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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewd and Lascivious

What follows is Ed’s account of the incident and subsequent charges he faced for sexually molesting my sister’s fourteen year old friend.  I have omitted her name for her privacy and protection.

Her account and Ed’s account of this tragedy are similar, but differ in key areas: she was ruthlessly grilled by Ed’s attorney, and his sexual impropriety did not stop with his fondling her breasts and masturbating. Both she and Ed agree the act was non-consensual.

A few more comments follow, The Story

I received the following email from Ed on October 28, 2014

“This is a very static rendition of what happened from my view. Not much emotion, but for me was the easist [sic] way to write it.

E

Lewd and Lascivious- the story

This was another of the things I had to resolve within myself, separate from what I did to you. As a matter of fact this charge was what got me into therapy, for my second time, after being relased [sic] from jail. It was Court Ordered

.

This happened one night when (name omitted for her privacy and protection) and Elizabeth were staying at my apartment, because they were going on a school field trip very early the next morning and I was going as a chaperone. [sic] I had been out all day and when I came home they were both dressed for bed and were going to sleep in my waterbed while I was going to sleep on the couch. I still don’t understand what ever possessed me to move from the couch to the waterbed, but I did and got on top of the covers between the two of them. During the night I fondled (name omitted) breasts and masturbated. I don’t remember if I stayed there the rest of the night or moved back to the couch.

The next day on the field trip (name omitted) didn’t talk with me at all. I often wondered if Elizabeth felt lost that I would molest (name omitted) and not her. The following night or the night after I received a call while at a meeting in Sacramento, to come immediately to Pat’s house. When I got there I found Pat, Elizabeth, and my current girlfriend there (I’m not sure if you were there or not) and was told that (name omitted) had told her parents I had raped her. I went over to (name omitted) house with my girlfriend to confront her. I don’t exactly remember how that went, but I’m very sure “not well”.

Shortly thereafter, I received notice I was being charged with rape and being sued. At that time I got a lawyer and met with (name omitted), her mother, and their attorney for a deposition. This was the only time (name omitted) was interviewed or examined. She was never put on a stand in count. The attorneys negotiated the charge from Rape down to Lewd and Lascivious with a fine of originally $100,000 (this was negotiated down to $10,000 which I paid), charged as a misdemeanor and without the need to register as a “sex offender”. The agreement was I would pled [sic] “No Contest” to lewd and lascivious conduct without a court trial on a rape charge and be open to a civil suit for damages (see above).

I was found guilty and sentenced to 1 year in jail, of which I served 9 months with 3 years’ probation and court ordered counseling. Later on these records were expunged and sealed.

This sounds so sterile, but it is the “facts” as I remember them”

 

I have been deeply disturbed by this email since I received it, but this quote:

“I often wondered if Elizabeth felt lost that I would molest (name omitted) and not her.”

There are no words to explain how that makes me feel; what kind of father would wonder that?  What kind of man? … that is incest, actually incestuous rape, he is speaking of.

No sane father’s thoughts would wander … there.

And the father in me feels compelled to point out that if you sexually assaulted my daughter, the last place in the world you’d want to be is at my house.   I’m sure it did go, “not well.”

His thoughts and actions, then and now, are, to my mind, creepy, vile, disordered and disconcerting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key

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If he had assumed responsibility for everything he’s done, the ending may have been different – I may have been able to accept his apology.

I tried, but apology devoid of willingness and ability to hold himself accountable for what he did to me was empty and meaningless.  “I’m sorry,” turned out to be only words.

He has himself to blame, for everything.

I’ve done some soul-searching, and I know I gave him an honest chance; somehow, I was able to do that.  I sincerely wanted the ending to be different.

But it isn’t enough to apologize, you must – absolutely must, endeavor to make it right if you want your apology to feel sincere and heartfelt.  He would not do this …

“I’m sorry,” was all he had.

All he was willing to give.

And after everything he did, a willingness and desire to make it right was imperative, crucial, and necessary.

He’s plays the victim, or worse, a martyr …

His thinking is self-aggrandizing and somewhat disordered – definitely out of touch with the concept of taking any real responsibility for anything he has ever done.  I am basing this conclusion on several months of email correspondence with him; notes that left me stunned, shocked, speechless and in utter disbelief.

I kept every email he sent – allowed a few trusted friends and family – also my therapist – to read them, just to see what they thought about Ed; the consensus was unanimous and supports my beliefs; he was a cruel, abusive father who failed to meet even a single obligation inherent to the role of father, who now sees himself as someone good, someone other than who he really is – and worst of all,  he is incapable of taking responsibility for what he did to his children.

