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The Visit (standard:non fiction, 5157 words)
Author: SarahAdded: Apr 02 2001Views/Reads: 2314/1748Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Reflections of a daughter on the realities of life as we grow older and what it means to be a parent and a daughter.


(On Parents, Children, and Aging) 

June 13th (Friday Afternoon) 

"What a Grumpy Old Man he's become," I thought as I drove away from my
parent's home.  As sometimes happens, my father had become angry with 
me and said things that hurt my feelings.  I was there, after all, to 
help.  It was Friday afternoon and although I had originally planned to 
stay through Sunday if necessary, I decided I had overstayed my welcome 
and it was best for all of us for me to leave now. 

I'd driven to Jackson from Nashville Wednesday afternoon.  My
84-year-old father was having cataract surgery on Thursday morning and 
I came to help out for a few days until he could see again.  This was 
just the day after the surgery and, although his vision was slightly 
blurred, his sight was returning.  Groceries had been purchased, food 
prepared, and I knew they could manage without me. 

Driving home, crying and feeling sorry for myself, I did what I usually
do, which is try to understand and analyze my feelings. 

One thing I realized is that my father hasn't just become a Grumpy Old
Man.  He has always been this way; grumpy, that is.  If you say 
something he doesn't agree with.  He is impatient and he jumps to 
conclusions.  Often, he reacts to what he thinks you said.  Sometimes, 
he is wrong. 

He  has been hard of hearing for years and wears a hearing aid.  So you
make allowances and learn to be patient.  Except he's not patient.  
Never has been.  And doesn't disagree respectfully.  Rather, he says 
things like, "Well, that's why I don't like talking to you.  Because 
you don't know what you're talking about." 

Actually, he has always treated his family this way; my mom, my brother,
and me.  With us, he has always had a short fuse. 

Which is so contradictory to the conciliatory nature he has always
exhibited with everyone else -- business acquaintances, church members, 
friends.   In fact, he had a reputation for being  the peace-maker.  
For some reason, however, the patience and diplomacy he showed to 
others was never extended to his family.  I guess he just had so much 
to go around and when he got to us it was all used up. 

People with low self esteem often act this way.  And I had never
perceived my father as being particularly self-confident.  Insecure 
people can't rant and rave or express themselves truthfully at work or 
church or with their friends.  Too much is at risk.  So they mediate, 
compromise, give in.  But that pent-up frustration at the injustice of 
always having to concede to others has to vent itself somewhere.  So 
often the only safe outlet is within the safety and security of the 
family unit.  How ironic. 

I tried to figure out why it hurt so much and realized that, as children
often do, I invariably interpreted his anger as disapproval.  Because I 
loved my father of course I wanted and needed his approval.  It doesn't 
look so significant writing it here this way.  But realizing it's been 
going on all my life is illuminating. 

I had always been close to my mom.  And talked to her about cooking and
cleaning and raising children.  Woman talk.   But it was my dad to whom 
I turned when I wanted to test my ideas and express my opinions about 
life, politics, religion, current events. 

In the last ten years or so, however, as I had gotten more liberal and
he more conservative, I decided politics and religion were best 
ignored, although both are part and parcel of a person's philosophy and 
that personal credo affects how you see the world and the things that 
are happening in it.  So it was hard to avoid. 

Through the years, a succession of discussions that too frequently ended
in conflict. 

My father would get angry with something I said and impatiently or

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