Day Thirty-One: On Friendship and Birthdays and Fathers

I don’t have a lot to say today, and that’s probably best, because there are still so many boxes begging to be packed, but I am going to explain my new plan.

I’m going to take the next thirty days to cover thirty new topics, or relatively new topics, and later I will come back and follow-up on each of the sixty days, in order.  As I wrote previously, I might take a break in between, it will all depend on how we are adjusting to life down south and whether I feel I have anything more to write.

I was thinking about friendship today, in the context of birthdays and Facebook, and I think it’s worth exploring a little more.

I am not very good about remembering birthdays, with or without help from Facebook.  There are a few birthdays I remember without fail, my parents, brothers, grandparents, a few close childhood friends, my husband, and my children, of course, but outside of that, I have troubles.  I’m not good at remembering numbers generally, and I’m also not so great with names, which has caused more than a small share of problems over the years.*  Facebook helps some, and when I consistently check it, that’s a very helpful thing, but some days I don’t check it, and as far as I know, they don’t send reminders for birthdays.

For a few years I resented the Facebook birthday messages.  If you care about my birthday, call me, or at least send a text.  I don’t care if the rest of the world knows you remembered, and in fact, I felt the public posting somehow cheapened the sentiment.  I think I’ve come around, because I’ve realized it’s just a new way of communicating.  It’s not that people care less, necessarily, only that it has become the standard way to share birthday wishes.

Also, I have to admit, it was nice to read my Facebook birthday messages.  I try to keep my personal Facebook to a small number of people I actually know and like (and a few family members and old acquaintances I feel obligated not to remove), so reading the messages was actually almost moving.  Most of the messages are simple, or even standard, but the messages I leave are the same, because it’s not private, and that seems more fitting.  I wrote before about having mixed feelings about my birthday, and that’s true for a lot of reasons, but I like receiving nice messages from good people, and I’m going to make an effort to try to leave more birthday messages, or encouraging messages for no reason.

One of the things I’d like to work on as a thirtysomething is being a better, more consistent friend.  My twenties were pretty chaotic, and I was a flake, sometimes with good excuse and sometimes not, but as a thirtysomething I hope to change that.  I’m not sure if that will mean making an effort to reconnect with old friends or finding new ones, but I want to commit to doing it, even if the next ten years are somehow as insane as the last.

There are a few birthday messages I don’t plan to return.  One was a text from my dad, the day before my birthday, that simply said, “Happy birthday tomorrow hope you have a great day.i [sic] would call you but I know you are not talking to me just don’t know why.  Dad”

On the surface that’s a sad message.  This poor father, reaching out to send his daughter a message on her birthday even though she won’t speak to him.  Let’s break it down.  He sent a message a day early.  Why?  Was he drunk?  It came through at 8 in the morning, so I would think not, but I suppose anything is possible.  Was he worried he might forget the actual day?  Maybe he looked at the calendar and realized the date, but figured he would forget.  Or maybe he sent the message a day early because he didn’t want to upset me on my actual birthday.  Oh how I wish I could believe it were the last option.  He would call me, but he knows I’m not talking to him.  That’s a tough one. On the one hand, if he knows I’m not talking to him, maybe it would be best to leave me alone.  On the other hand, he is my father, and this is a pretty big birthday to ignore, and maybe it would be an opportunity to make a peace offering.  Then again, if it were a peace offering, he probably wouldn’t have mentioned that he knows I’m not talking to him and doesn’t know why.  Also, I have a feeling he knows exactly why.

Or maybe he doesn’t know.  He sent an email a few months ago and said he thought it had something to do with his support for my younger brother, with whom I do not have a relationship.  I guess in some ways that might be true, but it’s not quite so simple.  I would never decide not to have a relationship with somebody for simply supporting someone else, and in fact, I do have a relationship with my mom, who provides my brother with much more support than my father does.  I’m sure my he wants to believe that’s why.  Poor him.  What is he to do?  He can’t win.  He can’t abandon his son, and he will just have to sacrifice the relationship he has with his daughter to support him.  Right.

The truth is I’m not strong enough to have a relationship with my father.  I thought I was, I really did.  I thought I could be strong, and careful, and understand who he was and have a relationship that was healthy, and fulfilling, with healthy boundaries and mutual respect.  But I can’t.  I can’t have a relationship with someone who hates women.  I am a woman.  My mother is a woman.  My daughters will be women.  It was one thing when he simply wouldn’t take responsibility for the past.  Somehow I felt like I could just leave the past in the past, and maybe that would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t have, we’ll never know, because the past isn’t over.  He is the same person and he does the same things, he even does the same things to the same people when he has the opportunity.  I’m not going to spend the rest of my life trying to look the other way while he bullies anyone who doesn’t do exactly what he wants.

I really didn’t mean to get into any of this tonight.  When I first sat down, I started to type, “I’m not sure what to write about tonight,” and then I was happily thinking about how great the past few days have been, and the nice Facebook messages.  It was only when I looked at the messages on my phone and remembered his text that this all came up.  Oh well, sometimes it just needs to vent.

I think that’s enough opening of boxes for one night, I need to go and close a few.  More on all of this another time.

*It’s not because I don’t care about people or because I don’t pay attention.  If my husband tells me a story about a friend I can remember every detail, but if it’s someone I haven’t met, there is a good chance I won’t remember the name.  The same is true when I meet people in person – I can remember virtually everything about the interaction including their life story, but a first name?  Forget it.  A last name?  I probably never asked.

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