Smell the Leather

A long time ago, I wrote a story about my dad called “Smell the Leather.”   My parents divorced when I was 3, and my dad fulfilled his fatherly obligations by taking me and my sister out on Saturday afternoons. He bought a new car every year, and on these occasions, he would drive us around, commanding in a loud voice: “Smell the leather!” He was a happy, narcissistic man who fancied himself a Rat Pack kind of guy. It was a poignant story, as I recall.

Now, I have a different story but it’s still kind of the same.

My dad became seriously ill in June, and in my state of traumatized shock, I went to the city where he lives and helped out. In fact, I got the hospital to admit him after they refused all appeals to do so. Anyway, I joined my 6 siblings, from three marriages, in caring for our dad, who was shockingly frail and had to have a permanent feeding tube in his stomach.

Even though he’d been a terrible father, I wanted to help take care of him and make him feel surrounded by love. The doctors seemed to think he was close to dying. I slept on his couch a few times, listening to him cough all night through a baby monitor. He finally met my 17 year old son.

Now, miraculously, he has improved so much that his feeding tube was removed and he can eat again. He still needs care though, so I made plans to stay with him for a few days, thinking it would be nice to escape my life at home.

Then he called me. He started out complaining about this and that and then got to the point. He didn’t want me to stay with him because I “have too many problems.” He explained that it upsets him, as a father, to see one of his children so unhappy. It especially upset him to see me cry.

It was a surreal conversation but there was no way out. I said, “I can try not to cry, then.” He was skeptical. I reminded him that I had experienced the worst thing that can happen to anyone. He said he understood but asked pointedly, “How long are you going to be like this? Twenty years?!” I thought about it and said, “Yes.”

Trying to keep my voice even, I asked, “Well, how about if I just come visit for a few hours?” He replied: “We’ll talk.” and hung up.

Hahahahahaha! People don’t change! My father was always a fucker and he still is! The fantasy of a loving father was nice for a while, but I’m over it.

A rejecting father is forever, like a diamond.

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47 Responses to Smell the Leather

  1. Oh Sister Wolf, I know he is your Dad, but what a dick! Leave him be, you did your best and he has behaved like a selfish git. You have enough lovely people in your life, you don’t need that kind of shit. What a self-centred wanker.

  2. Vicky the Sphinx says:

    I am in fact more than tipsy as I write this, but your words have hit me deep. You are stronger than your forefathers. You are stronger than your pain. You write words made up of nothing more than syllables, but together they make punches and sounds that reverberate throughout the midnight air. You are amazing, and don’t forget it.

  3. M says:

    I have a dad like that too, even in my forties after so many many years of his incredible behaviour his selfishness can still shock and sting. Your dad’s inability to have a grieving mother in his presence tells you everything about what a shithouse father he must have been. Well done on becoming the parent for others that he neglected to be for you.

  4. E says:

    You deserve better Sister W.

  5. sam says:

    Sister Wolf – this all sounds terribly familiar.
    Having a proper dad would have been and would still, be nice.
    That crappy relationship will always hurt, but what can you do?
    I’m a good person so it’s not my demon.
    I don’t think I will ever ‘get over it’ but you can learn to live with it and save sympathy for those who have bigger problems in their lives.

  6. Jaimi says:

    It’s amazing how some people never change even after near death experiences. Is he serious? Like, how can he not get it? Whatever, I guess it’s not even worth pondering, too godamned infuriating. You’re better than that. So fuck that. You tried. You deserve better.

  7. I would hope that it upsets him because he sees his daughter be a truly devoted and loving parent to a child she lost, and even though he still has wonderful children he CHOSE to ignore them.
    But you know him better than I, and you’re probably right. Some people can’t deal with their own emotional inadequacies so they cut out the people who actually have the audacity to show emotion.
    I hope you won’t feel like this for 20 years.

  8. Dru says:

    Oh, Sister. Getting the short end of the stick from a parent, and in this fashion… I agree with Jaimi and E, you deserve better.

  9. sheri says:

    In Nora Ephron’s book she writes a list of things she wishes she knew earlier in her life, and “People really have only one way to be” is one of them. Apparently your father is both a git AND a wanker (I love those words, btw), and unfortunately there isn’t really anything to be done. While knowing/believing this won’t really help your relationship with your father, it might help you.

