Thursday, November 24, 2016

The dark hours

Four years ago tonight, the RN from the Alzheimer's unit called about 3 in the morning and said I had to make a decision right then on whether I would enter my mother into hospice care that night (a legal, as well as medical, decision,) or have them transport her to the hospital for aggressive, invasive medical treatment. I had about five minutes to listen to her explain what was happening and tell her where we were all going next. 

I made the right decision, but to this day I feel like I signed her death warrant. I had to get up and go immediately to sign a sheaf of authorizations and have everything lawfully and properly explained by the hospice admitting nurse manager. I had no family to support me, no one ever put their arms around me to hold and comfort me, it was just me walking it out in a cold, cold blizzard that I feel again now.

Who understands what it's like to sit in the lobby by yourself at four in the morning,
waiting to declare your lawful intent to let your mother die? She had a husband, a son, a sister, grandchildren, a best friend. Why were none of them there? Why did not one of them want a call at that hour that she was going to die, no turning back? Why did none of them really want to speak to her over the phone one last time?

It was a barefisted champion's punch to my face, not the gut. It can still make me reel and wobble, but there isn't anyone who understands or cares how much it hurts now, either. Four years ago, I still had the confidence and determination of the hopeful and the unknown. Tonight it feels colder and more scary than ever.


Seduction is the great distraction in personal relationships. As an ADD-er, I not only get distracted quite a bit, I unconsciously use distraction as a tactic to avoid interpersonal trouble. If I've failed to be what someone wanted or needed me to be, to avoid a discussion about something that can't be fixed or changed, I find that I start talking about something entirely different, usually flattering, and in a different universe entirely from the subject of my failure. It's never been a conscious tactic, but I've become conscious of it in the last year as I continue to learn how to "own my own reality."

In typing that one paragraph above just now, I've described how the primary leader of Maggie's entourage used distraction, and seduction, against me - all my life. I suspect he learned the technique unconsciously as a child in the midst of his parents who themselves had settled into a war of cold love and family duty. He learned to be the good guy, the hope of family redeemed in the next generation, the center of all their genuine love, and above all be charming and entertaining. Without meaning to, he built a substantial fa├žade, and then when life and relationships in every direction failed to understand his gifts, he retrenched and built a plan to escape and obtain a life and relationships that would.

I was his ticket out. As a child, providing income was often his ticket out of living with us full time and some relief of the emotional care for Maggie. As I became an adult, I am sadly, reluctantly, but completely convinced that I became his ticket out of the relationship altogether. As long as I minded her at home, he hadn't "abandoned" her, he had left a life long caretaker with her. I'll give you a few examples that I could not explain in any way at the time, and neither could he, but his emotional and behavioural responses in these incidents were huge - on a level that left me tumbled and misdirected for decades.

In my early 20's, I won a round trip ticket to Denver, CO - but you had to go that day. My plan wasn't complex, I thought I'd just go to Denver for the day or overnight, just to fly and see and go do a little something for lark. I was excited, it had been ages since I'd won anything. He shut me down, hard, with intimidation and fear of "what might happen." So I didn't go. He loved me best, right? I think now he was having an emotional knee jerk reaction to the thought of me leaving town altogether. He realized later he had really screwed up and finagled another ticket, but I never did go. It was never the right time again. It wasn't my win and my lark anymore, it was his apology and another tedious chore.

Not long after that, he started taking me out to dinner, nice dinners at nice places, a different restaurant every time, and we would eat whatever we wanted and talk for a couple hours each time. The conversations were filled with how unhappy he was and how it was never going to get any better. At first, I thought he was just talking to me as a friend and finally admitting how difficult it was to live with Maggie, in a way he never could do when I was a kid. But over the months, he slowly worked his way to talking about moving out and getting a divorce. He wanted to make sure I understood why and was on his side and protecting his interests. Well, of course I would protect him in a dispute, hadn't I always? Hadn't I always? And I did.

