When Coronavirus made it to the United States, I worried about my dad. He’s a lifelong smoker over 60. But I haven’t checked on him, because my sister and I haven’t spoken to him in over a year.
That time has been uneventful, besides us each getting a message from him on Thanksgiving. I thought leaving him on read would be a clear indicator that I was serious about not being in touch.
But it happened again.
Last night I received a message from him on my author Facebook page that simply stated “I hope you’re doing okay.”
These are uncertain times, when we’re all worried about survival and loved ones. But I had a decision to make.
Would I let my fear of a worst case scenario make me reach back out? Or would I maintain my no-contact rule?
If it was just reassurance that I’m okay, I would give it to him.
I would tell him I’m okay. I would tell him I’m happy. I would tell him I’m in love. I would tell him I hope he’s okay too.
But I can’t, because it’s not just reassurance that I’m okay, it’s giving him a response just because he wants me to.
It’s access to be in my life in a way I can’t allow. It’s guilt trips and being held to double standards and being forced to hang out in bars and smoke-filled rooms while I drown in either silence or small talk because there’s nothing to say and the words that do come out fall straight to the floor, flat and toneless.
The memory of him makes my clothes smell like stale hotel rooms and ashtrays. My face itches. My chest is tight. The compulsion to smell my hair and check for smoke is stifling.
“I hope you’re doing okay.”
Being estranged doesn’t mean I don’t worry about him or that I wish him ill. I simply cannot be in touch with someone who disrespects and disregards my boundaries.
After decades of silent treatment when I didn’t live up to his standards or expectations for my behavior, I went dark.
After being forced into managing a home at age 12, I’m being an adult.
After years of being told I’m difficult, I am making it easy.
You don’t get access to me just because you want it.
I hope you’re doing okay, dad, but I can’t talk to you.