What’s There To Be Afraid Of?

Once again, a paraphrase of Seth Godin:

The pedant (that’s what we call someone who is pedantic, a picker of nits, eager to find the little thing that’s wrong or out of place) is afraid.

He’s afraid and he’s projecting his fear on you, the person who did something, who shipped something, who stood up and said, “here, I made this.”

My version:

The narcissist, who finds criticism in every little remark, who is eager to find you to be wrong or out of place, is afraid.  (And her flying monkeys, too.)

They are afraid and they are projecting their fear on you, the person who stood up and said, “hey, you are treating me badly, and I don’t like it.”

What are they afraid of?  What is there about doing the right thing, about establishing healthy boundaries and respecting them, about treating me as an equal instead of making me the scapegoat, that is so scary?

In my family’s case, I think the fear is that if Susan is held accountable for her actions, and Joe as well, that they will throw a fit of some kind, and refuse to participate in family activities.

This will upset my sister, with whom Susan has cultivated a strong friendship.  I think they probably understand each other very well.  Susan has a habit of sucking up to the person perceived to be “in charge” in any situation, perhaps with the idea that they will then protect her in the event of any conflict.

In the case of our family, that person is my sister.  She and she alone has the power to decree where and when the family will get together.  In the past, I have suggested that we take turns hosting the annual reunion, and I have suggested other activities — including a conversation about us all doing something for my 40th birthday — all of which have simply been ignored.  I have attended, sometimes by plane, at least 5 different milestone birthday celebrations for The Triumvirate — but don’t even think about anyone gathering to celebrate one of my birthdays.  I’m not supposed to ask for things like that.

Some pigs are more equal than others.

It’s easy to see this.  My sister will be terribly upset if Joe and Susan decide to leave the family or to boycott family events.  But if my husband and I decide to leave, that’s kind of OK.  At least, it’s better than if The Triumvirate gets broken up.

Accepting the unhealthy behavior of an in-law, at the expense of a sister, is perfectly fine — IF that in-law is married to a member of the Triumvirate.

At the end of 2012, the last year I went to the reunion, my sister wrote in her Xmas card newsletter about how the Triumvirate gathered in May of that year at my youngest brother’s home for the high school graduation of his oldest son — so 4 of the 6 siblings were present, with the exception of (1) the one brother who hasn’t attended a family function since long before or since the deaths of our parents and (2) us.

Strangely, this was the first my husband and I had heard of this “family event”.  We had gotten a formal invitation to the graduation, just prior to the event itself — but there was no indication in that envelope that it was going to be a family get-together.  No one mentioned it in our presence at the August reunion.  My husband and I were very deliberately left out of that gathering.  If my sister hadn’t screwed up and put it in her Xmas letter, we’d never have known about it.

Here’s my guess as to why:  I am guessing it was Susan’s idea initially, which she presented to my sister, who of course got on board with it.  Susan has a way of asking questions and manipulating conversations in order to get the answers and results that she wants.  I would not be surprised if the get-together was conceived by Susan as a way to show the rest of the family how much fun it would be to have a gathering without us.  Susan’s aim, at least from the time of The Susan Incident, seems to have been to cut me out of my own family, for reasons that are best known to her, but which probably stem from me daring to “criticize” her, and refusing to buy into her bullshit, her sucking up, and her narcissistic, unhealthy ways.  She simply can’t afford to have someone in the family who visibly doesn’t play along with her game, who refuses to take the responsibility and the blame for her shit that she flings.

From there, the graduation event guest list would have been cut short because, well, since this is Susan’s idea, it would be kind of awkward to invite the family member who is all unreasonably mad at her.  So we were not invited.  We got no emails, no phone calls beforehand to say, “Hey, we are all going to be there, would you guys like to come?”

Our mailed “invitation” came with a note scribbled on the outside of it saying something about it having gotten lost in a pile on a desk, or some such.

(ETA:  it got mailed to our old house, the one we had moved out of two years previously, and the new owners returned it to my brother after some unspecified period of time.)

But again, no mention inside of any get-together.  At the time, I didn’t pay that much attention to it, to be honest, as high school graduations have never been a big deal in our family before.  It was not a “given” that this meant everyone would attend in person.  In fact, I think this is probably the first graduation anyone in this family has ever done this for — of course, I may just not know about others, I suppose.

