Narcissistic Parents

Several months of recent correspondence, as well as occasional visits during this time, have given me a very good understanding of who Ed is today; the same man he has always been – a child abuser, coward, rapist.  He is also, in my informed opinion, a narcissist who suffers from cognitive dissonance and self-aggrandizing delusions.  He has not changed, but he has become adept at hiding who he really is, rendering him capable of surviving among the good and decent people in his life today.  He, in some ways, is the luckiest man alive; the Teflon-Man nothing ever sticks to, and he is so good at selling himself; there is a different version of Ed for every man, woman and child in his world – past and present.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen or spoken to Pat since early 1983; she attended my wedding in 1986, but the only exchange we had that day was her telling me that she approved of the new me – whatever that meant.  I  kept my distance; I didn’t want to know her anymore.

There was a time when I knew her far better than anyone else, and despite our lack of communication for more than three decades, this, I have found, is still true.  In fact, I actually know her – I don’t think many other people do …

Kind, thinking, good people assume we all share basic values, and our understanding of mothers comes from the precept that all mothers love their children.  We believe that every mother is dedicated to nurturing and guiding her young children, and is desirous of a solid, affectionate relationship with her children when they are grown.  Mothers who do not reflect this archetype are virtually inconceivable to the rest of us.

When my aunt contacted me after decades of estrangement, she was excited to share with her sister that I had responded to her message wishing me a happy birthday.  My aunt thought my mother would be happy and excited too – she thought perhaps this might give my mother hope that one day I would speak to her as well.

My aunt didn’t understand then that my mother is the antitheses of the mother archetype.  She didn’t love and nurture when I was little, and she damn sure didn’t want a relationship with her grown up son who had lived the truth she had lied about for almost three decades.

When my aunt came back into my life, Pat simply shut her sister out of her life.

I may not have recent personal communication with my mother to offer as support, but the evidence is pretty compelling; she is the same abusive, narcissistic drama queen she has always been.

I used to wonder how Pat could possibly be happy, given everyone she has hurt, but now I understand that she never cared to begin with.  She put on a passable face, said the right things for a time, behaved like people she knew who actually did love and care for their family, but it was never real for her – and her love  was never, ever genuine.  It’s easy to be happy, despite the pain and damage you have caused, when you never cared about anyone other than yourself to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obligation

There was a time when I hated my parents.

Then, for the longest time, I was indifferent.

Now, all I feel for them is pity …

and a great deal of nothing.

In recent email with Ed concerning my sister’s current crisis, I have realized a few things – and when I say realized, I mean not only a certain recognition, but also a deep understanding …

He has no idea how to be a father.

I don’t even think he knows what it means to be a father.

He does things – always the wrong things, that would never even occur to me … or anyone else who has even the most basic idea of how this, I am a parent, thing works.

When Rhonda emailed him several years ago, during my emotional breakdown, to let him know not only that I was very sick, but that it was all his fault (along with Pat) I was sick, he did not respond in any way; no call, no visit, no email reply.  Nothing.

When told Elizabeth was ill, his response has been two fold;  “I hope Pat does something to help her.”  was his first response …

and it was followed by his telling me that if she is a threat to herself or others, I can call Adult Protective Services.  He then explained that because he has had no contact with his daughter himself, he cannot make this call.

Seriously, I just had to shake my head.

His child is sick, and in crisis, and he knows exactly why she is sick … knows and acknowledges that his abuse (along with Pat’s) when she was a child is to blame for her state of mental health, and what does he do?

He sends her an email!  He hasn’t seen her in more that thirty five years, she is mentally ill and in crisis, and he emails her!

When I pointed out that this might not have been the best way to approach her, he agreed with me.

If it weren’t so damn tragic, it would be funny.  How can anyone be this daft?

It is his mess.

She is his child.

And still he does not take responsibility …

still he refuses to fix, or even attempt to fix, what he broke.

He lives in a world where nothing that happened prior to his marrying Marie matters;

nothing before 1985 is relevant:

Ed did not abuse his children.

Ed did not rape his daughter’s fourteen year old friend.

Ed did not fail to live up to even the most basic of obligations to his children.

He has hidden and lied for so long he actually believes he is good.

His children create cognitive dissonance – we are a stark, cold reality – a reminder that he isn’t who and what he believes himself to be.

I get it.  I do.

As sick as he made his children …

he has made himself even sicker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat, Ed and Elizabeth

My sister is at my aunt’s house, she arrived there yesterday.  The goal is to give Elizabeth someplace safe to detox while directing her toward treatment and recovery.  I have not seen her yet; she sent Rhonda a message yesterday asking that we not visit as she doesn’t want us to see her as she is now.  It is tragic.

We were never close, but it is hard to know she is so sick, disturbed and dysfunctional.  She has lost everything; her husband and child, her family, her job; her financial situation, as she states it to be, is abysmal – I don’t even know if she currently has health insurance.  This has to be the place known as, Rock Bottom.

She keeps saying she has nothing left to live for.  We keep telling her she has to learn to live for herself now …

Children are fragile.  There is a limit to what they can endure and still become whole, functional adults.  I don’t know where in her childhood – the exact moment in time, Pat and Ed broke their daughter, but it happened, and now she is here.

She believed our parents when they told her she was bad and deserved to be beaten, shamed and humiliated.  She endured our mother’s abandonment, and our father’s sexual depravity.  She lived without parental attention and affection, and she survived their sustained emotional alienation and abuse.

But she has never understood our parent’s abuse was never about her, it was always about them.  She was not a bad child, they were/are bad people.

No matter what she did, she did not deserve to be treated the way she was by Pat and Ed. They were adults, she was a child; the nature of their relationship with each other was created and developed by them, and as adults they bear ALL the responsibility for the outcome …

Just as Elizabeth now bears all the responsibility for the fractured relationship she has with her own child.

