My dad is a bit of a sourpuss to be honest. He’s the kind of guy that you can’t have a proper conversation with because he takes everything to heart. Whatever you say to him is always about him. And if it’s not, then he turns the conversation around so that he’s back at the centre of attention.
He’s been like this as far back as I remember. You might say that he’s sensitive but that’s not quite the right word. He’s more brittle than sensitive. He breaks easily when you touch a raw nerve. And he’s all raw-nerve.
Physically he’s always seemed like a big man to me. He’s always been strong and he’s always wanted to show that that’s how he is. And if that means hurting people then so be it. He hurt me plenty. Made me cry a lot. And then he scorned my weakness. And that’s when I was a small child.
We used to play rough-and-tumble games where he would pick me up and throw me around and play like he was fighting with me. And I would always get hurt. I guess he was a clumsy sort of a guy when I think about it. Not really the kind of person who should be around kids. But, like I said, it was his reaction to my tears that hurt me the most. He would go sullen and grow angry and this made me feel like it was my fault that I got hurt. Like it was my weakness that led to my pain. Like I should be stronger and bigger and more able to taken it. It was like he was disappointed. And so he scorned me.
It was as if he was competing against me, even when I was small. You know, like, when you play with kids, you have to let them win. Something to do with nurturing their self-respect or something. Well he never did. When I ran and he chased me, he made sure he caught me. When we ‘wrestled’ he made sure that he physically humiliated me. When I was small he made sure that I knew I was small. Smaller than he was. Weaker than him.
And he’s still like that now. Whenever there’s the slightest sense that I know something that he doesn’t, along comes that same truculence that turns into anger. Honestly, it’s like he’s a small child. And actually, maybe that’s it. Maybe back then, when I was a child, perhaps he thought that he was one too. And so when we wrestled, it felt right to him that he should try to win.
Am I the same as him now? Well, I don’t have kids and so I can’t make a direct comparison. But children do seem to like me. I try to treat them with respect. As if they are small adults. They seem to like that.
Perhaps that’s what my dad did. Perhaps he treated me like an adult when I was a child. Maybe that’s why he felt he could compete against me. Who knows.
I could ask him, I suppose, but I don’t think that it would work out. It’s precisely this kind of question that sends him over the edge into defensive behaviour. Which typically means aggression. And I’m too old for that kind of sh…tuff and so I leave well enough alone. Mostly. Like I say – he can be a bit of a sourpuss.
Best to let him keep rolling the anecdotes out like he does. Stories about this or that part of his life. And they’re good stories actually. So, yeah – just let him be. Not a buddy or a sounding-board for my inner-work but just what he is: my dad.