Portrait of the Statue as a Young Girl

[CN: emotional abuse]


girlespresso

A daughter is a bicycle. A daughter is a coffeepot.

A daughter is an implement, valuable only for her usefulness to someone else.

To anyone other than herself.

♦ ♦ ♦

The bravest thing I ever did as a child was to stand completely still. It taught me a lesson I have yet to fully unlearn.

The experience functioned as a touchstone for how to win in a conflict — or at least, how not to lose. Which is to say, how to lose less. How to not lose everything. I recognize the same stillness in myself even today, the superstitious paralysis that overtakes me as if “silent and motionless” means “safe.” As if it ever meant that.

Stillness was my touchstone for protection.

Touch stone. Become stone. 

Only the stones survive.

♦ ♦ ♦

Age 6

I had watched my brother learning to ride a bike the summer before, and I wanted no part of it. Over and over, I had watched as my father made him push the two-wheeler to the top of the driveway, up the sloping hill that felt mountainous to our short legs. Over and over, my brother climbed onto the bike’s brightly-colored banana seat and balanced himself the best he could. He and my father would take off down the hill, his feet pumping furiously just to keep up with the spinning pedals and my father running behind, holding the bike upright and then — without warning — letting go.

Over and over my brother fell.

Over and over my father screamed.

Some of his yelling I could hear from where I stood on the porch, a quarter-acre away: “You’ve got to look straight ahead! Don’t look down! Look far out ahead! You fall down because you look down!” Some of the yelling was more intimate, my father bent over where my brother still lay on the ground, his legs tangled around the bike, his knees scraped. I don’t know what angry words got spoken in those moments, only that my brother emerged from each interaction looking smaller than before. His face had the shuttered expression that I knew meant he was trying very hard not to cry.

Over and over. Over and over.

This summer was my turn. The same bike, the same hill. The same instructions: “Make sure you look straight out and far ahead. You look down, you fall.” I looked straight and far. I fell anyway. 

But that summer I changed the rules. The first time I fell and my father began to scream, I refused to get back on the bike. My refusal lasted several days, I think, maybe even as long as a week, before I succumbed to his continued pressure and agreed to try again. Again I fell, he screamed — and I stopped. Over and over. And over again.

I don’t know how long I held out for altogether. Each time I resisted as long as I felt I could. In my mind, this was combat, and saying “no” was a dangerous weapon to wield. After two weeks of this, three at the most (or did it last the eternity it seemed?), my father quietly came to me with an offer.

“If I promise not to yell, will you promise to learn how to ride a bike?”

He got down on one knee to ask the question, putting us on the same eye-level. He looked directly into my eyes with the most intense gaze I have ever had from him, before or since. I felt extremely powerful. I felt extremely frightened. I stood very, very still as I looked back at him.

I stood still, and I thought hard. I knew I wanted nothing to do with the bike. I also knew total refusal was not a viable option. (Only much later did I learn the reason behind his urgency: my father’s happiest memories of his own lonely childhood involved riding his bike. He needed his kids to love biking, too.)

At last I nodded. Once, very slowly.

“Okay.”

Over the next few weeks, my father managed to keep his temper — and I managed to ride a two-wheeler. With the exception of three years in upper grade school when I didn’t live on a school bus route, I have never voluntarily ridden a bicycle again.

♦ ♦ ♦

My mother referenced this negotiation off and on over the years as a main reason she never intervened on my behalf during one of my father’s tantrums.

“I knew, right then, you were going to be okay,” she has said. “You were always the only one who could make your dad stop. Me, everything I did just made him worse.”

I grew up believing it was both my power and my responsibility to control my father’s temper. I rehearsed strategies for success: be still, be silent, pick your moment. I ignored the critical message of the bike as completely as my mother had. That touchstone lesson was simply this:

Your only real option is total submission. Just with more or less screaming.  

Good stones don’t feel fear.

The best stones feel nothing at all.

