Reconciliation: A Caution Based on What I’ve Learned

Image result for quotes injustice

You begin to heal when you say, “No more.”  It took me a long time to recognize that – to feel the efficacy within “No More.”  It happened gradually  — when I realized the balance of power had naturally shifted because I had grown up. Eventually, I shut the door and never went back.

For me, no contact was the answer, and I maintain I had no choice, but many abuse survivors don’t walk away – for whatever reason, they hold on to dysfunction, often enduring a lifetime of abuse.

The attempt at reconciliation with Ed was a mistake on my part – people do not change.  I still believe people can change, but it takes a level of focus and commitment few possess.  It’s hard enough to make subtle changes – to lose weight, or resolve to save more money; changing the whole of who we are is damn near impossible.  And when dealing with an abuser, the need is a change in everything they are.

So I’ll amend that; I believe we can change aspects of who we are, but we cannot change our essence or our core.  A man who can beat his child – brutally and without mercy, will always be that man …

Real change begins with deep personal reflection, devoid of any and all denial, and progresses to the assumption of full responsibility for what you did and for what it caused. Finally, it entails making amends – not just with yourself, but with everyone you have hurt.  This last part can take the remainder of an abuser’s lifetime …

and those imbued with the capacity to abuse aren’t the kind who invest themselves in taking care of the wounds of others – they remain readily able to inflict pain, but not to soothe it.

Reconciliation with your abuser is a risky proposition, and it almost always fails.  In the trial, we are reminded of the pain – it can be a living hell.

I went to dinner with my father, sat beside him at a ballgame or theatrical production; spoke of trivial things, and not so trivial things, but it never felt right – or OK.  I was always his child in those moments – something I did not want to be, something I never wanted to be, something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy; he was, and ever will be, the father who beat and tortured me, the man I so feared and despised.

I learned a great deal in our correspondence, the written word so revealing of who we are inside.  He was candid, very matter-of-fact in his narcissism and grandiose belief in who he is today – so delusional in his own certainty in who he is:

Excerpt – 10/25/2014

“I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, has much meaning to my life with Janet. (Janet, my sister with developmental delays) I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and Rachael (my daughter) can follow along.. I’m thinking Janet and myself as the characters the ex prisoner and the woman’s small child. If I hadn’t stepped up to take care of Janet she would have remained in the State Hospital system and would have died simply a lost sole and her beauty and love cloistered from the world.”

Very determined to make me believe he was different, he played upon my compassion and empathy – he tried desperately to manipulate my feelings:

October 12, 2014

“Tim,

I came back early from my retreat at the Camaldise Monastery at Big Sur, I usually go off for a retreat at least once a year and alternate between Big Sur and the Monastery of the Redwoods, west of Garberville.

I usually go to get away for a few days where I can just be alone – fitting for the Introvert I am. The first day is mostly meditating and falling asleep as I meditate and simply catching up on needed rest. So why is this important?

During one of these sleeping meditations I woke up and realized I was crying. At 1st, I thought I was happy because of the wonderful “family” e-mail I had received before I left for the monastery. It took only a few seconds to realize that was not it at all, I was extremely sad. It was because into the middle of the ideal family e-mail spanning 20-30 years, there was a period of horrific pain, anger and mental distress for which I was responsible, and the pain hurt

.

I got up, closed the door to my room and sat with that pain, crying some more, then sat there and thought how I was going to say this to you. I came home a day early, thinking the long drive would help me decide how to tell you and arrived late last night. I was too emotionally drained and tired to put this down in words last night so I went to bed and am writing it now. This is how it came out.”

 

When considering reconciliation with an abusive parent, there is a ten-point check list to determine your own readiness, but perhaps the single most important consideration is this:

  • 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 will say that it is crucial that you have grown and healed, but it is far more important that your parent has grown – and this growth MUST include the ability to accept without comprise all of what they did, all of what it caused – and they must be willing to make it right, whatever that entails FOR YOU! And all of this must be sustained throughout the course of any relationship that follows.  

Be careful if it seems too easy – never have the words “if it seems too good to be true it probably is,” been more true.

Be alert and ready to recognize false remorse, manipulation and gaslighting.

And don’t feel like you have to forgive until you are ready – and if that time never comes, understand that that is OK.