For my readers struggling with this issue in their own lives:  the surreal and disconnected attempt by an abusive parent to reach out to you years later, to apologize without taking any responsibility for what he or she has done, who offers no real attempt at making amends …

You are not alone; sadly, this is not an uncommon circumstance for survivors of child abuse to find themselves in.  As grounded as I was, as resolute as I had become: no contact with my parents again, ever, I gave him a chance … and I was moved by his apology devoid of denial – I tried to believe that was enough.  My attempt to forgive is well chronicled on the pages of this blog; I wanted what he was willing to give to be enough …

But it isn’t enough, it can’t be enough.

If someone can admit they beat their child – viciously, cruelly, and in ways they found sexually gratifying – time and time and time again …

If they can admit they were never there for their child; provided no emotional or financial support, little to no nurturing or affection …

and yet they do not feel compelled to make amends – to at least try to make up for all they have done, and what it has caused …

who can assume no responsibility beyond saying, “I’m sorry” …

I must conclude this is not a stable, emotionally mature man – and I do not want him in my life.

A Conclusion:

A non-linear background:  Close to four years ago, in the midst of recovery but already emotionally stable, I reached out to the woman Ed raped when she was a child.  I had no idea if she would return my call, and I certainly didn’t want to cause her emotional pain or distress, but I needed answers only she could provide.

And provide them she did.

By this point, I had had three psychiatrists and three therapists – including those who treated me during a brief out-patient hospitalization – all share with me their belief that I was sexually abused as a child …

To this day I don’t remember being sexually abused … but I do recognize that beatings given in the way my parents, particularly Ed, gave them are a form of ritualized sexual abuse, and that only a sadist could actually do what Ed did to me time and time again; the beatings were perverse and I’ve come to believe, in large part due to admissions he made in our email correspondence, they were sexually gratifying for him to give.

Diagnostically, my medical team also took into consideration Ed’s conviction of Lewd and Lascivious Acts With a Minor, and my sister and mother’s allegations that Ed had molested both Elizabeth and Janet when suggesting I had endured sexual abuse …

and they stated there were probably more I didn’t know about; sexual abusers do not usually have a single victim – (Bill Cosby, anyone?) which I learned was true when I began speaking to my aunt Bev again.  Secrets in abusive families are dark, deep, tangled and common.

And I could not ignore the fact that my illness is consistent with sexual abuse in childhood …

So I reached out to the woman Ed raped when she was a child.  She is pretty amazing.  She was honest and forthright as she shared with me the details of what was the worst moment of her life.  Speaking to me was difficult for her on many levels, but she was gentle, and as kind as she could be, in telling me what a monster my father is.  She believed she had to speak to me – had to answer my questions because I had to know what Ed was capable of doing to a child just in case there were children in his life currently.  She asked how Elizabeth was, and wished her well, and she was very glad to learn Ed had no contact with his grandchildren.  She spoke with complete emotional candor that reduced us both to tears …

When Ed and I began speaking (emailing) he was reluctant to share with me the details of his depraved act against this innocent young girl, claiming this incident had no impact on my life – my growing up or my childhood.  (yes, he really said this) When I finally insisted he speak to me about it, he told the story from a very cold and sterile perspective, a  perspective that considered ONLY his feelings — what she must have felt wasn’t even a mention in his narrative.  His facts were similar to hers, but only to a point; he raped her; he took something from her that was not his to take.  She was victimized and sexually violated, and she has lived with the consequences of his actions every day since then.

In conclusion:

I believe in fact, evidence and science.  The case against Ed is pretty damning, and there has been no redemption, no change in heart or soul that I have witnessed.

I remain fearful for the young children now in his life, but I am thankful Elizabeth and I weren’t foolish enough to allow him a place in the lives of our own children.

I understand now that Pat’s motivation – making me hate my father – does not mean that what she said about Ed isn’t true.

I will never know all of what happened to me, or my sisters, when we were children;  I’m strangely OK with that, for now; however, I would still welcome the answers to questions no child should ever have to ask.

There will likely never be a complete conclusion.

Out Loud Thoughts

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My childhood memories are dark, and they play in my head like a horror movie matinee on a grey, stormy day – they can leave me feeling haunted and unsettled.

Ed’s brief return to the fringes of my life has given me pause, and much to consider and reconcile with all I had previously processed and concluded.

