inadvertent guilt trip

Ever unintentionally make one of your parents feel bad? I think that’s what I just did. I was talking to my dad a few minutes ago — he & my mom have been cleaning out the attic because they want to move to a smaller house, so they’ve been going through all of the remnants of our childhood for the past few days. Which means I’ve been fielding repeated phone calls from my mother asking me if I want such-and-such, or if she should sell it at the next garage sale or give it away to some other relative. Most of it I don’t care about, things like my grandmother’s china. I don’t remember ever seeing the china, so I have no sentimental attachment to it, therefore I feel no need to keep it.

And then there are a few things I do want — my Barbie dolls, for instance. I remember when I was little, there was a girl down the street, and her mom had kept all of her Barbie’s from when she was little, and she let us play with them. We thought it was so cool to play with these dolls from the 50’s with their little poodle skirts & whatnot. So if I ever have a daughter, I’d like to give her my Barbie’s, along with the assorted bucketfuls of what will then be either cool vintage thrift store clothes or hideous 80’s garb, depending on where the fashion pendulum happens to be at the time. Call me weird, I just want to hang on to them.

Anyway, I was talking to my dad, and I explained the reason why I want to keep the Barbie dolls. This was the ensuing conversation:

Dad: I guess I was out of town a lot when you were growing up, I never knew what y’all played with.
Me: No, you were around, you just weren’t interested.
Dad: That’s not true.
Me: Yes, it is. Whenever we tried to talk to you after you got home from work, you told us to “go play somewhere”.
[Note: “Go play somewhere” is actually one of my dad’s most famous lines, my sister quotes it all the time.]
Dad: Well… I’m sorry.
Me: (suddenly realizing that this is one of the few occasions in my life I’ve ever heard my father apologize for anything, and that I must have made him feel really lousy with my previous statement) Well, you know… No big deal.

I didn’t mean to be harsh, I was just being honest. He did go out of town occasionally, that’s true, but mostly he just didn’t pay attention to what we were doing when he was home. I’m not angry about it, I got over my anger issues with my dad years ago. There are bigger things in life than whether he knew which Barbie was my favorite 20 years ago, I really don’t care. But now I feel bad that I made him feel bad.

Damn. I hate it when that happens.