Monday, July 09, 2007

My sister and I received an email from my dad the other day. Entitled "money honey", it instructed us to send $500 to his overseas account.

I'm sure that this is just the beginning. My dad left us 19 years ago, and we have been through this seven times so far. The first stage is a request for some money. The next, usually a few months later, is the message that he has failed to get back to Australia in time to keep his pension and that he is desperate for money. Then comes the urgent call fom the Australian Embassy telling us that he is in jail somewhere in Asia again, and it will take a few thousand dollars, many hours in negotiations and a good lawyer to get him out.

I have written before about my dad and all my confused, resentful, horrible feelings about him. When I received this email, all those feelings seemed to come out of nowhere so that I was consumed with rage.

I hate the arrogance of that email. I hate the thoughtlessness of it. I hate the fact that he seems to think our relationship is all about what we can do for him. I hate the fact that he can't seem to just get on with his life in a normal way without tormenting everyone. I hate the fact that now I don't want to call my own sister because then we would have to discuss it all, argue about it and dredge it all up. One minute I am trundling along, reasonably content, and then next, everything is poisoned.

The terrible thing is how hard it is to say no. You'd think that, with all that rage apparently stored up, it would be easy, but it isn't. Because he gets himself into situations where the consequences of not helping him are too dire.

If he just stayed in Australia and occasionally ran out of cash, it would be easy to say no. When we know that he is almost certainly in trouble, possibly stuck in some stinking hole of a jail in Asia in which he might well die without assistance, it becomes a heck of a lot harder. Then all those platitudes about appropriate boundaries and leaving him to be responsible for the consequences of his own actions morph into questions about whether you want to be responsible for your own father's death - or, at least, know that you could have saved him and you didn't.

I mostly just maintain very occasional contact with my dad and it has been even less in the last year or two. To be frank, I don't want dad to have much contact with my Little Dude because he's such a destructive influence, and the only way to prevent that is for my own relationship with him to be very low-key and on my own terms.

But I have been thinking about him a lot in the past few months. After a tentative spiritual renewal this year, I have been aware that my bitterness and lack of forgiveness towards my dad are a problem. Every now and then, when I am praying, I think of that verse in the gospels about how "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15). And it's not just the scriptures. It's about how lack of forgiveness choke up your own soul and keep you tied to that experience, to your feelings about that person, forever.

Several times now, I have almost called him and then decided not to. I sent him an email, but it bounced. I have been intending to make contact with him again, but have kept putting it off. And the reason I can't bring myself to do it, is that I see what has happened to my sister. She stays in contact with him and, as a result, he manipulates and uses her mercilessly. She must have given him thousands of dollars over the past ten years or so and even worse is the anguish she goes through every time.

I hate the fact that you can never win. If you help him, you feel like an idiot with no boundaries who can just be exploited ad nauseum. If you don't help him, you feel horribly guilty and very worried about him and afraid that, one of these days, he will die overseas in terrible circumstances and you will feel responsible for the rest of your life.

To be honest, I really don't know what to do. I feel stuck - stuck, stuck, stuck.

11 Comments:

Blogger Mu Ling said...

I'm so sorry. I've got a problematic parent too, and the tangled knot of guilt, love, fear, exhaustion has never become any easier to unravel. Sometimes I meet people who say things like, "My parents are my best friends" and I am simply stunned. I have no idea what that would feel like.

I will be hoping that you feel okay about your decision, whatever you decide to do about this email.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Fusion said...

I have a sister like this, although not in as bad of situtations. She has begged and "borrowed" tens of thousands of dollars from parents over the past tewnty plus years, but now since my dad died and mom is on limited income, she has had to learn to get by on her own.

It seems that you really don't have much of a choice with your father, as it sounds like it's always a matter of life and death.
And leaving him to his own possibly fatal choices would not be good for you to have to live with in any case.

Too bad you can't have his passport revoked and keep him in Australia.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Cinnamon said...

If you want actual change, then you have to stop repeating the same old pattern.

You can: Love your father, pray for him, and yes, absolutely refuse to be his safety net or his resource in his downward spiral. Allow him to experience the consequences of his own actions.

