March 9, 2020

all my troubles seem so far away - OK, not really

A few days after Dad's email I was able to have a phone conference with Chip, because he now splits his time between Chicago and Colorado.  I have met with Chip off and on- mostly off really, for 9 years.  I text him when an issue arises and he lets me know when he can meet.  

Our sessions were not always related to my family.  Let's give credit where credit is due - Coach's parents are responsible for MANY of my therapy appointments.  They don't play favorites, just the God card and the holier than thou card, etc.  Not sure which is worse.  

In a nutshell, over the years Chip advised me to distance myself from my family.  Try not to engage.  Don't play into their hand.  Take control of my emotions.  (I am NOT paraphrasing this well at all).  All of it, he admitted, was easier said than done.  He shared personal examples of when similar stuff cropped up for him and he struggled to stay out of the mental loop that was so easy to get dragged into.  

We usually ended our meeting agreeing that my folks would never change and talking to them might just exasperate the situation.  Last week when I called him, I listed incident after incident of times I have been hurt, upset, overlooked, glossed over, ridiculed, etc.  

Chip:  When we have talked about this stuff before, I don't think you ever listed the issues one after another.  This makes me really sad.  I never realized it was so consistent and blatant for most of your life.

(In other words, when I saw Chip about one particular issue, I only mentioned the incidents directly related- then we wouldn't meet again for quite some time.  The next time:  different issues.  This time he was hearing it all at once.  He had never heard it strung together in such a way, I guess.  These session are only an hour, you know - hard to regurgitate a lifetime of hurt in under an hour).

I told him I was going in . . . as in, I was going over to my folks' house and confronting them.  This shit needed to be spoken.

Believe you me, as a kid I pitched fit after fit about the injustices of Pat getting to use the car ahead of older-me just because he had a penis.  Pat got allergy shots since he was a toddler and when I had my scratch test done in college, my folks said, "Oh, this is over the top.  Doc is a whack" - so I suffered for YEARS.  The more I complained about feeling overlooked, the more they made fun of me.  'You and your middle child stuff.'  

When I cried in 5th grade because Mom came home from the mall with something for everyone but me, Mom said, "Well imagine if everyone always got the same things, how boring life would be."  Huh?  

I learned to sort of keep my mouth shut.  Coach has been married to me for 23 years and he didn't 'get it' at first.  He sees it now.  

*So, I wrote out a script - (really I narrowed down my long-ass word doc that was at 4 pages when I was forced to make people dinner over the weekend.  It could easily turn into 10 pages).  

*Highlighted the main points (um, not my strong suit so I will accept applause for this).  

*Read it to Coach.  Changed the beginning and the end per his suggestions to say SOMETHING positive, like 'it may seem I don't love you and don't feel loved by you but that is not the case.'

*Told Tank to be prepared to drive Mini to badminton if we weren't back in time, but we were home in under 30 minutes.  Good, bad or ugly - it was a short meeting.

*Coach and I drove over there on Tuesday night, March 3rd.  They live less than 2 minutes away so I didn't even have time to get butterflies.  Honestly I didn't allow myself to get worked up.  I knew I would cry when I read my statement.  

*In the driveway I told Coach "I don't want to do this."  He offered to drive home.  "I don't want to, but I don't know any other way anymore. It's time."  Avoiding them or distancing myself has seemed passive aggressive because they sit across the isle from us at church.  Hard to escape and not engage.  I may not like confrontation, but I HATE passive aggressive shit.  

Dad:  This looks serious.

Me:  It feels serious.

I launched into my script.  I ugly cried the entire time.  I told my dad that the email he sent should have been handled in a personal phone call or a face to face meeting.  I also told him that he seemed incapable of having a conversation with me. I cited our trip to Gettysburg and how he told a story I could fully comprehend but that he started it with:  "Pat, have I ever told you about . . ."  What am I?  A bump on a log?  I scolded him for eagerly attending Mike's son's Catholic b-ball games even though Reg plays practically in his backyard.  

I also said:  "Since you seem to be so comfortable traveling, why the hell did you not bother to attend ONE of Lad's water polo games in the last 3 years?  I hope you realize that out of the 22 grand-kids Lad will most likely be your only division one athlete, unless one of my other kids ends up going that route, because your super-star athletes Pat and Mike sure as hell aren't producing any division one athletes.  


