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.













The Last Word


I have been stable for a long time now – years really.  Oh, I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and cycles in which stress and fatigue caused my Bipolar symptoms to recur, but I’ve caught it early and those symptoms were, for the most part, very mild.  No psychosis, no deep depression, no impulsive behavior.  If you just met me, and didn’t know I have Bipolar Disorder, nothing about your interaction with me would tip you off.

I am not a spontaneous person by nature, and I over think everything; logical almost to a fault, my emotions seldom get the better of me.  I almost never react in the moment.

But when Ed-the-Narcissist sent me the following note – prompting the ensuing exchange – on April 3rd, during the height of my sister’s most recent crisis, something inside me snapped:

Hi Tim,


I said I would go and see Elizabeth after Easter, but for got [sic] I had a jury summons for this week and have been selected to be on a jury expected to last up to 6 weeks.


I will get over to see her when I can, and wanted you to know my current limitations.

My reply:



There was absolutely no expectation on my part that you would reach out to Elizabeth in any that matters; you are a coward, you have always been a coward.  You have not changed.  


Jury duty?  In what universe are you a representative of another’s peers? Who the hell are you to sit in judgement of anyone else’s behaviour or choices?  Are juries now comprised of criminals?  


My God, Ed … for once, just once, really look at yourself.  


His defense:




I have no answer for this, The court system has privy to criminal records, so between them and the DMV  jurors are reveiwed [sic] and selected.

And I am still in the jury selection process.


The last word:


Once again, you miss the point entirely.  I was not speaking of legality, I was speaking of morality – very different things. You are able to exist as you do in society today ONLY because of when you were convicted, and expungement.  Nothing will ever alter the fact that you are a rapist and child abuser, Ed.  Nothing.


Your daughter is ill, she will likely die, because of what you did to her.  The fact that you feel no obligation to face that within yourself speaks volumes about your character … today.  Your refusal to reach out to her in any way that matters makes you a coward – and far worse.  


No decent human being would condone your behaviour, then … or now. 


I haven’t heard from him since …


His immoral and egocentric choices didn’t trigger me – I didn’t get sick; I didn’t become depressed or manic – just irrevocably resigned to his complete lack of integrity, honor and character.  He no longer has the power to cause me even  a moment’s instability, and that’s a damn good thing for me to know.

I didn’t say anything to him that isn’t true, but I’d like to have been able to say it devoid of anger and frustration; you can’t win a battle, much less a war, with a narcissist – and I understand that now.   Anger and frustration have passed; lesson learned.

He will die without ever understanding …

and that no longer bothers me.










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.


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.












Making Sense of Ed






In the last two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about what I believe – and what I disbelieve, to be true of Ed.  As always, conclusions aren’t easy to arrive at, but I’m getting closer.

He is a man who does not understand the past is always, in many ways, relevant – made so by what he attempts to project today.  He cannot be both the man who despaired at leaving his young daughter in institutional care while he was beating, neglecting and sexually abusing the two children remaining in his home. I am living proof of the latter illustration of Ed.

I questioned him about this several times, and he never gave me an answer – always skirted the issue.  I think, perhaps, he knew and understood he couldn’t manipulate me into believing his self aggrandizing nonsense.  Two plus two does not equal seven.

Excerpt from email Ed sent me on October 10, 2014

“I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, [sic] has much meaning to my life with Janet. I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and Rachael can follow along.. I’m thinking Janet and [sic] 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.


Janet, Pesh, (short for Precious) has always been and always will be the greatest love in my life. Marie knows this and doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when i [sic] say this. I am truly sorry you didn’t get to know her. I felt lost without her when we took her to the hospital in Glen Ellen, I went there twice during her 15 day isolation period after her induction into the facility, even though I was told when we left her and again each time I came I could not see her, until after the 15 day period. Then for the next 4-6 years I was always anxious to go and see her, but could barely stay awake for the drive back home. It wasn’t until part of my first counseling sessions I found out my sleepiness was because I felt I was deserting her each time I left. I never got over that I just knew what was causing it.


Janet always recognized my voice and lite [sic] up like a beacon whenever she heard my voice. She did that for her entire life, we had a bond of love that for me has never been unequaled in its depth of pure love. It was from her I learned the meaning of acceptance – not only of her but myself by myself first- the meaning of unconditional love, something like the unconditional love you have for your children, the joy of life without any encumbrances, where one is dependent on others for almost everything She was dependent on me for her physical well being, I was dependent of her for my mental well being .”


His self-delusion is so evident in his words – his obsession with my sister so clear and disturbing …


If Janet had been well and whole, he’d have beaten her too; neglected her too.  She would have been subjected to his cruelty and violence, his rage and his disregard for anything she needed, felt or thought.  And in the end, she – like Elizabeth and I, would have deserted him, too.


There is no personal honor in refusing to see yourself as you are.  Ed clings to his delusion that he was a good father to Janet, but good fathers give, they do not take.  Janet was not put on this earth to save Ed, nor did she live so she could be used as his prop – nothing more than a tool for his manipulations.  Ed wouldn’t recognize parental love if it slapped him in the face.


When I read lines such as:


“Janet, Pesh, (short for Precious) has always been and always will be the greatest love in my life. Marie knows this and doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when i [sic] say this.”