Well, he moved out and I stayed there. Just me and Maggie, her getting more crazy and depressed and occasionally suicidal, but always angry and hurt. I didn't really know where he had moved to, he didn't give me his address. I'm not even sure he gave me his new phone number, but I knew I wasn't to call him, he had had enough and wasn't coming back. (Although Maggie did not know this was the case, I had known for months, but I protected him and didn't let on.) And He didn't call me for at least six months. No more dinners, no asking how I was doing, just me taking care of Mags for him so he could have some peace and start making a new life for himself. But, I was understanding, patient, and forgiving.


About a year and a half after he left, I needed to get out of there myself. The house was going to be sold, no one told me when really, but I needed to get out and on my own in some fashion. So, I found a back porch that had been closed up and turned into a micro-apartment, the rent was $195/month, and therefore, perfect. Maggie was irritated and didn't understand why I'd want to live there instead of in a big mansion with her, but he was mad angry that I moved out of living with her. I just did not understand his response at all, but he was the only one with a pickup truck. So I just put up with all the brusqueness and the muttering as I had to borrow furniture from him, and the squealing tires as he stormed away after helping with a load.

Read that again. I had to borrow a bed frame and a chair from his parents' storage building. And I had to return them. As the same again later when I moved to a different city three years later and needed to borrow enough furniture to furnish a real one bedroom apartment - and move myself without any help from anyone.  I had to rent a truck and return that furniture, too. I was sent out from my parents home without a pot to cook in, literally. Thankfully, I had had a friend at work who gave me some of her old pots. Neither one of my parents gave me furniture, they were loaned out and returned.

When I moved to that another city, he didn't speak to me for 18 months. The relationship was never officially bruised or broken, he just never called or wrote or had any time to talk when I called. It stayed that way until he divorced wife #2, and then he was all charm again as he hooked up with wife #3, but the relationship with her added the new bonus of full on lying. "Oh, no, I didn't buy that new house to live with her, it's just an investment." "She doesn't feel well tonight, I'll introduce you some other time." And the nothing but air at the buzzer winner, "We're not getting married, we're just dating," as I finally met her sitting at a restaurant,  an enormous diamond engagement ring sitting on her finger. A week later, he called on a Thursday when he knew I was at work and left a message on my machine saying they were getting married on Saturday, no need to come down, just a few friends, you know...
I didn't see the wedding pictures for a few more years, but all her children looked very happy about the new union.

Do I sound like a jilted girlfriend? I hear it. Heck, I've felt it many, many times. I thought I was a daughter and we were family no matter what, but seduction is such a sneaky and deceiving tool, it messes with your head and twists relationships out of all recognition. When a fundamental relationship is twisted, like a young girl and her father, neither one is seeing themselves clearly. There doesn't have to be any sexual misconduct, seduction is all about charm to a self interested goal. It can be salesmanship or drama/rescue, as long as one party deceives the other emotionally, long enough and deeply enough, to satisfy a need at the expense of the other. 

Well, the good news is I don't think either one of my parents have ever been mean or abusive in their behavior towards any of their children consciously or deliberately or with malice aforethought. I love my Dad and he does love me, he just is the way he is, and I am understanding and admitting more about that, and accepting him just the way he is. Change and clarity for me in my life is coming in understanding that weird betrayed feeling that keeps exploding like land mines along the path is, in fact, that I have actually been weirdly used and betrayed. That is actually the nature of our relationship on a frequent basis. My chore is to understand there is no moment or point in time where he begins to act differently.

Depending on whatever he needs to get along with his wife, he will act - and that's the way it's been since his first wife, or more specifically, since his mother. (He's married his mother three times now. Sorry, but it's true. They all wanted to think they were different, but underneath the patina, all four women operated from the same program.)

