It was very important to my father what he could tell other people about what I was doing. it seemed to me that he just wanted to be able to say, “My daughter is at Barnard," or "She is an editor," or "She is married and has two children.” Things like that. I could tell by the way he reported on the offspring of his business acquaintances. Big Judy comes to mind.
Big Judy was around in my childhood, the only daughter of a Hungarian couple with whom my parents were pretty good friends. We’d go visit them in Philadelphia and the Poconos. they’d come to see us – in Armonk , even down in Virginia I remember Big Judy coming to stay with us.
Big Judy was three years older than me -- almost precisely – and could beat me at practically everything. She wore glasses. I yearned for glasses, thinking they’d boost my adult qualifications, lying to the eye doctor about what I could and could not see, and even stealing some empty frames when my mother was in the eyeglasses store.
Now Big Judy is a professor of archaic Viking languages at a university in northern England. I haven’t spoken to her for about thirty-five years and my parents have almost lost touch with hers. But my father will mention from time to time Judy’s fabulous accomplishments that are so easy to define and I can feel his sense of something missing when he looks at me, that he is really looking at himself, wondering how on earth to tie the scramble of loose ends that are his life into a perfectly presentable package.
He lives in Budapest now. He has for the last almost twenty-five years. He went there kind of to take a break and think things over and no better option ever presented itself and now he finds himself stuck there, looking at death, planning for it.
In my mother’s note to me last week she said how my aunt – who lives with my dad, her brother – with the assistance of my baby sister – is planning how to prepare for the time when -- my mother details in her note to me – my father will need someone to come in and bathe him, how they might have to install a commode in his room, that so far he can usually manage these things, but.
My father has Parkinsons and is eighty-three. I saw him a year ago. He was still able to hold it together pretty well.
I have really abandoned him. There is really not much I can do to help. I don’t feel badly about this. I don’t think about it too often. It has always been a relief – since I was about twelve – not to have my father around.
He raped you, he raped you, he raped you – one unidentified emailer harangued this week. And I wondered for a moment, seduced by the anonymous intruder, did he? I don’t think so. Though a few days ago I dreamed of him, putting me to bed, leaning over me – oh no, I thought, he’s going to do it again and he comes closer and closer to kiss and I am trying to scream and my voice has deserted me.
I hope my dad dies soon. I know he doesn’t want to die. Of course, he doesn’t. And for that I want him to live. But if he slipped away tonight in his sleep I would not be sorry.
I don’t mind that my sisters have cut me out either. That’s a relief too. Ten years ago I thought of them both as my best friends. This morning I thought of Anasuya saying to me once, “In high school you always wore see-through shirts. You could always see your nipples.” She said it as an accusation, a something I had done wrong, some horrible flaw I had. Or the time I wrote about in the guru book when she said, “Other people thing you’re great. But you’re not. You’re a phony.” And both times I took these statements in as if I deserved them, like the way I dealt with Mukta, an enraged woman I had to work with for several years who screamed at me once, “All the saints say that anger is sacred. I’m just getting my anger out!” And I sat there thinking I had to be the good one, the understanding one.
Now when people write to me about what a bad person I am, how I need therapy and medication, I print out their message for the record then check Reject without the slightest pang of guilt that I should let everyone have their say because we’re all equal in god’s eyes.