It’s Complicated

CC image courtesy of Flicker, Studio Incendo.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Laurie Works’ blog. It was originally published on June 18, 2015.

When I tell people about my relationship with my dad now, sometimes they’re surprised. For one, I still talk to him. A lot of people think this is weird. I think… yes… but he’s my dad.

I do, however, have certain boundaries for conversations with my dad. The number one boundary I hold is that we do not discuss the money. Ever. I have also made it his responsibility (for now) to maintain the relationship. But we talk. He asks me to coffee about once a month. I honestly think that in itself is a miracle.

Another miracle is that I’m honest. My dad got me a Chanel scarf for Christmas. It was used, but still to me, Chanel has certain connotations. It’s always been one of those things, a big lens through which my dad sees me. I was livid about it, not only because of the lens but because I felt like it was basically talking about the money without talking about it.

I stayed angry for about a month and then I told my dad about it. And I was completely honest. THAT is a miracle. I showed my anger. I told him I don’t like Chanel and I never have. That actually was a radical statement for me to make and I’m very proud of it. I needed to differentiate myself in that way.

He didn’t know what to give me, he said. “Get to know me and you’ll know what to give me,” I countered. I don’t think I’ve ever been that brave or authentic with my dad.

But he found out what I really wanted (speakers for my record player) and got me a set of speakers. And an entire sound system. He found an amazing, beautiful set that I have now proudly displayed in my apartment.

If we were a relationship status on Facebook, it would be “It’s Complicated.

Sometimes I hate him. And sometimes I’m deeply grateful to him. He was the one who taught me about social injustice in the first place. Growing up, he did a lot of race reconciliation work as a descendant of Thomas Jefferson. It was from him that I learned the egregiousness of racism.

So, I let him keep working on our relationship, and respond as he reaches out. And on days like today, with situations like Charleston, we text each other and talk a little more. I don’t know why I haven’t shut him out, really, other than knowing I still love him. Knowing that he’s my dad and I feel some responsibility. Knowing what it’s like to lose family members and not wanting to regret it someday. Maybe it’s those things. I don’t know. It’s all complicated.

I don’t blame my dad for who I am now. Things growing up were awful. I see all the threads leading up to how my dad acted, though, and I find some compassion.

And anyway, the idea that I can’t hold 2 feelings at once is bullshit. I can feel anger towards my dad while simultaneously feeling much compassion. I think it’s holding both of these that allows me to keep my relationship with him in the first place. I get angry with him, and I am slowly learning to be honest with him about that. I love him so we get coffee and try to make our relationship work somehow.

All I want now is to tell my story. I try my best to share without placing blame. I try to simply tell events as they happened and let other people make their judgments as they will. I’m not perfect, and I think my writing reflects that. Sometimes blame creeps in anyway, because I still get those moments where I blame. I am a work in progress and will be, continually.

So that’s how my dad and I interact and relate now. Like most relationships – it’s complicated.

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