He isn't in jail YET - tell him that, before he ends up there. Tell him that you've been through this pattern before, and you are not going to "re-engage" this time. You have a child of your own who needs all of your resources - not just money, you child needs a mother who doesn't get her buttons pushed and isn't tangled up processing black rage form years of on going emotional and financial abuse. Think of the energy and vibration that Angry Mommy is giving off. Kids know. No mater how young, they know.

I would forward this whole blog entry, with comments, to your sister, to forward to him. It explains honeslty, and eloquently, why you are not going to allow an abuser to keep abusing you.

You can forgive him WITHOUT allowing the abuse to continue. Do that. Bless him, inyour heart and in your prayers. Surroundhim withthe White light of the Holy Spirit. Think with gratitude on the lesson you have learned form your father: you will never do that to your own child. Never.

And then release him into God's hands. Has it never occurred to you that your own father is God's child as well, and God himself is desperately trying to teach your father a lesson, and you keep on interfering with His Lesson Plan?

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throwing in my 2 cents...Does loving and forgiving someone for their shortcomings also mean you enable them to repeat bad behavior?

9:52 AM  
Blogger 2amsomewhere said...

I am sorry to read that you're in pain over this. My thoughts are with you.

Your experiences underscore why I think Christianity falls so short in terms of dealing with real life. Dealing with Satan and his earthly temptations is one thing.

Neither Law nor Gospel teach us to protect ourselves from the parent who is a sociopath, a narcissist, or an abuser. We read only an exhortation to honor them for a long life.

There is a talk show hostess over here in the States, who is known for being something of a lightning rod for her harshness. In spite of some of all the grandstanding, she does have some gems of wisdom.

Within the context of parents who do such things as your father does to you, she says that these people have "torn up their Parent Cards." Real parents don't cannibalize their children by failing to take care of themselves.

For me, forgiveness means letting go enough to not let past actions ruin the present, but not so much that you allow yourself to be harmed repeatedly.

--
2amsomewhere

6:53 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

I haven't been in this situation with a parent, but I have been with a partner.

He took me for all I had emotionally, spiritually, financially. And then wanted more. Expected more. Told me he deserved more.

And I gave and gave and gave. Until one day I decided not to, any more. I knew he had nowhere to go, noone to take him in. He would call me and threaten to kill himself unless I (sent money, let him come and live with me, paid for an apartment for him).

For a while, I sent him money. Which enabled him to continue drinking and not being able to support himself.

Did I do him any favours? No. And when I finally let go, it wasn't long until the end for him. There are days I think I could have 'saved' him.

I was selfish not to. But at the same time, he wasn't going to use any of my help, to help himself.

I realise it's harder with a family member but at some point you have to stop enabling an addict, an abuser.

I wish there was an easy solution. Truth is, there isn't. I wish you well Emily.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Finished Last said...

I agree with what you said about forgiveness. i once heard someone say that bitterness was like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other guy. You are in a tough spot and I wish I had more wisdom to share. Sometimes it's just hard to know what the most co,passionate thing to do is.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

I have no words of wisdom, Em. Not one word.

Your situation with your father is uncomfortably reminiscent of my relationship with my oldest son - "Hey, I know you've got nothing better to do with your life than bailing me out of trouble again, right?"

Tell you what, Em - if you figure out a decent, reasonable, charitable way to approach the situation, will you tell me what it is?

In the meantime, would a hug help?

{{hug}}

9:51 AM  
Blogger leavesdr said...

Emily - so what have you done about this difficult situation. Hopefully both you and your sister are now happy with whatever action you have taken.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Phyllis RenĂ©e said...

I've been through simular situations with my son (26 yr old). It may be a little different, but I can assure you, I can understand the torment you are going through.

The decision I made was to finally let go and let my son take responsibility for his own actions. The hardest thing is, because of this, he isn't speaking to me. But I know that is his selfish, immature nature. I can forgive him for taking advantage of my love in the past, but don't have to allow it to be part of my future.

The Scriptures tell us we should forgive as we have been forgiven. But they do not tell us to lay down and let people walk all over us, regardless of whether or not they are our parent, child or sibling.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Well, if anyone is still reading this thread, they may be interested to know that today I told dad there wouldn't be any money from me this time.

However, I think my sister is planning to pick up the tab, so I'm not sure how much impact it will have.

2:10 AM  

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