All these years, I thought he was in a direct relationship with me as a daughter, but he isn't - I'm an ancillary relationship relative to his primary relationship with his wife. To his sight, my image and identity is always either fused or occluded with who I am/was with his first wife or his mother. Back in my early 20's and in between wives, he would sometimes invite me to a party or event that had people I also knew. He never heard himself say it, but more than few times he introduced me as "my wife Maggie." I corrected the mistake immediately and let it pass, (the trauma of the divorce, n'all,) but he has forever framed me as some sort of afterimage of Maggie on his retina.

Have you ever seen a comedy skit on television where one person is trying to tell the other they have a crumb or a milk mustache on their face, but they don't say anything directly? Perhaps they are at work or a party and they start making subtle motions with their hands so the other person will brush away the crumb. When people see you with the image of someone else laid over your own personality, they will very subtly relate to you as if you are the other person. It doesn't really matter what you really have done or how you really are, they will keep relating that way - and you will respond to their behavior as if that is who you really are, especially if you are taking their cues and signals the same way you would if someone was motioning that you had doughnut sugar on your face. They see your face and you can't, so there must be doughnut sugar there. They see your personality and you can't, so the response they are having to you must be because you are doing or being something that causes that response.


If you are on the codependent recovery trail, you've heard this as a method of inducing shame, and it can do that, BUT, (and a very big "but" it is,) it is also just a messed up jumble of confused communication that can leave you spinning and confounded about who you are and what your personality is as you relate to people who don't know that third party at all. If Dad the Good Guy acts like you have a big wart on the end of your nose, you will unconsciously go thru life as if you did. Dad the Good Guy is looking at one image, you are ducking and dodging trying to fill that image out, and everyone else is seriously confused as to why you keep bobbing and weaving at the most inopportune moments.

Don't let the fairy tales fool you, it takes more than a moment of revelation to change course. Unless you figure out who bewitched you into believing you have a big wart on your nose and how they bewitched you into believing it, then follow that up with big historical surveys and digs thru your life to see what that false wart image has done to you, then you won't get out from under that spell and change yourself into who you really are. Reality is accepting that Dad isn't The Good Guy, he's just the guy I drew in the parent lottery. I still love him, I always will, I just don't want to love him the same way anymore. I've always loved him on credit, waiting and hoping that one day... something will be different, that we will be family again. That won't ever happen, I was mistaken. It was just a mistake, a genuine misunderstanding, but by writing this here I'm committing to not forgetting and making the mistake again.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 20, 2016



This is the post that isn't going to be written. I wanted to write something about what everyone else in the family was getting out of the relationship with Maggie, or how they figured things out but never told me, and what they did instead. None of them reached back and said, "This is what she is doing to you, but you don't have to live like that. Don't let her destroy you!"

I could write ten thousand things, and have written a few more than this, but I've opted to delete all sorts of family history in favor of this one element: passive neglect.

It sounds so small and unintentional, doesn't it? It isn't. It isn't even passive. It's deliberate, it swirls unspoken and desperate in the mind of an adult who could do something, but it requires loud arguments, stepping into the middle of active abuse and making it stop, opening up the account books and going thru line by line and demanding to know where it all went, it means asking outside people for help, and it means loving your kids more than you love yourself and doing something about it all every single day.

No one wants to do all that. Better to just "not know." I used to wonder how Maggie could let her unoccupied farm insurance lapse, twice, so that when the county arsonist burned down the house, then came back and burned down the barn, she had no reimbursement for the lost value of the buildings. Now, I could wonder how someone could just "not know" and let all the family relationships go to hell, one child keep running away from home until he finally never came back, another child kill herself, and then cut a bargain with yourself so that the third becomes emotionally responsible for your wife so you can make your escape to a happier life, while that one remains chained until death.

But, I don't wonder anymore. It just does no good. Reminders of it get thrown up at me rather often, but I'm all grown up now and I try just to process and go on. Nothing can be changed, so I'll send flowers and a nice note instead. Everywhere is very polite and not notice and not know. It always has been.

flowers by Martha Stewart