To begin with, because I once again have a close relationship with my aunt Bev, I have information about Ed I didn’t have before, information that causes me to rethink much of my position on Ed’s ability to sexually abuse a child.  My aunt was very young (10ish) when she told Pat (her sister) and my grandmother (her mother) that Ed would watch (read, leer at) her take a bath when she was staying at our house; they didn’t believe her, so she didn’t tell my grandfather … so much would likely be different if she had; I suspect he would have believed her unequivocally.  Children DO NOT make up sexual impropriety on the part of an adult …

Ed would send my mother out of the house and then force Bev to take a bath; this happened several times.

As I have stated before, my mother did not accuse Ed of sexually abusing my sister until after they divorced, and then I never heard the end of it.  My view: it was crystal clear that she wanted me to hate him, and this allegation was a way to discredit him in my eyes.  I knew my mother so well, even then, that I was determined not to personally consider the possibility that Ed had molested Elizabeth, and/or Janet …

but what if, in my stubborn and youthful determination to disbelieve Pat – someone whose motivations I had long since stopped trusting to be benevolent, I closed my eyes to the truth?

Pat, just before I left her house for good and all, had a private and tearful conversation with Rhonda – a conversation in which she made Rhonda promise if we ever got married and had children she would never, ever leave them alone with Ed. She told Rhonda that Ed had sexually abused Janet and Elizabeth, but that I didn’t believe this …

And I hear the words of medical professionals echoing in my head:

“I strongly believe, in addition to the physical and emotional abuse you clearly recall, you were also sexually abused in childhood, Mr.  Shockley, and these memories you have repressed.”  — every therapist and psychiatrist I have ever seen.

And Ed went to prison for Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a Minor – she was fourteen.  This is a charge I call rape; any non-consensual sexual act is, to my way of thinking, rape.  Not only could she not legally consent at fourteen, she didn’t consent by his own admission.

My instincts tell me to be wary of him …

I feel gullible and naive, until I remember the film noir set my childhood was filmed on; I learned to block out as much as I could …

It kept me alive,

and sane.

Turn The Page

Ed has not changed.  Ed – has – not – changed.  Ed. Has. Not. Changed.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve pondered our email conversations spanning more than eight months, and I’ve considered our face to face conversations as well …

and it always, without fail, comes back to Ed.

He knows what he did – and there isn’t a shred of denial, but it is always about what he feels, and how he has suffered.  It’s really strange; he lacks the ability to connect on an emotional level with me at all.  He can discuss his feelings, even until eternity, but when it comes to my feelings, “there’s nothing I can do about that now,” is his response.

One of the things I did with my therapist several years ago was create a psychological profile of each of my parents based on their behavior when I was growing up.  These profiles aren’t meant to be diagnostic of abusive parents, but intended to help abuse survivors understand they weren’t bad children; they had bad and/or ill parents.

A lack of ability to connect emotionally with one’s own child is indicative of some serious deficits and character flaws. Combine that with cruelty, physical abuse and neglect, and you have the profile of an abuser.

Ed has a grandiose and false view of himself which is mind-boggling and deeply troubling.  He sees himself as a literary hero, caring for his sick child against all odds.   It isn’t about the truth – how he failed his children, it’s about his attachment – unhealthy attachment, for my poor sick sister who couldn’t tell Ed to go to hell as Elizabeth and I did.

He hides in today, pathetically shielded by people he has managed to manipulate, and fool.  People who do not understand that anything positive they get from Ed is only pretend; he is incapable of anything real or meaningful.

And so I am done.  I am wiser than  I was when I walked away thirty plus years ago, and wisdom is its own reward, but I’m not content with the final understanding that I was right:  people do not change.

Many of my questions were answered, the rest will likely go unaddressed forever …

every therapist and psychiatrist I have seen tells me that in addition to the physical and emotional abuse I suffered as a child, I was very likely sexually abused, too; I have no recollection of this, but I don’t doubt it either, not growing up in the house I grew up in.  My sister has said she remembers being sexually abused by our father, but she will not delve into it with me, or anyone …

so when my therapist again cautioned me to trust my instincts about Ed, and followed it up with the question: “If your children were little, would you leave them alone with Ed today?” …

I concluded that I don’t want him in my life, or the lives of my wife and children.

Final words to Ed:

I walked away from you thirty years ago in order to survive – I had NO choice, stop believing I did.  This is part of accepting responsibility for what you did.

You are a coward for not reaching out to Elizabeth; she has the right to spit in your face for what you’ve done to her.  I never told you not to contact Elizabeth – that was not my choice to make; I told you to be prepared for her wrath if you do. You are so afraid of rejection – rightful rejection on her part, that you won’t own what you did to her – and that is despicable.