It seems I am not the only family member sick and tired of the heavy focus and the consistent attendance by my parents at the sporting events of Pat and Mike's kids.  

I should preface this with the fact that my heart breaks a bit for Mike ever since he texted Coach after he recently coached my Reg with his son on travel b-ball.  He admitted that he always hoped for a son as athletic as Reg.  Pat is a pompous ass who has absorbed all of the ego massaging my parents have delivered over the years, while Mike is a genuinely good guy.  Mike's wife, sweet - but nutty as all get out.  So, there's that.  

Back to my folks' family room where Wheel of Fortune was still blaring from the TV.  Coach later admitted that he was appalled that they hadn't bothered to turn it off or at least turn it down.  

I told my mom that the secret girls' weekend she and my sisters went on when Dad and I had all of their kids with me in my van out in Gettysburg along with my 3 oldest to help bring Dad's history sharing dream true was the single most hurtful thing anyone has ever done to me in my adult life.  

I listed how I was aware of countless times Mom and Ann and Marie do things without me, and that my kids were aware of it too.  I said I understood that Ann doesn't like me and never has.  So they probably tip toe around her because of the (in a whisper) D-I-V-O-R-C-E that was 12 years ago.  No use upsetting Ann - better to keep her happy and leave me uninvited because my feelings don't count and who would want to subject Ann to MY god awful presence?  Ann was always considered so sweet when we were kids, but I told them I never considered her sweet.  She was horrible to me.  And that was tolerated.  As a parent - I cannot understand that.  

I cited the favoritism issues that I had grown up with now carrying over into the grandchildren.  This may have been my weakest arguement because I think Mom feels like eventually it all evens out - like maybe they all eventually get to eat steak, hmm.  I have my doubts.  

My kids have never been treated to a shopping excursion downtown with Mom, but that was 'Lil Marie's birthday wish a few years ago and so that is exactly what she got.  Huh?  

I noted how Mom could never take my call if she is talking to Marie.  Or how she quickly clicks over if Marie calls while we are talking.  

Mom, "Well that is because she is calling on her way home from work."  What the fuck does that mean?  One would believe that my sister walks in from work and then leaves again to go scrub floors in an orphanage or something equally taxing.  All of Marie's kids are in college and beyond except for her youngest who is in high school.  Hardly a difficult surrounding in which to make a phone call later.  

Besides, EVERY DAY?!

I ended with Dad backing out of the trip we had been trying to plan for 2 years and how I cancelled it the year before while worrying so much that he might die before I could get him out there this summer.  Then he up and cancels because something better came along.  WITH MARIE.  
Dad flanked by Mini and Curly talking
 through an arch in Scotland.

I asked, "Does the trip to Scotland count as 'my' trip?"  He nodded.  I told him that it didn't count in my book.  In my book a trip you go on together is one that you are both excited about.   I had no desire to go to Scotland.  Dancing dictated that.  

I closed my notebook.  Hesitated for a minute.  Told Coach I was ready to go.  As we walked to the door, Mom said Sorry that you feel that way.

Of all the remarks?  Not:  sorry we were not more aware of you or your feelings over the years.  Meet my mom:  the most stubborn woman alive.  I guess I should be pleased that she is sorry for something.  

I turned on my heel and marched back in there and asked the question that I have often wondered about.

"Mom, do you remember when I was in 7th grade and I found you and Ann and Marie leaving for the mall and I asked if I could come?  Then my sisters rolled their eyes and begged you not to let me come - saying:  she always has bad breath, she probably wore that shirt yesterday, I doubt she combed her hair today.  Then you told me to go change my shirt and brush my hair and I could come.  I raced off and when I came back 2 minutes later you had left without me.  I chased the car down the street past the Olsick's house."

Mom:  No, I don't remember.

Me:  How can I forget?    

*Another friend, who works as a counselor asked me today what I would define as 'distance' since that is what I requested.  I honestly do not know.  

*She also asked what kind of response I want - (again - no idea) and reminded me that I cannot control their response and that I might have to ask for it.  

Maybe I should have just gone with the passive aggressive approach.  No, I don't mean that.  *Sigh*

Tomorrow, I return to funny posts.  Promise.  


Anonymous said...

I want to give you a hug.
I'm glad you told them. I hope it was like a weight off your shoulders.
They don't deserve you.
I thought my sisters and Ireland was bad, but your mall story broke my heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry your parents don't know how to behave well and seem unable to be kind to you! From an outsider's point of view, they seem very selfish and self-centered. Having older parents myself, I know change is hard to come by. I hope they figure out how to change and that you have some peace and resolution. You are so so brave for speaking to them in person!!

