Having A Thick Skin

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When my father died September 2013 the hardest part for me was handling my apathy. There is nothing in the world that will make you feel more like a scumbag than when your own dad dies and you don’t really care.

Brutal honesty, folks. That’s what you get from me.

We always struggled with our relationship. At a young age I had out grown him and by the time I was a teenager I looked down at him. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. It just was.

As an adult I tried to remedy it. I reached out to him. I knew that one day he would die and I would be filled with regret that I didn’t try hard enough. So I tried. And I tried again. And then again.

I would call him to catch up and he would get off of the phone so quick the “gun was still smoking” as they say… I would send him a book I loved that I thought he might enjoy so we could talk about it. Sometimes he’d read it, sometimes he wouldn’t. No talking was ever done. I invited him to dinner to meet my fiancé. He shook Dan’s hand and said “Hello” and then did not speak to Dan the rest of the night. Half-way through dinner he moved down to the other end of the table to talk with my brother and sister, then he left the restaurant after dinner while I was in the bathroom without saying goodbye.

This was my relationship with him. My entire adult life was me reaching out and him not caring.

My mom and I decided that he probably found me intimidating. I was headstrong, competent, and successful in ways he had never been and could never understand.

But don’t you worry… there was one way we bonded!

Relentless, unforgiving teasing.

I had chicken legs. Stinky feet. Putting curlers in my hair made me look like an alien. When I was promoted at McDonald’s in high school it was because I “finally figured out the different sizes of french fries”. I was too skinny as a kid. Gained weight in my butt too fast as a teen. And there was more but I’d rather stop crying in this Starbucks.

All the while I’d laugh. This was, after all, how we bonded.

So I got in on the teasing. I also squawk like a chicken when I try to sing. Wearing curlers in my hair lets me pick up transmission from pluto! I figured out the differences in the McDonald’s pies too!

As I was sitting in Starbucks a moment ago thinking about his teasing and brought to tears once again, I redirect my thoughts about him and decided to write this post.

It’s been a while since he passed and in that time I’ve tried to find ways to remember him fondly. Since all that’s left are his memories I might as well make them what I want them to be.

For this teasing, I’ve chosen to be grateful.

He made me an incredibly strong person.

Harper Lee’s quote at the top of this post is remarkably true. As I’m going through the process of writing–having my work reviewed and revised–I come across more feedback than I ever imagined. There are also the brutal emails I receive from my blog posts. No one is going to email to say, “Hey, great job. Really enjoy your stuff.” But they are very quick with the nasty words if i say something they disagree with. And since publishing my first book I’ve gotten lovely comments from, “It was kind of boring” to “I wanted to set it on fire”.

I have to brush it off.

Their criticism, whether constructive or mean-spirited, doesn’t define me. It doesn’t even define the piece of work their referring to. I have learned to take in the important things that can make me and my work better, and discard the rest.

My friends always say that I can take it but I can’t dish it out. And I like being known for that. I can take a tease and criticism, mean-mugs, and rude comments without letting it hurt or change me.

I have my dad to thank for my thick-skin. And that’s something.

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