My youngest brother claims that this constitutes us being invited to his son’s graduation.  Well, yes, perhaps formally it does.  It is also an obvious, after-the-fact, bullshit, defensive justification for him sitting there and letting it happen, because that is pretty much what they wanted — “they” being my sister, at the behest of Susan, and the rest of The Triumvirate right behind them.

I won’t lie.  That sucks.  That hurts.  It hurts to know that my own family has been twisted so far against me that they PREFER not to have me around, that they prefer that to doing what is normal and healthy for a loving family to do.  It sucks to know that a normal, loving, healthy family is not what I have.

I suppose, on some level, maybe having a healthy person in your midst — someone who doesn’t play by the narcissist’s rules, so well-learned at mother’s knee — is a disturbing reminder of how fucked-up everyone else is.

What the Hell Could I Possibly Have In Common With Zoe Quinn?

THIS.

In fact, I’ve come to realize that most sane people can see through a smear campaign… the people who refuse to see it for what it is would find a reason to hate me regardless.  Let’s face it — if they found any part of the campaign convincing, they clearly didn’t need much convincing in the first place.  Keep all of that in mind if you ever find yourself at the wrong end of something like this.

Of course, that won’t undo the damage to your personal life… But it (hopefully) won’t be the end of the world for you.  Eventually things will move forward, and you’ll still have your friends to help you pick up the pieces.  Hell, sometimes you even make new ones you wouldn’t have expected.

Compassion and Contrition, or Lack Thereof

Unabashedly reblogged from Seth Godin, because he is awesome.

Two elements of an apology

Compassion and Contrition

“We’re sorry that your flight was cancelled. This must have truly messed up your day, sir.”

That’s a statement of compassion.

“Cancelling a flight that a valued customer trusted us to fly is not the way we like to do business. We messed up, it was an error in judgment for us to underinvest in pilot allocation. Even worse, we didn’t do everything we could to get you on a flight that would have helped your schedule. We’ll do better next time.”

That’s what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that most people and organizations that take the time to apologize intentionally express neither compassion nor contrition.

If you can’t do this, hardly worth bothering.

But it is worth bothering, because you’re a human. And because customers who feel listened to help you improve (and come back to give you another chance.)

 

Here’s my version:

Compassion and Contrition

“We’re sorry that we did this to you. This was a horrible time for you, you were grieving the loss of a beloved parent, and we made it much, much worse.”

That’s a statement of compassion.

“Yelling at a loved sister who trusted us is not the way we should have acted.  We messed up, it was wrong of us to have accused you of criticizing Susan and her job in an attempt to justify her ridiculously rude behavior to you.  Even worse, we went around making sure everyone knew our side of the story, and we spun the story and assassinated your character to make us look good.  And then when Mom died, we blamed you for doing exactly the same thing Susan did.  To top it off, when it turned out that you were still upset and angry about the awful, horrible things that had been done to you, we didn’t do everything we could to make things right, to hold the right people accountable, to show you that we love you, and that we are truly sorry this happened.  We’ll do better next time.”

That’s what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that my family thinks this is an acceptable apology, which intentionally expresses neither compassion nor contrition.  It is so very carefully worded to avoid doing either of those things.

They can’t do this — so it’s hardly worth bothering.

But it should be worth bothering, because I’m a part of this family — except that I am slowly learning and accepting that in reality, I am not.  And because family who feel loved come back to give you another chance.

I don’t feel loved, and I’m not giving any more chances.

The Four Horsemen

These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

  • Criticism

    Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.

Both my parents had, um, “high standards”.  The difference was that Dad could help you learn how to meet them, whereas Mom simply criticized, for the most part.  I can remember her complaining about how I dressed –  but it was not so much an indictment of my clothing, but of me personally — “You’re SO DRAMATIC!” was her favorite.  In particular, I remember that she criticized the dress I sewed for Homecoming my senior year — not the workmanship, which of course she might have been able to teach me how to do better — but she complained that, “You can have a dramatic color, cut or style — but not all three at once!”  Of course, this was after the dress was well under way, if not finished.  (Besides, it was the 80’s.  And frankly, I loved it and I looked awesome in it.)

I can also remember that while she was staying with me for Joe & Susan’s wedding, at one point my own mother told me to my face that she liked Susan better than me, because Susan was “nicer to her.”  (Susan is a suck-up to whoever she thinks has power in any given situation.  I’m not the only family member who has noticed this.  One guess as to why my sister likes her so much.)

