Points to Consider

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In the process of deciding whether or not to reconcile with my father, I was encouraged to consider the following:

1. Can I handle the possibility of being rejected, or of having to walk away all over again?

No cut and dry answer here – to some degree, it depends on where we are in the process.  Yes, I can handle having to walk away again; how difficult that might be is subject to variables unknowable at this point in time.  

2. Have we both experienced significant emotional growth and change since we estranged? Or, are we the same as we were at the time of our estrangement?

I can speak only for myself; I am fifty-two, not twenty-two – the age I was when I last saw my father; my emotional growth since estrangement is a given.  When I decided to walk away, I couldn’t talk about Why – and I didn’t think I owed him an explanation even if I could.  When dealing with Ed then, I was purposely who he taught me to be – now, I try to show kindness and respect to everyone, even Ed.  I can still be reactive, and I will never forgive, but I am able now to engage – to meet him, not in the middle, but somewhere along the path.  His emotional growth will take me time to recognize, acknowledge and accept … 

3. Can I trust myself to set and maintain clear, respectful boundaries?

Yes.  

4. Do I feel the need to engage in old arguments and to “change” his perceptions, or can I respond differently to old family patterns?

Quite simply:  I want nothing to do with the man, the father, I know him to be.  I don’t feel a need to change him, but if he hasn’t changed we cannot reconcile.  Old Family Patterns – there is so much to this thought I could write volumes, but the short answer is: I will no longer engage in the flawed thinking that defined my family, and my father, when last I knew him.  

5. Am I able to stand confidently in my own separate identity? Or am I emotionally enmeshed with my family members?

I am confident – I know without a doubt who and what I am; my identity is safe.  I don’t identify with my family – my father in that way, I never have – this is part of why walking away was so easy for me; I never felt a real connection to him to begin with.  I always felt out of place in my parent’s house … never understood them, and never wanted to; there is no understanding people who did what they did to me.  I didn’t want to be like them in any way.  

6. Do I feel the need to rehash the past?

At a certain point, to a certain degree, this is inevitable.  

7. Do I feel internal or external pressure to reconcile before I am emotionally capable?

No. 

8. Is the threat of physical and/or emotional violence still present in my family?

This is complicated … I grew up, he can’t hurt me now; I want to know he wouldn’t even if he still could.  I want to believe the man he is today views the man he once was as vile and repugnant.  I want to know the man he is today is incapable of doing the things he did to me.  If the man he was is still present in our family, I will not be.  

9. Am I still angry? Is he/she angry?

Anger is hard for me.  Anger, when I was sick and couldn’t control it, caused pain and anguish for my wife and children – I don’t do Angry anymore, haven’t for a very long time … 

but yes, I am damned mad at Ed.  For everything he did and everything it caused.  It is manageable anger, and it isn’t connected to a need to lash out or seek any kind of revenge, but it is there.  I think it will resolve itself with time, understanding and acceptance of who he is now … if the man who hurt me no longer exists, how can I be mad at him directly?  

10. Will reconciliation add to or detract from my life?

Selfish question; what do I gain from having a relationship with my father – or, what do I lose by rejecting him … ?  People are not tools, we shouldn’t use them,  nor should we choose to have them in our lives based on what they can and cannot do for us.  

If the relationship with my father feels comfortable and right, something I need to spend time with him to know, it will be a welcomed addition to my life … and like all other relationships in my life, it will be healthy and based in mutual respect, love and concern each for the other … 

It’s about balance and understanding, not adding to or detracting from.  

 

Thanksgiving 2014

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“The way everything turned out is all the evidence anyone needs; I believe every word I’ve read on your blog.”  More than one friend and family member has said this, or a variation of this, to me.

I’ve also heard, “Your parents were always strange,” and “This explains everything, nothing else does.”  These affirmations from people who knew my family as I was growing up, or who know me and/or my parents now, mean everything to me.

