Letters From Ed

 

 

The first selection is Ed’s response to my pressing him for his thoughts and feelings about what he did to me when I was a child; it took months of trying to get this.  James and Garrett are the children of Ed’s step-son; they are currently about three and five years old.

The second selection is Ed trying to make sense of his position now.  Mary Ellen is his sister.

Both selections were written in the early fall of 2015.

Ed’s words are in italics and have not been edited in any way; spelling and grammatical errors are his.

 

Selection 1:

Hi Tim,

 

I have been struggling with how to answer your questions. My problem was I couldn’t put it into an emotional context until this last weekend. It was James birthday and I truly enjoy and love James and Garrett very much and it dawned on me”how would I feel if I were to hurt either of those 2 boys?”. This might sound a bit out of context, but it did get to the heart of what made me realize the pain I caused you.

 

I can’t even imagine how or why I could hurt those boys and when I realised you were their age when I beat you, it stopped my heart cold and i couldn’t even talk for a few minutes. When Marie asked me what was the matter, I couldn’t even answer her. The emotions were horriable, [sic] devisating,  terrifing,  it was llike  a building crushing me,  And I had done that to you.

 

Selection 2: 

I an working on becoming “emotionall present” and have found myself several times wishing “Why wasn’t this me/us”. One specific example was Mary Ellen’s and my trip to Half Moon Bay last month to celebrate the 50th anniversay of her oldest and dearest friend. The 2 of the met while working for me at Karl’s Shoes in SSF and therefore i was invited. We were probaly the only non-family there. The 3 children had pulled everyone together as far away as New Mexico, Arizone, S Calif for the celebration. There were 4 generations there, 5 if Maria’s Mom hadn’t died last year.

Watching the entire family interact between the top and the bottom generation and then intergerenatally caught me emotionally. Mary Ellen and I both commented on how that never happens when our immediate family generation gets together whenever.

 

The rest of the 2 hour drive home I thought about why it doesn’t happen between us and what I did to you to cause the place were we are now.

 

I’m also reading a book by Richard Rohlhauser a Spituital Psycologist who talks about Men Blessing other men, most specifically their own sons. If hard for me to read today what i should have done 50+ years ago to you then and continuing forward to even now. To start that with you today would be like trying to throw a 50 ft rope across the Grand canyon. Too little too late.

 

What is my only reprive is the love and joy I have and give to Jeff’s and Sally’s sons keeping them away from the Ed you remember. To them that Ed doesn’t exist, and I plan to keep it that way 

 

So where does that leave us after your 50 years of pain and suffering, I see you as the “emotionall present father” to your kids, the respect and love you give them and Rhonda too, yet I am at the bottom of the Grand Canyon hoping to reach a 50 foot rope being tossed down from the rim. So for now I’ll just keep craweling up the cliff until something happens, or never happens, whichever comes first.

 

There is much I could say to these passages, and I can’t tell you have much thought I’ve given to his words …

I could tear him apart for replacing his son and grandchildren with surrogates – if only in his mind, as though people are somehow interchangeable …

I could cruelly explain to him why the Shockley family does not enjoy multi-generational celebrations in love and tenderness …

Or, I could explain how difficult it was for me to read his words and not be able to decide whether he was actually trying reach me now, or trying to manipulate me into believing he had changed.

Do I feel pity?  Compassion?  Something else …

I just don’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emotional Honesty, for Ed

There is a time and a place for complete candor – total bearing of your soul to another.

Emotional honesty devoid of subterfuge, pretense,  or self-delusion would have made a difference; Ed, if you had taken this path, the ending would have been very different.

After all is said and done, the turning point in the story is Valjean stealing the candlesticks;  from this came the second chance, and the forgiveness, he did not squander.

You missed the entire point of your favorite show …

I gave you that chance, and even the forgiveness you sought – to the point that I could and maintain any sense of respect for my values and my beliefs, but you couldn’t be honest with yourself, or me.

Ed, why?  We both know who and what you are.  We both know what you did.

Is it more comfortable to live in a world with people who don’t really know you?

And if it is, of what value can that possibly be?

Where  the hell is the hero’s redemption?

This is what you said of me, and you, in your email dated October 25, 2014: “You are 1st person, direct, focused, black and white and brutally honest. I write in the 3rd person, in allegories, and honest in a more indirect way.”

Honesty is never indirect.

