Friday, May 24, 2013

The Phone Call

(Note: In case you weren't here for chunks of this story, I used to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses but haven't been for a while. My dad still is. In his eyes, by leaving the organization, I committed the highest sin. He hasn't spoken to me in quite some time. I've written more about this in these posts.)

Today my mom called me to tell me that my dad had called her to inquire about me and the family. Well, me and the kids. He doesn't really care about Jay because he's still convinced that Jay is the reason I'm no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Which isn't true. I was having doubts about the religion long before I mentioned anything to Jay. It's also sad that my dad thinks so little of me, thinks I'm so simple and unable to think for myself, that I would let someone else influence such an important part of my life. As Jay said this afternoon, "Wow. He really doesn't know you at all." No, he doesn't.

Anyway, my mom's conversation with him went something like this:

Mom: Hello.
Dad: Can you tell me anything about Tammie and the kids? Are they dead?
Mom: Wow. That's kind of rude.
Dad: Well, they never answer any of my calls.
Mom: I don't know what to tell you. Sometimes they don't answer my calls either. Tammie works.

The conversation continued with my father listing all the many ways in which I have hurt him. Basically, it's a list of one thing: Me no longer having the same beliefs as him. Because me going on with my life and living it as I choose is clearly a personal attack aimed at him.

For what it's worth my father has called me twice in the past three years. The first time, about 2 1/2 years ago, was because Monty accidentally called him when meaning to call a friend. Upon realizing his mistake he just hung up. My dad called back, Monty answered and said, "Oh sorry Grandpa, I didn't mean to call you. I meant to call someone else." According to my mom, that interaction hurt my dad's feelings, although for the life of us we can't figure out the reasons why. But I'm sure they are illogical. What adult gets upset by the actions of an otherwise well-meaning 12 year old?

His second call came about a month and a half ago. The timing of it coincided with the annual Memorial Meeting at the Jehovah's Witness church. It's a big deal. I knew why he was calling-to nag me about going. No, I didn't answer that call. My mom mentioned it in her chat with him today. He was quiet, so I guess my assumption was correct.

To my mom's credit, she remained calm and reiterated that we are busy people and don't always answer phone calls right away. She then told my dad that he needed to stop acting like a martyr and maybe just try to be nice. To which he yelled into the phone, "Don't you tell me how to act!"

Hmmmm. Why am I not answering his phone calls? WHY do I NOT want to be a part of this conversation?

I have a lot of valid reasons to not want to have a relationship with my father. He wasn't around a lot when I was growing up, basically relying on my mom to maintain any kind of parent/child relationship. He was never truly supportive of anything I've done. He never did anything in his power to make me feel good about myself and he raised me in an organization that thinks women are second class citizens.

But I'm over all of that. Really. On an average day I don't even think about any of it. I have a full life.  I have kids and a husband who I love and enjoy being around. I have a job that has the potential to be the career I've longed for. I have hobbies, go to book signings, have lunch dates with friends, and occasionally I'll sit in a bar and drink a few whiskey sours and stare at Canadian rock stars.  I'm fine. I'm happy.

I truly am at a point in my life where I could overlook all my father's past wrongs. If they were in the past. Therein lies the problem. His conversation with my mom proves that nothing has changed. I don't know if I need any of that in my life.

I guess it dosn't matter anyway. Before my parents ended their phone call, my father said that he was "done trying." Because apparently two weird/loaded phone calls in 3 1/2 years constitutes proper effort.

It is what it is. 


Anonymous said...

Tammie, For whatever it's worth I love all of you. There comes a time when we all have to stop being so judgemental of each other and just accept situations for what they are. I do not know your father at all but it seems that if he didn't care he wouldn't even bother to inquire as to your status. Maybe if your children occasionaly called your Dad and asked "how are you Grandpa"? maybe he might soften his stance a bit. They might develop a totaly different relationship with him than you did. This is the reason I avoid all organized religions. It is too bad your father is missing out o so much joy he could be having in his old age.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I'm sorry Tammie.

(But I am thrilled your new job is turning into a career)

Cyndy Newsome said...

There are so many things in this world I just don't understand. People like your dad are just one of them. I can't wrap my brain around being that intolerant of others' beliefs, but especially when one of those 'others' is your own child.
Just so sad.

Daphne said...

This kind of crazy-making behavior is so... well... crazymaking. I'm so glad you and Jay are so incredibly level-headed about this (and everything else). What he doesn't see is how incredibly wonderful and successful you turned out to be in SPITE of how you were raised (absent dad, crazy religion, etc.). But you're giving YOUR kids something incredibly valuable: love and respect -- and that's something pretty terrific.

red raven said...

