My father and mother split up before I was a year old. In a court battle that lasted years, my mother was given custody of my brother and me. My father was given supervised visitation. Those visitations were almost non-existent because my mother utilized her power as full-custodian to keep him away. Usually, this was done through imposing stipulations on a visit, such as not allowing his new wife (I was not allowed to call her my step-mother) from coming too. In recent years, my mother has actually admitted to using my brother and I as pawns in her attempt to get my father back, and/or punish him for leaving. I bring this last point up to illustrate our isolation. We were hers, and no one could get to us.
The landscape of my mother’s house was riddled with landmines. And those landmines were ever-changing. You never knew what was going to set her off, only that she was going to explode. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some trauma in her past stopped her emotional growth, and now she is trying to reclaim what was taken from her by making the entire world responsible. It is a grand conspiracy, and we are all involved. I was tortured both physically and emotionally. The physical ended when I was 14, but the emotional continues to this day. She cannot help herself.
My brother and I were allowed to participate in some activities as we got older. As children, we were pretty much insulated from the world. We were allowed to play with certain kids in our apartment building. Other than that, it was very rare that we went to a birthday party, or just hung out at another kid’s house. The reason for this is twofold 1) my mother’s relationships with the parent(s) would break down when they would call her out on some inappropriate thing she said or did. Other people were not allowed to set limits for her. She felt she should be able to say or do anything she wanted (like tell Mexican jokes to a Mexican lady for example). She did not understand why they got upset. 2) Other kids were a threat to her because we might get “ideas” about the world that she did not instill in us. Anytime we disagreed with her about any topic (especially racist or sexist comments), she would call this into question.
As I said above, my mother used our relationship with our father as a lure to get him back, and a club to beat him with when he would not come back. He had moved on was not interested in her. She could not live with this fact. Sometimes a year or two would pass without contact with my father. Of course, this meant that my brother and I wanted to see him more. Her response to our inquiries about my father’s absence was usually anger followed by disinformation such as: your father doesn’t love you; if you knew what he did to me, you wouldn’t want to see him; I’m the only one that loves you; your father just wants to buy your love; etc. I heard all these things when I was 5.
My older brother remembers my dad living in the house with us, I do not. It hurt him beyond words when my father was way for great lengths of time. He felt abandoned by a figure he knew and loved. I have no memory of my father in the house because I was too young to remember. The effect was much less on me. Nonetheless, I craved what I did not have and received no understanding from my custodial parent that I might be hurting due to my father’s absence. She demanded unending, undivided love and devotion from us. However, we did get to spend some time with my father from time to time.
Under my father’s supervision, I was pretty much free to just be. He was decent to me. My father had a criminal past. He worked a blue-collar job for the remainder of his days because of this. My mother told me that my father was “emotionally retarded” and that he could only relate to my brother and me by trying to buy our affection. This resonated in my mind when he would hand me $5 at the carnival to buy popcorn. I was brainwashed to distrust him. In the end, I have come to realize, he genuinely loved us.
Before his death, I was able to relate to him the truth of my childhood. He was horrified. He said he believed we were better off and that he did not believe my mother would be that way to her own children. He said that if he had known, he would have fought harder to gain custody. He was an ex-con after all. It must have been difficult.
The truth is that my father did physically assault my mother when they were together. As much as I have had dreams of doing the same to her, I cannot condone his actions. He did, however, become a different, wiser man at the end of his life. It was this man who I had a father/son relationship with. I got to know him after he had years of reflection. It was a different man who died that day, 25 years after the court battles with my mother.