I want to write about my dad. He’s a gentle man, the kind who will eat food he didn’t order because he doesn’t want to make a scene in the middle of the restaurant. He smiles at people and asks about their lives. If he doesn’t know your name, he will call you “this gentleman” or “this kind lady.”
He knows that strength doesn’t have to be loud or muscle-bound. He has lost two wives, raised children on his own, forged relationships with step-children, made himself the center of a family that could have broken apart and scattered when my stepmother died. He has never lost his generosity or his kindness. He has never let go of his responsibilities.
My dad’s love feels like a tether that keeps me close to Earth. Like any restraint, even a necessary one, it can chafe. There have been times when I was pulling so hard towards death, and I hated him for not letting me go. He didn’t even have to be there physically to stop me. He was in my mind, holding me with guilt and obligation and love.
I once called my dad when I was on the verge of dropping out of school, but I couldn’t tell him. We talked about our favorite TV shows. I held the phone away from my mouth so he wouldn’t hear that I was crying.
They say that AvPD generally stems from childhood rejection or abuse. I don’t know what to tell them. A string of therapists have suggested that my dad was too cold or too emotional or something, dammit, something to explain me. I sit there quietly, refusing to dig through my memories for evidence against him. I know my dad blames himself for the things I’ve done. It’s part of the silence that can exist between us; I can’t add any more to his guilt or his fear. He is the last person I blame for anything.
Being around my dad, just being in his presence, can hurt, because of this silence and my own guilt about things I’ve done or wanted to do. And because of the old fear, the familiar pervasive people-fear that won’t even let me reach out to my fucking father. We’re only this close because he only got in before the walls started to build themselves.
I just got back from spending five days with him. We never talked about anything important, but my brain is back up and running. The world feels a little more solid. The tether is still holding me in.