So anyway he's decided to avoid discussion of his prognosis and treatment and talk politics. Pretty soon, knowing how much we disagree on the topic, he's pushed on to asylum seekers. It's been a very long day and I'm weak, so I don't shut down discussion immediately.
Let's just be neutral on the politics for these purposes and accept he's entitled to a different view. And even assume that my robust defences of my own position, as I keep being bated with the kind of garbage people rabble on with when they phone up Alan Jones, have not been baited by someone deliberately not letting go. After all, I do know better, I should have just shut it down straight away. Still, with all that being said, and knowing what a vicious little vole he can be, I was still stunned when he started on the personal.
OK, I'm probably (for obvious reasons) speaking on the issue in a less than diplomatic manner. Phrases like 'ignorant shits' are probably passing my lips, and references to the lessons of 1938 remaining unlearned. Suddenly he lunges for a new tack (his voice edgy with snarling hostility at this point):
How do you get on at work? If you speak like that your career can't go very far... (repeated in similar terms, several times)
So we had the previous career insults. Me raising them. Him telling me I misunderstood him and therefore we are wired not to get along. And now, clearly more misunderstanding- he wasn't referring to my career, he wasn't implying (again) that I could be so much more in his eyes if only I had or lacked some quality. I'm just an ungrateful shit who doesn't understand him.
The subsequent discussion, which descended further as I (and dear reader I am SO SORRY I take offence and become angry at misunderstandings like that above, I KNOW I need to be a better son, grateful I was taken in, etc. etc.) let go of the reins on references to the fact that no, in my workplaces full of well-informed people I don't usually run into the same issue and, whoops, are we projecting again given I'm not the one who didn't go far in an organisation dominated by aboriginals or people sympathetic to their concerns as he grumblingly harboured reactionary views, and so on.
I tried to stay in the other part of the house but as I put down the phone, Bear asked "Are you alright daddy?"
I gave her a hug and told her yes, people just disagree sometimes.
And wondered whether I have to play some sort of martyr now he's so ill.
So I have recently made a vow not to discuss career with him, a vow I've been keeping, avoiding that marred, ugly topic. I've heard his frustration as he tries to ask more questions, as this is the only thing I have to hold back that he really cares about- not because he wants me to be happy, but because he likes to live vicariously through it, proudly talking it up to friends, taking credit, even as I get the putdowns and unwanted advice on what I'm doing wrong.
Perfect son = a long way away, no effort, no responsibility, but ongoing credit for career as some sort of achievement of the father.
So recently as part of cleaning up this festy little corner of my life I've stopped talking about it, and I've been good, resisted that 'still 12' temptation to tell him all the latest. Now, more lessons learned, no. more. politics.
From now we shut down to talk about health, house and family. Politics, as of my hanging up the phone last night, joins career on the paternal Do Not Call register.
And now I just have to work out what remains. Whether I should be dragging my family up there, despite his abject lack of effort, despite the stress it causes Beloved (me, I'm about on par here or there, it's the content of what he says and does that I find offensive), because he's ill, and that's what sons do? Because I hope that if I've ever offended my kids this much (and if I've done so in the way he's turned on me so often, then please hunt me down and kill me) that they would try and try again with me.