You made your abusive parents my business the moment you used having been an abused child yourself as your excuse for beating and abusing me.

And, you are absolutely correct when you state that what I say about you is true.

Time to close the chapter, Reconciliation; it has come to an end.

Answers To Your Comment

Dear Reader,

I am ready to discuss your lengthy comment of 15 September.

This blog is not static; it represents my thoughts at a given point in time; I fully understand that healing is not a linear process.  In keeping with my personally held belief that everyone is entitled to a second chance, I heard what Ed had to say, and I gave him almost a year to take responsibility for what he did.  That was the right thing to do, for me. Forgiveness, in the true sense of the word, was impossible from the start; child abuse is unforgivable, and I never sought peace through a relationship with Ed – I sought answers.  Answers I found.

I did not further vilify Pat through correspondence with Ed; I learned to separate MyAbusiveParents into Pat and Ed, my abusive parents.  I didn’t know, for example, that Ed was unaware of Pat’s penchant for abandoning her children, so I held him collectively accountable along with her; he may not have played the abandonment card himself, but for decades I believed he supported and condoned this action – therefore, to my mind, he was complicit in her actions.

Pat is someone I know very well, and have for the whole of my life.  For everything I share on Silence Shattered, there is much more I don’t share – or at least haven’t shared yet; Pat vilifies herself, as does Ed.

The decision to distance myself from Ed now is based in the anxiety I feel when I am with him.  This anxiety is palpable, and it makes my wife and children extremely uncomfortable.  The bottom line:  Ed has not changed, he has merely grown older and better at manipulation.  I don’t want to be alone with him, and I certainly would never leave him alone with a child.

When I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist was insistent that I revisit the past; feel everything I had never allowed myself to feel before – this in order to gain understanding and acceptance of my own thoughts and feelings, thoughts and feelings that had never mattered a damn to Pat and Ed; it was hell, but I did it.  This therapy, though highly beneficial, was incomplete; it had been more than thirty years since I had seen my parents, and I had never confronted them in a constructive way – never had a chance to find all of my answers; what I have done with Ed this past year allowed for Post-Traumatic Growth, and for me it was necessary.

Although I did give Ed an opportunity he did not deserve, I never felt an emotional connection to him, or pull to find one; he is and ever will be the father who beat and neglected me.  He is the man – no, the monster, who sexually molested my sister’s friend – and if my sister is to be believed, the repugnant, depraved father who molested her.

But I was at a place where I had to know … and now I do.  The abuse in my family, at least on Ed’s side, is multi-generational; it is part and parcel of being Shockley.  It is insidious and pervasive – and worst of all, it is simply accepted. No one talks about it, no one seeks to examine or change anything; no one breaks the cycle.  The damage is so deep, and so much a part of their genetic legacy, they are, in many ways, inhuman; incapable of empathy, understanding or insight – Ed lacks the ability to simply feel.

I found my peace many years ago; first when I married my wife and became part of a functional, loving family, and later when I became a father and discovered a complete love I never knew was possible.  In breaking the cycle, I became whole. Healing and consistent recovery in dealing with Bipolar Disorder required that I evaluate my childhood — peace will never be found, for anyone, in a world in which Pat and Ed are a part; I knew this when I decided to give Ed a chance, and I knew it when I realized that with Pat I could never even go that far.

I’m sorry you know firsthand the necessity of estrangement from your parents, but trust this means you have some idea of the complexities that lead to its inception, and the need for it to continue.  There are layers and layers of thoughts, feelings and emotions at the core of this issue – none of it is easy to sift through and make sense of; hence this blog represents my thoughts and feelings at a given point in time; it is abstract because abuse and its aftermath creates an abstract world for survivors.  Conclusions are reached – but they aren’t what we are conditioned to believe they should be; a child is not supposed to be better off without his parents in his life … and hurting their child should be inconceivable for any parent; sadly, societal truths are not my truth, nor are they truth for any survivor.

It is what it is, and survivors deal with the aftermath in unique and individual ways. For most thinking, feeling human beings, it is difficult to see our parents, or anyone, as inhuman; incapable of emotional connection, love or empathy.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t shake their head in dismay when they learn that I haven’t seen my parents in decades … we are conditioned to expect the best in people, sometimes even though we know better.  For what its worth, I have never been surprised that my parents didn’t reach out – they were happy to be rid of their children; we weren’t wanted to begin with, and we were a link to a past they wanted no one to know of.  I make a liar of Pat and Ed in the eyes of everyone who knows them … Did I expect that Ed had changed? No.  Ed was put into the position of having to reach out, this blog did that.  He has a life he wants to protect.  There was no sincerity in his actions, and anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.