    I, too, am consistently reminded that I will never have the relationship I would like to have with my parents, and it’s very, very difficult. I’m truly sorry that this man is so selfish he can only protect himself from your pain rather than try to help you through it.

  10. Iron Chic says:

    I try not to dwell on the people who have let me down in my life anymore, and focus instead on the good ones. I know now that I can’t have everyone, there’s gonna be some duds, some winners.
    Makes me wonder why certain people have kids if they don’t plan on enjoying them? I don’t get it. Fuck ’em Sister, I know you have some of the good ones left in your life.

  11. Cricket9 says:

    Narcissists are unable to see anything and anyone besides their own inflated ego, their needs, wishes and whims. No-one can ever please them enough, and trying to establish a relationship is pointless. SW, you turned out amazingly fine, forget the git and wanker.

  12. Joy D. says:

    Well at least you know where you stand with him. And yes it was completely disrespectful to deny you to come. I say he is following suit with all old fathers that know they are terrible and don’t want their children getting too close.

  13. Juli says:

    Wow Sister. I’m so sorry. My mom has actually been like this to me on several occasions. I know how hard it is to not let it bother you. It’s like saying just try not to breath for a few days. You are such an amazing person and mother, and to come out of the sorts of relationships with your parents that you had and be the person you are now, says a lot about your strength. Keep on keepin’ on. XO

  14. alix says:

    that is f*ed up. we have all been burned by hoping that people will react/treat us in the same way we would them sadly we all learn this is not the case.

    never again, yes?

  15. liz says:

    People are selfish, so unbelievably selfish and self centered and all of the other things that begin with “self” Unfortunately, having children does not a dad make. It’s sad he can’t change after going through all of that.

  16. andrea says:

    I kind of experienced a similar thing with my mother as she was terminal from metastatic colon cancer. I loved her pure and simple, because she was my “mommy”. But for her, I was always something for her to compete with and a constant reminder that she had given up a glamorous life behind the scenes in the entertainment world to marry my sweet father because she said, “he would be good husband and father”. My whole life, she took this out on me with bad vibes, & nasty comments, (pimples were “the venom in you coming out” and if I lie she can “see the demons in your eyes”) and succeeded with making me feel like shit most of my life. Even as she lay dying she was competing with me and I felt compelled to say to her “mommy I am so sorry this is happening to you” and tried to hug her but she couldn’t even hug me back. Not until she took her last breath did I ever give up hope that she would be the mommy that I loved me unconditionally. And only when my dad came to wake me the next morning to tell me that “mommy died this morning” did I feel finally free of all the energy I spent hoping that she would be the mom that I wanted her to be for me. I loved her unconditionally and needed her to love me back the same way, but it would never happen. It’s probably the same with your dad. He will never be the dad that you wish he was. But it’s very hard to give up that hope that the child inside us needs them to be. My advice to you is to probably not bother with him, but you are a good person, and that is what you do with family. You will probably have these feelings all your life and one day you will get to a point where you can look at them intellectually rather than emotionally. Unfortunately, they are a part of us. The child in us doesn’t intellectualize, the child only feels bad. But you are a good person and you have a great talent for writing and the problem is with HIM, not you.

  17. What a fucking cunt!

    Additional proof that you are a better, and stronger, person than he is or was.

  18. annemarie says:

    I second Vicky the Sphinx! You rule, Sister Wolf.

    Also, andrea: my mother is EXACTLY like yours! I was always told I had the devil in me!

    My wily, cunning and manipulative mother…. I’ve given up bitching about what a “bad person” she is, which I did for many years because I was so fucking angry. I’ve given up this thought that she should have been a better mother, that she should have been different for MY sake. Humans are just animals who barely have the power to reason. We don’t understand anything, ourselves or each other. Truly, we’re Beyond Good and Evil (Nietsche said that). Also, Fuck it Dude, Let’s Go Bowling (The Big Lebowski said that).

  19. dust says:

    Looks like that if there was a one good thing that your mother ever did, it was divorcing your father.

  20. Ann says:

    I was glad when you were able to go care for your dad when he became ill initially, and now I am glad you are walking away.

    You are stronger than you know. Don’t ever forget it.