Mom actually said several hurtful things to me during this visit — she also voiced the actual statement that she would not bother to attend my wedding — but the one where she said she liked Susan better than me was the worst.  At one point my husband-to-be said, “Every time you go somewhere with your mother you come back crying.”  Finally he had had enough, and he picked her up from church and had a talk with her about her behavior.  Mom tried all her usual tricks to deflect accountability:  “You don’t know what their father did to me” was the trump card, of course.

So let’s think about that for a minute:  first of all, the assumption is that everything was 100% Dad’s fault — which at this point has been accepted for so long, it practically goes without saying.

Second, this is a MOTHER saying straight out to her DAUGHTER that she likes a woman who is practically a stranger BETTER THAN SHE LIKES HER OWN FLESH AND BLOOD.  WTF?  This is unbelievably nasty.  A mother telling her daughter that she doesn’t like her as much as she likes someone else.  Because that someone else sucks up to her, and feeds her sense of superiority — that is the hallmark of the narcissist.

ETA:  I recently recounted this incident to a longtime friend, whose mother was a kind, loving, generous woman — despite having some serious marriage issues of her own.  I can remember one year she and my other best friend’s mother each sewed their daughters a popular three-tiered skirt, and this woman made one for me too, so I wouldn’t be left out, because she knew my own mother wouldn’t do it.

When I repeated to this friend the words that my mother said to me, my friend actually physically flinched.

Third, my mother then attempts to blame her current nastiness ON MY FATHER.  What he did to her all those years ago apparently forces her to make these nasty remarks 20 years later.

It would be pathetic, if it were not pathological.

The sort-of-but-not-really amusing part about this is that she also habitually criticized my father for being critical.  “The criticism game is the easiest game to play,” she would sneer.  Projection much?

In contrast, I can remember having a phone conversation with my dad when I was in college, where I told him I got a 98 on an exam and he immediately asked, “Why didn’t you get 100?”  I called him out on that one, saying that 98% was frankly pretty damned good,  and a few days later I got a note from him that I still have.  It is very faded and torn, taped back together, and full of holes from having it pinned up on bulletin boards for probably 10 years or more, but the words are precious to me.

Congratulations on the superIMG_20140917_0003 test grades!  I guess I most times just expect you to do well, as you have always had exceptional grades.  You have to know how proud I am of you and your accomplishments.  You should do well in life if you continually strive to be the best at what you do.  Everyone can improve if they want to, the main thing is to want to.  Am proud of you!… Keep up the good work!  Until later — Love you!  Miss you!  Love, Dad

  • Contempt

    “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”

My mother referred to my father as a “bumpkin” because he came from a dinky little town in Iowa and she came from Chicago.  Another of her favorite nasty things to say about me was, “You’re so PRAGMATIC — just like your father!”  The tone of voice she used left no doubt that in her view, being either of these things was contemptible.

  • Defensiveness

    “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”

Narcissism writ large.  Blame-shifting is an art my mother was a master of.

  • Stonewalling

    Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.

I have very little to go on to get an idea of how my parents might have tried to resolve their difficulties, although with a narcissist it usually just isn’t possible.

Two things I can remember:  one is, I can remember running to the back door to greet my father when he arrived home (side note:  I believe I was the only kid who did this) and he picked me up, hugged me and carried me into the kitchen — whereupon he and my mother started fighting about something.  I can remember tugging on Dad’s ear and whispering to him to please stop, but it didn’t work.

The second example is from when I was in kindergarten, and includes both of the last two items:  blame-shifting and stonewalling.

To make decorations in preparation for Open House, we lay on pieces of brown paper and someone drew an outline to create life-sized portraits of ourselves.  I can remember working very VERY hard to re-create the pattern of interlocking circles printed on my blue corduroy pants, and I can remember being disappointed that I didn’t have time to finish drawing it over the whole area.  (I think someone noticed and was impressed by those efforts, but because of the rest of the story, I don’t think it was anyone in my family — it was probably the teacher.)

We also had to dictate a few lines about our families to the principal’s secretary, who typed them up on cards. The descriptions were posted next to each of our portraits, for everyone to see.

Mine said something like, “My parents fight a lot and my mother prays a lot.”

