My father did not know that my mother punished her children by abandoning us – sending us to our room and then leaving the house when we’d done something she did not approve of. This happened while he was at work …
So, when the decision was made to put my oldest sister, Janet, in an institution, and my father thought my youngest sister, Elizabeth, and I should accompany them on the day she was left there, he had no way of knowing that decision would be the worst of his life – that he was, in fact, causing his children irreparable harm and scarring them for life.
So intense was my fear of abandonment by that point – and I could not have been more than five years old, all I could think of was that whatever Janet had done, Ed should just beat her so we could take her back home with us. I will never, ever forget that day …
My mother used a fear of abandonment, a fear she created and cultivated, to control her children – and by the day we left Janet, Elizabeth and I were already deeply damaged and scarred …
Yes, even without knowing what my mother had done to us, Ed should have known better than to take his young children to a place where he was going to leave their sister for good and all. It was an ill-considered, stupid decision with dire consequences, but he did not intend to hurt us – I know that now, still … noting has ever scared me more in my life.
Many years later, when I left Pat’s house forever, Elizabeth was in Europe studying – a year abroad. She came home to a very different home and family than the one she had left. It would be twenty-seven years until she saw me again – other than a couple of very brief encounters.
At the time I left Pat’s house, I was too busy with my new life to consider what my departure from my sister’s may have caused; her abandonment issues could not have been any less profound than mine were, in fact I think they were far worse. I know now she was devastated.
She’d lost most of her family by that point – whatever had happened between she and Ed had occurred years earlier, and now I was gone. I didn’t understand it while we were growing up, but I know now she’d always looked to me for comfort and protection … in a sense, I abandoned her too.
Elizabeth was left with Pat. God alone knows what lies Pat told her to explain my absence.
I never understood why Elizabeth chose to keep our mother in her life; their relationship has been strained at best, and estranged during the worst times, all of Elizabeth’s life …
I think it goes back to her fear of being abandoned, and a self-destructive need to cling the tightest to the person who loves her least and hurts her most. And Stockholm Syndrome is very typical of survivors of profound child abuse, as my sister is.
Elizabeth, who’d lost everyone else, and couldn’t fathom life on her own, had no choice, conscious or otherwise, but to keep Pat.
It’s all so sad.
When I had a conversation with my Aunt Bev about Pat’s reprehensible behavior and all it has caused this past weekend, I asked her, “How does Pat sleep at night?”
Her witty reply, “Don’t know. Not my circus, not my monkey,” made me laugh out loud.
And sometimes, laughter is not only the best medicine …
it’s all you can do..