My sister and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest and are back here for a month. We’re planning to go back over to my hometown to see them today while they visit my mom and dad for a couple days. I’m really looking forward to seeing them, but I’m also extremely apprehensive.
Ever since my dad retired, he has slipped farther and farther into the far reaches of the Internet. He is not a QAnon person (thank God) but he has kind of replaced socializing with people with watching fringe YouTube videos and participating in political message boards. He posts daily posts to Facebook that I think he posts because he likes trying to teach people things (he’s a former teacher) but really, I think he’s addicted to the attention they provide. I’ve watched his political views get more and more extreme and he just can’t resist talking about them. My sister and her husband disagree with him on a lot of counts (BLM and women’s issues, just to name a couple.) They also don’t shy away from engaging him, and I’m frankly nervous that today is going to be a disaster.
I’ve struggled with how to reconcile the fact that I want to continue to have a relationship with my dad and how unacceptable I find his behavior. I think that I’ve found myself in a very delicate spot where I don’t talk about it with him, and when he tries to engage me, I just gently steer the topic of conversation to something else. I think so much of it stems from the fact that he has no other friends other than my mom and his older brother who is cut from the same cloth as him.. He has basically isolated himself from anything that would challenge his opinions on things. If one of us challenges him, he gets very angry and claims that he’s done the research and we haven’t so we don’t know anything. It all makes me so uncomfortable that sometimes I feel like the less I talk to him, the better. But the flip side to this is that he is my dad and he’s 75 and won’t be around forever and when it comes right down to it, I do want a relationship with him. And it’s hard because I really find his personality hard to take.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s early dementia or other mental health issues, but I don’t really think so. I think it’s just him being stubborn, trying to control a world that is getting ready to discard him and that scares him. I would be 1000% more down to discuss that than these red herring political issues that he has decided to champion. Every time we get together it’s a crap shoot as to whether it’s going to go well or not and it didn’t used to be that way. My parents used to be the non-problematic side of the family. No longer. I guess it was a good run, but all good things come to an end.
When I came out to my parents in December, it was something I never thought I would do, and as I watched my dad’s whacked out political view solidify, I became even more sure that I would definitely not tell them. But my spouse’s coming out as non-binary pushed me to do so and I will never forget how much they made me feel accepted in that phone call. And then I posted a thing to Facebook and I remember my dad saying to me “you could have given me a week to get used to it!” and that’s the thing that I remember the most now. I feel now like my family is this weird thing that they don’t know what to do with and wish I had just kept my mouth shut. Maybe that’s the thing that I’m least comfortable with – the fact that I’m gay and my spouse is non-binary has really stripped the “normal, happy couple” veneer off of our marriage and I am still reeling from that a little bit. Maybe I was hiding behind that a little bit and now there’s nowhere to hide? Probably. And that’s the part that I don’t think my parents, especially my dad, know how to handle.
So we’ll see how today goes, but frankly I’m already exhausted and we don’t leave for another hour and a half. I’m just going to focus on the fact that this is the first time in probably 2 years that I’ll get to see my sister and try to hang on to that.