I am not jaded or cynical; I am a realist; pragmatic and resolute.  My parents taught me very well who and what they were, and always will be.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling outcome, whatever that may be for you.

Kind regards,

Tim

No One To Blame But Yourself

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I’ve learned a great deal in the last several months; I do not regret having given Ed a second chance, but I now understand why reconciliation seldom works in situations such as ours.

I once thought a sincere apology for everything he did – an apology devoid of denial  that recognized where his disgusting behavior led – was most of what I needed.  And in part it was; it helped me let go …

but it wasn’t enough for me to see him as different now.

Within apology there must be remorse, a defined sense of personal guilt and shame – and if he were truly different, truly sorry and repentant, these emotions would be there – part of him; stark, cold and haunting.

I wonder if I expected too much, and then I realize I must have; anyone capable of doing the things he has done is without common goodness or decency.  Moral Relativism?  Perhaps; he was in a bad marriage, not ready to be a father, no money, no family support, an abused child himself.  He can view himself in light of the less than Ideal on many counts.

If this brings him comfort, soothes whatever emotion he feels, I understand.

But I do not excuse, nor do I recognize his circumstance(s) as valid … not for beating his children, or finding personal solace and absolution for a mis-lead life now.

If there had been regret … remorse … shame … guilt — something I could see as human to make me believe he may have changed, maybe I could have found it within me to forgive.

But in his mind, everything is about how it effects Ed.

And this is how it has always been.

Integrity and Accountablity

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Personal responsibility and accountability are important to me; in fact, integrity is all.

Although not fair or well reasoned, what society accepts as right is subject to the prevailing beliefs of the times we live in; Walt Disney, by today’s standard, would be thought of as misogynistic – in 1960 he was merely a man of his time.  In the 1970s very few gave any thought at all to the use of physical discipline when raising a child, we now recognize that hitting a child cannot be construed as “discipline,” ever.  And most recently, thanks to Bill Cosby and a campaign of public service announcements defining rape in clear and straight forward terms, we’ve all come to see, understand, believe and accept that any non-consensual sexual act is, in fact, rape.

Should women have been seen as equal to men in the eyes of society in 1960?  Yes.  Should parents in decades past have known that hitting their children was cruel, and a poor way to teach and guide?  Absolutely.  And as for non-consensual sex, come on – right and wrong on this point should always have been a no-brainer.

What society accepts, and what is right, aren’t the same thing.  If your actions create a victim – someone who will suffer the consequences of your actions, what you did was wrong.  It is that simple.

The guilt I have felt over what I did when I was sick is unbearable at times – but good people feel guilt and remorse when they’ve hurt someone, or done something wrong.

It has nothing to do with what society will accept, and everything to do with what I will accept from myself; personal integrity matters.

And this is where I struggle with Ed.  I fight my own internal war against him – because he is lacking in personal integrity and holds himself accountable for nothing.

He raped — and we are going to call it rape because it was, by his own admission, non-consensual — a fourteen year old girl.  He went to jail for a short time, where he wrote me letters about the “de-humanization” he was forced to endure, as though he were being wronged in some heinous way by being there; as though he was the victim. This woman carries the scars of his actions to this day.  I spoke to her two years ago – her life has been a living hell because of what he did, and when he speaks of this incident it is sterile and unfeeling; no guilt, no remorse, no personal accountability, but he is very quick to tell you how he suffered because of jail time …

Perhaps he has to divorce himself of feeling and emotion for his victims – his children, whom he so cruelly abused emotionally and physically, and an innocent young girl he sexually assaulted – in order to live with himself, but if you ask me that is the very essence of cowardice and weakness … he left a wake of destruction he will not face, or own.

I live with the scars of having been his son every day of my life, yet he was never a father in any sense of the word; he didn’t live up to a single obligation inherent to the role, not a single one … there was no emotional support, no guidance, no encouragement, no financial support — Zip.  Nada.  Zilch.  He failed universally as a man, and a father.

And now what I feel is complicated.  He speaks of his step-son’s children as though they are his grandchildren, something they aren’t and can’t ever be.  His grandchildren had to be kept away from him for their own well-being because of what he did to their parents.  Family isn’t replaceable, or interchangeable – Ed shouldn’t get to feel, or even pretend to feel, warm and fuzzy for sharing Tales Of The Arabian Nights with James and Garrett as though they were Wesley and Nicholas … he lost the privilege of getting to tell stories to his grandsons when he beat their father.

