snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)
Snarp ([personal profile] snarp) wrote2016-01-30 07:49 pm

My father is very good at denial.

Here is a story about his abilities that I think is pretty interesting! And also depressing. Also that.

One evening in 2010 or 2011, we had a client meeting in a case in which the plaintiffs were basically a whole small town. We were about to start, and I was handing out some paperwork to everyone.

Me: Okay, I think I've given everybody their stuff except [name]. Is he here somewhere, or is there a family member who can deliver this to him? (Looking at Client 1, who's at the front of the room and has the same last name.)

Client 1: Oh, no, he - sorry, he passed away. Sorry...

Me: Oh, no! I'm sorry. Are you -

Client 2, sitting next to her: His funeral was [date], right? Very sad. Wish I could have made it...

Client 1: [Something about the funeral.]

Dad, who'd been standing right behind me talking to someone else, at this point turned around and started the meeting. He should have been able to hear this conversation, and didn't ask anyone else about this person during the meeting, so I assumed that he had.

So at home, a few days later, I was surprised when he complained that [name] hadn't yet turned in some piece of paperwork. I reminded him that he'd passed away.

Dad seemed shocked and upset: "No! Not [name]! He's a friend of mine, I've known him for years! He's not dead!"

I hadn't realized that Dad had known the guy, and thought maybe he'd actually been too engrossed in something else to hear the conversation at all, so I said something like, "well, I'm sorry, but, uh, I think she was a member of his family? ...One of the clients definitely said he'd passed away."

"No! You must have misunderstood! He's just sick, they were saying he was sick. I heard someone saying that at the meeting."

"This was at the meeting a couple days ago, though. At that one -"

"Yeah! A couple days ago [Client 1] and [Client 2] told you he was sick, I heard them. Don't scare me like that, honey!"

With an air of impatient finality, he went back to something he was working on on his computer. He could have used to it to check the local news for an obituary - and ordinarily, when told that someone he knew may have died, he would have done that, in an effort to prove it might not be true.

This time, he just didn't check. On some level, he must have known what he was going to find.

Since he'd chosen not to accept this information as canon, I didn't make any further efforts to break the news. He apparently finally accepted it a week or two later, shortly before he needed to meet with the guy's wife and kids to deal with estate-related stuff. Notably, though I'd been scheduling all of the one-on-one client meetings for this case myself, I didn't know this one was taking place until the family showed up in the office and he let me know to prepare some paperwork for them.

He does this sort of thing frequently, in all sorts of situations, but this is an interesting example because it's often hard to tell whether he's editing a memory, willfully forgetting it, or if he genuinely missed something at the time. In this case, however, I'd forgotten the names of the people I'd been talking to, but he remembered them. So, it was very clear that he'd overheard the conversation. And if he'd overheard any of it at all, he had to know that his friend was dead, because it had been so short and to the point. Nothing about disease or what he'd died of, just that he'd died and that there had been a funeral.

But Dad wasn't ready to deal with this, so in his head, he'd re-written the discussion.

Yet he was still horrified when I told him, as if it was totally new information. I wonder how long he would have kept this up if he hadn't been representing the guy?