Note: A version of this blog post was originally written on April 2, 2018 and posted to a blog on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The other day my dad left a note on the cupboards above the sink. Bold, all caps, serif font, black letters on a sheet of white paper: PLEASE CLEAN UP YOUR MESS.
For years now, my dad has refused to do chores in the house because it’s “not his mess,” but recently he’s gotten so bold as to not only not help, but to remind me of how much he thinks I’m lacking.
When I saw the sign I immediately grabbed it, went to his room and yelled at him. How dare you! I said. He accused me of not cleaning up my mess and the mess that my family makes.
I reminded him that while he’s busy fussing about yesterday’s dishes, I clean up the bits of hair in the sink every time after he shaves; I wash the bathroom sink and the toilet that he uses; I clean the bathroom floor and the rugs and usually the bath (unless my mom cleans it) that he showers in every day; I cook for my family; I wash my family’s laundry, fold and put it away while my mom does all that for him; I vacuum; I wash the windows; I keep my room, my girls’ room, the living room and all living areas cleaned up and organized every single day.
In contrast, his living spaces are a mess; they’re chaotic. Since I was little I’ve always known that dad will buy something and it will be ruined within a few months because he doesn’t care for his things. Perhaps a symptom of bipolar behavior — he buys a lot when he’s manic and then when his mania dissipates, it’s all left to rot. The green house, the garden, the raised garden bed, the barbecue, the boat, the bike, the pans and cooking utensils that he left outside after a summer barbecue several years ago, the rabbit cages, the compost bin that itself became compost because it rotted in the Seattle rain for nearly a decade, his desk that is falling apart, the computer that is filthy due to not caring for it.
But he was annoyed because I hadn’t done the dishes the day before.
He didn’t care that I had worked early on Tuesday morning and had to take naps on Tuesday and Wednesday because I was so exhausted from my part-time and full-time jobs (being a mom and homemaker — that’s the full-time one). He doesn’t have a job and he was never a parent to us, so maybe he’s incapable of understanding how tired I was.
His days look very different. When he’s depressed he spends the day going between the computer and his bed where he watches videos on his phone. When his phone’s battery dies, he goes back to the computer until his phone is charged, and repeat. Every single day for months at a time. When he’s manic he will obsess about the same thing for hours that turn into days that turn into months. One manic episode he spent every day walking. He would walk upwards of 20-25 miles a day, going nowhere, planning for nothing, just to walk, just because his mania compelled him to. During another manic episode he went to nearby parks in the fall and raked leaves, gathering 30, 40, 50 or more industrial sized black garbage bags full of leaves for his compost pile. He did this daily throughout the fall. He left 20+ bags for us to slowly put in the yard waste for months after his mania turned back into depression.
But still, he left a note.
I told him he’s a coward. That at nearly 70 years old he should know how to be a grown up and use his words. Only a child or a coward writes a note instead of speaking face-to-face. I brought the confrontation to him since he was too cowardly to bring it himself.
Maybe he acted cowardly because he knew that I would talk back. Because a note is a one-way conversation– unless it’s a note to me. I’m not one to take a passive aggressive note and put it in my pocket. I’m the one who throws it right back and demands an explanation.
I assume that’s why he doesn’t like me. I don’t know when he stopped liking me. Or when I became the enemy, but somewhere along the line, when he realized I would speak up, when he realized that I would not remain silent, when he realized that I would not give him the control, — somewhere along the line he stopped liking me.
Today, my sweet 4-year-old daughter figured it out. (Really, she figured it out when he left the note, but today her heart spoke.)
Mommy, grandpa doesn’t like you. she said. But it’s ok because I like you!
I like you too, I said.
He sat right there. He sat on the couch, previously engaged in conversation with my sweet Sofie, twiddling his thumbs on his phone, completely aware of what she was saying. And yet he said nothing.
Sofie, that’s not nice. Sofie, that’s not true. — words that you would expect a father to say at such an accusation. My father said nothing. He didn’t even flinch. Because it is true. He doesn’t like me and he hasn’t for a very long time.