Beth Cotell said...

Oh my goodness! That story from 7th grade ALONE should be enough for anyone to realize that your parents have major issues and that THEY are the ones that need therapy! What a horrible environment to grow up in.

I am so glad you told them how you feel. Maybe they will take a step back and look at their actions over the years and see how horrible they were/are. I doubt it though.

I hope that something positive comes from this and if nothing else, I at least hope you feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

Anonymous said...

You do not need to write funny posts unless you want to. Sometimes the big stuff is too big to turn off.

I have to give you a lot of credit for being willing to have the conversation with your parents at all. I don't know if I would've had it in me.

I don't know what to hope for you in this moment. If it were me, I think I would just want to be done with them. Even if they changed now, it might be too little, too late. Whatever comes in the next few days, weeks, months-- I hope that you can find a space in which you're okay.

Nicole MacPherson said...

The story about you chasing the car to go to the mall is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. I can understand siblings being mean to each other. I can understand that. But for your mother, a grown woman, to behave in such a manner towards her own daughter...that is reprehensible. I'm proud that you told them how you feel and I hope now you can be able to distance yourself and find some peace. It's not passive aggressive, in my opinion, to be cordial to your family at church, but not let them into your life in a real way.

Busy Bee Suz said...

First off, I'm loving the Beatles title references. You could continue with those for a while. HELP! Come Together. Here comes the sun? Don't let me down. GET BACK! Do you have an Eleanor Rigby in the family?

Boy am I happy you did this. I can't imagine the size of your balls to do it, but you did it. This is so much better than being passive-aggressive. YOU got it off your chest. Even if it doesn't make a difference to them, it will to you.

And the story from 7th grade? I'd like to shank all three of them for that. Heartbreaking. Your sisters sounded like bullies.

Kudos to your husband for supporting you in this confrontation too. I was picturing it all happening with some yahoo in the background asking Pat Sajak for a W.
(For the WIN)

Big hugs. XOXO

Charlie said...

Ernie how did you get through your childhood and look back on it as ‘pretty great’? This just shows your strength of character, to have parents who treat you this way and not to have it massively affect you in a debilitating way. I’m so happy to hear you have the support of your hubby & kids. That there is proper family. And proper loyalty. And I am properly shocked by the 7th grade example. How can anyone (especially a parent) do that?!?! Sending hugs.

Anonymous said...

The mall story breaks my heart!! I am also the middle child in a large family, but thank God nothing like that ever happened to any of us. I just cannot believe that a mother can do that to ANY person, let alone her own child! It's amazing that you turned out to be a normal, loving parent!

Gigi said...

This is awful. I commend you for confronting the issue (I know I wouldn't/couldn't have). As for distancing - even if they are just across the aisle at church - I would be polite but I would not initiate engagement and any engagement they initiated; I would keep short.

It seems to me, that the ball is in their court now. And it's up to them to decide how they want to play it.

Kari said...

OMG, that mall story is horrible.

First of all, I know you've been with Chip for nine years but I think you should find a therapist who is local all of the time. You have wounds that need to be addressed regularly. Therapy is such a huge gift and one that you can indeed give to yourself.

I do agree with Chip about distancing yourself. I mean physically you can't as they live just up the way but emotionally you really need to, friend. Because it sounds as though it is eating you up and you deserve so much better.

You know, I once said to someone that sometimes blood relatives aren't people who make your soul soar and it sounds like your blood family doesn't have your best interest at heart. even if they maybe don't even realize what they are doing? Or maybe they do. Needless, maybe surround yourself and your beautiful children and your husband with people who DO make your souls soar. Listen, the eight of you alone make a larger family than most (that's double MY little family).

You are so brave for confronting your mom and dad about that, I give you mad props. Sending you a huge hug :)

Cheryl said...

You know, families suck and big families suck even more. Too many personalities, too much backbiting, jealousy, etc.

I can tell that you really love your parents especially since you live so close to them. I read something once that said children who love their parent(s) stay close, while those who were not raised in a loving home have a tendency to move away.

Sometimes you just gotta let it go, for your own sake. Raise your kids to be kind and courteous like you are. Enjoy them, love them. Soon enough they will fall in love, marry and have kids and you will have a great big dynasty of your very and Coach.

