Friday, September 26, 2014

In Old Age, Neglectful Father Reaps What He Has Sown

Ed. Note: This letter was edited for length and content. Left out was the reader's comment that she suggested her father sell his house and move in with her; he refused, and called her a "selfish, ungrateful brat of a child". I hope this clarifies my response. --T.K.

Dear Tazi:

I have tried my whole life to win my father’s love and respect, but the problem is one that I could never resolve. He has never gotten over his disappointment that I was born a girl. When I was a child he used to dress me in gender neutral clothing and take me to the playground, where he would encourage me to play sports with the boys. As I got older, he saw that I was enrolled in Little League baseball and the community basketball team. Thankfully, both sports were co-ed, so I was able to fit in with my peers and my mother never objected because she believed sports were good exercise and that team sports would make me a well-rounded person.

By the time I reached junior high, I was tired of androgynous clothing and team sports. I wanted to wear skirts and dresses and try out for the cheerleading squad. I did all of that, and that was the last my father ever paid any attention to me. Over the years, I have tried reaching out to him but it was never any good; I could not do anything right. If he was walking the dog and I offered to go with him he would refuse me, saying the dog would act up in front of me because he liked to show off in front of people. If he was washing the car and I offered to help, he told me it was easier to do it himself. No matter what I tried, it never worked, so I finally gave up and accepted the fact that I had lost my father for good. The last time I saw him was a few years ago at my mother’s funeral.

I am now in my thirties and my father is in his seventies and in failing health. Out of the blue he called me and asked me to move home to be with him because he can no longer live alone and does not want to go into a nursing home or pay for an assisted living facility. Although I am single, I own my own home and have a very fulfilling life in my own community, which is about a two hour drive from my father’s house.

Being an only child of late-in-life parents, a part of me feels like I am obligated to honor my father’s wises; but the larger part of me wants nothing to do with him! He pushed me away when I finally got up the nerve to act like a girl instead of a tomboy, and now that he is old and failing he wants me to come play nursemaid to him. It has taken me a long time and a lot of counseling to accept our distant relationship, and I do not wish to upset the fragile balance I have achieved; but I am afraid that if I refuse his request I will have regrets when he is gone.

Orphan Annie
Dear Orphan Annie:

You have both my sympathies and my understanding over your tenuous relationship with your father. He strikes me as a selfish man who, rather than pay someone to assist him (like a visiting nurse), would rather take advantage of the child he rejected.

Some men have difficulty relating to their daughters which can come off as a lack of caring, but it appears that your fathers issues run deeper than that. By dressing you in gender neutral clothing and sending you off to play with the boys it appears that he was indulging in some warped fantasy that you were, indeed, the son for whom he had hoped. Only now that his life is nearing its end does he wish for you to embrace the traditional female role of personal nurse, and that is only so he can save some money that he will…what? Pass on to you when he dies? Money is best spent while we are still living, so if he has the means I would suggest that he consider hiring a visiting nurse or look into an assisted living facility.

Your father’s gross ignorance of your life outside of him can be forgiven considering the fact that he probably was unaware of it; however, it is up to you to explain to him why you will not – and cannot – drop everything to come live with him. This is the only thing you are obligated to do for him. Do not feel guilty for not honoring your relationship to him, for there is no relationship with him to honor.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


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