When you look at it objectively, the truth – and unfortunately Silence Shattered is gospel – is the only thing that makes sense of everything that has happened.  Sons don’t walk away from their parents if their parents have been who and what they should have been.  And here, “who and what they should have been,” isn’t subjective – it is not open to interpretation; my parents were monsters – sadistic and cruel.  It isn’t odd that we ended up estranged, it would be odd if we had ended up an intact family unit.

As far as I know, my sister isn’t spending Thanksgiving with anyone connected to our/her family in any way.  My mother is hosting her soon-to-be ex-son-in-law, his son from his first marriage, his wife, and my niece. My father will be with his wife and her son and his family. I will be with my wife, children, mother-in-law and maternal aunt.  Of the four of us – my mother, father, sister and I – not a single one of us will be with even one other member of our immediate family.  This is sad and tragic, and it is the direct result of child abuse.

I’m not a misogynistic ass, nor a hold over from a time gone by – far from it; I am a non-conformist and a feminist, but I believe that, as a man, I am the leader of my family – and I am responsible for the way it all turns out.  A man takes care of his family and honors his obligations.  My children did not ask to be here, I brought them into this world and I owe them love, respect and every chance in the world at a happy, productive, successful life.  I take family seriously; my wife and children are my life, my heart and soul, and if my children left home and never spoke to me again, I would know and clearly understand the reason to lie with me.

My parents have offered the world lies and distortions for thirty years – they never stopped to consider the obvious, never looked within for their answers … and within is the only place their truth could ever be found.

If you screw up raising your children, nothing else you do matters at all; you have failed at life.

You have a car, a house, money in the bank –  maybe even a career you’re proud of, but what does any of it mean if your children won’t speak to you?

And if all the external – the accomplishments, trappings and symbols of American Success still matter to you; if all that you’ve acquired materially brings you one iota of satisfaction when you failed your children, failed your family –  the only things in life that should ever have real meaning or value – you are a pompous, ignorant, arrogant fool.

On this Eve of Thanksgiving Eve, I truly pity Pat and Ed

And I hope their God is as forgiving as they believe him to be …

because they both have a great deal to answer for.

Can Such Things Be?

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In this week of being thankful, I’m so very thankful I understood the message above before I became a father.

In corresponding with Ed, I’m learning how difficult it is to make your child understand you’ve changed – that you are no longer the monster who would beat his sick young child for throwing up on his shoes, or for getting hurt at a church picnic.  You are no longer the man whose thought processes are so cruel, so flawed, so rooted in violent and uncontrolled rage and aggression, you are capable of ignoring the pleas not to be beaten again by the child you have beaten repeatedly … no longer the dis-compassionate animal who gives no thought to what his child wants, needs or feels.  No longer the  insufferable idiot with an authority complex who would force his son to eat zucchini – despite the son’s tears and pleas, his gagging and choking, until he threw up all over the table at a family dinner and then beat him, pants down, in front of everyone present, for throwing up.  No longer the ignorant asshole who thought it was OK to make his son a victim – not only at home, but at school.

 It’s damn-near impossible for me to see Ed as anyone other than the man in the paragraph above, because that is who he was every single day of my childhood.  These are not isolated incidents, they are what stand out most clearly in a sea of identical incidents.  This is who and what he  is … was.

Was?  I don’t know that yet.  My wife and mother-in-law, two very wise women whose opinion I respect, tell me I won’t know for sure until I’ve seen him – until I’ve spent time with him … I believe this is likely true.

But … he can’t  now do the things to me he once did–not because he has changed and is incapable of such reprehensible behavior today, but because I’m an adult with the power to disallow him to hurt me, or cause me harm in any way;

that does not mean he wouldn’t if he could – all it means is that I have grown-up …

and right now, this is the only Absolute in play.

Absolutes for the Future … at some point:

I want to know and feel and believe that if I were five years old I would be emotionally and physically safe in my father’s care.

I want to  know he is different than the man I know him to be because he is actually and truly different – better.