♦ ♦ ♦

Age 14

Six months after my brother got his driver’s license, he was expected to drive the family sedan on a statewide tour of colleges. Mom and I sat in the back, surrounded by bags and travel supplies, while my father rode shotgun to oversee my brother’s driving. Tension came off both of them in waves.

I remember one left-hand turn vividly. We were in the center turn-lane of a five-lane road at a point with no traffic light, exiting in front of oncoming traffic. “Go. Yes go, go NOW,” my father ordered. Then, “Wait, no, STOP. Yes, wait. NO! GO! GO NOW,” as my brother hesitated, started, stopped again, and finally gunned the engine.

I slumped down in the back seat, my eyes shut. I clutched a pillow to my chest and pretended to be sleeping as I listened to my father bellow — “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” — in a tone that implied my brother’s novice driving was about to get us all killed.

Touch stone: Given the right circumstances, you may be put in a position to accidentally kill your entire family. Don’t let that happen.  

When my turn behind the wheel came two summers later, my parents never forced me to drive — nor did I ask either of them to let me, until quite predictably I failed Driver’s Ed due to insufficient practice. I held my breath at dinner that night, waiting to see what the consequences would be.

“So I guess I should take her out to do some driving,” my mother offered. My father grunted assent, and that was the end of it.

The following morning, as she and I were heading out, dad called out one final word of advice: “Always remember to look far ahead of you when you’re driving! It’s just like riding a bike.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Age 16

Among my chores was cleaning my parents’ new coffeepot. An Italian-design stovetop espresso maker, the whole thing consisted of a bottom chamber that you filled with water, a central filter to hold the grounds, and a top pot for pouring. Both top and bottom were aluminum and heavily beveled, with many hard-to-scrub angles.

I was in the kitchen one afternoon, for what reason I don’t remember, when my father came in to make himself a second cup. My back was to the drying rack when I heard him cursing.

“Can’t rely on anyone!” he snarled. “Anything I want done right, I guess I gotta do it myself!” With a fierce tug, he turned the faucet on high and started furiously scrubbing some part of the coffeepot, muttering loudly to himself.

I braced myself and asked in a voice that only shook slightly: “What did I do? If you can show me, I’ll try not to do it again.”

Whether or not he heard me, he never paused. Scrubbing away any trace that could have showed me my mistake, he railed against how unfairly he was always being treated — how undependable all other people were, how he alone in the world cared that things be done right.

I did not speak again, nor did I leave the room. I stood frozen in place, afraid of making any movement that might draw his attention or bring his fury down on my head.

Touch stone: The most dangerous errors are the ones you aren’t even sure you made.  

♦ ♦ ♦

More than 25 years later, I still clean my own similar coffeepots with excruciating care: scrubbing far longer than required, nervously examining for nonexistent residue, often doing a second wash even after I’ve determined they’re spotless.

During a recent visit, my mother offered to wash the breakfast dishes. As I took the coffeepot out of the drying rack to place back in the cupboard, I saw she had left a few dark oily streaks on the inside. My immediate thought: Is this what my father saw that morning? I dropped the pot like hot coals and abruptly left the room.

“Are you really going to wash that thing a second time?” I spoke aloud to no one. “Are you really going to do that?”

I began laughing — an irrepressible, unfunny hahahahahahahaha — as I returned to the kitchen to rewash hahahahahahahaha the coffeepot. I turned on the faucet hahahahahahahaha as hot as I could. I added soap hahahahahahahaha to the sponge. My mother came into the room hahahahahahahaha to ask what was going on, and when hahahahahahahaha I explained, she chuckled warmly, as if one of us had told a joke, and began to critique the timeframe hahahahahahahaha I had given for my original memory. Something about when they started making coffee at home, versus when they bought espresso at a café.

As she talked, I scrubbed at the streaked pot as if my sponge could grind away metal shards. Braying laughter continued to ripple through me like sobs.

Hahahahahahahaha.

♦ ♦ ♦

Mom may be right. I’m not entirely sure which year this took place. It doesn’t matter, though; something similar happened most years. Like an episode shot on green screen, the backdrop can change while the central figures remain the same. The kitchens shift across time and place: from Connecticut, to Texas, to Tennessee, to Colorado. My father is always screaming at an object; I am always standing a few feet away, motionless and silent. My mouth is a graveyard filled with words I do not say. I stare straight ahead, and I do not look down.

