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Loser of the Week
October 22, 2017

I found a couple online definitions for “helicopter parent” and decided that’s the perfect term for what my mother did to me. She hovered and I could never escape her view. I was constantly interrogated by her. The easiest way to avoid it was to lock myself in my room.

One time when I was 14 I went rollerblading in the neighborhood. I was out for maybe a half hour when my neurotic mother sent my dad out on a drive looking for me. I was so pissed. I used this “exercise” to get out of the crazy household for maybe 90 minutes tops sometimes and she wanted to reel me back in. You’re not allowed to experience the sensation of freedom! Get back in your room where I know you’re safe! I didn’t blame my dad for being the search party because I knew how forceful my mother’s paranoia was. She had all of us, including my dad, under her grip.

This submission is supposed to be about my dad who was not a “helicopter parent.” He believed in letting me make mistakes; however, their conflicting methods didn’t allow for me to make mistakes because mom wouldn’t let that happen. I resent her a lot for the relentless psychological control she imposed on my existence. In short, she was neurotic and wouldn’t admit it. Her present method of deflecting that criticism is to blame it on my dad—that he caused her to overprotect her kids.

Out of 3 kids, I was my dad’s favorite. He never said it with words but it was plain to see. As youngsters, my mother tried to pit us against him and I’m the only one who “saw through it.” I credit the not buying into that hate as the reason my dad and I got along better than he got along with my brother and sister. My mother tried to use us as tools to assert control over him. I was generally a sweet kid and just didn’t fall into that trap. He appreciated that and helped me dealing with her neuroticism sometimes. I still get mad when I think about how open her manipulations were.

Sidenote: mom still lives under the fearful cloud of somebody is out to get her. At 67 years old, she thinks she’s subject to getting raped or attacked unprovoked at any time.

Another sidenote: they never divorced. He moved out twice in my recollection, the second time permanently. I applauded the decision the second time and told them both they were better off separate.

I knew my dad had demons. He didn’t hide that he was an alcoholic. He DID hide that he was a whoremonger and a frequent illicit drug user. After he moved out the second time, he lived in a tiny camper and moved from trailer park to trailer park, never staying at one more than a few months. We suspected he was telling a psychiatrist stories to get whatever meds he wanted. I also knew he had played around with synthetic marijuana but assumed he had the personal fortitude to not do anything more severe. He also called me sometimes asking for unscheduled installments on a loan he gave me a couple years earlier. Since it was his money, I did my best to make good on his requests.

I saw my dad at Christmas 2014; he picked me up from the airport. Every year he went through a ritual of being way too excited to see me and being indifferent or avoiding the other members of my family. Like he still had a strong desire to impress me the way he did when I was a kid. Even through our tensions, we still had a natural flow of conversation that I don’t believe he had with anybody else in the whole world. That year when I was in town, he had an episode where he actually forgot the trailer park he moved his camper to. Although they were separated, my dad came to the house for Christmas because technically it was his house and because that’s where I stayed. Mom was too incompetent to figure out how to locate the camper. After some pointed questions, I, the out-of-towner, made a few phone calls, talked with a volunteer firefighter in the town he thought he may have parked it in and explained that my dad, up in years, was getting forgetful and needed assistance locating his camper. My parents were to go to the firehouse and meet with the lieutenant who would drive them to some of the trailer parks in his town. Before they left the house, I told my dad, “take a shower and brush your teeth!” The lieutenant was able to help him locate his trailer. My dad was grateful to me that I had the capacity to think the situation through and come up with a solution. I felt good about being a problem solver, but really, he was just manufacturing problems. I shouldn’t have needed to solve anything. The suspected drug by now was adulterated/street cut K2 or “incense” as he liked to call it.

In early 2015, he got into a car accident by running into a telephone pole. An officer found him unresponsive at the wheel and foaming/spittling at the mouth. He was taken to a hospital and transferred to a psychiatric ward for a week when my sister signed for him. If he was not shown to have family to be released to, I assume he would’ve been locked up. As it stood, he received not even a ticket. When I found out he was SMOKING CRACK, I decided that while I couldn’t rightfully cancel the loan repayments, I needed the money more than he did so retroactively assigned an interest rate of 0%. He also expressed that he wasn’t going to pay my sister back for her out-of-pocket expenses related to his hospital trip, so I paid her and counted those payments against the loan. He was ticked at her that she “put him in a mental hospital” and ticked at me that I paid her for it with his money. I sternly told him that she single-handedly kept him out of jail or the morgue and he didn’t have the right to bring her away from her job and kids to deal with him because he wanted to get high. It’s hard to reason with somebody who is on drugs, but he actually saw what I was saying and called her to apologize to her.

