The Right Thing to do is relative at best or maybe it doesn’t exist at all.
Right for whom? Who benefits; who is hurt? Who usually just suffers through something based on an incorrect assumption that it is important to do so? (Me.)
I have this need to mostly do right by others. Nothing wrong with that, except that I’m also pissed off at others a lot of the time.
The present particular Right Thing quandary comes on the eve of a quick trip to Florida for a funeral. I’m struggling with my decision to not see my father when I’m down there and to not even tell him I’m going.
My grandfather died. I loved him and he was a good person. Parental figures who didn’t make you feel like shit about yourself were always in short supply in my family, and he was one. My father (his ex-son-in-law) treated his death the way I would have expected him to (but very unlike a normal person would). Immediately after I notified my father, he gave me no kindness or sympathy, but instead attempted to have a seance and demanded the phone number of my aunt (his ex-sister-in-law). When I refused to give it to him, he started a fight with me. I have since been on low-contact with him, blocking his texts and only sending a couple of emails with information about his grandchildren that I thought he may find important. Lately when I look at the blocked texts, I see that he’s become friendly again.
I don’t want to see him when I go down there. I don’t care to see him. I have nothing to say to him and I don’t need to hear his droning pontification that he calls conversation. I don’t want to “hash this out” because I would like only an honest apology and I know that I can never have that even if I ask nicely (or cry, scream, and explain until I’m blue in the face). And allowing him to speak to me about random things that always revolve around his crazy political/religious/world views while ignoring the elephant in the room would only make me more angry and hurt.
My children don’t miss him. How could they? They don’t see him much and when they do, he barely speaks to them. He never asks them about themselves and never asks me about them.
My husband has absolutely no desire to ever see him again, I am quite sure.
So the people for whom I am actually responsible and for whom I deeply care, do not need to see him. The answer is simple, then, is it not? In an apocalypse should I go out of my way to bring food to my asshole neighbor, or should I let the zombies get him? Zombies, right? Ok, so this isn’t that.
And since this isn’t that, I drift off into the dialogs that go something like:
He’ll be sad not to see the boys.
He’ll have his feelings hurt that I didn’t bother to see him.
He’s screwed up and nobody likes him.
….Deeper and deeper into the Poor Dad rabbit hole.
So then the Right Thing begins to look like me setting up a visit on our short trip, where we meet him at some restaurant and we buy him lunch and he sulks about not being invited to the funeral and then moves on to big annoying theories about Zionists or Lizard People or worse yet, embarrassing loud but pointless observations about how nowadays black people eat in the same restaurants as white people. And it will be awkward and nobody will like it but we’ll endure it and then he’ll think everything is OK and I’ll start answering his texts again because we ate together and yeah.
But that doesn’t sound like the Right Thing to me. I have this insistent thing happening where My Feelings are more important to me than His Feelings are. Or at least I think that after all these years, that maybe they should be.
Because HE never thought so. Not when:
- I was a little girl and he wouldn’t hug me goodnight because I made him angry by laughing too much
- I was thirteen and he was so proud that his friends found me attractive
- I was seventeen and he shoved my head into the kitchen cabinet and called me a cunt (he has no memory of this of course)
- My mother died and he made everything about him
- He came to my house for Thanksgiving weekend and I was (stupidly) very excited for it but then over the span of days he told unrelenting horror stories about my recently deceased mother in front of my children and wouldn’t leave until I finally asked him to
- My grandfather died and he made everything about him
Ok, enough of that self-indulgence. Just not ever. He has never cared about my feelings more than his own.
I just need to take this step. Ovary up and just no.
I don’t want to see you and so I’m not going to see you. If I feel bad for you, it’s just because I’m a decent person, not because you actually deserve it. I can weather that momentary doubt and pain. You aren’t in control anymore. Staying true to my needs is the Right Thing this time.
I will probably need to reread this.