Honesty is blunt, unambiguous, absolute, and, as you pointed out, sometimes brutal – but within the context of father and son it does not require allegory; we lived the same life, Ed.  I know and you know what you did.

Allegory shields you, but only from yourself.  There is no hidden meaning, no symbolic salvation in your story as my father; you beat me, neglected me and failed to live up to your obligations as a father.  There is no way to interpret that as any sort of moral or political lesson.

Your use of literary device failed.

I wanted, needed, and deserved complete emotional honesty from you — no matter what giving me that did to you.

All I asked was that you face yourself, and share that with me.

I couldn’t go through life wondering if you were manipulating me, or attempting to. Honesty, and the trust only honesty could begin to build, were vital to our going forward.

And that was never going to happen.

You can’t face yourself.

Difficult to understand given that I already know the worst of you – there really are no secrets there.  I faced you, and I was willing to give you the chance you asked for …

but you couldn’t look into the mirror and behold yourself.

You have done shameful things – things you don’t want anyone in your life now to know or understand or viscerally absorb.

As much as you’d like for people to believe there are two Ed’s, there is only one.

There is just Ed …

who pretends to be  a decent man today.

Here’s the rub …

a decent man would have found a way to face himself …

A decent man would have bared his soul, would have allowed himself to feel – honestly and openly, about what he had done …

A decent man would have taken the second chance he was offered …

and a decent man would have used that chance to become

who he now pretends to be.

Valjean’s redemption …

and salvation …

came when he accepted the candlesticks …

and the responsibility that came with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coping With What They Broke

“If you want to keep a secret, you must hide it from yourself.” — George Orwell

My sister’s current circumstances have me thinking a great deal about self-delusion.  As a child, self-delusion was a tool of survival for her, and as she grew up, she seemed to integrate certain aspects of reality into her life, but she also left many others in the shadows.  She has told me our father molested her, she has told me that our mother knew it was happening, and she has told me that both of our parents beat her mercilessly – the last part, the beatings, I actually witnessed, but the molestation I did not see first hand.

She, unlike me with either parent, allowed our mother a place in her adult life; she hasn’t spoken to our father since just after he went to jail for raping her best friend when she was fourteen years old. My estrangement from both parents came in my early twenties, but Elizabeth never fully closed the door on our mother.  When we spoke of this, briefly, she told me she was afraid to walk away from Pat – afraid if she did that she would someday be left with no one.  This statement left me unbelievably sad for my sister given all our mother had done to her, and all she had allowed our father to do; to believe she was somehow better off with Pat in her life was inconceivable to me.

Ed is also adept at keeping secrets from himself.  He has told me the past reveals itself to him in dreams – dreams from which he awakens tearful and badly shaken.  He has moments now, waking moments, when he is near his young step-grandsons, moments which leave him in a state of saddened and shocked disbelief at what he is capable of doing; these very young children are currently about the same age I was when he was cruelly and brutally beating me with his belt.  The past is dark and full of terrors …

it is easier to keep some secrets, especially from ourselves.

Pat’s recollections of the past are less known to me today than are those of Ed and Elizabeth, but she was always skilled at putting her own spin on life.  I don’t think she is delusional though, I think she knows exactly what she is doing, and has done.  She keeps secrets from others, and always has, and she may even want to believe the lies she has told others herself, but her biggest issue is a life-long lack of empathy and compassion – and perhaps a misconception of events and circumstances as they actually occurred.

And me?  I buried the past deep within and hoped it would never again see the light of day. I walked away, created a life for myself, found happiness and never looked back.  I didn’t forget, I didn’t repress, I didn’t deny, and I didn’t keep secrets from myself – I just got very good at not remembering – not allowing myself to remember … and when, despite my resolve, dark memories would occasionally find their way into my consciousness, I would ignore any and all feelings associated with them.  I set myself up for an inevitable breakdown, but it was the only way to survive.

I understand a lot now – and I have answers I never thought I would have, but there are still questions …

and I’m sure I will never know all of what my sister experienced in childhood …

She, like our parents, is very good at keeping secrets …

and hiding things from everyone, including herself.

Elizabeth,

Where to begin …

As children, we were not close.  Your memories of me as your protector are foreign; I was occasionally your tormentor, as you were mine, but that is as close to normal sibling interaction as we ever had.  How could I be your protector?  I couldn’t even protect myself. I survived our childhood, somehow, but I was aloof and I did it alone — I never felt a connection to you, or our parents.  We were raised by narcissists, we never had a hope in hell of learning to care about each other.  In that house, as you well know, it was every man, woman or child for him/herself.