I want to be able to look back at who he was while looking at him today and see two different people.

I want to know the man he is today abhors the man he used to be, finds him an abomination.

I want reason and cause to believe him when he tells me, as he has, that he is sorry for the what he did, and for what it caused, and he is here for me now in whatever way I need.

I want to believe such things can be … true.

It’s Showtime! and Facebook, but Mostly Showtime!

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Not long after my daughter (Rachael) met her cousin and aunt for the first time, she reached out to my mother on Facebook.  Curiosity got the best of her, and Rhonda and I believe our children are entitled to decide for themselves about people … and since Rachael was no longer a young child who needed protection from Pat, we agreed she could talk to her on Facebook.  I also knew it wouldn’t last long; Pat isn’t someone she was going to like, ever; sarcasm, vindictive petty bullshit, cruelty and drama just aren’t things Rachael understands or sees as endearing.

Until I got sick, my children knew very little about my childhood.  They knew my parents had believed in harsh physical punishment, that my childhood had been unhappy, and  that I didn’t care to have my parents in my adult life because of these things;  they had NO details and they knew nothing of the abandonment and mind games, the out-and-out cruelty, or the pervasive fear I felt daily.   There were lots of reasons for this; I didn’t talk about my childhood then, not to anyone – and children shouldn’t be subjected to realities such as my childhood without damn good cause.  And, in all honesty, I wanted them to feel they could contact Ed and Pat if they were ever curious about them – this when they were old enough to deal with what they might encounter, of course.  I had no idea why anyone would want to contact Pat and Ed, but I didn’t close that door permanently for my children — I just did not feel I had the right to do that.

Then I got sick and everything changed … now, there isn’t anything my kids don’t know.

Rachael and Pat’s Facebook connection did not last long, much to my relief.  I’d have found a way to make it work, found some way to be OK with Pat’s being in Rachael’s life, but I would not have liked it.  Pat is an unequivocal Never Going to See Her Again in my heart and mind, has been for almost 30 years … but for Rachael I would do anything, so if she had decided she wanted a relationship with Pat, I’d have made it work somehow.

There has been no contact between Pat and Rachael for a long time now – their Facebook connection was over before it ever really began, and the few messages they did exchange did not lead to anything in person; they have never met;

but, Rachael has seen her picture and does recognize her face …

So when Pat was in the audience at one of her performances two weeks ago, Rachael knew she was there.

I don’t know for sure why Pat did this, but  I think it has more to do with her petty cruelty toward her sister than it does Rachael, in actuality.  My aunt now goes to Rachael’s shows with our family – her family, as an invited guest, and Pat well knows this – and she doesn’t like it.  Here’s the thing:  if Pat had been interested in knowing Rachael, in seeing Rachael, she’d have taken her hand when Rachael offered it on Facebook a long time ago.  Her showing up at Rachael’s play is ALL about Pat.

No one cares if Pat goes to a show or performance, but it should be clearly understood that we all know her being there has nothing to do with her wanting to see Rachael, and everything to do with her own flaws, frailties, insecurities,vindictive nature and shortcomings …

If she had been the kind of mother, and even grandmother Rachael gave her the opportunity to be – the kind of person, mother and grandmother she should have always been, she’d be in the audience sitting beside us…

not showing us that she could, like anyone else in the world, buy a ticket and attend a performance.

 

 

 

 

Green Velvet Shoes

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At lunch with my sister, her husband, her daughter, my wife and my daughter about three and half years ago, my sister told a story that made everyone at the table laugh.  It was a true story, a shared recollection from our childhood …

Ed and the Green Velvet Shoes

“We were little, somewhere between four and six – I know this because you  still couldn’t pronounce my  name and called me Beffie,” My sister said looking at me.

“For some reason,” she continued,  “Ed and Pat were all dressed up, and I think company was expected; do you remember Ed’s green velvet shoes? ” She asked, smiling in my direction …

To the chorus of giggles and horrified gasps of, “green velvet shoes?” from our daughters, I nodded slowly in my sister’s direction,  but I found it very difficult to believe she was going to tell this story.

