment a few months later when I moved back to the East Coast. It was then that I started interacting with him on a regular basis and came to see how he actually is. It wasn’t far from what my mother had told me years before, but it also wasn’t totally similar.
I real life, my father reminds me of a scared little boy. He’s terrified of his father, who has been dead for 7 years but still lives in his head. He’s terrified of relationships and himself. He’s terrified of commitment and expectations. In many ways I’m just like him, and so he functions as a sort of teacher by negative example.
Our first meetings were fairly rocky. It was clear that I was trying to change him to be who I wanted him to be and that he wasn’t going to go along with that plan. He didn’t understand why i wanted to live the way I wanted to. “You can’t help everybody” he told me one afternoon, when I delivered a jerry can of diesel to a man living downtown. “I’m not trying to help everybody, I’m just trying to help some people” I told him. That conversation ended with my father raising his fist to me, yelling “You’re not going to change me back to who I used to be!” I looked at him in disbelief, wondering how we got to this place. He got back into his van and when I walked over to open the passenger door to start a conversation he locked it, locking himself in the van. I grabbed the door handle.
“Let me in”
he started to pull away but I held on.
“I’m going to hurt you” he said as he looked right at me through the glass.
“You already have” I said
and he floored the gas, dragging me up the street until I realized he wasn’t going to stop and let go. How the hell did it get to this? Why am I even trying? What do I expect is going to happen?
Since that day I have radically scaled back my expectations of this man. I try to look at him more as an individual, living his own life in the way he feels is appropriate. It’s challenging to keep trying and not understanding. Sometimes I talk to my half sister, a daughter he had with another woman (now dead of cancer) and try to make sense of him. He doesn’t talk to her, or her 2 children, but moans about how sorry he is, wonders why she wont talk to him anymore, thinks it’s normal that he can just drop communication any time he wants and still expect to pop back into her life any time he likes. It’s frustrating to hear him talk about all the things he wants but never acts on. Jobs, Relationships, Etc. It’s irritating as fuck and also instructive. I sent him a text message today saying’ thanks for all the things you have and do teach me. Hope you have a great fathers day” and I mean it, or at least i try my best to mean it. He has taught me many important things, even if they’re mainly in the category ‘What Not To Do’.