It’s funny how spending time in your parent’s house can turn you back to a little child the moment you walk in the door.
Recently I visited my Dad in Charleston. It had been a year-and-a-half since I’d seen him, so he was really excited I was coming. A couple of days before we drove up, he called me. The conversation went like this:
Dad: What would y’all like to eat?
Me: We’re not too picky. We prefer lots of veggies and fruits, maybe some fish.
Dad: You don’t eat meat?
Me: No, we’d rather not.
Dad: What? No meat?!?
Me: It’s not that we don’t like it, it’s for health reasons. I feel better if I don’t eat it.
Dad: My grandmother ate meat all her life and she lived to be 96.
Me: If she could have regular bowel movements, then more power to her!
Thursday night when we arrived, we had spaghetti with meat sauce. I politely ate but left some of the meat to the side. Friday morning, we had another conversation:
Dad: I’m going to the grocery store to get something to cook on the grill tonight. Anything you want?
Me: Are you grilling any veggies?
Dad: Corn on the cob, acorn squash, and baked potatoes.
Me: That’s enough. I ate some meat sauce last night so I shouldn’t eat any meat, or maybe one taste at most.
Me: I told you, I feel crummy when I eat meat. No, thanks.
Later, Dad returned from the store beaming from ear to ear. He showed me two huge London Broils.
Dad: Look what I got!
Me: (Shrugging) That’s nice, but I’m still not eating any.
Dad: (Laughing) They were on sale!
This is the stuff comedy is made of. The best comedy comes from being able to laugh about our pain, right? But I wasn’t laughing. All day I felt grumpy, anxious, kind of like I was being harassed, but I wasn’t sure why until I texted my friend Chris to report on our stay at the Hotel California. She texted back: “He must’ve been invalidated a lot as a child.”
Yep. That was what I was feeling, as I had also felt at times as a child. Invalidated. Like my needs weren’t legitimate.
I feel sorry for Dad, I thought. Oh well, I’m a big girl now, I should just forget about it and move on.
But that was not to be, because Charlie took up my defense during cookout time. Over beers around the grill, he pressed the issue man to man (hence, the graphic nature of this conversation):
Charlie: You know, it’s true Amy can’t go Number 2 when she eats meat. She gets backed up for days and has to take all these pills and laxatives and sometimes they don’t even work and only an enema will get it out.
Dad: Has she been to the doctor for this?
Charlie: She knows what’s causing it and she can control it. Why bother?
And this was not to be the last of the discussion. In his usual uncouth fashion my Dad took it up with my step-mother, a nurse, as we were finishing dinner.
Dad: Amy says she can’t go to the bathroom when she eats meat. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Patty: Yes, it’s not uncommon for people to have chronic constipation. Some people have a sensitivity to certain foods that cause it.
Dad: Is that a serious problem?
Patty: If it’s not controlled it can lead to a bowel obstruction, or diverticulitis.
Me: Or colon cancer.
Patty: Sounds like Amy has trouble digesting the complex proteins in meat. But she eats a good diet and still gets enough protein, so it should be no cause for concern.
Dad: Oh, well good.
Dad, like most of us, has a preconceived notion of how the world works, and at his age it’s no wonder he has a hard time adjusting to my aberrations that disrupt his ingrained beliefs. For all I know, maybe he associates vegetarianism with spoiled rich kids and communist hippies. Or bought in to the myth that meat is a dietary requirement and an entitlement. Whatever. Who cares?
I wrote a nice, tidy ending to this piece about how I was finally “heard,” but deleted it because I think it’s too trite.
The reality is, if I spend more time with Dad I can expect him to do something like this again. It’s up to me whether I choose to hang my head and sulk, or speak up for myself.
- Wordless Wednesday #6
- Walking on the Moon, Part II