Make me younger in this scene, and the coffeepot might become a carton of milk left too long on the counter.

Make me a few years older, and I am myself the coffeepot he screams over.

♦ ♦ ♦

Age 18

I never knew until recently what set him off that August night, what smudge in the pot that was my body brought him pounding down the stairs, first slamming every bedroom door he passed. He paused at the entranceway long enough to open and slam the front door several times as well. Even at the back of the house, where I sat curled on a couch with my boyfriend, the approaching bangs crackled with his anger.

Panicked, I tried to stand and collapsed forward instead. On my hands and knees, I choked and heaved for air, my breathing suddenly razor-shallow gasps. My boyfriend, himself more puzzled than alarmed, helped haul me to my feet. I was standing statue-straight by the time my father entered the room.

The yelling didn’t start until after my young man had been hustled out of the house. I had difficulty understanding at first, confused by the disconnect between my reality and the version my father’s words painted. When I finally realized what he was protesting, I attempted a few futile interjections.

“WE WEREN’T HAVING SEX,” I spoke loudly against the noise, “IF THAT MATTERS TO ANYONE.”

He didn’t seem to hear me. He didn’t seem to hear my mother either, as she added her own running commentary in an oddly conversational tone: “We can always get her an abortion. It’s a disease we need to worry about.” My father raged unabated.

For the next three hours, I stood in the center of the kitchen and listened to myself be screamed about. About, not at: while my mother looked only at my father, he himself looked always somewhere just over my head as he ranted through all the ways “she” had injured him. How she had materially damaged him. She had dealt him a once-in-a-lifetime blow, with this evening’s imaginary loss of her virginity. His only consolation was that she could never hurt him this badly again.

And me? I stared straight ahead. Far out ahead. I did not ever look down — and I did not fall.

Touch stone: A bicycle does not own itself. It can only pass from one rider to the next. Girls? Same thing.  

When at last my father ran out of words, he stood a moment looking down at his hands on the counter, then turned and left the room, followed by my mother. I listened to the quiet creak of the stairs, then the floorboards overhead. I imagined the click of the their bedroom door shutting. Not until then did my shoulders begin to unclench and the muscles of my face to soften. I stood in the quiet as time stretched to five minutes, eight, almost ten. I took a final deep breath, expelled it slowly, and went up to my room.

The next morning we all behaved as though nothing had happened. Just another carton of spoiled milk, thrown into the trash and forgotten.

♦ ♦ ♦

A glimpse down a teenager’s shirt, an oily streak left on a dish, a child not in love with what her father loves. Over and over I learned the same lessons: Stay quiet. Stay small. Obey — or better yet, hide. Any assertion of self makes you a vessel through which the universe can reach out, and down your father’s throat, and rip out his heart.  

If you get cornered, try to make him feel special.

♦ ♦ ♦

2012

Less than a year after my divorce and still in the early stages of realizing just how much of myself I had lost under that other man’s control, I visited my parents. My father repeatedly urged me to move out west to live with them. The hopeful picture he painted of our return to some pastoral ménage resembled no family history I recognized.

“Here’s to being with my two favorite people in the whole world!” my father toasted jovially one night, raising his wine glass first to my mother, then to me.

The pit of my stomach sank.

“You mean your ‘two favorite women,'” I corrected him. “Not ‘people.’ My brother isn’t here.”

Please, I thought, please. Do not be saying what I know you are saying.

My father assured me he had said exactly what he meant. “Your brother, well. . . he’s difficult to love.”

The tendons in my throat tightened. I thought about my brother as he was now – impassive and brusque to interact with, yearning for kindness underneath — and how he was exactly the man our father had trained him to be.

“Not like you!” my dad continued. “Something in you is so easy to love.” He grinned at me happily, impervious to my horror, and drained his glass.