When you contacted me after twenty-seven years of estrangement, asking if we could talk, my first reaction was, no … No way in hell to be more accurate.  I didn’t want your drama in my life.  I was struggling with my own stability at the time; you were the last thing in the world I needed to contend with.

But Rhonda said, ‘give her a chance, people do grow up.’ And so I did.  You only got farther than our initial lunch date because in you that day I saw a devoted wife, mother and teacher.  I saw a woman who had, despite all the odds stacked wildly against her, succeeded in creating a life she could be proud of and enjoy.  But the thing I admired most about you, the thing that actually made me want to know you in the here and now, was your love for, and devotion to, your daughter.

Being a good father, after everything Pat and Ed did to us, is the single most important part of my life – nothing I ever do will matter more.  I felt like we had our sincere dedication to our children in common, Elizabeth.  I believed you had broken the cycle of abuse, as I had.

When your crisis – for lack of a better word, hit you, I was there for you.  I came to the hospital and sat by your side, even when you were unconscious.  I supported you before you tried to kill yourself – would have done anything I could to get you the help you so desperately needed, but you didn’t have time.   You didn’t want help.  Didn’t need help.

You took a non-issue and used it to destroy your life.  I cautioned you – told you from the moment you came to me – you were going to lose everything if you didn’t get help.  You thought I was against you – thought I had taken a side; as I told you then, there were no sides, except in your very troubled mind.  The truth is this: I saw what was happening for what it was, because I had been there myself.

You were going to lose you mind, no one whose childhood is what yours was is going to get through life without some sort of breakdown.  You used the circumstances of your life in that moment in time – made them your catalyst when, in fact, there was nothing what-so-ever wrong with your current life; you had a husband who loved you – admired you for your strength, and a child – a happy, healthy child who any mother on the planet would be proud to call her own. You had no insurmountable problems in that moment; again, there was nothing wrong with your current life.  There was, however, a million things wrong with your childhood and your past, neither of which you had ever come to terms with. Neither of which you had ever honestly and openly shared with your husband and child.

Your stability was an illusion, it was not real, and you cannot sustain an illusion forever; no one, not even you, has infinite emotional resources to allocate to a fantasy life.  Your breakdown was inevitable …  and it had absolutely nothing to do with anything you so vehemently attributed it to.

You haven’t emailed or spoken to me since the holidays, I suppose you didn’t like that we spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Jim and Jac – oh well, Dear Sister.  I do not say that to hurt you, but I will not be sucked into your ridiculous, petty, self-pitying drama.

Last Mother’s Day, you contacted me terribly upset because someone in your life compared you to Ed.  Made the statement that what you’ve done to Jac is no different than what Ed did to you.  At the time, I thought this was harsh – Ed was a depraved monster, but the abuse comparison was valid — you are a different kind of Abuser, but make no mistake, you are an Abuser.

And none of it had to be.  You had the love and support of a family who was willing to stand by you every step of the way to wellness … and you just threw that away.

Who does that?  You tell me, what sane, rational person does this?

You drink to mask the pain of being who you are.  You have become an alcoholic rather than face the horror of your childhood.  You self-medicate, and you have lost everything.  Everything.  Alcoholism is merely a symptom – you know this, and I know this; you have far deeper issues.

It was a walk through hell to confront what Pat and Ed did to me, and I fought having to for a long, long time.  Did everything I could to avoid thinking about them … I know how hard all of this is for you, you know I do.

But Elizabeth, the pain of losing your family has to be worse than confronting the horror of the past ever could have been.

Maybe I don’t know everything Pat and Ed did to you; I know they both beat you – violently, cruelly and with clear intent to hurt you.  I know they neglected you, abandoned you, humiliated you.  I know they were never there for you emotionally.  And I now believe Ed did molest you, and know Pat failed to protect you, even from that … is there more?

The thing is: even if there is more, it is time to stop blaming others for what you have done; I ask if there is more with all the compassion I can muster …

but I fully believe that you are where you are today because of choices you and you alone made.  You bear all the responsibility and you should be held accountable to those you have hurt.

Why matters …

only because you need to face the why to get well.