“I wasn’t feeling well, ” she went on, “and there he was all dressed up and wearing those shoes.  I kept telling him I felt sick, but he ignored me.   This continued for a few minutes – my insisting I was going to be sick and his trying desperately not to hear me;  eventually I just threw up … all over Ed’s prized green velvet shoes.”

Laughter ensued from everyone at the table, and my sister went back to her hamburger and beer and the conversation moved on to other topics …

But that wasn’t the end of the story:

Ed lost his mind when his four year old daughter vomited on his shoes.  He very roughly grabbed her arm, dragging her into the bathroom … she was screaming, but not struggling – by four she knew better than to resist.  He scrubbed her mouth and face with soap and a wash cloth, using enough force to leave her skin raw and chafed for days … and when he’d finished cleaning her up, he pulled down her pants and gave her a violent beating.

I remember looking at my mother, crying myself,  not understanding what ‘Beffie’ had done – she had gotten sick, she wasn’t being bad.  Pat told me ‘Beffie’ had spoiled everything … now they would have to clean up the mess, and Ed didn’t have another pair of good shoes.

After lunch, I walked my sister to her car and hugged her, whispering in her ear my thanks for not finishing the story in front of our daughters.  When she pulled out of our embrace  I saw the tears glistening in her eyes; “I couldn’t tell them that, and the story is like that of a normal family if you leave out the last part – I even made them giggle; in their minds, their grandfather is a leprechaun who wears green velvet shoes … ”  I nodded my understanding, gratitude and agreement.

I learned so much from Pat and Ed …

I learned exactly who I did not want to be.

Loose Ends

I don’t know how I got here, to that place where I’m even willing to give Ed a chance, to listen to him, to consider anything he says.

But, here I am.

His therapist made a point to him recently that provided a little clarity for us both:

This blog depicts how I, due to Ed’s beating me,  view, remember and internalize Ed as my father – this blog illustrates who he is, was, and always has been to me.

Ed maintains that he has changed, that he is a different man now – sorry for his past, what he did to his children and what has happened in their lives due to his reprehensible parenting …

I think I’ll be more in touch with those alleged changes after I have seen him face-to-face on December 5th.

I’ve been thinking lately about Abuse Survivors who accept what happened to them – never confronting or even speaking out; I am thankful I’m no longer a member of that group.  We all do the best we can to manage our lives, and I am not judging anyone, but silence felt wrong to me, and it made me complicit in Ed and Pat’s lies, in their false view of themselves as people, and especially as parents – I couldn’t do that anymore.

Walking away from my parents was something I had to do for me – had I maintained any sort of relationship with them it would have been tumultuous and unstable – far too much back story for us ever to have been a congenial family.

And yet people maintain a relationship with their Abuser(s) – to whatever degree they are able, knowing what was done to them by the people they choose to keep in their lives; I don’t know how anyone does this …

Maybe they’re stronger than I am, maybe they’re more forgiving,  maybe dysfunctional and abusive feels better to them than living without family all together …

All I know for sure is:

I had to walk away to get the ability to live MY life, to even know who I am … and I wouldn’t be here today if I had chosen to stay, or remain silent.

 

 

 

Relevant Commentary

Pieces of Bipolar left the following comment for me earlier in the week …it was left in response to this post.

 

“You are so right. When Ed talks, he’s just saying the words. There is no shame, regret, remorse. As you say, he feels nothing. I will never be able to understand people who feel nothing.

Ed seems always to have an agenda. Nothing is done unless it serves HIM. I don’t believe his mercy and tenderness towards Janet was honest and true. My personal view is he was acting in order to manipulate, make himself look good. Spot on with believing his bullshit. It’s a fact that if someone is a compulsive liar, they come to believe their own falsehood.

