While the merry bells keep ringing

My mother and father have agreed on nothing since they divorced twenty-one years ago. And they stopped speaking to each other altogether when my sister graduated from high school eleven years later. It was a great relief only to have to deal with them separately. But last month, a few days after the election, my sister and I received photocopies of a letter from our father, dated November 1 and addressed to both of us, concerning their split. (If you’re wondering: we don’t know what he did with the original.)

Sister cut ties with Dad more than seven years ago, and I’ve been estranged from him for nearly three years. He’s made a few strange efforts since then, but nothing sustained, apart from the usual free gift with purchase and $200 check at birthdays and Christmas, so we were surprised to hear from him jointly. We were less surprised that his letter invokes “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and begins like this:

Most regrettably we have had little contact during the past year and I must acknowledge my bewilderment in this regard. In this connection my thoughts reverted back to the detailed 1/20/84 letter from Mommy to me setting out the reasons from her perspective for the divorce. As this was indeed only 9 months after the divorce it is perceived same would offer the most accurate and true state of mind concerning the divorce and the events leading up to it.

If you’ve read this far, no doubt you’re looking to me to contextualize my dad’s words. Unfortunately, although I’ve long been accustomed to my his legalese, I’m only slightly less baffled than you are.

I gather he’s concluded that Sister and I refuse to communicate with him because we’re upset about “growing up in a broken home” — which we aren’t, and never were; crazy parents are easier to handle in isolation — and not because he’s a raging sociopathic asshole.

I’m sorry, I’ll avoid the armchair diagnosis. What I mean to say is that he is completely devoid of empathy for or genuine interest in others and engages with people, including his children, only for the purpose of manipulating them. As any professional, five minutes with the DSM IV, or just plain grown-up common sense will tell you, you can’t have a relationship with someone like that.

Dad included Mom’s “detailed 1/20/84 letter” with his own. Hers considers — with messianic sorrow — the failure of their relationship. It also announces her marriage to my stepfather, who was to help her co-pastor her warehouse church. It begins:

Our lives have to go on, yours on the path you’ve chosen, and mine on the path I’ve chosen. I’ve chosen to serve Jesus and do the things I believe He directs me to do.

Dad sent the letters the day before the election. When Sister and I received them on November 4, they felt like curiosities from Evangelical America — artifacts worth pinning on the wall. Except that they were from, you know, our parents.

I’m not sure why I’m getting into all of this. Typically I try not to post about my family unless I think I can say something funny, but I’m fresh out of humor today.


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