[last spring my dad made an agreement with me which established boundaries and respected my needs]Early spring last year my biodad, who owns the house in which I live, threatened to kick me out if I couldn't pay an unreasonable amount of rent, so I told him I was going to move out as soon as possible. After he tried to rent it to my cousin and she flaked out, he seemed to come to his senses since the house is not in rentable condition to any unrelated person. He sent me an email with a proposal of me covering the house expenses. I proposed some amendments on the methods and included that they can't come visit without at least 2 weeks notice, they can't go through my stuff, etc and he agreed. I also said that they need to respect my need for calls to be scheduled, and they have mostly done that, with the exception of my birthday. While it is not a pleasant thing for me to get an unscheduled call ever, I can understand and forgive the impulse there.
He also included this, in the hyper-formal fashion typical of his writing:
"Also, I have given careful thought to your name. [Your maternal grandfather] was faced with the prospect that one of his daughters decided not to use her birth name and replaced it with a name of her choice. Her birth name was [birthname] and her newly chosen name was [chosen name]. Mr. [maternal grandfather] honored her decision and called her [chosen name].
I am no better than [maternal grandfather's full name], my kinsman and father, and I will follow his example, if required. If you ask me to refer to you as James, I will honor your request. Simply ask.
My name, however, is [M], to the whole world except my children. I request that my children refer to me as Daddy or Dad. You only have one daddy and his days are numbered. This is my request."
So I agreed to call him Dad, which I hadn't ever done (I went right from "Daddy" to his first name). I feel doubtful that he respects my name when talking about me to others, but I'm trying to use "Dad" more in my head so it doesn't feel so weird and uncomfortable.
He came in town to visit a relative who is sick (someone I don't know) and before planning that trip he asked if he could stay at my house. He did a great job of checking in and not using pressuring or controlling language, so I said yes, and I offered to take a day off to spend it with him.
He finished his trip to the sick family member and his longtime mentor and arrived at my house on Sunday. He bought himself some groceries before arriving, and we sat on the front porch to have dinner together. He asked if it was okay to reheat meat in my house (I'm a vegetarian) and I said yes -- amazed that he thought to ask, and that it seemed like a real question. We had dinner and a thoughtful conversation -- which was a little one-sided as he talked a LOT but listening takes less work for me most of the time so I was okay with it. When he seemed to not listen I pointed it out and he paused and listened.
Yesterday was the day I took off to spend with him, and it was a good day, overall. We had breakfast together, went to a park I love and took a long walk, and then went to dinner. I gave him a book about trees that I had been thinking of mailing him, and he actually looked at it and smiled and said he thought he would enjoy it. Love of trees is one thing we share, though he cannot let the subject pass without emphasizing that he is fine with cutting trees that need to be cut because they lean dangerously or whatever. Every. Single. Time. we talk about trees he says that. I get it, okay? I'm not about to criticize you for loving then too much so enough with the preemptive defensiveness! I feel for him about it though.
When we got back we loaded up the paper recycling for him to take in his truck, and while I know he wanted to complain that there was so much cardboard (he thinks its dirty to keep it around) he didn't complain or pressure, and even verbally assured me that he didn't want to do anything but complete the chore for me. In the past he would have said "this has got to go. I'm going to load it up, come help me." So he was doing remarkably well with being respectful.
We talked a lot which was so exhausting because he twists himself in knots sometimes to avoid saying things which don't actually need to be avoided, and he is stubbornly wrong about almost anything to do with social justice. But I finally said something that got through yesterday when he was talking about how he doesn't trust or like cops and how they're assholes to him and he thinks its not about race.
I told him that maybe the cops who harass are all assholes who would prefer to treat everyone like shit, but they expect, looking at a white man, that there is a greater chance of him having powerful friends. An asshole cop still doesn't want to get in trouble so he is going to take out his shittiness on the people he guesses as the least powerful. Dad told me "you just said something powerful there" and agreed that that would be a consideration for cops. I thought to myself "not any less powerful or true than the other things I have said but somehow this didn't get caught on your defenses."
This is why I talk back to privileged ignorance every time I have the chance. This was like the third time we had the same conversation in one day, and I tried something slightly different and this time I got through. There are little cracks in everybody's privilege that can bring understanding, but the only way to find those cracks is to push against their privilege over and over and over in different spots.