Yesterday my dad came over to pick up my sister, and I happened to be watching the greatest program on television, The Oprah Winfrey Show. He also brought a chainsaw over...to cut down a small dead tree in our back yard. While he was out doing manly things, I talked to my mom as we watched Oprah together--yesterday was the much-awaited Sarah Palin interview--and then Mom abruptly said, "I think you're going with your dad this weekend."
"Am I?" I thought, but instead said, "Why?"
She answered, "'Cause it's good for you to see him, and I think he's a good influence on you right now."
I laughed out loud: my mom and I are pretty much on the same page, and she knows better than I do that her ex-husband is a fanatical bigot. I reminded her of this and said that I probably didn't have the emotional wherewithal to handle such a weekend. But she didn't give in, and we went back to our fix.
Dad left, and about fifteen minutes later I received the following text message from him, which was clearly intended for my mother. Please remember that just as the sins of the father are not on the head of the son, neither are the grammatical errors.
why do you encourage [FLeeS] to watch that gay oprah crap? i wish you would quit facilitating and encouraging that bull s___ its gonna be on your head!
Of course, I could go through and point out the obvious absurdity of this message, but frankly it doesn't merit that kind of thought. Better to simply chuckle and move on, right?
...Except, of course, for the fact that he is my dad, and as a dependent teenager I can only 'move' so far. So, I took some deep breaths and set to lemonade-making, sending this reply:
Hi Dad, you accidentally sent this to me. Please trust me that a tv show can't make someone gay (esp. since the guest was Sarah Palin, which I thought you'd like).
Btw, thanks for chopping the tree!
(Yes, I realize I'm a bit of a hypocrite, now that I see my own mechanics mistakes...)
This response was an appropriate one, I hope, because it educated directly but respectfully. It also pointed out the irony in my dad, a rabid Republican, being upset because his son was watching Sarah Palin, of all people, promote her book. And the last line was fun because I offered an olive branch but also cheekily hinted at the symbolism the chainsaw suggested. Whenever he comes to our house, he chops, tears, destroys. He gains his power from division and seeks to divide people rather than bring them together--even when it's his own family.
His delayed response was this:
sorry buddy im just really worried about you and im struggling with your mom i really dislike oprah and some of her topics and oppinions use good judgement about those shows u know i like palin :) love ya
I appreciated this, but please don't let the smiley face, love ya, half-hearted apology, Palin vouch, or disarming disregard for punctuation fool you. His heart is in the right place, I think, but this was a bitter reminder of the kind of ignorance we're up against here. This is someone who, we must surmise, doggedly clings to the irrational belief that an axis of evil consisting loosely of my mom, Oprah, and the Media has turned me gay (even though he has heard his bishop brother declare that the roots of homosexuality are deep and as yet not completely understood).
If nothing else, I was glad to have intercepted the message and spared my mother such harsh meanness. But then I reconsidered: earlier she had claimed he was a 'good influence' on me, and now she needed to see reality. Needless to say, when I forwarded this to my mom she freely amended her position, and consequently, I am going to my grandma's house this weekend. Hee hee, Dad--thanks for playing right into my clever ploy...
Really, though, I was both shocked and hurt, deeply: Why'd he have to bring Oprah into this? Leave my lady alone, mister!