unpopular feelings

last night i finally acknowledged some feelings i’ve been having.  they’re not socially acceptable.

as a kid, i wasn’t really interested in my dad.  he was hard to understand on the telephone with his accent and the international delay.  i didn’t know him, but mom or grama would hand me the phone with a look of glee and joyful expectations for what i would find on the other end.  it was always a little awkward and uncomfortable.

my dad is here now.  alternating living with me and my brother.  i had to send a “letter of invitation” for him as part of his visa application to come here, stating that i would take care of all his needs when he came.  when i initially questioned him about this, he said not to worry about that.  i assumed that meant he would come with at least some financial resources.  you know what they say about assume… i’m a recently graduated unlicensed therapist making less than before i started school.  i didn’t think ahead on what it would involve taking care of all his needs.

that’s the least of my worries.  that’s the more concrete excuse that i feel people can grab onto.  the ickier part of it is that i hate having him here.  i really do.  talking to my aunt about it broke open the flood gates.  her father was also not in her life until adulthood, and she had ill feelings about him that my mother never understood.  hearing her understanding made it ok for me to acknowledge that i don’t like having my dad in my space, i don’t like taking care of him, driving him around, going on fishing expeditions for costly things i don’t have the money for, i don’t like him in my house when i’m dealing with other serious family matters that he knows nothing about because he wasn’t here.  he’s still a stranger.

he recently went on a short trip to visit other relatives and while he was away i told him that i was disappointed in my feeling that he hasn’t yet prioritized being with me on this visit.  he has had a lot of other stated priorities that i’m expected to help him with, but getting to know me is not one that he has expressed.  he felt bad that i felt that way.  when he came back this week, he tried to ask some direct questions.  he was expecting that i had some major things to tell him.  i told him that there was nothing wrong, in fact outside of some of those family matters, my life is actually going great!  he said that he feels like we don’t communicate very well.  i agreed, and we both acknowledged that it will take time.

but the fact is, my dad is a stranger.  we put on the father/daughter roles, we hug and kiss, we say i love you.  but i don’t know this man.  he’s a nice person, but i don’t know him.  it will take some time to build the affection, loyalty, and connection that would make me feel comfortable enough to embrace these duties i seem to have right now.  so i feel resentful, bitter, angry toward him, especially since there are other, more immediate and pressing issues with the family that actually raised me.

so i hate having him here.  i hate the way my mother, my friends, acquaintences, co-workers, relatives on telephones that are thrust into my face… i hate the way they expect this to be such a joyous experience.  it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me.  i hate that this is the black man i’ve been waiting for to help me solidify my identity, and that it turns out this trip has nothing to do with adding a missing piece to my racial identity.

i talked to a dear friend who i have bonded with for years.  she is a trans-racial adoptee, an ethnically colombian woman raised by white american parents.  she affirmed my feelings and reminded me that i have a right to them.  she knows how i feel.  she met her birth family in colombia as an adult and recently went back for another visit.  she reminded me of the way she felt – going to colombia was not a vacation.  not an exotic trip.  it’s sometimes painful, always emotional work.

i’m not sure where i will go from here.  i may ask my brother to keep him while i deal with my family issues.  i may get brave and have another serious conversation with my dad saying just this.  time will tell.


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