My brother stayed out of all this. Everyone was fine with this. We knew he’s a sensitive guy and a little quirky/nutty, and he was not obligated under any means to be involved. No one held it against him. This was also before we knew my brother was batshit insane.

Mom is the default hub of communication in the family which has its drawbacks. You never know if you’re getting an accurate message. Rather, you can be pretty certain the message has been through her filter and things added, subtracted, or otherwise convoluted. There’s no way to backtrack to the pure message because the message is whatever she wants it to be. This habit of hers has caused problems among all our family members. There are countless portrayals of this kind of mother on TV: my two favorites are the mothers on Everybody Loves Raymond and Arrested Development. They hit the nail on the head except they are used for comedic effect whereas mine just causes real life interpersonal problems. I guess this paragraph was just an interjection.

Since my pick up and drop off must be coordinated, I expressed to my mom that for Christmas 2015, I’d rather not be in the passenger seat of a vehicle operated by a crackhead, and for that matter, I didn’t actually care to see my dad that year. I was so let down when I heard he was smoking crack. I really thought he was morally higher than that. I talked with him a couple times on the phone after the crack revelation and tried the understanding approach. I asked him nonaccusatory questions. He gave me what I thought were valid thoughtful answers. How long have you smoked crack? Ten or so years, maybe longer. Do you want to quit? More than anything else. Do you have any right now? I always have some in a hidden spot so I know I have it. When was the last time you smoked it? Recently. In his last few years, he managed, through his pure selfishness, to dash the little bit of self-worth I had, because to an extent I gauge my self-worth based on the people who gave me life. Doesn’t everyone do that?

He came to the house for Christmas 2015. He was never a very good gift giver but that year he actually brought thoughtful and pretty good stuff for everyone. He was also rattling and talking way too much and acting like the crackheads you see on Youtube. His thoughts were disconnected and he jumped from topic to topic. He demanded to be the center of everyone’s attention by constantly telling stories he thought were important to share. I voice recorded a couple minutes of his rambling and can’t bear to listen to it because it just hurts to know his mind was so lost. It was cringeworthy to be in the room with him, I can’t willfully repeat the experience.

In early March 2016, I got the call from my mom. Honestly, I had expected to get it long before then. For as much as he abused himself, he made it to the age of 64, most people would call that a full life. How did he die? He was found on the couch in his tiny camper by his homeless roommate no one knew he had hunched over with his head between his feet, a crack pipe in his fingers. His piece of shit roommate didn’t attempt to contact anyone. He took his cell phone and used it for a whole week before answering an incoming call from someone who expected my dad to answer. That person called my mom to tell her the news.

I know exactly what my dad looked like in his life. His face was rosy, his teeth brown and gnarly, he had started going bald in his forties and only had some wispy feathers left in his sixties. His eyes were blue and watery like an Irish drunkard, his jaw square and nose round. Pictures of him in his youth showed a handsome boy and young man. Because of the week between death and collection and the further two weeks before his funeral, his body and face were not suitable for an open casket. The funeral director asked immediate family if they would like to see him before the service. I said yes, so my mom and sister stood by me, apparently for support, although I would’ve rather done it alone, and from a few feet away we looked at his gray skin, the stitches on his scalp (I’m not sure what they were from because to my knowledge an autopsy wasn’t ordered), his white prickly beard, the scabs all over his face, neck, and hands. I thought it was necessary to look at him because up to then NO FAMILY MEMBER had performed a visual confirmation. While I hadn’t doubted it was him, wouldn’t it be a hoax if we thought we buried my dad and it turned out to be some other bum? It was him, no question.

I miss my dad but I’m also still mad at him. I should say I miss the guy I knew him to be when I was a kid. For the rest of my life, whenever I think about “my dad,” I’ll think of a crackhead. When my sister’s kids think of their granddad, they’ll think of a scary looking stinky bum who told purposeless stories and disheveled jokes. Maybe the point of my story is that I wish my parents were better people because I want to be a better person too. How could anyone expect me to elevate myself to a higher standard when what I came from so clearly set a path for me to continue in the ill-esteemed ranks of the lower class?

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  1. Digdug Digdug said: You really know how to paint a picture with words. Thanks for your posts. I see many similarities in our families
  2. Digdug Digdug thinks you're a loser