You're a psychologist he said, manipulatively. Cuz I can be flattered and buttered up by that sort of respect. I'm too stupid to notice manipulation. But he just wanted an audience. And he is in a very bad way. Getting very old now, looks frail, shrunk quite a bit in the last year, consumed by loneliness and self-pity and hatred and blame. I know that by now he's heard it all, no new info possible, so I didn't bother with specifics. There are three approaches to his sort of depression. Self-help, counselling, and meds. He won't do meds, can't help himself, and he thinks counselling means him telling his story and getting agreement and sympathy.
I attempted to offer an opinion and he interrupted me and told me that that's not what counselling it is. Counselling to him is letting him speak. No, I said, that's not
what counselling is. You rehashing all the wrongs others have done to you, and what a terrible person you have been, and how God doesn't listen and evil is more powerful. Well, the conversation such as it was rolled on, and I reminded him about how he had over the decades, starting in my teens, told me how he had to love me but he didn't have to like me. He was all at sea, and I agreed that it was an insane thing to have repeatedly said over the decades. I reminded him about how he had named another of his sons Jack as well, and he went through his little dance about that, and I told him, no, you just don't do that, after you've told the first son Jack that you were sorry you'd named him Jack because that was a real man's name, and your name, and you were ashamed of this first son Jack. It was an easy and natural thing for him to have done. Because I didn't count. I wasn't his real Jack. It came from his heart. He didn't even have to think about it.
You know, stuff like that. Not anger, my having told him that, reminded him. Accountability. Oh yes of course I have anger. But this was information. Ever wonder why people avoid you like some stinking poison or some rabid carnivore? He asked, as he always asks, can you forgive me. Missed the point again.
And that's what it comes to. He doesn't, of course, get it. Forgive yourself.
For my part, I've done no harm and don't need forgiving. I wouldn't have a problem forgiving these parental shortcomings, except there's never a change, and forgiveness requires repentance, which requires a change. Trust, you see, is earned.
We are if a piece. He lost custody of his youngest son, another Jack, 15 years ago, aged 10, and this now 26-year old has never come to see him. Poisoned by the ex-wife, consumed as she will have been by her own rage and sense of betrayal. He has that effect on people. Now he's old, and dying of loneliness, and utterly without emotional or social resources. I'm not old, but I will be alone until I die, and I will die alone. Kind of sad, really, but I learned hopelessness a long time ago, somewhere.
He has talked about getting a housemate. I just put up an ad on craigslist, to that very end. Three responses so far, for the fabulous silent-movie era Spanish castle in the Hollywood Hills, echoing with fountains and thrumming with hummingbird wings. All young men. He won't go for it. Women only, I'm sure. But I'm hoping to help things, not reinforce old toxic patterns. As if I were hoping at all. Hope? What's that. There is no hope.