I Stopped Speaking to My Dying Father Because of Our Political Differences
As told to Hannah Hickok by Kelley M.
It’s hard to say exactly when my dad's political views changed, but it wasn't long after his TV switched to HD, and he lost all channels except — what else? — Fox News. Suddenly, his Facebook posts started growing more conservative in spite of the fact that he'd previously voted for Obama in 2008, had lesbians as friends and played dominoes with his black friends during work breaks.
At 72, my father lives on a remote mountain in Colorado, hundreds of miles from me and my family in the Chicago suburbs. He's smart, but never attended college. He was a blue-collar worker who always struggled to make ends meet. When Obama extended unemployment at the start of his term in 2009, it helped my father a lot — but it wasn't enough to keep his views from curdling, turning from open-minded liberalism into hateful conservatism.
Slowly, my father became one of those stereotypically narrow-minded, lower-class white Americans who drank the Kool-Aid of the GOP machine and ended up voting against his best interests as a senior citizen on Medicaid and Medicare. On social media, he called the Obamas apes and Hillary Clinton a crook (original, I know), spewing awful things about women, gay people, racial minorities and illegal immigrants. I tried to call him out on it all until my sister reminded me of the old adage about how arguing with a fool only proves there are two. So I ended up unfollowing my own father.
Our phone calls dwindled to Christmas and birthdays, but I hadn't given up on my father entirely yet. I tried countering his venomous accusations about our country going downhill by saying that equality is never a bad thing — it allows for my friends to marry legally and so much more. He didn't care. I asked him not to talk that way around me or my young teen kids, and to his credit, he did seem to try, but it just wasn't enough.
When my sister reached out to tell our father that her oldest daughter got engaged in Mexico, he — who has never left the U.S. — told her it was disgusting that she went to Mexico, how much he hates Mexicans and all illegals and even said she'd better stay at that resort or else she'll be killed. My sister, nearly speechless, said, "Well, anyway, congratulations to your granddaughter." He just grumbled.
In 2012, my dad voted for Mitt Romney, and I stopped speaking to him altogether. I sought the help of a therapist as a sounding board, thinking, who cuts off their elderly father? She agreed that I needed to end our relationship for my own sanity. I had to make a break from his decision to live in his bubble of hate, absorbing all the vitriol without researching any of it for himself (and instead accusing us of believing in fake news).
What kills me the most is that my father is dying. He smokes like a chimney, is detached from life and isn't long for this earth — yet still chooses to surround himself with hate, negativity and anger. I feel he's missing a profound part of life: the beauty, love, relationships, wonder and awe of it all.
I've raised my kids to appreciate all people, races, religions and sexual preferences. I know it's hard for them not to see their grandpa, but when I tell them even a watered-down version of something he said, they understand why we no longer communicate.
I often still feel guilty for cutting off my father and I'm sure I always will to some extent. But then I take one peek at his Facebook posts and I know again I've made the right choice.