Monday, August 21, 2006

Here I go again, on my own

I've complained about my father to people before, and I think sometimes those who are not quite in the know would suspect that I am somehow exaggerating. Children of divorces often retain hostility towards the parent who was "in the wrong," if they're not busy blaming themselves, that is. Such children also go around forming inappropriate relationships, having trust issues and deep emotional scarring only evident after thousands of dollars spent in therapy.

Well, somehow I have risen above much of this. And the anger I feel towards my father? Has nothing to do with the divorce. Not anymore, anyway. Here is a totally typical example of the way he operates:

During law school, I have been on my father's health insurance. About two months before graduation, I called my father to ask him whether my coverage would be affected. He said confidently, "No, you're covered until your next birthday." Okay, great! I can go about my business as usual.

On the day of graduation, my father and I rode the subway to the ceremony together. On the way, he casually mentioned, "Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that your medical coverage will be okay, but your visual and dental will probably end now that you're graduating."

"Really!" I exclaimed. "Funny you should tell me that now, since I asked you about this stuff two months ago and you said I was fine until my next birthday. Weird!"

"Yes. Well, it's just occurred to me," he said.

"So when do you think my dental will end? I have a toothache and I was actually planning on going to the dentist this week."

"Today. It'll end today. I think."

"You think," I repeated. "Well, will you find out and get back to me please?"

"Yes. Sure."

Three times that month, I called him to ask what the deal was since my tooth was really hurting. The first two times he said, "I just have to get through to the insurance rep, give me some time." The third time, in a why-me tone, he said, "I will get back to you."

Fine! Hint taken. I got back to studying for the bar and hoped he would be true to his word.


Two weeks before the bar, I got a voicemail. "Hello, it's your father. I am going overseas for three weeks with [dumb wife] and [her spoiled child]. Best of luck on the bar!"

Wow. Not only had he not called me once in the previous month to wish me luck on the bar, he skipped the country without ever finding out what the deal with my insurance was. I was so angry I drafted a hostile email to him, but decided against sending it at the last minute.

When he got back, I spoke to him and told him how much it really hurt me that he had totally abdicated responsibility for my health. I had made it clear to him that I was in pain, and he couldn't be bothered to place a phone call. He replied that he had actually called to find out before he left, but he had forgotten to tell me that he learned that my insurance had ended the day I graduated.

"You forgot to call me? Don't you think that was information I might have liked to have? Don't you think that call was at least as important as the call to the insurance company?"

"Yes, well, my memory's not what it used to be."

"That's why people start writing themselves notes. You know, like, 'Pick up dry cleaning,' 'Call daughter about her health insurance.' People then put those notes in places they will see them, like maybe on their enormous plasma TVs."

Later that week, I had to go meet up with him for his birthday. I looked around for the meanest birthday card I could find, and regretted that Hallmark doesn't make one saying "Happy Birthday! You suck." But I did find the next best thing: a card that said, "Now that you're getting old, you may find yourself needing to write notes!" On the inside of the card were post-it notes saying things like, "Flush," and "Clothes go in the dryer, food goes in the refrigerator."

Upon receiving the card, he visibly turned pale. I knew I had got him. And I felt guilty but I also felt great.

Three days later, he called me and said, "Let me read to you from my policyholders manual." He then read me a perfectly straightforward clause which stated that I am covered until 3 months after fulfilling my graduation requirements.

He had this information the whole time. He just never got around to looking it up until I zinged him with a birthday card.

So, ladies and gentlemen who are still reading, this is why I am anti-dad. This is why I know that whatever I do, I'm doing it on my own and without his help. No exaggeration.
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