As always, I am here for you when you are civil, kind, sober and decent.  I am here if you want to do the work you need to do to get well, but you must understand that I have fought too long and too hard for my own peace of mind to allow you to bring your toxic drama into my life.  And I deal with our childhood in light of the truth, all of it – ugly as that is, and will remind you that you’d do well to do the same …

You were no one’s Golden Child, and I was not the poor misbegotten brother who existed in the shadow of Pat and Ed’s pride and admiration in you — our parents were equal opportunity abusers, Elizabeth; neither of us was wanted, loved, valued or Golden.  I understand your need to create that fantasy world;  it was a little girl’s coping tool, and it got you through a nightmare childhood, but you are a grown-up now …

and there is no salvation in your delusions.

Tim

Responsibility

“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.” — Hal Elrod

I write a lot about responsibility and ownership of personal mistakes, behavior and choices.  I hold people accountable for their actions, especially when they hurt others.

In my own life, I hold Pat and Ed directly responsible for the illness I will contend with for the rest of my life – the illness is, without a doubt, the direct result of their reprehensible parenting.

However, no one – including Pat and Ed, is responsible for my choices, behavior and actions.  I alone own all of those things, and I alone assume responsibility for the good as well as the bad.

Having an illness – be it Bipolar Disorder or Alcoholism, does not absolve me, or my sister, of the pain we have caused the people in our lives.  The choices we make are still our own, despite knowing why we make them …

the bottom line is very clear: there is no one to blame but ourselves.

Knowing why I have Bipolar Disorder was the foundation I needed to get well; we can’t fix what’s wrong until we know what’s wrong.  Why matters, it is important – vital even, to our recovery …

but it does not give us people we can rightfully blame for our own repugnant behavior, bad choices, or the miserable state of our life.

Elizabeth – no one other than you is responsible for your life today; you and you alone bear that burden.   You had terrible parents, and you will carry the scars of childhood for the rest of your life; I will never say, ‘get over it,’ because I know you can’t – I know it is part of you, part of your brain chemistry …

but it does not have to be your life.

If you choose to blame rather than get well, that is ALL on you …

Not on Pat …

Or Ed …

Or Jim ..

Or, most especially, Jacqueline.

A Word of Caution

Although it is true that the people in our lives remain who and what they are to us, it is foolish to close our eyes to who and what they have been to others.

Objectionable character cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

If one has the capacity to sexually, physically and emotionally abuse their children, or to rape a young girl, or to turn their back on their child – or all three of them …

their character is tainted, despite who they pretend to be in your life.

I have zero tolerance for child abuse;  a man, or woman, who could hurt their own child is vile …

and has no place in the life of decent people.

So, Dear Friends and Family of Pat and Ed,

please remember that the next time you are faced with their righteous indignation at what you have read here, because …

Every.  Word.  Is.  True.

The Legacy Continues …

“Healing from childhood abuse is not going mad, it is going sane.

Jan Hawkins

It seems my sister is drinking again – not that she had stopped really, but there had been no crisis of which I was aware for several months.  Last weekend, that changed.

The text message my aunt Bev sent Rhonda asking if we had heard from Elizabeth was ominous; I never know quite how to feel where Elizabeth is concerned, and hearing from her can mean a myriad of things, most of which are not good.

It seems Elizabeth needed a place to detox for seventy-two hours so that she could admit herself to rehab.

This is her latest cry for help; over the years there have been dozens.  Suicide attempts which began in adolescence, alcoholism, misuse of prescription drugs, unsafe and risky behavior, sexual promiscuity as far back as high school – I could go on and on.

And now, she has lost everyone she ever truly loved – her husband and only child.  This was the ultimate cost of her refusal to face and deal with her childhood …

If I – or our aunt Bev, believed she would stay at our house for seventy-two hours and detox, then enter rehab and do the work she must do to get well, we’d have both been there for her in a heartbeat …

but we’ve heard it all before – many, many times.

It’s sad – no, it’s tragic.  I know why she is as she is – I lived the same childhood nightmare she did.

My aunt advised Elizabeth to call her mother, and I understand this; she should be able to call her mother, and find help there.  But Pat was never a mother …

Or Ed, Elizabeth should call her father …

I guess I think Pat and Ed should call her – she is what they made her.  Only and exactly what they made her.  She needs them …

but that doesn’t matter and it never did – if it had, Elizabeth wouldn’t be where she is now.

Yes, she is an adult, and she has to take responsibility for her life, but Pat and Ed alone are to blame for her illness(s).

And in the end, every child should be able to call his/her mother and father and find emotional support, and a soft place to land …

and heal.

After all this time, they – Pat and Ed, continue to fail as parents, and as human beings.