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


I feel disoriented … the first comment, about his current wife’s feelings in regard to his feelings for Janet, troubling to me in a nebulous way made clear by the second comment:  these are his daughters we are talking about.


Today, I am definitive on the following:


Pat wanted me to hate Ed, but it doesn’t mean what she said about him isn’t true: given all I know about Ed, I believe he almost assuredly molested my sisters.


And beatings, given in the way Ed gave them, are a form of sexual abuse.  Forcing me to pull down my pants so he could beat me, refusing to show mercy or yield to my fear and pleas that he not beat me, interjecting blatant cruelty when I’d ask how many times he was going to hit me by replying, “I’ll tell you when I’m done.”  Beating me, even as a young child, savagely with belts and sticks and wire coat hangers because, as he’d tell me when I begged him not to use those implements, “I don’t want to hurt my hand.”  All of this IS sexual abuse — at the hand of a sadist;  I cannot forget he admitted being sexually gratified by the beatings he gave me, something he linked to his sexless marriage to my mother.


And he wants me – and everyone who knows him, to believe he was a good father to Janet.


I thought, long ago, his devotion to Janet was the best of Ed, but now I understand all too clearly he used her to make people see him as he wants to be seen.


But the past cannot be erased …


and a good father – a good and decent man, does not beat, neglect and sexually abuse his children.


And sadly, Ed did all of that.














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.


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.










No Forgiveness, Ever


I think child abuse survivors accept what happened to them as a way of avoiding the pain involved in facing the truth about their parents, and that is understandable.

Others run away from the past; I ran from my childhood for a long, long time – buried the feelings and pain so deep I thought they’d never see the light of day; that part of my life was over, finished, done.  Or so I thought.

But I didn’t accept, didn’t choose to see abuse through the eyes of the abuser, or make their abuse somehow OK in my mind because their lives were less than ideal.  I didn’t lie to myself to avoid facing the reality that my parents were disgusting human beings.

That lack of acceptance and denial puts me far ahead of those who choose that path …

for that is the path that allows the cycle to continue.

Forgiveness is giving up the idea that the past could have been different than it was.

I didn’t forgive either …

I didn’t forgive because the past could have been different; abusing your child is a choice; an act of sheer will.  Ed and Pat made the choice to hurt their children, and they made it time and time again.  It was not a one-off, a mistake – it was a conscious choice that will forever define who they are.

Anyone capable of making the decision to hurt a child is devoid of character, nobility, integrity, compassion, empathy, honor, mercy, dignity, and love – in short, all the traits that separate human beings from animals …

How do you even begin to forgive someone for the whole of who they are?

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.

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,




My father did not know that my mother punished her children by abandoning us – sending us to our room and then leaving the house when we’d done something she did not approve of.  This happened while he was at work …

So, when the decision was made to put my oldest sister, Janet, in an institution, and my father thought my youngest sister, Elizabeth, and I should accompany them on the day she was left there, he had no way of knowing that decision would be the worst of his life – that he was, in fact, causing his children irreparable harm and scarring them for life.

So intense was my fear of abandonment by that point – and I could not have been more than five years old, all I could think of was that whatever Janet had done, Ed should just beat her so we could take her back home with us.  I will never, ever forget that day …

My mother used a fear of abandonment, a fear she created and cultivated, to control her children – and by the day we left Janet, Elizabeth and I were already deeply damaged and scarred …

Yes, even without knowing what my mother had done to us, Ed should have known better than to take his young children to a place where he was going to leave their sister for good and all.  It was an ill-considered, stupid decision with dire consequences, but he did not intend to hurt us – I know that now, still … noting has ever scared me more in my life.

Many years later, when I left Pat’s house forever, Elizabeth was in Europe studying – a year abroad.  She came home to a very different home and family than the one she had left.  It would be twenty-seven years until she saw me again – other than a couple of very brief encounters.

At the time I left Pat’s house, I was too busy with my new life to consider what my departure from my sister’s may have caused; her abandonment issues could not have been any less profound than mine were, in fact I think they were far worse.  I know now she was devastated.

She’d lost most of her family by that point – whatever had happened between she and Ed had occurred years earlier, and now I was gone.  I didn’t understand it while we were growing up, but I know now she’d always looked to me for comfort and protection … in a sense, I abandoned her too.

Elizabeth was left with Pat.  God alone knows what lies Pat told her to explain my absence.

I never understood why Elizabeth chose to keep our mother in her life; their relationship has been strained at best, and estranged during the worst times, all of Elizabeth’s life …

I think it goes back to her fear of being abandoned, and a self-destructive need to cling the tightest to the person who loves her least and hurts her most.  And Stockholm Syndrome is very typical of survivors of profound child abuse, as my sister is.

Elizabeth, who’d lost everyone else, and couldn’t fathom life on her own, had no choice, conscious or otherwise, but to keep Pat.

It’s all so sad.

When I had a conversation with my Aunt Bev about Pat’s reprehensible behavior and all it has caused this past weekend, I asked her, “How does Pat sleep at night?”

Her witty reply, “Don’t know.  Not my circus, not my monkey,” made me laugh out loud.

And sometimes, laughter is not only the best medicine …

it’s all you can do..