I felt sick, listening to how easily my brother was removed from the family — and how readily I was claimed back into its core. I could feel tentacles, grasping and sucking, already starting to wind their way around my ankles and up my legs.

Touch stone. Eat stone. 

That was the day I decided to die.

♦ ♦ ♦

In 2013, I finally fell.

And I began learning how one gets back up.

♦ ♦ ♦

I reconciled with my parents several months after my third and final suicide attempt, and last summer, I had a long conversation with my father about my childhood. I wanted to know if he remembered what he said during his rages or if, as it sometimes seemed, he blanked them out of his memory afterwards.

“There was a particular day I’m wondering if you remember,” I started.

My father’s face collapsed into sorrow and shame.

“I know, I know.” He shook his head, crestfallen. “The bicycle.”

I listened to him describe his memories for several minutes before stopping him.

“That was all my brother,” I said. “You don’t remember how I refused, each time you yelled? How you had to agree to stop yelling before I agreed to learn?” You don’t remember my only significant act of defiance?

He shook his head, a puzzled look furrowing his brow.

I took a deep breath and held it a moment before trying again. “Do you remember the night you decided you’d caught me having sex?”

He let out a tired sigh and nodded immediately.

“Do you remember what you did?”

He shrugged. “I turned around and went back upstairs. What else could I do.”

“You don’t remember that you came back down the stairs fifteen minutes later?”

My father turned pale and stared at me with wide eyes. He shook his head silently.

“You don’t remember how you screamed at me until two in the morning?”

This time he mouthed the word. No.

“Well, dad. . .then I guess I have a story to tell you.”

♦ ♦ ♦

I have told my parents many stories over the past year. Some they remember; many they don’t. A few of the stories are purely mine, and they are hearing them for the first time. I don’t imagine any have been easy to listen to.

After hearing about the night in the kitchen, my father struggled to understand how he had never prepared himself for the possibility of his daughter being sexually active before marriage — never given me a version of The Talk he gave my brother, never considered my growing-up years in the light of his own youthful dating behavior.

“Fathers raise sons,” he offered as explanation. “Fathers raise sons — and mothers raise daughters. Isn’t that the way it goes?”

My mother had similar difficulty articulating why she had sided with my father in every dispute, or decided that even at six years old, her child could and should fend for herself against a bullying parent.

“Children come and go,” she said at last. “But a woman’s husband? She chose him. That’s forever.”

♦ ♦ ♦

There is an uncanny feeling that comes with having both your parents tell you, back-to-back, that you were as irrelevant as you always felt. It jarred against the concerted lie of my family’s happiness and the repeated assertions of how completely and dependably we all loved one another. At the same time, it confirmed my own judgment and my earliest sense from childhood: that as long as I was myself, I would not matter.

I recognize their words today as liberating, even if I do not yet feel entirely free. A daughter may always be a thing; a person simply is. A daughter may only have value when she is helping a man feel good about himself; a human being has value purely in her own existence.

I do matter, even if only to myself. To myself is enough.

And you, who are reading this now? In case any of you are wondering: the answer is yes. Yes, you matter too.

We all just do.

♦ ♦ ♦

My parents visited Philadelphia a few weeks ago, their first joint trip in several years. The day after they left, I took my lunch to a local park, where I sat on a bench, ate chicken salad on a croissant, and watched children playing tag beneath a distant tree. It was a warm spring day, though mild in the breeze and shade. I felt a strange hollowness — or perhaps an openness — flowering inside my chest. I closed my eyes to breathe into that space, and to name the feeling.

It was the absence of fear.

I opened my eyes, my face lit with a strange half-smile, and looked around. I looked ahead, far ahead, to where the children pranced and rolled in their preschool exuberance. I looked down at the sandwich in my hand and took another bite, which I chewed slowly, noticing its taste and texture. I glanced off to one side, where cars could be seen passing, though too distant to be heard. I closed my eyes again.

“This moment,” I thought to myself, “this feeling — I want this to be my new touchstone. Or, even better, my touch-ground.”

Touch ground, touch earth. Touch grass growing. 