Just as it took time and contemplation to understand exactly how damaging my abusive childhood was, it will take time to fully process the impact of my failed attempt at reconciliation with my father:

It’s painful to realize your parent is a monster …

but it’s even more devastating to recognize that in the years of estrangement, all they have done is sharpen their claws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

quotescover-JPG-17

 

This quote is powerful, and profound.  That ‘placating voice’ Jung spoke of is a hallmark of my father’s style as a Manipulator.

When Rhonda and I were dating, we saw Ed occasionally; these were typically social outings – dinner, a movie, the odd museum or local event kind of thing.

Ed always kissed Rhonda on the mouth at greeting and parting, which made Rhonda uncomfortable is an extreme way.  She let me know she didn’t like it, and I spoke to Ed – asking him to kindly refrain as she found it off-putting and completely inappropriate.

True to himself, Ed did exactly what he wanted to do, which was continue his habit of kissing Rhonda on the mouth.  Rhonda found this distasteful and lacking in respect for her wishes, and me implicitly; he had an obligation to honor my request that this behavior cease and yet it continued.

When I called my father to my apartment to tell him I no longer wanted him in my life, I explained a few things:

  1.  Rhonda’s parents and grandparents didn’t want her anywhere near him; our home town is small and everyone knew he had raped my sister’s friend.
  2. His continued kissing her on the mouth, combined with his sexually-criminal past, was not something she felt any measure of comfort in.
  3. He’d been asked to stop this behavior, and yet it continued; Rhonda was done with Ed.
  4. If Rhonda was done with Ed, so was I.  I will admit now that I should have further explained my position – my need to extricate him from my life wasn’t based solely on Rhonda’s discomfort in his presence, but also, and primarily, on years of his abuse of me.

And that’s when I heard it – that soft, placating voice, trying to convince me that I had misunderstood his intentions – and his disrespectful, shameful behavior …

this had become his tactic, with me, once I was too old to simply beat into submission – but this was probably the first time I recognized it for the disgusting, manipulating thing it was in the moment in which it was occurring …

he then had the audacity to, in that same placating voice, implore me to allow him to speak to Rhonda – he felt certain if she heard his side of the story she’d be comfortable with him and understand.

No, she would not have been comfortable, nor would she have understood; she knew the truth, which was why she felt the way she did …

Next post, Lewd and Lascivious,  told in Ed’s own words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key

alt

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.

That moment …

…when people learn that you have been estranged from your family for years:

It took me half an hour to convince a treating physician that I couldn’t provide a medical history because I didn’t know it.  She kept saying, “Ask your mother or father.”   When I  repeatedly informed her that I couldn’t do that, she assumed they were dead and moved on to siblings. When I explained that I hadn’t seen my sister, or my parents – who were all very much alive, in better than twenty five years, she looked incredulous – and it took her several minutes to absorb my situation.   She kept shaking her head and murmuring.

When my daughter was born, a colleague who didn’t know it had been better than fifteen years since I’d last seen my mother – whom he also knew casually – congratulated her on her new granddaughter.   He came to me the next day wanting to know if my mother was OK … when I informed him I had no way of knowing that because I hadn’t seen her in several years, his face went white and he said that would explain why my mother had run from him in tears at his offer of congratulations.  Oooops!

People’s reactions vary, but most are quiet and well meaning.  Oh, I’ve gotten my share of ‘Forgive and Forget.’  I’ve heard, ‘Let Bygones be Bygones.”  I’ve wrestled with, “I’m sure what ever happened it can be fixed.”  And I’ve been cautioned to, “Mend fences because they won’t be around forever.”

When I nod in acknowledgement of that last one, now that Pat and Ed are in their seventies, it inevitably leads to, “When they die, will you attend their funeral?” Which is morbid and slightly macabre, but not so difficult to understand …

I think my parents are both still healthy, so hopefully this isn’t something anyone will have to worry about for a long time — but no, I will not be attending their funerals.  I’m not even sure I would find out of their death in time to attend the funeral – I’m pretty cut-off from everyone.

My reasons for not attending are somewhat standard for someone in my position:

1.  A lot of years have come and gone with no contact

2.  I wouldn’t want to upset anyone [who is legitimately grieving] with my presence; in this regard I have no right to attend

3.  They are strangers to me

4.  I can’t imagine I’ll feel much – I did my grieving a long time ago

5.  I don’t need funerals to say good-bye, to anyone

 

Is this harsh?  Maybe.

But reality usually is.