I sent Ed a very brief email last week, but I do not think Pat knows how sick Elizabeth is currently.

Ed did nothing …

and Pat’s response would likely be the same.

I’m a father who believes that giving up on your child is never an option.  Never, ever.  No matter what.  I couldn’t do what Pat and Ed are doing now …

anymore than I could have done what they did to cause this.

My sister is critically ill.  She may die.

And yes, her life apart because she refused care.  She refused treatment.  She refused to get well …

she has never understood that our past, our childhood, was not about her, ever.

Ed wants the world to believe he has changed, yet where is he when his daughter desperately needs help?

Pat lives in denial, despite the fact that no one who knows her believes her anymore.

My God, if Ed had changed, he’d make an effort – some sort of gesture.

And if Pat’s story were true, Elizabeth would be at her house, not our aunt’s.

The abuse has not ended …

and Pat and Ed have not changed.

Happy Birthday

Ed’s birthday was spent worrying about my sister, who is once again in crisis due to Ed and Pat’s morally bereft parenting.

His daughter’s life collapsing while I imagine Ed was enjoying his day with the people he uses to shield himself from his vile past.

The legacy of abuse never ends …

Elizabeth will not get well, she has made a choice to remain in the hell her choices have landed her in; it is tragic.

She refuses help, flatly refuses.

It is difficult to help society, and even the victims, understand that damaged people aren’t responsible for their illness – that is on the perpetrator(s) of the abuse they have suffered…

but they are absolutely responsible for their actions in the here and now.

My sister believes she is unloved and unwanted, a lesson learned in childhood; I recall feeling the same things.

My aunt has rearranged her schedule and taken time off work to care for Elizabeth next week, this in hope that Elizabeth will detox and enter inpatient care before it’s too late.

My aunt, in many ways, is a surrogate for her sister – the mother Elizabeth and I never had. She bakes bread and cookies, attends my daughter’s shows, family holidays and events – a week seldom goes by that we don’t hear from her.  It’s nice, it’s the way it should be …

but my aunt should not have to be Elizabeth’s mother, she should not have to make up for what her sister and brother-in-law did to their children.

And she should not have to care for Elizabeth now because Elizabeth’s parents won’t take responsibility for the mess they made …

Abuse touches everyone.

No one is alone, and no one is immune from suffering if abuse is part of the tapestry of their family …

All this while the people who caused the suffering enjoy their lives as though they have every right to do so …

shielded by the lies they have told, and they people in their lives today …

the people who believe the lies.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

In His Own Words

alt

How in the world could anyone … anyone, write that to their child?

Ed, sometime after he divorced my mother, wrote prose of a sort for Elizabeth and I; he had a piece which began with the words, “Now that you are no longer little kids, but people” affixed to a wooden plaque, which he gave to each of us as a gift.

I made me physically ill to read – it characterized in one sentence how he felt; children are not of value, they’re not even people.

It doesn’t matter that I destroyed the plaque, smashed it beyond recognition and no longer recall exactly the sentences that followed; there is not context in which “Now that you are no longer little kids, but people,” is OK.

I’ve pondered this bit of prose occasionally throughout the years, and I’ve always come back to a single conclusion:

Not seeing us as people is what allowed him to do all the terrible things he did.

Down the Rabbit Hole: A Candid View on What it Means to be Estranged From Your Child

alt

A few days ago, Rhonda and I were discussing why a woman would marry a man – any may, who had spent time in jail for acts of sexual depravity against a young girl.

The woman who married my father had a child of her own; he was eight or nine when I met him, and not much older when his mother married my father.

I have no idea when or how Ed shared with Marie, his wife, that he had raped his daughter’s friend, but it puzzles me how this was not a relationship breaker.  As a woman, and a mother, the fact that she put herself, and most especially her child, at risk in this way horrifies Rhonda.

Of course this particular act, as terrible as it was, is only one of Ed’s atrocities.

Ed knew the reason I turned my back on him – although he has lied and claimed for decades he didn’t know. I told him outright – I was angry at the time, and I probably swore at him, but I told him.  This was in 1993. And never forget that he has always known what he did to me, and my sisters, when we were children.

He has hidden and deceived and lied and pretended for a very long time, and he is so good at it he now believes his own lies.

I was doing some research on estranged parents/children recently and found this site: Down the Rabbit Hole:

http://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/why-estranged-parents-forums.html

Great information, solidly researched by the site’s owner/author – I had no idea how typical my situation is within the world of estranged parents and children.

Points To Consider:

  1.  Adult children DO NOT estrange themselves from their parents when their relationship is what it should always have been.  This just isn’t the way the world works.
  2. Minor problems do not, and cannot, account for decades long estrangements.
  3. A girlfriend, fiance, wife, boyfriend, husband or any other Significant Other cannot come between a parent and child if the relationship between the parent and child is loving, supportive, valued and viable. Be very wary of any parent who tries to explain estrangement from his/her child by blaming someone else’s influence on their child.
  4. If a parent who is estranged from his/her child tells you they have no idea why their child turned his/her back on them, that should be a HUGE red flag.
  5. If a parent feels betrayed by family members who have a relationship with their estranged child, or demands that friends and family members choose sides, or seems upset in any way when their estranged child has a relationship with extended family, it is because the parent lives in fear of family and friends learning the truth.

Again, I am not qualified to diagnose Ed or Pat, or anyone for that matter, but analysis of parents who are estranged from their children is eye-opening: parents estranged from their children tend to be classic enablers and/or abusers …

and they are very good at finding people who will cloak their sins.

They are master manipulators …

So that might answer the question of why Marie married Ed:

It is entirely likely she believed whatever story he told.