The lack of feeling, the manipulation lead me to think, could Ed possibly be a sociopath? I know that’s a hefty word, but it would explain a lot.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/confessions-sociopath – I’ve actually read the whole book Confessions of a Sociopath. Its a free download. But I forget the site.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath – You would know best the traits they list.

Stay strong, Tim”

 

Sociopath, it is a hefty word indeed …

When I was inpatient, part of my therapy included creating psychological profiles of my parents; Father with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Sociopathic Tendencies;  mother a Narcissist with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Of course these are just profiles, not intended to be accurate diagnosis, but they did help me to see and understand a great deal about the people who raised abused me.

Our  personalities, neurosis and psychopathy can be reduced to a list of traits, and defined by abusive behavior toward our children or others.

CC pointed out in her comments that a true sociopath would, when pressed to feel something as I have pressed Ed, mimic feelings – and could likely do so convincingly; Ed hides behind platitudes and the superficial … different, and so odd.

Yet, in keeping with the idea of Sociopathic Tendencies, I see no remorse, no shame, no regret – it’s like when I was a little boy  pleading with him not to beat me – a scene he repeated over and over again throughout my childhood; the screaming, the begging him not to hurt me, the obvious fear; he felt nothing then and he feels nothing today … when pressed to feel, he can’t.

People who can’t feel scare the hell out of me – given my background this will likely never change.  Which is why I need to know how he feels today about the man he was then …

If he is different, as he says he is, he needs to feel something about what he did and what it caused — and he needs to share it with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No More Martyr Routine

Ed,

You said:

“I am seeing how hard it is for you to see anything in me now, different than what you have seen me as in the past – “from the man I know”. It is as hard for me to look back at what I was and view that as the present me. All I can say to that is I’m here now to hear what you say and to do what ever I can to change how you see me today.”

To change how I see you today, you need to tell me how you feel about the man you were back then.  How does the man you are now view the monster you once were?

I know it isn’t easy to look back – I spent years and years refusing to do it, stifling memories and ignoring my feelings.  I lived through it once, I sure as hell didn’t want to remember the pain and the fear and the horror.  But I had to, I couldn’t get well without revisiting the past … and you have no hope what-so-ever of making me see you for who you are today without telling me how you feel about who you were then.  It is as simple as that — good people feel, Ed – and when they’ve done what you’ve done, they feel intensely and they express that remorse and anguish freely and sincerely.

When I called you to my apartment to tell you I no longer wanted to have a relationship with you, I was twenty-two years old.  I’d been living on my own for several months and I was happy to be away from Pat – I was far less anxious, and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel as though the world could stop spinning at any moment.  When you would visit, all that would change; I was anxious and scared and uncomfortable – just being in your presence did this to me.  I didn’t want to discuss it with you, didn’t know how at the time, and I certainly wasn’t able to confront you with everything you had done; I knew the source of my pain, anxiety and discomfort, I just couldn’t tell you.

So, I told you about Rhonda’s discomfort and anxiety when she was with you, and I told you she had decided not to have any kind of further relationship with you, which was all true; here is why …

It wasn’t Pat’s cautioning her against you – she saw Pat for who she was and she realized Pat was out to destroy you in any way she could, but there were others who cautioned her – people who had no vested interest other than concern for her well being.  Although your girlfriend at the time of the rape charges spoke to her, she really had little influence either – but there was a friend of Rhonda’s mother, a woman whose daughters were good friends with the girl you hurt, who came forward when she realized I was dating Rhonda …

Rhonda’s family was not, and is not, like ours.  They’re not dysfunctional – they didn’t beat her, and they didn’t discount her feelings – they loved, protected and valued her, and they were worried sick about her interaction with you.  In truth, the didn’t want her anywhere near you.  But, she was an adult – a young adult, but an adult never-the-less … and she was determined to make the situation as easy for me as she could, as well as decide for herself about you …

And you kissed her on the mouth, Ed – at every greeting and every parting, and not just a peck; you did this despite her trying to turn away from you, and despite my asking you not to many times – I explained to you  that she didn’t like this, didn’t  want it to continue, but you persisted.  You showed no respect for her [or me] and she wasn’t accustomed to that, nor was she willing to tolerate it, especially given what she knew about your history of sexual misconduct.  She told me she didn’t want to interact with you anymore – she also made it clear she didn’t expect me to feel the same way and that I was completely free and within my rights to have a relationship with you, my father – and she would support that always.

