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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of What We Claim

Quote on mental health - I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.

Last week was rough; it was emotionally draining and, in the end, it felt unproductive.  I was merely the support system, my aunt took the brunt of the storm – she was deeply exhausted when it was over.

It has me thinking about what I did to my family when I was sick, how tired they were – how hopeless and helpless they must have felt at times.  Untreated mental illness wrecks havoc with the lives of everyone it touches.

It is different – being on the outside, being well and trying to make sense of someone else’s illness; I now know the despair and helplessness of watching a train wreck; it’s going to happen, but all I can do is watch.  I can’t stop it.  I’m powerless.

I don’t like being a victim – so I won’t own that terrible, vulnerable dark place in the soul that knows only cries that are never heard …

my sister, on the other hand, seems to have found a home there.  She blames everyone, but is never introspective.  She is always the victim.  She is always the wounded.  She is always the down-trodden.  She alone hurts.  She alone has been ill-treated.  She is unloved.  She is unwanted …

It is all ridiculous, of course, but she has told herself all of this so many times she actually believes it is true.  She is perpetuating her own illness, actually making herself sicker.

She has been a victim – she was our parent’s victim; today, she is a victim only of herself. And her self-abuse is, in many ways, worse than anything our parents did to her.  They made her comfortable being a victim, that is fact, but she chooses to own victim-hood now.

She owns victim-hood, but not her story.  She is too busy wallowing to understand the strength it took just to survive Pat and Ed’s House of Horrors.  Too busy claiming virtue in her pain to realize she beat the odds, once.  Too mired in her self-created loss to feel good about who she has been, and who she could still be.

Owning her story has the power to heal, and set her free.

And it is the only thing that does.

Forgiveness and Restitution

“Forgiveness is created by the restitution of the abuser; of the wrongdoer. It is not something to be squeeeeeezed out of the victim in a further act of conscience-corrupting abuse.”  

 

Upon learning of my sister’s latest crisis, Ed sent me the following note:

 

… “Yes Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.

 

 

I don’t know how to reach out to Elizabeth or even if I should. Hopefully Pat is able to do something for her.”

 

 

Thankfully where I am today is not cause for alarm …

 

 

despite his admission: “Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.”  There is no personal accountability, no need to do what’s right in the face of the destruction he has left in his wake  …

 

 

How does anyone admit life-altering abuse and then leave it all up to someone else to take care of?

 

 

Pat has disowned Elizabeth in every way that matters, there will be no assistance from Pat.

 

 

Ed,

 

 

As far as not knowing how to reach Elizabeth, there is Google.  She is not difficult to find.

 

 

Or, here’s a thought …

 

 

you could summon the courage to ask me.

 

 

Or you could do something anonymously …

 

 

Or you could simply thank Bev for attempting to clean up your mess.

 

 

If it mattered, or if you understood, you would find a way – even  small, indirect acts of restitution have meaning.

 

 

Hoping that Pat does something for her is laughable …

 

 

Pat, the mother who beat her?

 

 

Pat, the mother who abandoned her physically and emotionally for her entire life?

 

 

Pat, the mother who portrays herself as the victim of her adult children’s cold and callous neglect …

 

 

Pat, the mother who still denies she did anything at all wrong?

 

 

Whether or not you should reach out to Elizabeth … ?

 

 

That all depends on what’s stopping you …

 

 

Is it unconditional love for your daughter?

 

Concern that seeing the monster who caused all this would only make her sicker?

 

 

Or is it your own inability to face her?

 

 

Your own fear, weakness and cowardice?

 

 

Once again, you’ve made everything all about Ed …

 

 

when it should be all about what is best for your child.

 

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.

Narcissistic Parents

The target of the narcissistic mother is treated with disdain within the family. No one believes her/him:

 

Although I didn’t tell anyone all of what went on in my parent’s house as a child, it was occasionally noticed; bruises from Ed’s beatings were not always easy to hide.  When I was asked, by a teacher or my grandmother, where the bruises came from, I was truthful, but I also took the blame by stating I had deserved it … after all, he told me I did.

My mother was very good at both psychological and literal abandonment of her children.

When the truth came out, I was middle-aged … but I was lucky; almost everyone believed me.  The only family member who did not was one of my father’s sisters, an aunt whose denial of the multi-generational abuse rampant in the Shockley family is foundational to her very being.

I think my sister has suffered more from the disbelief of others than have I.  A lot of this may have to do with her illness(es); she is prone to intensity of emotion and reaction, therefore she overstates reality; she embellishes …

in the case of Pat and Ed, the truth itself is more than enough.

People don’t seem to have a problem believing Elizabeth where Ed is concerned – she kicked him to the curb, rightfully, when she was very young, but having kept Pat in her life for as long as she did made it difficult for some to believe and understand the truth about Pat when she finally dared to share it …

Pat beat her.

Pat manipulated her.

Pat abandoned her.

Pat verbally and emotionally tortured her.

Pat is not now who she pretends to be …

and never has been.

 

Pat, a Narcissist?

Her pathology is classic – and so is Ed’s for that matter.

I used to wonder how their marriage lasted as long as it did, now I wonder why they broke up …

they are perfect for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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