I have a mouth on me. I know this. As a child and certainly as a teen - I was rarely reprimanded for what I said and instead for the way I said it. My emotions, when left unguarded, would fly out of me in caustic tones. My voice would get raised, my aim got sharpened. I kept an eye on the jugular and I rarely missed a shot. It was for this reason that my mother and I often found ourselves at odds as I aged. We fought frequently. There would be quiet bickering laced with sarcasm and subtly or all out word wars. We would stand toe to toe shouting to be heard over each other for varying lengths of time until she had put me back in my place -- and that is just the way that adolescence goes. I would test my boundaries and find my voice with my mother because I knew that even if she played the enemy - she was, in fact, the safety net. No matter how long an argument would last once it had come to some sort of reasonable conclusion -- it was done. Vanished. Our relationship would resume again just as strong as it had ever been. I know it drove my mother crazy that I never felt the same freedom with my father.
My dad has over the years hurt me more times than I can count. I would often feel slighted by what he did not do and let down by what he did. For years I felt like my father regarded every emotion I managed to communicate as suspicious. As it they weren't truly mine and I had just been sent on a mission to manipulate him courtesy of my mother. That was never true and the moments of doubt that passed between us often made me feel like a common criminal. If I tried to swap a weekend so I could attend a friend's birthday party he saw it only as my mother getting extra time. When my grandparents wanted to treat me to Christmas in Disney World my father wrote my mother a three page long letter telling her how awful she was -- never a mention that it might come to be one of my favorite childhood memories. My father always treated me like an extension of my mother and rarely of himself.
But perhaps I can not put all the blame on him that the rifts grew wider. I know that of all the times my father has hurt me he probably knows of very few. I could never properly verbalize those feelings with him the same way I could with my mother. Sometimes it was because I didn't want to appear affected. I didn't feel like he deserved to know that he could have such an impact on me. I didn't want to look overly weak or sensitive. I was afraid to show that I cared. But more often than not -- when I look back now with a calmer mind and the benefit of age - I realize that I wasn't just protecting myself. I was working despite anything my father did to keep our relationship in the best possible condition. Because his love never felt unconditional.