Touch the sound of children’s laughter, touch warm spring air, touch a wooden bench and a sandwich made at the deli. Touch my own hand. Touch my own face. Touch skin to my own skin. 

Touch life, I thought. It is safe, I promise.

And it is time. 

~a.i.


“Portrait of the Statue as a Young Girl” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Previous installments can be found here.

[Featured image via]

34 thoughts on “Portrait of the Statue as a Young Girl

  1. Well. I’ve written this comment and deleted it too many times now. I have to get something down.

    My parents were a unit, too, in their dysfunction. We three kids were little satellites trying to find some stray gravity. There wasn’t any.

    In our family, Mom was the terrorist. As she screamed and wailed and accused me of whatever it was that ruined her life one particular evening, I looked at my Dad, who was reading the newspaper in his chair. “Dad,” I said for the first time ever. “Help me.” “I take care of the outside,” he said, meaning anything outside of the house (he was a farmer). “Your mother takes care of the inside.”

    I was about 13. I knew then that my brother, sister and I were equal to the chest freezer or the linoleum floor. And that no help would ever come from him.

    They’re both dead now, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m relieved. As someone with a mental illness, I’ve been in therapy for years and am at peace with who they were and what they did. But it still hurts me to see my big brother and sister struggle with our legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Satellites” — a good word for it. Since I wrote this piece in June, I’ve acquired a bit more vocabulary for describing my own family dynamics: my father is a narcissist (textbook NPD), and my mother an “orbiter,” who expended most of her energy making sure he felt himself the center of everything.

      I understand the pain of watching your siblings still struggle; I go through something similar with my brother. Therapy sometimes feels like I’m in a lifeboat watching him drown, while he keeps insisting that HE is actually on dry land and I am the one drowning.

      Thank you for sharing this piece of your history with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I sometimes look at happy, well-adjusted families and assume they are lying. Why is what you describe so much more believable and real to me? And does that mean I am sad and broken that happiness is but a dream? (Rhetorical–because evaluating that question for truth is just too scary.) Thank you for the extra sharp reflection of something that I can identify, but not define, so well in myself.

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  3. I feel so privilged to have been brought up by pretty functional parents, with two older loving siblings. Of course there were some problems but yeah, overall, I have a kind, loving family. Cut to last year, my 21st in the classroom, and I had the worst class in my entire career. Lots of what you wrote here, and other comments, plus my own reflection and reading have led me to believe (20/20 hindsight of course) that these kids were traumatized, from poverty, and had been/were being abused. They took it out on me and every other teacher, to the point where we were not allowed to teach. These kids made us into their wardens, and it was just so damn pathetic, sad, enraging, and pathetic. They were so deeply distrustful, so peer-oriented, clannish, spiteful, raging. Our administration was dismissive, indifferent, blaming. The kids knew they ran the school, and were miserable having been given all the power. I and many other teachers were completely unequipped to deal with this one group’s rage, distrust, and acting out. Those were the kids, still are the kids I think about all the time. I’m sure they will haunt me for years to come. I worry, and hope they are NOT in the school-to-prison pipeline. Sigh. I hate being blinded and unable to cope.

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    1. Oh Katie, I am so sorry. For you; for these children, the thought of whom haunts you; and for the far-too-many students who come to school every day carrying traumas that few school systems are staffed or otherwise prepared to help them with. And I fear that the disciplinary structures favored in most districts exacerbate the effects of those traumas more than reduce them.

      Thank you for reading — and for sharing that memory.

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  4. The horror and emptiness in my chest as I read equates to dread. Dread that I experienced and learned from the same father as someone else. Dread that I have detailed memories of screaming at my kids. Dread that the scars I’ve left are indelible. I know that some are.I was playing golf the other day with my eldest. As we enjoyed one another’s company, I asked him how he viewed my similar fatherly behaviors and if/how he was able to get past them. “Because you always apologized and, over time, changed.” This left me with the schadenfreude of lost moments and future hopes.

