If it’s easier to do this via email then I’ll be willing to do that. I respect your efforts to work this out.
I’ve written draft replies about 5 times, hoping to get to a place that sounded and felt right. I tried to come up with nice ways to reply to your letter. I have failed. Finding the nice way with words is not my strong suit. Your Uncle Brett, Grandma, they are much better, but that skill eludes me. I find myself unable to reply any other way than what you will find below. I hope it’s not very upsetting in its lack of gentleness.
Your loving father
I think that setting expectations is appropriate. That’s what I tried to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was my attempt to anticipate your expectations, solicit your expectations and share mine with you. At Thanksgiving you made clear that you have boundaries — in that case that I should stay out of the headache business. It’s too bad mine didn’t have the intended result. It was surprising, too, since your mother wrote me that she and Ray fully supported my approach.
With what I viewed as your passive resistance, I really wanted to say “she’s not doing it, she doesnt care, trip over” but I ignored my hunch and stuck with the plan. Believe me, I had no interest in spending a week sleeping on MarkAnnie’s couch being treated like a manservant for 2 teenaged girls. I would have preferred to enjoy my little vacation prior to Christmas and not cut it short for NYC.
The sandwich? Was I not coldfever asleep when you came in my room, said “We want to go to DC?” Had I not told you Sunday that I was going to hibernate Monday, Tuesday to get stronger for NYC? Did I not honor your sense of urgency, get up immediately, ask you to make me a sandwich while I got dressed?
You can choose to feel responsible for Elizabeth’s misery. I certainly wont accept responsibility for your friend’s experience. After Thanksgiving and the contract failure, that was a judgement call on your part. Why, if all was as negative as you said, would you risk bringing your best friend for a repeat of the terrible Thanksgiving visit? Why if you were so angry at me would you come at all? Was it to fake it like you said, long enough to get a NYC trip–at least until the weather turned shitty and it was clear the city would be one icy cold swamp of slush on each corner, and oh, I didn’t actually change my mind about Times Square?
While I love you dearly, I am not your friend. If I tried, that would be irresponsible. I am not a Disneyland Dad. Does it feel like I am your father? If not, that’s as it may be and I would be sadder than I am right now when I don’t even know my daughter’s phone number. If we choose to spend time together in the future, I will expect you to respect my boundaries as I will do my best in return. Why else would I have made the first items in the contract about doing my best to not embarrass you, if not out of respect? If I hadn’t learned something about you at Tgiving, taken it in and acted upon it?
I expect you to stand up for yourself. You’ve never given any of the family here any sense that you are incapable of that. Quite the opposite. Quite bossy and quite demanding — but I let it go. Speeding, sandwich, Elizabeth embarrassed, intimidation? Hmmm … I’ve never once seen any evidence of intimidation between us. I’m not buying. That doesnt ring true to me.
I’m surprised at the tone of your letter where you sound victimized — left you at REI. This from the Hong Kong adventure girl? I might expect that from some retiring milquetoast girl. From you though, I’m not buying it. What was my demeanor in the Element outside of REI? Angry? Threatening? Accusatory? No it was very calm, matter of fact. Elizabeth was embarrased? I let go of dignity in speaking frankly to you, and asking Elizabeth for her input and observations. I put it all out there and invited more. What was my demeanor between the time I was told of your imminent departure and your aunt’s arrival?
Do you remember that I happened to be quite sick? That I went to the gym for the steamroom to try to clear my lungs? What of the steps I took to still make sure we made the trip? That after the gym Monday morning, feeling pretty bad, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on stuff while you and Elizabeth slept? That I locked myself in my room with the vaporizer so I didnt get you sick?
Why would I not think you went behind my back? All was presented me as a fait accompli, with all pickup arrangements made with other family members? It was announced not negotiated. How about that for embarrassment? I’ve since told Brett to keep his wife out of my/your business. I view your actions as manipulative and divisive. Your grandmother found your behavior unattractive.
There is nothing in your life over which I have any control. There’s virtually nothing over which I have any influence. Had there been, there are 2 things I would have done differently — but I couldnt and I cannot. For example, the law affords me no legal right to speak with your medical providers. I called Johns Hopkins to get information for your mother. “Are you the custodial parent?” … “Uh, no” … “Here’s our number, we’ll speak with her custodial parents, have a nice day.” I hope this will show you that I have no illusions of control here. You and your mother drive this train.
We’re all still family. I don’t have any interest in keeping this going. Compared to parents and counselors I speak with, these were very small potatoes. I love you. We usually enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes, and I think especially when expectations and boundaries aren’t clear, we don’t. Without your midnight phone calls, your terrible iPod mixes, Journey and Heart, my life is diminished. I hope to enjoy your company many times in the future.
Your loving father