But Ed has no sense of integrity, or personal accountability — society and legality be damned, so he doesn’t understand this.

He just doesn’t get it.  He threw his children away, and his new family cloaks his sins; the ultimate cover-up for a mis-lead life. It is bizarre, and all of my friends and family see clearly what he cannot begin to process …

“Do you believe he actually feels anything for anyone?”  Is a question my therapist asked me of my father; my answer was not definitive:

“I don’t know if he just expresses what he feels badly, or if he has merely learned how to make people believe he can feel so they accept him.”

Reading bedtime stories to beloved grandsons is something an old man is supposed to do, is supposed to want to do – he grabs at feeling and emotion like a lifeline … but it isn’t genuine, or heartfelt.  It feels foreign to him, and coming from him.

He doesn’t seem to understand there is no substitute for what he threw away, and by living as though there can be or is, he merely confirms what I’ve always known;  I was never important to him, and being a father meant nothing.

“And so,”  my therapist began, “how, in your father’s shoes, would you make amends to you children?”

I firmly believe that a man should not be defined by his mistakes, but by what he does to make them right.  Ed can’t make this right until he confronts himself with what he has done – he’s already apologized to me, but it lacks depth and meaning because he hasn’t felt my pain; he hasn’t held himself accountable for what he did, or for where it led.  Talk – spoken apologies are important, but they are merely words – a place to start.

I don’t want anything from Ed now – he could never give back what he took from me, but I would very much like to know he has confronted the monster he is.

Then maybe, just maybe, I could find in him some redeeming value …

and integrity.

Father and Son – The End Of The Story

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At five years old I knew that if I ever had a son I would not treat him the way my father treated me.   With the innocence of a young child I already recognized the abuse for exactly what it was – I even understood that I would grow up one day, and I would remember everything he had done, and would continue to do, to me.  My father was an incredibly short-sighted parent.

I gave reconciliation an honest chance, and I invested myself emotionally to a point where I was risking my stability by continuing to allow him a place in my life.  The depression had returned, so had the anxiety.

When I met him for lunch, he gave me a birthday gift; a bottle of scotch and a very old copy of Tales Of The Arabian Nights – a book he read to me as a child.  The note he enclosed was poignant, and it made me even more sorry I was there to tell him we would never be father and son.

I don’t want complete estrangement now – not like it existed for more than thirty years, but I can’t have a real relationship with him either, it’s just too painful.  He is an old man, but he is still the man who beat and neglected me; he is the man whose reprehensible behavior caused so much pain, heartache and suffering.  For so much of his life he was not a good man, he wasn’t even decent.

I do not regret the last year, or trying to find in Ed a solid reason to give him a second chance.  I really wanted to see him as a different person from the father I remember … if he is I didn’t get close enough to see; in the end I realized he will always be the monster who so cruelly and heinously abused his children.

It’s hard, and I don’t want it to be the way it has to be – don’t want to keep my father at a safe distance; that isn’t the way fathers and sons are supposed exist, or live.  I look at my sons – the way in which they interact with me, and I recognize the bond is unbreakable, as it should be …

but I broke the cycle of abuse, Ed did not.  I worked diligently to give my children emotional security, Ed did not.  I made sure they knew they were loved, wanted and valued, Ed did not.

You can’t start – when your child is fifty-two years old, trying to be a good father; that transformation must begin before your child is born.

I hate the father he was, and

pity the old man I know now.

And I hope …

that one day he will finally understand with depth and clarity everything he did …

he will experience an epiphany that brings him to his knees and humbles every fiber of his being; a transcendent moment with the power to make him see himself as he truly was …

and then deeply feel the pain, humiliation and shame of everyone he hurt …

not just his own children, but his daughter’s best friend.

and then …

I sincerely hope he finds a way to heal.

Because without the soul-searching, and the healing only it can bring, his life is nothing more than a cover-up …

his life today only a disguise that cloaks the sins of his past.

And that isn’t a life at all.

If the last year, and our attempt at reconciliation, was a chapter in the book that is our story as father and son, he now has all that he needs to write the ending …

it is too late for Happily Ever After,

but there is still a chance for honesty …

and depth …

and purpose …

and sincerity …

and meaning.

And as painful and tragic as the early chapters of the story are …

that could still be considered a Happy Ending.