How I am grateful to my father

– “In these ’30s movies, the men wore tuxedos all the time. Things have gotten much more casual.”

– “Maybe they dressed up because they lived shorter lives back then, wanted to celebrate life.”

Dustin Hoffmann and Ben Stiller in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Families are rough, families are a blessing. It doesn’t matter how many members there are, but a family will always contain some drama inside it.

Sudden dynamics are most likely to happen when no one expects them. Relatives may act differently when they face a new obstacle. Those are just some examples of moments when anyone can find themselves in front of challenging situations that can lead to some big consequences.

Netflix latest movies “The Meyerowitz Stories”, starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Dustin Hoffmann, tells the story about three siblings who after a long time get to spend some time together along with their father, a touchy and introvert old artist.

The Meyerowitzs are an odd family. Each of the three troubled siblings has got a personal unresolved issue with their father, who doesn’t seem to care enough for their children. In every scene of the movie there’s always an attempt from each of the characters to look for a reasonable guilt to point at each other, but at the end, nobody has a very big fault. The family looks messed up due to a series of circumstances, and it is too late to change the look of it. Times and actions occur just one time, and there’s nothing people can make to change it.

While watching this film, it came to my mind how does it look like my relationship with my parents, particularly my father. My mother and father are the only ones who I can think of because I am an only child. My other relatives live in Brazil, so I’ve never had the chance to get constantly connected to them unless it was via telephone calls, e-mails, and later with the advent of social media. For this reason, I’m going to refer to only my parents. Especially my dad.

I come from a small family. We are nothing extravagant, nor super wealthy, nor extremely poor. We’re the classic middle-class Italian family. I should correct myself: Italian-Brazilian family. I’m the standard only child, whose father put faith and investments to make her the best person as she can become. Everything seems regular on my behalf: a good academic life, a good social life, a super good life in front of everyone else’s eyes. Despite all the infinite blessings that I’ve got the chance to receive all these years, I’m still recovering from one thing that I’ve never had the courage to talk about: my OCD.

Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder is a mental disorder in which the individual has several obsessions and compulsive behaviors, such as repetitive gestures or thoughts that can cause anxiety and even depression.

I didn’t know that OCD was even a medical condition. Like my father, I thought it was a huge flaw of mine. It took me a long time to finally recognize and admit the symptoms, and find out what I’ve actually been through during my teen years.

I’m not going to explain every single detail of my personal experience with OCD, but I can state that it all came from the obsession to be always perfect in front of my father and to never disappoint him. Since middle school, I’ve always wanted to look the best in front of him because I feared any of his reactions or judgments towards my decisions. Good grades to get into college, not even a question about it. It is not important to build a social life. Holidays must be productive, looking for something constructive. The fun comes always very last. That’s what my adolescence looked like. For example, if I were about to share an interest in a topic like Broadway shows, he would say that the entertainment business was not for me, because useless. From his perspective, I should’ve become a literate woman, whose job is to be in the academic sites and give lectures about Politics or Literature. Same thing went with singing or doing sports: you can’t make a living from that, they are too distracting, he would say.

My only great luck was to enjoy reading and writing on my own. I was allowed to freely read novels and I, fortunately, enjoyed reading them. Whenever I had a book on my hands or a pen and a notebook, I was able to truly express my essence. And the thought of being free with these tools would always make me feel very good about myself. I could control my small own world with those objects.

First washing the hands in a very repetitive way, then the compulsive counting. Those were the things that made me feel secure whenever I was in front of my father, who wouldn’t listen to my opinions or was mostly arguing without considering my thoughts or struggles.

After some years living with this condition that at the time I didn’t know it was even a medical thing, my mother started to get serious once she saw me crying. I remember: I was crying because I couldn’t stop washing my hands at my own pace, by compulsively counting numbers set in my mind. “It’s a phase”, my mom said. One year later and I’m thinking to get rid of everything, from weight to life. My mom was able to rescue me from that situation by having talks, from woman to woman. She started being closer and I can’t thank her enough for all that she has done to me.

I was afraid to not follow my dreams, to be not good enough in the future and to face my father in order to accomplish whatever I would like to do. She told me that I will eventually have to face him. It will make him angry at first, but he would always love me.

That dark time of mine has come to its end, and here I am now in a new chapter. I still have to manage my OCD, which is drastically decreasing. This happened because being distant from home and family, especially from my father, made me gain more confidence in myself. For logistics reasons, I had to start making decisions by myself and trust my guts more often. Of course, I call my parents and friends back home from time to time, but most of the time I am spending on campus I am alone. In my freshman year, I had to make new connections, which luckily turned up to become new friendships. I’m not very much alone anymore, but I still have to depend uniquely on myself.

There was a time when I was very upset with my dad, but I’m not like that anymore. His temperament will never change, so won’t’ my passions and preferences in life. Being distant from my father made us stronger. I’m growing up as an independent young woman, who is conscious to make her everyday life decision, step by step. He trusts me and sees what are my accomplishments, whereas I appreciate him more as a person, with lots of cleverness and love, in its own way. I’ve just understood that his way to care about me is his way to express affection towards me.

Likewise Mr. Meyerorwitz, my dad seemed not to care about me and my passions, and for a long time, I couldn’t see it. I was simply angry at him. And like Mr. Meyerorwitz’s sons and daughter, I didn’t acknolwedge how he actuallly in his own way cares about me, in his own and harsh paternal way. He surely made me live though times, but I will always forgive him because he was the one who made me discover the basis of my passions. He was the one who gave me that dvd of  The Seven Year Itch with Marylin Monroe. That’s how it began my love for the cinema. He was the one who handed me my first novel to read in order to not waste my time at the beach just playing cards with the kids. That’s actually how I’ve read my real first novel, Alice in Wonderland.

Sure, he was the one who hardly would show up at my swim competitions, picking me up from the parties, supporting me in my social life. It was just all about grades, numbers, and studies. However, it’s no one’s fault. He is and will always be my dad, who made me the young woman who I am today. I’m still facing some of the consequences about this rough relationship, but I am grateful to this constant challenge that every day I have to face because that is what keeps me constantly motivated, to do my best, to be grateful and appreciate every moment of my existence.

The past marked you, and there will always be consequences. Nevertheless, your actions in the present can build a solid future.

Being distant enriched my affections towards my father. Now more than ever I’m getting to know how it is to love and appreciate a parent’s action, with its flaws and benefits which that gesture can contain.

Celebrate life, instead of searching for past guilts.

I love you Babbo,

il tuo fiore.

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