We can't do anything about the past but we can make a better future and you have an excellent head start on that front.

My parents are gone and I miss them every day. Was my life perfect? Hell dad for many years was a short tempered, quick to hit borderline drunk. I thanked God daily, for my Mom.

My 6 siblings seem to get worse as they age. I have learned to deal with it all by distancing myself from most of them. Distance as defined by not calling them, wait for them to call me, don't reach out, let them reach out, etc. In general, make myself busy and with a job and lots of kids, it should not be hard for you to be busy, right? Works for me.

Bibliomama said...

Jesus. There are parents with issues, and there are parents who might be flat-out sociopaths. No matter what the outcome, I'm really glad you did this, and I hope you are too. That mall story made me want to throat-punch your mother (and bitch slap your sisters). There's no way you can change churches, I guess? I really think minimal contact is the way to go. And second the vote for finding a more present therapist, although Chip somewhat redeemed himself by wising up to the relentless nature of your family's fuckery. I understand (and applaud) even more why you're so intent on making things even for your kids. Congrats on not perpetuating the harmful patterns. It's not easy.

Ernie said...

My blogging friends: I want to respond to each of you, but let me first say how sincerely touched I am by your words. Truly. It is very hard to communicate my whole 'story', but there WERE many happy times that were often overshadowed by feeling of inadequacy. It frustrates me that I STILL let some of these issues get to me, but it has helped to share. I am unsure of whether or not confronting my folks at this stage of the game made sense, but I hope they start to consider the feelings of their kids before they do and say things. I started my online writing class yesterday and I have not been able to get back here to touch base. Trying to work ahead in the class because it is such a busy week.

Ernie said...

Anon S. - I am glad that my talk with them is done, but I still wonder if it was the right move. The mall thing was the worsts. It was never mentioned again. I actually think I was in 6th grade. Curly's age. I could never leave her out of something appropriate for her age. I never said anything to them the next day (as far as I can recall) in order to save face. Going without you to Ireland was fairly monumental.

Anonymous - A mutual family friend just told me that she thinks my dad has always been socially awkward due to his upbringing, which explains his email way of sending the information. He is fairly thoughtless. My mom and I have always been closer. She tends to 'get' me, but as a mother myself now, I cannot understand some of her choices. Plus it feels like she doesn't have time for Marie and anyone else.

Ernie said...

Beth - I really do think I was in 6th grade. It was awful. My sisters won her over and as a mother, I could NEVER let my own kids demand a sibling not attend something. If it were me, I would have taken the left out kid and left the two brats at home. How I roll. My mom is easily the most stubborn person alive, so not sure she will accept my criticism. A weight - yes, but now what? Awkward? I wish I had defined for them the kind of 'space' that I want because where to go from here. A positive anytyhing would be great. Honestly, I think if nothing else it will help me when my kids act unkind to one another and I point out that I will not tolerate that because it was tolerated in my home growing up. Bull Shit.

Anonymous - Funny posts are more fun and I do fear becoming a Debbie Downer, but I appreciate that. Confrontation is not my strong suit but I hate the alternative, so I force myself. I do love them, and I know they love me. I think some of the way they treat me is due to me being the kind of independent, I-will-kick-your-ass kind of person who does not NEED them, unlike my sisters. I do feel pleased that I do not feel obligated to call and check in with them and hear all about my sisters' kids or how long my brother spent in the allergist office (this came up when I had my allergic reaction, 'Well, Pat had to sit there for 3 hours once.' of course he did).

Ernie said...

Nicole - I agree. It was incredibly sad. I envisioned them laughing together in the car. Hormones were causing tons of emotions at that age. It was brutal. I remember crying in my room the rest of the night. I agree - I can see them at church and greet them. That never felt passive aggressive to me, but I honestly considered changing our seats (we always sit in the same spot because the kids attend RE during mass and then come back to 'our' seats). I have tried from time to time not to let them into my life, but it is like a crutch. I always end up sharing more than I want, etc. They are right under my nose. This time - since I told them how glossed over I have felt - it feels different.

Ernie said...