  21. oh geez. i’m sorry. find solace and righteousness in knowing that you were right about him all along.

    i do like the “Smell the leather” quote, a lot though.

  22. Nickie Frye says:

    Whenever I get into situations with big jerks, I try to remind myself that I can’t control their behavior but I CAN control my reaction to it. He will have to answer for his shortcomings one day. (The Lord says, “vengeance is mine”). You can be proud of the fact that you are a GREAT & loving mom. You are strong & selfless enough to have stopped the cycle dead in it’s tracks. Weaker people would’ve passed the torch on to their children. His tradition of being a selfish meanie has been broken by you. What’s really sad is that he is obviously an unhappy grouch AND he’s missing out on the opportunity to be loved by his daughter.

  23. Shit – you’ve got to see the King’s Speech. Selfishness and bad parenting is across all strata. But can I just say what a fucker, he is, your dad.

  24. Dani says:

    ‘fathers, fuckers’ yessss. my dad has tried to buy my love back over the past few years, and i appreciate the effort, but deep down i still feel like he doesn’t really love me and like i have to constantly walk on eggshells around him (it sucks i inherited his temper.) i like to think that he has changed, but i guess he will always be a fucker at heart. it hurts like hell but i deal with it by repressing everything. at least we are not alone in the ‘daddy issues’ club 🙂

  25. Ahhh yes craptastic fathers. I have myself one of those and oh the stories I could tell. Just remember your bigger than his shit and move on. That’s what I’ve learnt to do, (well am trying to learn to do) My sister is much better at doing it than me (hasn’t spoken to him for 4 or 5 years) but I keep getting drawn back in to his crap and getting hurt again.

  26. K-Line says:

    What a horrifying experience. That man, despite being your father, is a total idiot. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. xo

  27. candy says:

    I have the same kind of dad. Gosh, I suffered so much in my family because of him. Now that I don’t see him, he complains to my sisters that I should not step a foot in his home!

  28. candy says:

    I liked Andrea’s comment. I think we can’t choose our parents but we can choose our friends. My dad used to say “you will go nowhere because you are a woman”

  29. it’s really true ei, people don’t change…

    my dad’s so sweet. I love him, can’t imagine him getting sick…

    anyway, my mom’s nice, super nice. She always tells me to forgive this prick/bitch friend of hers and forget whatever she’s done to me. But i just can’t. Jesus can curse me for not forgiving but i don’t care, that bitch will never change, even on her deathbed she will always be the same conniving, two faced wife of satan.

  30. Sister Wolf says:

    I guess we need a My Dad’s a Bastard Club as well as the Crazy Mothers Club. What always makes me sad is to see people trying to win their father’s approval their whole adult lives. Why bother??

    I didn’t care about my dad’s approval; his criteria for admiring people was so stupid! I did want him to act like a real dad, and it was my own fault for ignoring his past performance.

    We can only try to transcend the neglect or cruelty of our parents, and refuse to blame our shortcomings on them. Forgiveness is a whole other story.

  31. hammiesays says:

    Well I guess it follows that Crazy Mothers are going to marry Bastard Dads?
    I’m so proud that you went and did the right thing by nursing him to health, I hope you feel at peace with that? Because while he is on this earth you will never ever ever get “closure” from a misbehaving disappointing parent.

    Like the man says “just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in”


  32. Lulu says:

    Sister Wolf, you are a wonderful woman, and don’t deserve to be treated so badly.
    I’ll be into joining the anti-Poisonous Parents Club.
    I don’t need to go into detail about my own experiences with my vicious mother and passive father, only to say I made a decision never to have anything to do with her again.

    They burden you, they shove their hatred, vitriol, own regrets, ignorance and pettiness into ugly saddlebags, and drape these over you. And because we are so indoctrinated with the notion of respecting our parents we carry this, as well as deep sadness and longing for a ‘normal’ parent – one who respects us.

    xx stay strong

  33. Dru says:

    I’ll join that club, too. It took me the better part of twenty-five years to realise that my parents’ approval wasn’t worth having, but it’s a lesson I’m glad of.
    Working out the painful truth about mothers and fathers, or even keeping it in mind, is never easy. It’s not your fault you wanted to believe your dad wasn’t a rejecting father any more, Sister- particularly after what you’ve been through.

