Looking Deep Within

Avatar of Eli Knisbacher
Opinion Column

My father seemed drained; work had probably stressed him out. I tried not to bother him, but as usual, I failed. I eventually ensnared myself in a fight with my sister. That annoyed my father. Something deep within his subconscious seemed to click. No longer were the day’s injustices — rude phone calls and misencounters with clients — undiagnosed and unpreventable. In his eyes, they now became my fault, and undermining me became the cure. So he yelled, my sister watched, and it hurt.

My father ended his daily cathartic explosion, as usual, by self-justifying. He yelled, he said, because I didn’t respect him. I owed him respect because he is my father. He finally stopped. I finished my dinner in silence, laid my plate by the sink, and walked into my room. I closed the door, careful not to slam it, and lied on my bed. I cried. I contemplated various curses I wished to spit at my father. Blinded by grief and vengeance, I didn’t consider the significance of my father’s singular quiet sentence: the fallacy about respect.

  And quite the fallacy it was. Trite, antiquated, indoctrinated into him by his parents, no doubt. Yet even so, difficult to contradict. Had he not copulated with my mother, I wouldn’t exist. Without him, my body, mind, and soul would be but a forgotten dream, an unrealized idea, subject to burning in some multiversal hell. However, my father believes I owe him respect, not a life-debt.

This belief of my father’s seems almost cinematic in its lack of realism. Often, thriller movies feature cold, aloof protagonists plagued by rocky peer relationships. Eventually, the protagonist will save a peer from being eaten by a zombie or hit by a train, and in doing so, earn  their respect. Fathers, however, don’t save lives, they create them. Seeing as creating a life demands far less courage than saving a life, no father deserves respect by virtue of having procreated.

Nonetheless, many fathers deserve respect. Fathers who protect their offspring, who teach their sons that it’s okay to cry, who handle their own emotions adequately, rather than projecting, blaming, and undermining — these fathers are worthy of respect. Often, people don’t realize their fathers fit into this category. Because our biases often blind us to our fathers’ true natures, and everyone else’s for that matter, we are unable to fairly assess how they deserve to be treated; or what, in my father’s words, we owe each other.

Because only realized biases can be countered, we owe each other self understanding. Our biases are rooted in the subconscious. To eliminate, or at least grow aware of our biases, we must look deep within. I thus owe my father not necessarily respect, but introspection.

Over the past year, I’ve looked within. I found sadness and anger and an unwarranted responsibility to take care of my father. In a healthy relationship, I would have felt happy and appreciated, my father should have taken care of me. Because I looked within, I’ve painfully realized that my relationship with my father is abusive. Because I looked within, I’ve realized that I don’t owe him respect, yet still, to some degree, I do respect him.

Because I fulfilled my duty to my father — looked within — I decided to leave.