My father has been, as he gets older, getting deeper and deeper into his private world.
This isn’t new, of course. It’s just more so. His Asperger’s style symptoms have always meant he has trouble understanding and having compassion for others who don’t think like him. He has always liked to imagine the motivations & intentions of others and deride them, even if his own imagination bears no reality to how they actually think.
For decades, I have been put in the position of translating between him and others. I rewrote papers and letters, and then watched as they were scrambled again. I tried to explain things, and felt beat up as he fought me hard to retain his tiny view.
His technique is the same. If you don’t understand, or even if he thinks that you don’t understand, he explains it again. This means that rather than having discussions, your comments or questions just trigger repeats of the same monologue, most often one where someone is portrayed as a fool or a slacker for not understanding in the first place.
Since he doesn’t think he needs an interpreter — others are fools if they don’t understand as he does — then anyone in the role of questioner represents all those shitbrains, and suffers the abuse that they should get.
We had an accident in early August. And since then, it has been a cause for hell, from endless rehashing to muddled reports — the other driver strong armed the reporting officer into a report that doesn’t match the damage to his car, nor the witness reports of us — and lots and lots and lots of bloody angst.
I was left with the duty of creating a claim to the other driver’s insurance company, six months after the accident. That meant I had to go into his stuff and get the crap he has been boiling on for all that time.
This morning, after putting it off, I tried to get him to help me pull stuff together. Bang, shit, bang.
I needed to find the documents. My most used words in this were “Be quiet,” which, after provocation, became “Shut Up!” I needed time for him to be patient while I looked, but he felt the need to explain again and again, offering no use, only frustration.
I needed to understand what he wanted. But when I tried to explain back to him, he would seize on a word and explain how I got it wrong. When I said, for example, he wanted me to write a “claim form style letter,” he told me it wasn’t a form. I restated immediately, “a claim letter,” but it was too late. He needed to explain again why I was wrong.
This is a man who cannot take yes for an answer. Even if you agree with him, he has to assault you again with his view, his world, and explain how others get it wrong.
And, of course, in the middle of all this shit, I get slapped.
“I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you with that paper, that you would lose it,” he moaned as I was looking for the scrap with his scrawl on it that I found momentarily. Of course, by then it was too late; I had already met his expectation of failure.
“I know. You couldn’t do it by now because you are so overbooked,” he said in fierce mock pity, trying to make a point of my uselessness.
No. I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to have to enter your world and get beat about the fucking head, that’s why I didn’t do it, you old myopic bastard.
But that’s not possible for you to understand, is it? Not any more than my mother can understand the challenges I face.
This is just one incident, certainly survivable. It’s the pattern, though, that lead me screaming away, pounding my head in frustration.
All I tried to do was have a conversation towards a shared goal. What I got was abuse and indictment, another glimpse at how in his world, I’m shit.
A life of this, and a half decade up close to it, leaves me broken and bleeding, ready to quit.
And he’s sure that I’m just fuckup for not understanding how the world works — how his world works –in the first place.
Shit, shit, shit.