Monday, April 16, 2007

Withholding Taxes - Part 1

This picture of me was drawn by my mother when I was four. She made the dress, too. Bright blue with different colored ribbons sewn around the top. She said I spent a good part of that year saying, “I want my Daddy.” I have spent my entire life saying that.

So here it is another April and whenever I see the words Withholding Taxes, I think of my father. Because he was the most withholding man I ever knew and it taxed me as heavily as a million dollar fine from Uncle Sam would have. He died in 2001 and yet it took me three years past his death to deal with his rejecting legacy. I often look at this picture of the little 4 year-old me and wonder when exactly after that did my father turn against me.

While I was living in New York City, I had a Yorkie that at eleven years of age got diabetes and Cushing’s disease and eventually went blind. I temporarily abandoned my career to take care of him and spent two years devoting myself to my little dog. One day during this time, my father called me and said, “If I’m ever sick, you’re the daughter I want to come and take care of me.”

I had to laugh at that. When I was younger I had a Harrington Rod put in my back to fix my scoliosis and in those days, you had to spend seven months flat on your back with a cast up to your chin. Bedpans, sponge baths, TV, visitors and my Mom, who took care of me. My Dad was in the house but due to the fact that I had arrived home from California with a black eye; my father decided that he wouldn’t speak to me for those seven months. While he remained in the house. My mother had to make him put a TV in my room. I can still hear her asking him to take one from another part of the house and put it in my room and him replying “Why?” In the first month of my incarceration I would call down from my upstairs bedroom to see if he wanted to play a game of chess and he wouldn’t answer. I think once he just uttered a terse “No.” I eventually stopped asking. That was the man who wanted me to come and take care of him.

Sidebar: It was my mother who eventually told me that the reason my father didn't talk to me was because he felt I needed to be punished for getting involved with someone who gave me a black eye and for bringing him into our home. He was mad at the guy too, but he showed it by buying him 4 new tires for his car so he could drive back to California. He also gave him money to buy me roses. And he talked to him.

There are days when I don’t know whether I’ll ever get over a lifetime of being ignored by him, of having questions go unanswered, of being emotionally punished long after the infraction was committed. My reaction was always to reconnect with him, to forgive, to overlook the fact that he never told me what I had done wrong. I was needy; groveling and always emotionally begging for another chance. Because I always thought it was my fault. I must have done something wrong to cause my own father to turn against me so heartlessly. Psychologists point out that the difference between physical abuse and emotional abuse is that the scars heal from the physical.

The last year of his life he called me on my birthday and I called him on his and neither of us was home for our respective calls. Neither of us tried again. Other than leaving those messages for each other, we didn’t speak. I had lived in the cold, dark hallway of his rejection for so long that I had finally had it. He had unburdened me of the need to have a father. So when he fell and hit his head, his friends put him in a nursing facility near his home in Florida and I jumped on a plane because I remembered that he wanted me to be the one who took care of him. The irony of the situation is that my father told a friend of his to call my sister with the news. Not me.

When I got there, Dad looked awful. Emaciated and pale, he looked all of his 89 years and then some. He was disoriented. They had shaved his mustache and he had had it since the 70’s. He just looked at me and said, “Can you get me out of here?” I did.

By now my sister had arrived and we combed through a PDR trying to unlock the mystery of all his meds, many of which either canceled each other out or exacerbated the others. We took him to a hospital for evaluation and somewhere along the line he had a small heart attack. A stupid dumbfuck doctor told me this in front of my father and then left the room. Dad looked at me and said, “Did he say I had a heart attack?” (to be continued tomorrow)


  1. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Well, now I know why I love you. We had the same father, although at least you had a good mother! I know it's awful, but selfishly I'm glad that was your father, because your loss was our gain. Your humor, brains, and wry insight are the great coping mechanisms that came out of those ashes, and now are gifts to your audience. Of course, we'd all have probably wanted a better situation, but if you had a good father you'd probably be married now with three kids. Fine for you, but I'd never come over.

    Elayne Boosler

  2. Anonymous11:23 AM

    My father was an alcoholic. Yet I think my childhood was a day at the beach compared to yours. The more I know about you, the more I respect and admire you.

    Martha Jane

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. You are a courageous woman. Your dad was lucky to have you for a daughter. After all that he did to you emotionaly, you still went to him in his time of need.
    It is inexusable that your dad ignored and rejected you like that in your time of need. Do you think he was scared to see you, while you were laid up in bed?
    I also love the drawing. You do have the same haircut! Very cute.

  4. Anonymous12:47 PM

    We have a lot in common. I have a harington rod in my back too. I also had an estranged relationship with my father for many years. Fortunately, we have made peace with one another, and now have a good relationship. I still have bad taste in men though. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are wonderful!
    Tere Joyce

  5. Thank for sharing such a personal story of your life. I can relate on some levels, and that is why I have endeavored to be quite the opposite with my own daughter.

  6. i don't know whether to detest your father or pity him. I know I should pity him, but right now I detest him. I'll pity him later. Maybe.
    I adore you.

  7. Okay... I want to see a side-by-side of you (in pig-tails) next to that portrait! :-)

  8. Elayne: Two kids, tops.

    Martha: My dad was an alcoholic too.

    Country Mama: According to my mom, he was just furious with me that I let a man give me a black eye.

    Tere: I have THE worst taste in men. Gee, I wonder why?

    Michael: And for those of you that don't know Michael from Daytight Compartments (his blog), he and his ex-wife have remained great friends and made their child their priority. My parents got divorced and never spoke again. EVER.

    Denise: Yes, he is to be pitied. I always say I don't miss my Dad, I miss the Dad I could have had.

    Dave2: Leave it to you to reduce this post to a pigtail.

  9. surcie8:35 PM

    I love that you took time off from standup to care for your doggie. So stinkin' sweet.

    You deserved more and better from your father, Suzy. I hope you truly know that now.