But her decision to distance herself from you gave me an out — I was engaged to Rhonda by then, she was my life and my future, and this was a way for me to leave the past behind forever …

Had you not  beaten me, discounted my feelings and been the horrible father you were, or engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with a child, none of this would have happened … none of it.  Every single thing that has happened is on you.  You are not the martyred father, you never have been … and you never will be.

You said something early on in our correspondence – and again a bit more recently, about your anger and/or pain in connection to me being the reason you sought therapy.  I was incredulous when I read this, and just plain mystified; what right did you, or do you, have to be angry with – or in pain because of – me?  Is this because I cut all ties with you?  What choice did I have?  You left me no choice at all.

And really, what did my turning my back on you mean to you anyway?  It gave you the ability to create any story you chose about your past, create any life you desired in your future … hang my pictures in your house and pretend I ever mattered to you to begin with.

Now, you speak to me of Zen – of treating others with kindness and consideration; how different things would be today if you had had that policy then.

You speak of your new family as though people are replaceable – as though I am replaceable.  As though their love for you erases your past, or makes it somehow OK – it doesn’t … it can’t.

You are a carefully crafted exterior, Ed – but it all falls apart when you’re asked to feel, and to look back on what you’ve done to your children … and to the young girl whose life you  made far more difficult than it ever had to be …

You told me she would not speak to you the day after you hurt her … did you really expect her to?  My God, you actually said to me, “[her name] wouldn’t even speak to me” the next day.   What could she  possibly have to say to you?  Or you to her?  She was stuck with you, she was on a school field trip with you – you were there as a chaperone; she was scared and she was traumatized by what you did and you wanted her to talk to you?  As though you could somehow make it all better?  Or, more likely, convince her it wasn’t what it seemed … that she shouldn’t tell her parents.

You told me the story without regard for her, Ed.  Without remorse – without even a thought for how she felt, or how she still feels to this day.

If you are different now, if that man – that monster – no longer exists, why won’t you speak of how he makes you feel?  He exists, he is real … and he is you.

He won’t go away, and you don’t get another chance, until you face him …

I had to – every single day of my childhood.

Your turn.

 

Feel Something

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This comment was left by Pieces of Bipolar in response to These Speak for Themselves:

“In my view, Ed conveniently seems to paint himself as a bit of a martyr – hero and victim. In so doing, he is able to manipulate the events in his favour (his favour being denial). And this is only my personal opinion, but I think that with this behaviour he is actually abusing you all over again. This time mentally and emotionally. How can any father with an ounce of remorse idly sit by as you become so immensely distraught in your correspondence.

The big question is whether people can change. I think they can. I have changed. Anyone can change. Provided they acknowledge there is changing to be done. From what I’ve seen on your blog, Ed has acknowledged nothing. He just keeps arguing with you. Intent on only HIS version of events. He does not hold himself accountable for his actions at all. I am outraged on your behalf. Stay strong.”

 

I feel as though we – my mother, my younger sister and I, were Ed’s Starter Family; we were his lab rats, his guinea pigs and his test dummies.  He didn’t live up to a single moral obligation a father has – he didn’t invest his time in helping us to find out who we were, or discover our passion.  He didn’t put our wants, needs and desires ahead of his own.  He didn’t listen to us – he didn’t teach, instruct or guide.  He didn’t pay for college, or even offer to help in any way; when I was eighteen and his legal obligation to pay child support to my mother ended, he was done financially for good and all.  He failed right down the line … at everything concerning fatherhood.  It was far, far more than just his propensity for violent ‘discipline,’ he was simply and completely inept and not present as a father …