Suz - rocking the Beatles song titles - hilarious. I was laughing so much I feared I would wake the babies I was sitting for during nap time. You are dead on though - those titles/lyrics could set me up for so many more posts. I am hoping though that there is nothing more to report for awhile. Actually a thing just happened with my sister and I will have to blog about that eventually. It is only going to get bigger before it is said and done, so I will wait for the fireworks conclusion. Let's just say I am on a confrontation roll. Maybe almost being 50 means you sit back and say 'who the hell cares!' I was once told at my workplace (ions ago - not the daycare days) that I had some huge stones. That is a magnificent story I will have to share one day. *Looks around for a scrap of paper that she will surely lose to jot this note down on.

Yes, Coach has been a rock through all of this. He is learning not to say fucked up stuff like, "Well you don't like hanging out with them anyway." Baby steps. Seriously COULD THEY NOT HAVE TURNED OFF THE TV? Pat, can I have a W - love it!

Ernie said...

Charlie - very tuned in of you to catch that . . . yes, I think my childhood was pretty great. I think I convinced myself that it was great because my siblings insist that we are a tight knit family who are just great. I also spent a good deal of time outside in the yard, playing with my brothers, or at friends' houses, or babysitting. There were really plenty of happy times, but I did cringe a lot and fear getting in trouble or burn up with anger when Pat got praised for shit and I just got sneered at. I had very low self esteem in high school and I credit the moms I babysat for for helping build me up. And my sense of humor - some of my teachers found me funny and they focused a lot of energy on that. They helped me find my way.

Ernie said...

Anonymous - I only know one other person who grew up in a family where there was too much focus on one of the kids. I am glad to hear that you grew up in a large family and you did not experience that. It is my hope that my kids don't feel that way someday. I once decided on a gorgeous spring day to take my kids out of Catholic school so they could join me and the younger tots at the zoo. Mini was in 2nd grade. She would not leave the school. Looked at me all wide eyes like I was crazy, this was school. There were rules. I drove away without her. She changed her mind a few minutes later, but all I had was a lousy flip phone and when the office tried to call me my phone did not get reception and she missed our trip to the zoo. Even now if she talks about it, I want to puke.

Ernie said...

Gigi - Well said. It was not easy confronting them. I confronted them YEARS ago because they snuck around with my brother so that I would not know he and his wife were moving out of my neighborhood. Our little guys were buddies and it broke my heart, but being the last to know like I couldn't handle it was worse. It was complicated because they moved to a town that I always dreamed of living in - we could never afford it. I like your definition/ideas of distancing. The ball is in their court, I guess. Imagine how hurt I will be if they just decide not to play it? See, I feel like I may have set myself up for more rejection but I do think they want a relationship with me and my kids. It might just take time.

Ernie said...

Kari - I hate the thought of finding a new therapist because there is just so damn much to tell. I do wonder at times if a different therapist would give me different advice, He did nail it though: "Your mom will probably act understanding but once she confers with your siblings and they all assure her she is a great mom she will just decide that you are wrong." EXACTLY WHAT I EXPECT TO HAPPEN. Yes, I crave close relationships with non family members but remember how I don't 'have a group' this is probably part of why that bothers me so much. In my early married years, my family was 'my group.' You are right though - I do really enjoy spending time with my children and Coach. We are our own little outing wherever we go. Thanks!

Ernie said...

Cheryl - I fear that my own kids - our own big family will be riddled with jealousy and crap one day. It is my goal not to let that happen. So hard. Our own future dynasty - this could be dangerous. I honestly fear the day when my folks are gone - will I second guess confronting them? Will I feel bad that my sisters grieve more than me, or will they claim to have been closer to mom, etc. I don't think this mess is over. I do enjoy Coach's sister and sister in law (the ones that live close). I do not mind distancing myself. Already not feeling tangled in the web has left me not caring so much about what everyone is thinking, doing, etc. With the start of this online class - whoa - I thought I knew busy!

Ernie said...

Ali - OMG one of my good buddies who I am still tight with (he lives in New York now far from Lad's school and I see him when I am out there) used to tell me in high school that my folks were sociopaths. Great minds and all. Not going to change churches - we walk a few houses to mass. Bonus. But I am good with pleasantries and I walk faster than they do. Besides my mom falls all over the little old ladies she knows (like they are 20 years older than my mom). I could be mid sentence walking to our car and she practically falls over herself and interrupts me to go talk to the elderly bunch. ME: "OK, then." I don't want to replace Chip. I only use him a few times a year. so glad my even steven bull shit makes sense to someone. That was quite a long, round about way to make it clear. Ha. I love you for the use of 'your family's fuckery.' Day maker.