For the first twenty years of my life mostly two things motivated me: the first was getting along with my difficult parents. Behaviors in this category constituted towing the line, being polite, avoiding emotionally laden conversations and situations and giving them a wide berth. For this reason I did not discuss with them my college plans, the dreams I had for my major, nor my life goals. Boyfriends were introduced, but relationships not discussed. I bought my own clothes, did my own makeup, fed myself. Went to track meets and 10k runs, cheering myself on. If they knew I had a hobby in jogging, they certainly never mentioned it. The second thing that motivated me, was being in their face about their lack of parenting skills. My alcoholic mother and my workaholic father were not up to snuff in my young eyes. Why couldn't they be "interested" in me for heaven's sake. My metaphysical friends egged me on to be in "the truth," so here I was telling my immigrant parents awkward things like, "Why can't you say 'I love you?'" or "How come we never discuss anything?" They were very much perplexed and uncomfortable with my reminding them of things they had hurled at me in anger. My mother especially, probably couldn't remember half the things that happened because she was drunk. I didn't realize at the time how addicts have blackout periods. In my early twenties two things happened that neatly changed the whole dynamic of my life. First my mother died, of a drug / alcohol overdose and subsequently my father quit talking to me. He didn't speak to me again for about 20 years. Even after he reopened communication, it's been nothing but tentative and superficial. We've probably exchanged 30 words in as many years. In the beginning his desertion hurt my feelings, as it was intended to – and then it very quickly became a wonderful blessing. Without parents to please I was able to have a life. I was able to make decisions in a vacuum. I did what I wanted to do. I blossomed, so to speak. IT was awkward momentarily when people would ask me, "what does your father do?" or "where do your parents live?" For a couple of years I lied and said they were dead. Then I learned this great word "estranged" that more appropriately described our relationship. The more years that went by, the more completely satisfied I was with the situation. It's a shame that when my pleasant fantasy came to an end, it was after I was no longer doing so well for myself. The image my family has of me, is not nice. They imagine, being a single mom, that I had never done well financially – which is patently NOT true. I did better by 10 times, as a single woman than I did in either marriage. Being married made me palatable to my family. When my invasive narcissistic first husband decided to reopen communication with my father I could not stop him. I did however put my foot down as far as participating. They talked ABOUT me, they didn't talk TO me, because I had no interest in revisiting the relationship of my youth. I will give my dad credit where credit is due. At the end of marriage number one when my first husband accused me of cheating on him, my father refused to discuss the matter with my then-husband. Hoping to gather witnesses to his "hurt" and eager to get allies for his "side" my first husband spent an inordinate amount of energy in his smear campaign. I didn't deign to address the issue. I figured it was no one's business so who should have a judgment? Anyway I wasn't cheating, he was. I didn't feel the need to tell people at the time he was cheating. It was too "ouch." I didn't care to discuss the destruction of our marriage with anyone who was going to offer an opinion. All these years later I got a message on my cell phone from my father. I haven't listened to it yet. I'm torn between erasing it, as I have no interest in what he has to say, and the responsibility to hear him out. What would make him call me? What if he has cancer? Would I feel differently if it were something that dire? Would I care? He's made it abundantly clear over the years that he does not need me. While other families band together in times of health crises, he would take affront if I suggested I could be of some help. He's made his plans, he told me. He doesn't need anything from me, except that I would stop "hurting" him with my bad decisions. . . .do I sense a manipulative edge to his words? Can they cut through the fat and still pierce my heart? Not quite, but his glances still scratch and his aim is dead on for an old guy. "What does your inner child want?" my friend wants to know. "Why can't you protect her, even now?" I think about that. It's a worthwhile question. I wasn't the one who solved my problems by cutting off communication with him after all, so there was no life power in the decision. It was he, who was still calling the shots after all these years, yanking my chain, pulling my strings. What am I afraid of? Why can't I hit delete with grace and forgiveness? What would it look like to protect my little girl? Or would it be more powerful to hear the message in full? What if he is calling to put me down, to complain, to make yet another observation about my life, How about I listen and laugh? Say "bless his heart," with total acceptance of him. I could love that he is difficult and uptight. I could approve of the way he pays his bills on time. I could admire his love of travel. I could find amusing his taste. What ever I do, I don't have to make it about him. I could make it my own space. My own walk, my own pair of shoes I hug to my chest – dirty and full of sole.