And when he was done completely destroying the lives of his Starter Family, he moved on to his New Family:

And now he sees himself as a martyr, a literary hero – a fairy tale character transformed.  His new family ‘still loves him’ despite what they have learned about him on this blog.  But he didn’t beat them, and they didn’t have to live in fear of his violent anger every day of their childhood – they didn’t have to live through the shame and humiliation of having their father charged with rape.  And they will never know what it feels like to have him avoid dealing with it directly now.  I’m glad they still love him, still care about him – but it is easier to do that when you merely know what he did than it is when you were his actual victim.  Their feelings made him cry, I have no idea how any of mine have made him feel …

I’m thankful for his devotion to Janet – but he had three children who should have known that devotion, that love and compassion … he won’t acknowledge that. Won’t acknowledge his failure.  He obviously knew how to show mercy and tenderness – he wasn’t always a sick, sadistic bastard, but only Janet knew this.

He does not live in reality, and it is disturbing.   He acknowledges that he was a bad and abusive father, but he will not look at it and FEEL – or see who this means he really was, or is, as a man.

It is all about Ed – and it is all shallow and superficial and just plain unexamined and unconsidered.  Maybe he is a different man today, but he is also the man he was in my childhood — and this is all I know of him.  He was unthinking and unfeeling then, and he has given me no indication that that has changed.

He is not the wounded, martyred father.  No matter what he says or  tells people, this will never be true.  Martyrdom is Ed’s fairy tale, his break from reality.  I once believed his martyr routine was solely for the benefit of the people in his life now – something Ed used as a tool of manipulation to skew their thoughts and feelings in his sympathetic favor – now I think he believes this complete and utter bullshit himself, too.  If you lie long enough, the lie will become your truth … and it isn’t a lie anymore if you believe it yourself.

I guess I understand him to a point – if I had done the things to my children Ed did to his, I wouldn’t want to consider and allow myself to feel either.  I would do everything I could to avoid considering those rooms in my heart– because they exist in Hell itself.

but until he finds the courage to feel, he will never get further down the path of reconciliation with me.  I cannot, and I will not, allow myself to build a relationship with the man he was – and until he deals with the gut-wrenching things I have told him directly, until he demonstrates these things make him feel something, I will never be able to see him for the man he believes himself to be today –  I don’t know how to make this any more clear.

It is deeply, deeply disturbing to believe he doesn’t feel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who I Am …

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is not the kind of car I drive (Acura) it is not where I like to vacation (Europe) or my favorite scotch (Glenmorangie).  It is not the house I live in and own (three bedroom two bath suburban Craftsman built in 1965) or the material things I choose to acquire (Disney art – not the souvenir knick-knacks you get in the parks, but the limited edition and even one-of-a-kind pieces designed by Versace and Swarovski that you can get only in Europe).  Those things all are merely footnotes, or parenthetical; they might tell you what I like, or even something about me, but they don’t tell you who I am.

Who I am is infinitely more complicated – I cannot be defined by a list of likes and preferences, or adjectives such as ‘kind’ or ‘considerate.’  You would know nothing more about me than you do right now if I told you I was a Christian, or an atheist.  If I pray or if I meditate.

We are, all of us, what we think and feel.  Thoughts lead to feelings, (although sometimes it can work the other way around, especially true when we don’t understand ourselves) which lead to behaviors; it is within these aspects of the human condition that we come to find and know ourselves.

I am what I think, and what I feel …

I am my children’s father.  Not because I chose to procreate, but because I love them.  I didn’t have them until I was sure I had something to offer them, until I knew why I was having them, until I had a clear idea of how I wanted to raise them.  By the time they were born, I understood childhood has a clear purpose and a parents’ role, his job, is to guide and teach, not punish and traumatize.  I see fatherhood as a job – one I can’t quit, and I work for my children; its a cool job, one I love – the rewards are many and the drawbacks few – but it is demanding and failure isn’t an option.  I am good at fathering – my standards were and are high, but I continue to succeed in this area of life and nothing gives me a greater sense of accomplishment or satisfaction.