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    1. Apologizing is vital. It is also not something my father does. As a few recent events have reminded me, he will bend logic to an extraordinary degree in order to avoid ever admitting fault or responsibility — even when told, “this very specific thing you just did hurt me in the following ways.” At the same time, he has just asked me (for the third time in six weeks) to convince him that I myself am not a deliberately cruel or manipulative person. It is an exhausting dance we do.

      And also, apparently, a futile one. If he does not know my basic character by this point, I need to acknowledge he likely never will. It makes me sad for both of us. I would have liked to feel known by my father, and — if I may be permitted to say — I think I’m someone he would have liked to know, too.

      Your comment gives me great hope, though: hope that both individuals and families *can* change — and sometimes do. I understand that the home I grew up in was itself less frightening than the one my oldest cousins experienced, as children of my father’s older brother. And from what I know of my youngest cousins, I have great faith that (whatever their home life may have been in the beginning) the family of my father’s youngest sibling has healed tremendously, and its members found their way to true love and respect for one another today.

      I receive each of your comments as a great gift. I hope the healing goes both ways, even just a bit — that reading my stories helps you in some way, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree about you as someone he would enjoy knowing. I remember commenting to him that I wished I’d know my dad. He said, No one knew him. We are prone to reflect those things we dislike in others. Have you ever looked at Bowen Family Systems theory? He bases it all on his belief that the family, not the individual, is the most basic unit for analysis.

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        1. I’m familiar with it, yes. (Sorry for the downer feel of my previous comment, btw — some days feel more difficult than others. When the truth is, as long as we are still here, all things are possible!)

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  5. As always, beautiful, honest writing. And major kudos to you for talking with your parents about how you experienced your childhood. And you’re right, your parents also deserve some credit for being willing to hear what you have to say. Most parents don’t intend to hurt their children, but oftentimes, they just aren’t equipped with the skills or emotional stability for good child-rearing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and reflections! Most people raise their children in very comparable ways to how they themselves were brought up, which can include — as your comment gestures to — repeating some of the worst and most destructive patterns. Traumatized children can easily grow up to be traumatizing parents in turn, unless a person gets help and then does a considerable amount of looking within and self-healing.

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      1. So true! I worked with kids in foster care for a few years (and now work at a high school), and the cycle of abuse and poverty is very evident. And unfortunately, the first thing that teens who have been abused and/or neglected want to do is start building their own families. And while I definitely understand this inclination, they usually haven’t dealt with their own trauma enough to learn the skills necessary to be a parent who doesn’t repeat the cycle. It’s exhausting – for everyone involved.

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  6. Alice, I think this is my favorite thing I’ve read so far, and that’s saying quite a lot because they’ve all been so true and hard. But this most accurately describes my own emotional experiences (and strangely similar physical ones). So much horror and disbelief and yet hilarity, in that “THIS CAN’T ACTUALLY BE HAPPENING” hahahahaha kind of way.

    I want to quote everything. I actually almost stopped after the “The bravest thing I ever did as a child was to stand completely still…” section because it couldn’t possibly get any better, any more true for me than that. I wanted to memorize it. But then there was: the bike story, scrubbing the pot while laughing hahahahaha, chastized for sex you didn’t even have, children come & go. So I’m glad I kept going.

    But this? “Your only real option is total submission. Just with more or less screaming.”

    This is one of the major life lessons I’m still trying to undo. And to see it written here is terrifying, comforting and useful. So thank you, Alice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And *I* think this is my favorite comment I’ve had on this blog so far! I too want to memorize it — or quote it all back to you. But I will restrain myself to just this sentence: “to see it written here is terrifying, comforting and useful.” Then I’m doing what I set out hoping to do. Thank you thank you for letting me know!

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  7. Um, yeah, so, apparently we grew up in the same house. Basically. And I just want to curse up one side and down another. I am working so hard to overcome that stillness and smallness. I have worked myself into such a tiny little ball of nothingness that I have quite a bit of bigness to work up toward. I still can’t quite imagine asking my father about my childhood. You really could have been writing about my own childhood. I fight so hard against repeating that with my own children – it is my biggest fear – and any time I read stories like this I can’t help but wonder how much I have impacted my children similarly. Which makes me small all over.