Oh my gosh . I think we have the same father! (Ok ok same kind of father) mine didn't speak to me for 13 years, from when I was 16 until I was 30 , and when I answered the phone he just asked what was new. WTF?
Good for you knowing what you need and don't need in your life! You seem to be handling the whole situation beautifully.

Tammie said...

thank you everyone for all the supportive comments about my dad. im constantly trying to figure out what is the right thing to do and how to navigate these waters. its a work in progress.

TJ said...


One thing that jumps out to me is your apparent lingering anger at the religion your father is in. His actions would seem to indicate that he does care about you.

Tammie said...

thats the thing though, i truly am not angry. and ive learned that my father does love me, but it comes with conditions. its not the unconditional love that parents normally have.

TJ said...

Tammie, even if you're not consciously aware of it, your words say otherwise, like when you say things like, "he raised me in an organization that thinks women are second class citizens."

I know as well as you do that that isn't true, unless you are bound and determined to take *everything* in the very worst way possible. You are indeed angry and I'd bet you anything that anger translates into how you approach him.

Based on the little I've read above, I have little doubt that your father does love you still, but he's trying balance this with his love for his God. If he honestly believes that you're on a bad and/or destructive path, he's not going to support you on it, just as a parent with a true and principled love wouldn't become an enabler to a child with a severe drug problem. That's why he's trying to reach out to you.

You're always going to find plenty of enablers around that will bounce your opinion right back to you, but that's not going to help you to be any happier.

Tammie said...

women in that organization are viewed as second class citizens. can they teach from the platform? no. are they allowed to lead the congregation in prayer? no. are they allowed to hold any positions of power? no. are they encouraged to be successful members of society who can take care of themselves and function without a husband? in most cases no.

and there is no such things as 'balance' when one chooses an organized religion over their own family.

i had to laugh at the implication that im on some destructive path, considering im probably the most boring person i know. in my fathers eyes, the destructive thing im doing, is simply not being one of jehovahs witnesses.

all in all i dont have a lot of interest in arguing with you about all of this. im never going to agree with you and you, as one of jehovahs witnesses are never going to see things my way.

i would highly advise you to google the warning signs of cults. because you are in one.

Anonymous said...

Tammie, you're absolutely right to think that a parent should have unconditional love for their child(ren). You may not love every choice they make, but if your willingness to even talk to them is based on them making choices you approve of, that is NOT unconditional love. To borrow the example someone else used, the parent of a drug addict is not going to go out and buy the drugs, but s/he will reach out to the child and let the child know that s/he is ready to help in any way. It seems to me that you're being told, "When you're ready to believe what I do and behave the way I want you to, we'll have a relationship."

On a totally unrelated note, because I can't resist any mention of Canada (ask Daphne), who's the Canadian rock star you like to stare at?


Tammie said...

D'Arcy: i agree with you 100%.

and its luke lalonde from the born ruffians. hes a cutie.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is that TJ person. How long have they been a JW. Obviously not long enough to realize they need to run! Run, Run Run like the wind! Get out while you can. Everything you said, Tammie, is true. I should know. I'm one of those women.

Liesl said...

I'm sorry you don't have a good relationship with your father.
Although, from what you said, I agree with you about 99.99999% there is that little part of me (the part that is seer-of-both-sides-to-the-story-to-the-point-that-it's-so-damn-annoying-and-dizzying) that feels like he loves you and is proud of you and misses you and his grand kids but just doesn't know how to deal with his own crap and emotions.

Often where this is anger there is fear. But yeah, how the hell do you help someone like that?

But hey, that is just an outsider's take.

Tammie said...

liesl: no i actually totally agree with you. you are spot on, my dad has never dealt with his emotions properly. but as his child, is it my job to make that easier for him? and if so, when does it end? i mean, i have my own kids to take care of.

Visty said...

This post makes me sad for you, and a bit annoyed at the commenters who feel the need to handslap you. Just because an aging man comes face to face with his mortality, realizes he has constructed a life leaving him mostly alone, and is so emotionally and developmentally stunted that he still looks around for someone to blame for his unhappiness does NOT obligate his children to make things better for him. This is actually really common for neglectful/abusive/distant/or otherwise inadequate parents: age and the face of death looks on them and causes them to see that no one is going to take care of them. They try to round up the troops. They attempt to force loyalty from those they have mistreated.
This is not "caring". This is only more of the same self-serving shit they've served to their kids on a broken plate from the beginning.