I don’t remember Dad’s reaction, but I remember Mom was horrified and embarrassed, and she placed the blame on me for not knowing that I should not have said those things.  (Pretty fucked up, yes?  but business as usual for the narcissist.)

But the other big clue was the second half of my statement:  “my mother prays a lot.”

10261759_701864376564285_892702048_nI have long felt that my mom was not very good at solving her own problems, which may have engendered her desire to be coddled and taken care of.  If you suck at running your own life, your options are threefold:  to figure out better ways to do things, to live with the way things are, or to get someone else to do the work for you.  She was apparently incapable of doing the first (or, as in my father’s note, she simply didn’t want to); the second was not acceptable; the third was her way of coping with just about everything.  I believe praying falls into that third category:  trying to get god himself to do your work for you.  Talk about narcissistic!  The almighty has nothing better to do?  JFC.

Writing to Heal

“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.

Our minds are designed to try to understand things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition, our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about the event may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people.

When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable… Making a story out of a messy, complicated experience may make the experience more manageable.

“…one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it,” he says, “but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.”

 

According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

 

So, it seems that I might as well blog about the whole sorry mess.

After all, it’s become very clear that I’m not going to get any satisfaction any other way.  And I’m told I need to figure out some way to “deal with it” on my own.

So for now at least, this is it.  And it seems to be helping, so I expect to continue with it as long as I am feeling a benefit.

What do you want to bet that if anyone in my family ever reads this blog, suddenly those rules will change?  That I will be told that this is an unacceptable way for me to deal with this?  That those who have washed their hands of me like Pontius Pilate will decide after all these years — YEARS — that they DO need to get involved?  And those who have now refused to discuss the situation with me any further will suddenly have an urgent need to lecture me about what I shouldn’t have done?

Maybe they should go and say those things to Joe and Susan first.

Or maybe it is simply too. fucking. late. for. that.  Maybe they will just have to find a way to deal with it.

The Truth Is The Truth

Born into a war and peace
Forced to choose between a right and wrong
Each man kills the thing he loves
For better or for worse
Face to face with a ragged truth
Mixed up and torn in two
And turned your back on the only thing
That could save you from yourself

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE RAIN AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL

After all time building up
Comes inevitable knocking down
(ONE BY ONE )
Comes receivers liars gamblers
Pick pocket entourage
(TWO BY TWO)
Selling out is a cardinal sin
Sinning with a safety net (THREE BY THREE)
They say that all things come in threes
Here comes the third degree

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE RAIN AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL

All cards are marked
And all fates will collide
The truth is the truth
Or the truth is surely a lie
Get back in your shelter
If you can’t come down off the fence
And one more question
Where were you?
Where were you?

WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHEN THE THUNDER AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK
AND THE FOUR WINDS DID HOWL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
WHEN THE RAIN BEGAN TO FALL
WHERE WERE YOU HIDING

FOUR
WINDS
HOWL

Why I’ve Given Up

Because this family is, in a word, unhealthy.

Because they aren’t going to change.

Because I’ve learned there are other ways for people who love each other to treat each other, and I like the healthy, nice, ways better.

If someone loves you, it should feel like they love you.

Because I’ve tried explaining, over and over, and they just won’t listen.  They won’t even try to listen.  My sister refuses to “get involved”.  Joe and Susan are simply right about everything.  My oldest brother refuses to talk about it with me any more, and my youngest brother thinks yelling at me is the way to fix things.

And you, as the codependent, try to reason with him, change his mind, or challenge every verbal assault point-by-point in hopes that he snaps out of his irrational behavior.

Maybe this time he will understand, you think.

If I explain it to him this way, he will get it. He can’t be THAT close-minded, I’m going to tell him once more.

But the more you explain, the colder and more manipulative he becomes. He may talk to you like a child, as if you’re stupid. And you can’t even believe how a person can lack such empathy, so you explain more, trying harder and harder to make him “get it” — and the more you do that, the more it supplies his narcissistic fantasies that he is better and smarter than anyone.

I really don’t know if they CAN’T, or if they WON’T, but either way I don’t much care any more.

All the advice out there is basically summed up as this:  You can’t do anything about it, so don’t try.  Just get away, for your own sake.