  34. Moda says:

    “A rejecting father is forever, like a diamond” so true Sister. I was lucky – mine died when I was a young teenager and spared me more rejection and general bastardness. I’m not even bitter, I genuinely feel lucky that he died when he did.

    “The fantasy of a loving father was nice for a while, but I’m over it.” I love this line so much. It could read “The fantasy of a loving was nice for a while, but I’m over it.” mothers, brothers, etc.. I don’t want to sound trite but thank you for your post. That line helps me deal with the disappointment and real threat to my mental health that my fucked up family provide.


  35. Constance says:

    I’m too selfish to even bother. I had a good teacher. He stays in his corner, I stay in mine.

  36. Debbie says:

    He is an asshole with no feeling. Hope he ends up in a leather room alone in hell listening to a crying voice.

  37. candy says:

    Debbie, please, don’t wish negative things to her dad, please. I would like to add that generally when a parent or a friend or a spouse can’t stand a person crying, it is generally because the person who can’t stand this has problems with her own emotions. I know when I am down, my husband can’t stand it, because he is depressed too, he just chose to ignore his depression. We have a different way to deal with sadness.

  38. andrea says:

    Just thought I would add another nugget from my mother. Hopefully, it will make you laugh, and if not, then to feel not so alone with your horrible parents. When I was dating my now husband, she said to me “I hope you are being nice to X” (don’t want to expose his name to the limelight), really meaning, “I hope you are not showing your true colors (venom, mentioned in my previous post) to him or you will lose him”. Unfortunately, this stuff affected me for a good part of my life and motivated a lot of my behavior. But now I am finally free of it and can laugh about it. I hope you will be able to do the same some day too.

  39. Sister Wolf says:

    Debbie – Hahahahahahahahaha!

    Candy – Don’t be mad at Debbie: she made me laugh. My father isn’t depressed, he’s just a selfish fucker.

  40. Bevitron says:

    Oh, brother. Or father, more to the point. Some people just can’t be bothered with other people’s shit – it’s too upsetting, too depressing, too not about themelves. I really think the boredom factor enters into it far more than any inability to tolerate strong emotions & so on. “Are you gonna talk about that crap all the time?”, blah blah blah. I know he’s your old dad and you love him, and I’d strongly recommend you keep right on doing so, with all your might, because you can. He’s just crazy and will never be able to recognize what a great, radiant soul he’s father to.

  41. Debbie says:

    Candy: If I really wanted to be negative, I would have wished a vinyl room instead of leather so he could sniff but the smell would not be there. Thanks Sister for the comment.

  42. Another old biddy says:

    Where do I sign up for the “My Dad’s a Bastard Club”?

    I haven’t seen or spoken to mine in 7 years. I don’t even know if he’s still alive. Out of sight, out of mind. 🙂

  43. candy says:

    Debbie, fair enough!

  44. Audi says:

    Oh I can so, so relate to this. I also have a shitty dad and over the years I’ve tried to keep up a relationship with him. Every time it inevitably degrades because he’ll never, ever change. He’s selfish and small-minded and not worth my time; we haven’t spoken in almost 3 years. It sucks have a lousy dad, but letting him into your life only makes it worse. Better to cut the ties and not let him hurt you any more.

    Another old biddy: sign me up for the club!

  45. kate says:

    i’ve always been jealous and a little creeped out by girls who just loved their fathers because they were daddie’s little girl. is that even normal?
    my dad wasn’t the greatest, and i still don’t like him. but i’m thankful he wasn’t as bad as my friend’s dad. i agree with audi (and probably many others here) when she says, just drop him. what’s the point of trying? i keep my dad in my life (barely) because… he lives with my mom. waddya gonna do?

  46. Misfit Sarah says:

    “A rejecting father is forever, like a diamond.”

    Fuck me. Twenty five years of therapy and you have just put it right there, in one sentence that cuts to the truth of it like a fucking laser.

    In a year of reading, this is the first time I have ever felt compelled to comment. I feel as though you have just said the first thing that has ever made sense about my sperm donor/father. Is this some sort of revelation? I want to get that tattooed on my arm.

    Thank you.

    Are they all cunts?


  47. Swan says:

    “A rejecting father is forever, like a diamond.” Yup. I’ve got 2.

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