My dad is really smart on a lot of things. He learns things fairly quickly – albeit he’ll only pay attention to anything to learn things that he deems important – and he’s good at solving problems that require logical and concise thinking. He used to be good at talking about things that interested him or that were important to him, he used to be able to go on for hours.

When I was a tiny child, under four years old, my mom and dad divorced. I have an all-too-vibrant memory of a fight of theirs in the first house I ever lived in. The “house” was really a quadruplex, four two-story houses connected in a line, X-X-X-X. The first floor had a living room and a kitchen, and the stairs were in front of you behind a half-wall as soon as you walked in on your right. The room opened out to the left and there was a wall that closed the living room but pulled back to have a large spatial opening rather than a doorway that led to the kitchen. Our couch was on that back wall of the living room and I was sitting there, crying and screaming, while Mom and Dad were near the front door, screaming even louder than I was. There was hitting and throwing of a telephone involved, I believe. Needless to say, it was a very frightening experience.

When they divorced, Dad moved out and into a temporary house-shack-thing that I never really understood the physics of. Not that I understood the physics of anything back then, but the house-shack was propped up on stilts and had stairs leading up to it even though it was a one-story house with maybe three rooms, four maximum. I visited a few times but mostly stayed with my mom. I only have two memories from being at this house and they are probably of the same night – in which I attempted to emulate Dad shaving his facial hair and I cut my tongue. Yes. Don’t comment on it. I woke up in the middle of the night and sneaked into his bathroom and cut my tongue. … Yeah. The other memory is navy blue bedding which I think wasn’t even on a real mattress but an air mattress and sleeping.

The house-shack didn’t last long, though, because Dad decided to move to Florida to be with a woman who Mom (and later I) suspected he had met long before he actually moved. Her name was Denise and he eventually moved her and her three daughters to Arlington, Texas, in a city over from where my mother and I had moved for her new full-time job at the Star Telegram. This spanned through my kindergarten years until approximately fifth or sixth grade. In kindergarten through third grade, I lived primarily with my dad at his house in Arlington. I spent odd days with my mom because she had odd days off – Wednesday and Thursday. Mom lived in an apartment complex then, and I didn’t know anyone there. Most of my time there was spent on a chair on top of several boxes near the window in what would have become ‘my’ room, with a radio plugged in somewhere near me. I would spend a lot of time there looking out the window and listening to radio stations, or reading. I read a lot more back then than I do now.

By fourth grade, things changed. Mom had a serious boyfriend named Mike (interestingly, the same name of my father, but very different in every way) and she and I both moved into his tiny but comfortable home, and Dad and Denise (despite having gotten married) were growing tense because of Dad’s inability to get (and subsequently keep) a job. And things continued to change, and change and warp and melt until I got here in Connecticut. I might write another post on that story, but today’s post is about my dad.

When I lived with him and his second wife, Denise (more often “Neesi”), I really looked up to my dad. He and I are both absolute computer nerds. I loved to explore the computer on my own and learn things, not needing to be told how to use it or where to go or what to do – but I also loved when he taught me special things, like we once coded a simple number guessing game together. He showed me a lot of old computer games that I adore today, most memorably The Longest Journey, King’s Quest, and Sam & Max Hit the Road and least memorably several different children’s games he’d gotten just for me. I liked to watch movies with him and spend time in his room because it was special.

The next time I lived with my dad was between the end of sixth grade through the first half of my eighth grade year. This was completely different than how he was before, and it’s how he still is now: Distant, indifferent, self-absorbed, disinterested. He knows he is my father and wants me to spend time with him … he just doesn’t want to spend time with me. Conflicting, isn’t it? He agrees.

I’ve lived with my mother since the middle of eighth grade and I’m now a junior in high school and I’ll probably graduate here. Dad often berates me when vacations are coming up to come see him. I usually decline and visit my boyfriend’s family in North Carolina instead. (This always feels tricky to explain to people.) This last summer, I spent a week in Louisiana, figuring that I was visiting at all and he should be happy about that fact.

He didn’t listen to me about my anxiety problems I developed (for that matter, neither did his father, who I also spent a week with much later in the summer while Kenny’s family was at the beach on their “family-only” beach trip). He didn’t spend a lot of time with me at all; he preferred to play his UFC game. Furthermore, he’d actually get envious and irritated when I wanted to spend time with my grandma, who was mentally far more energetic and interested in me as a person but physically slightly less capable to go out and about and do things.

What am I even supposed to do with that?

It makes me really sad, to be completely honest. He’s a smart guy. He just doesn’t have a lot of knowledge on how to talk to people. He doesn’t really seem to see me as a real person anymore. He can’t hold a conversation with me because he thinks that I won’t listen, or that he’ll be 100% unable to make me think about his point of view – when in reality, it’s him who is closed-minded, and that’s why he’s so terrible about having a conversation or a debate about anything.

Despite how angry he makes me sometimes and despite his complete lack of skill for caring or empathy or, like, forming (and keeping) relationships in general, I will always love my dad. He isn’t a bad guy and I’ve never thought of him that way. Because he disagrees with me so often, he thinks I have a low opinion of him, which is not nor has it ever been true. I just hope that one day he opens up more to me and stops being such a concrete wall.

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