I am my wife’s husband, lover, confidante and best friend.  I adore her.  Adoration is the purest form of love – it is the simplest, and the most complicated; it is the first facet of love to disappear when a relationship is taken for granted, and the last to get back when it has been mended.  I have broken her heart, and I have stitched it back together, patiently, one thread at a time,  leaving it stronger for the wound.  It is in this relationship that I discovered who I am ; we find our soul, the essence of who we are, through the process of learning to love another in the ways in which they need to be loved – I believe in soul mates, because I’m married to mine.

I have to live a life that makes me worthy of a woman like my wife, and children like my own.  Love, even unconditional love, isn’t without standards and expectations; they rely on my strength, my support, my integrity.  They demand that I have ideals and values and that I live a carefully examined life; I will not disappoint them.

My wife made  me want to be a better man, my children make me understand why that matters.

I feel experiences in life are far more important than material possessions.  I drive an Acura because they do not break – saving me both time and money I can spend with and on my family.  The Glenmorangie scotch I drink because it is the best scotch I have ever tasted – my first bottle was  a gift from my mother-in-law, a souvenir of her time in Scotland, and I still have the bottle to this day.   I own the house I own, which cost far less than the bank said I could afford, because traveling and spending time with my wife and children is a lot more important to me than is  owning a mini mansion.  And the Disney art … all part of  the priceless memories of trips we’ve taken together; the most meaningful piece, a sketch of Belle drawn for my daughter on her 9th birthday by Disney artist Don Williams, didn’t cost a thing – he happened to be sitting at the table across from us aboard the Disney Magic, and when he heard the crew sing Happy Birthday, he came over to our table with his sketch pad, asked my daughter who her favorite princess was, sat down next to her and brought Belle to life right before her eyes … as the tears streamed down her mother’s and my face.

This is who I am, these are things that matter to me; they matter to me because of the feelings attached to them, and those feelings, and the thoughts behind them, paint a portrait of who I am.

Ed …

When I ask you who you are, or to respond to something I may have told you, I want to know how you feel, how you think, and how you arrived at your conclusions.  I want to know why the things that matter to you, matter.

You can’t tell me that you’re kind and expect me to understand that – even when you give examples of kindness, as you did,  which were actually more exemplary of being considerate than kind to my thinking – I have a difficult time relating these things to you because ‘kind’ and ‘considerate’ are traits antithetical to the father I knew.  Tell me when and how exemplifying these characteristics became important to you.  How did you integrate these traits into your life and personality?

When I tell you how I felt as a child before, during and after one of your beatings, tell me how knowing that makes you feel now …

When I tell you just how profoundly affected I was by witnessing you leave Janet in an institution, tell me how knowing what this caused makes you feel …

When I tell you I was suicidal – and had been off and on since I was a teenager because of what you did to me, you should feel compelled to address this directly – tell me how this makes you feel now …

Tell me about your meditations – where they take you and how they make you feel and the thoughts they leave you with.

This is how you tell me who you are today, Ed.  This is how you reach me – this is how you show me your character.

I don’t really care where you live, where you vacation, or what you drive –those things don’t add much to the portrait of you.  Your house is ordinary, unless you built it yourself.  Mexico isn’t special unless it has some spiritual meaning to you.  And a car, unless there is some personal or sentimental reason you’re attached to this particular vehicle, is just a means of transportation.

I’m complicated, and I don’t really even understand a desire to be simple.  I study Zen and philosophy and I know what I think and why.  I know absolutely and unequivocally who I am.  Superficial, given all that has passed between us, will never bridge the chasm that divides us.

You’ve acquired a career, a house, a car … but your children don’t speak to you.

How do you feel about all your terrible yesterdays?  What  they’ve done to your children?  About what they’ve cost you?

Knowing that will tell me who you are today.