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    1. Well, I obviously don’t know you or your children, but please allow me suggest a way of thinking about that concern, when you feel the fear-goblins whispering in your ear:

      I have yet to see a parent whose own childhood was messed-up on at least this scale — and who consistently and actively reflects back on that experience — recreate anything remotely comparable upon their own children. The reflecting that you obviously do is such an invaluable and loving thing, and your children will be much larger for it.

      Thank you for your sharing, and your support!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At some point with my therapist, I don’t remember the context, I remember discussing the desire to lie back and be bathed in light. I feel like I get little glimmers of that from you. Just so you know. You do that for me.

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  8. I’ve had to think on this one for some time this morning and it makes me ponder a few things. Certainly the bullying and rage were not something I would imagine fell within social norms then, or now. You just don’t parent in that way because I think (hope) we had to be civilized and aware enough in the 60’s and 70’s to know that was wrong, however…were we – really. Look at how far we HAVEN’T come since then. Some people, many people, are finally getting it, but just as many aren’t, and would never recognize all the contextual aspects that are wrong in what you posted.
    No excuses being made for your parents, just as I make none for all the crap with mine, (although maybe I do blame alcohol for more than I should?) but their statements written here under your hand are so true of the beliefs of society in general at that time. In particular females were irrelevant. Females in many instances are still irrelevant. Children were possessions, and for many, they still are.
    You are finally, well into adulthood, able to begin breaking through fear, but how many are still -every single day – gripped by it and what are we really doing about it.
    I’m so very tired of hearing how women’s lives have improved… how social welfare is actively making progress for children of abuse…how this organization or that commission is taking a stand on whatever the popular issue is in any given 24 hour period…
    The reality is in your words, and in the current silence of every child who will be struggling forty years from now to understand their own pain and fear.

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    1. One of the things I don’t talk about on here but think about a lot is my growing conviction that my father has a severe, undiagnosed (and thus untreated) mental illness. A particular personality disorder. My ex too — in fact, considering them side-by-side in this light has been a helpful tool for distinguishing their distinctly different personalities from the disorder, which presents in remarkably similar patterns of interacting with others.

      In my dad’s case, and based on what little I can glean about his childhood from the meager bits and pieces he remembers, it evolved from what I can only surmise was some exceptionally poor parenting he must have received too. (Which I’m sure came from their parents, and back and back it goes…) His particular mental distortions happen to dovetail with all the social/gender norms you reference — and so culture reinforces the disease, and the disease reinforces the cultural BS.

      It’s heart-breaking, really. Because my father wants so very VERY much to be loving. To be a good parent — and a good man. The fact that he came out willingly last summer to listen to *anything* I had to say to him was truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, disorders this profound can’t get corrected just by wish and willpower. And one core symptom is an inability to recognize the illness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Parallels of my convictions about my mother, and why I have increasingly questioned more and more just how much was alcohol and how much was something else and how much was abuse from childhood only hinted at. Any and all alone or combined are possibilities and I’m not good at resigning myself to the fact that I won’t ever have real answers. My wish for you is that you can find some small balance with your father, if that is what you wish and what is meant to be, but as you know and just stated, wishing does not always make things so, and your priority must be your own health and life and sense of control 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, absolutely right. I write these pieces with a definite mantra of “this needs to help ME, here today” (or I write something else). It’s part of the process of separating from the family dysfunction, to provide as little context and explanation for my parents as I do. If I were ever do something more book-length 😉 , writing in and through their stories/perspectives too would be essential.

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    1. I actually don’t know what to say about this piece yet either. I write these things and post them — so I have them to think over, come back to. . .and then finally put away.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘children come and go but a husband is forever’???? I’ve never had a husband but I have a daughter, and this seems to get things utterly backwards. Glad you’ve found your new touch stones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you — I’m glad too!

      That’s tough comment for me, too. It seems like it must have been an incredibly difficult thing for her to admit, to me or to herself, and I am very grateful she did. I don’t want to judge either one of them; I just want to understand.

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