If the abuser is a family member, your options are similar: approach others to see if you can get support, and stop seeing abusive/unsupportive members. Unfortunately, the great majority of families in which there is an abuser are not at all supportive of members who demand that the abuse stop, and members of these families often turn against the abused member. Dysfunctional families are irrational and incapable of meeting requests for healthy boundaries, and no contact with some or all of the family may be your only option. If… the abuse is not seen through, not looked into, or you’re not taken seriously, then the problem, like with abusive families, is a deeper and more systemic one, and leaving will be your best option, no matter how much you may have wanted… otherwise.

I’ve gone no-contact with most of my family of origin now.

Ironically, me taking the healthiest option left to me is also being criticized by my family, and I am now at fault for “being distant”.  Well fuck me.  They don’t like it when their scapegoat leaves.  Don’t worry, from what I’ve learned, you can still blame me for all the problems, even if I’m not there.  Hell, Mom was able to continue to blame Dad for shit she pulled 20 years later, so what’s the big deal?

 

 

Martyrs R Us

Flylady says, “Nobody loves a martyr.”

My DH pointed out that there is indeed, one specific group that really does love a martyr.

Oh yes, the Catholic Church.

An organization that can bring itself to honor, beatify, and probably canonize, a woman who thought like this:

Most troubling was her commitment to publicly reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy’s position on contraception at every opportunity. I found it difficult to see as a saint any woman who would advise the mother of a starving child to eschew contraception. Yet Mother Teresa did this. Consistently. And publicly...Teresa of Calcutta was no such missionary. It is precisely her willingness to validate the hierarchy’s position on “family planning” that renders her the favorite daughter of the hierarchy. …If the woman ministering to babies as they die of starvation can continue to preach against contraception…

 

She believed that poverty was a virtue to brought one closer to God.The more a person suffers, whether they ask for that suffering or not, the closer they are to God according to the warped fantasy of Mother Theresa…  She believed suffering was good, abortion was wrong, and birth control was evil. …Why would a sane human being refuse pain killers to a dying lady in pain, other than a belief in a God. And what a poor argument for an all loving God that would be.

Anyone who can sit and watch a baby starve to death — STARVE TO DEATH — and still actually believe that that is better than swallowing a pill, using a condom, aborting a clump of cells — I have absolutely no hesitation in calling that person a monster.

And this is what I find disgusting about the Catholic Church, and those who shut their ears and refuse to question this garbage because it is oh-so-holy.  Tell me what is holy about deliberately INCREASING human suffering?  That is not holy — that is sick.

One summer the sisters living on the outskirts of Rome were given more crates of tomatoes than they could distribute. None of their neighbors wanted them because the crop had been so prolific that year. The sisters decided to can the tomatoes rather than let them spoil, but when Mother found out what they had done she was very displeased. Storing things showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.

This is how belief in religion can actually make an otherwise intelligent person think that suffering is good, starvation is fine, prudence is a sin, waste is doubt, birth control is wrong.  Once you get those under your belt, I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to decide that black is white, your mother is a saint, your father is a monster, crazy is normal, and the healthy family members are the ones with the problems.

There is always the danger that we may become only social workers or just do the work for the sake of the work.

Yeah.  That “danger” is that someone might realize that the Church is bullshit.  You don’t need God or Jesus or a church to do the right thing for another human being.  But you do need them to make life decisions that fuck over your whole family.  Like my mother did.

She had a blood clot in her leg when she was pregnant with her 4th child.  My sister seems to be under the impression that it had to be removed because it might kill the baby.  I am guessing they didn’t tell her the truth at the time, because she would only have been about 10 or so.  A doctor in Kansas City got the thing out of her leg with a pipette, which was frankly genius.

The medical opinion was that after that pregnancy, she should have a hysterectomy, because further pregnancies could also kill her.

My mother refused, because — you guessed it!  The Church said that wasn’t the right thing to do!

She went on to have two more pregnancies, and one of them produced me.  The one with me sent her over the edge of sanity.  I don’t know if it was spending nine months wondering if she would die, or if she was just mad as hell that (her medical condition + refusal of appropriate treatment) did not automatically equal a “get-out-of-having-to-have-sex-with-your-husband” card.

I strongly suspect that my mother’s view of her marital relations went something like this:

Sex is only for having babies.

I don’t want any more babies (despite what the Church specifically says in the marriage vows about welcoming children as a gift from God).

The doctors say if I have any more babies, I could die, unless I have this recommended procedure.

I choose to refuse this procedure because the Church says so.

This combination of my own choices means that if I have any more sex, I could die.

Therefore, I am no longer obligated to have sex with my husband, and he’s a bastard if he still expects normal marital relations.  (But I still reserve the right to get outraged if I think he’s having an affair.)

 

Well, what the hell.  It’s about as healthy a belief as anything else that comes from the Catholic Church.

How Did I Get So Lucky?

Having established that I am probably the mentally healthiest of the family, I started to wonder why that was.  What was so different about my childhood that allowed me to be a dramatically healthier, more functional person?

Well, the short and obvious answer is, I was raised by and identified with the healthy parent.

My parents were married for almost 30 years.  For more than 20, my father’s job was one where he was traveling most of the work week.  This is not automatically a recipe for disaster — plenty of military families make it work, for example.  But it does require a mother who is competent and capable of running the family and the household by herself — not one who wants to be taken care of and doesn’t like to work too hard.  It requires a mother who is a part of a team, who is the glue that holds the family together.  Our mother was not that mother.

When my dad was 18 or so, he enlisted in the Coast Guard in WWII so that he could send money home to his mother and the younger kids.  His own father had died before he was 40, and after that they struggled for money.  Dad became the hero who went off to work and sent money home to provide for his family.  I have gotten his old military records, and there is a letter in there written by his mother, explaining that he was indeed the main provider for a family, so that he could qualify for extra pay.  And he came back to a home run by a mother who did her own job properly while he was away, and appreciated what he did.

I have wondered if my father stuck with the marriage as long as he did in part because he convinced himself that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing  — providing for his family — and if it was easier for him to be gone all the time, well, at least the kids were not at risk.  Maybe he thought that by him being the scapegoat-in-chief, that protected the children from the unholy, unhealthy ways of my mother.

Of course this is not the case.  The narcissistic mother poisoned all her kids to think the same way she did, to shift blame whenever possible, as she did, onto Dad for everything.  Dad was always the bad guy.  My siblings were systematically alienated from their father by a mother who had to have someone to blame.

I believe that when the family moved, and my father’s job became one where he was home every night instead of only on the weekends, he began to see how things really were.  What he learned from my mother’s psychologist after I was born probably added the weight of professional advice to his decision.  My sister said that our father once told her, “Your mother is crazy, and you’re going to end up as crazy as she is.”  To me that indicates that he understood the depths of our mother’s mental health problems, and he also understood that she had probably passed them on to their children.

And I believe that once my father really understood what was going on, he chose to do whatever he could still do to not allow the caustic pattern to continue.  He figured out (correctly) that the only way out was, well, out.  So, he divorced her, and instead of just walking away, which he could oh-so-easily have done, he fought for custody of the minor children that were left.

Thus I was protected by him, more than any of the others — because I was the youngest, and had experienced the least of my mother’s unhealthy influence and parental alienation.  It was much harder for her to alienate me from a father who was home every night, and who loved me, and took care of me in the ways she didn’t or couldn’t.

I believe I am the only one of his children who really, wholeheartedly, loved him.  That doesn’t exactly make me special — it just means my mom didn’t get to work on me the way she did the others.

But to Dad, I was special.

A few days before Dad died, we had a conversation — one of the few where I ever saw my dad cry.  He knew he was dying.  He told me, “I’m going to miss you.”

I said something about how I would miss him too, and that for those of us left behind, it would be years and years, a long, long, time — but for him maybe it would only be a blink of an eye until we saw each other again.

He said, in a muffled voice — because his head was on the kitchen table, on his arms, because he didn’t want me to see him crying — “Yes, but you’re special.”

I still have that kitchen table, and the chair he sat in when he said it.

I believe that in me, he found his redemption, his proof that he really could be a good father, away from the sick influence of a woman who hated and blamed him.

 

One of my biggest regrets is that I never figured any of this out when he was alive — of course, it took his death for the truth to bubble up, so as long as he was alive, I could not have done so.  I suspect that is just proof of what he sacrificed:  not telling anyone about all of this, just doing what was right, and enduring years and years of blame and infamy from almost all his children.

Almost all.

There was one who was different.  And I am so grateful to have been that one.

I wish like hell that I could talk to him, even just for a few seconds — it just has to be long enough to tell him, “Hey, Dad, I figured it out.  I get it.  I understand. And I love you.”