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Not So Merry and Bright (12/23/08)

Duane asked me at supper tonight, “So, is your dad coming up for Christmas?”

I thought for a minute he was talking about my stepfather, Carl, but he obviously wouldn’t be making the trip from South Carolina to Virginia–still too sick. So two and two make his question a reference to my other father, my “real dad”…who currently resides in Texas, whom I haven’t seen since a brief day-long visit over two years ago, and five years prior to that.

“Is he still alive?” Duane continued. I snorted, shaking my head. It was a fair question.

“As far as I know,” I replied. This set off a lengthy discussion about how completely disconnected various and sundry members of my family were. It’s difficult to comprehend, and hurtful, still, after all these years, how people that you are related to can be less involved in your life than acquaintances. How you can exchange fewer words with them in the space of a year than the woman who works at the company that sold you life insurance. How the bonds of family could snap like a rotted rubberband with the stretch of half a country, even with all of the measures and advances we’ve made as a culture to prevent that very thing from occurring. As much as I seek to ignore it, it is difficult, and it is hurtful.

I first learned the meaning of narcissism shortly after delivering my second child. Lawson was an amazing thing to me, full of grace and so undeserved. I remember my emotions at his birth…I was so full…full of wonder, awe, joy…and a little guilt for feeling the faintest tinge of disappointment at his ultrasound, when we had first learned that he was to be a boy. Inwardly I pouted–I was having such fun with Autumn; I wanted another girl! I struggled against that disappointment for the duration of my pregnancy, and prayed for God to change my heart. The change I experienced upon first seeing his face was overwhelming.

I wanted to share this child with everyone. You have to know him to fully understand this, but there is just something special about that boy, and it was there from the moment he entered this world. I particularly wanted to share him with my father. You see, when Autumn was born, she was GrandDaddy Dan’s girl from the moment she arrived. She was his spitting image. She recognized his touch. Although she was born after 3:00 a.m., he was still there in the hospital, waiting for her. I remember him sitting with her laying on his knees, both of them studying the other soberly, with intent, as if to say, “I’m for you.”

I think Dan expected the same from Lawson. My Law-Man was mine, though. When he wanted comfort or a cuddle, or just to look soberly into someone’s eyes, it was to me he turned. And from the moment he was born, no matter what anyone tells you, he looked like my daddy. He’s really looking like his daddy now, but he looked like his Poppa Bill there for a while. I really wanted, quite desperately, for them to have that same instinctual connection that Autumn and Dan had. It seemed as though it were intended to be so.

But as I said, it was shortly after Lawson arrived that I learned what narcissism was. Although he had been coming for several many years, and Autumn had come to expect and look forward to his visits, Dad decided not to make his annual Christmas pilgrimage. I probably could have dealt with it okay if it hadn’t been for Lawson, but it just hit me completely wrong. Here’s a brand new grandson. Maybe we’ll see him next year, when he’s a year and a half.

As it turned out, Dad met Lawson when he was four. Lawson’s wary expression of this stranger in his living room and opening question were painful and priceless at the same time, “So, who are you, anyway?” From the mouths of babes, indeed.

The purpose of his visit? He was in Virginia for a high school reunion and thought he’d stop by. He stayed the night, spoke awkwardly about returning for Christmas, but never called.

The purpose of this posting? I struggled with writing it–really didn’t want to be a killjoy, but, as many of you are familiar with the Fuentes quotation that’s been present on the blog for some time, “writing is a struggle against silence.” I’ve been silent about how p-od I am about how inherently cruel people are to one another for long enough–families especially. Are we cruel to the ones we love most because we suppose that because we’re family, we have to be there? That’s not the case. We don’t have to be there. It may not sound like it, but I have forgiven my father for being more concerned with self than he is with others. I have come to terms with the fact that he is a narcissist–that nothing he does is because of me, that nothing I do can alter his behavior, and that by this point, nothing is ever likely to alter his behavior. However–and this is a BIG, HUGE however–that does not mean that I am going to stick around to be behaved upon in that manner. I have more respect for myself, and more love for my children than to subject myself to that anymore.

So…Golden Rule, people. It’s pretty dang simple. Even my kindergartner gets it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 5:08 am

    Wow, I can imagine this… U don’t know me well and I’ve just started following 4 Perspectives for about a month or so… Narcissism is so hard… I ended a relationship this Jan. after spending and working for 4 1/2 years to make it work… I thought I had met my second ‘final’ relationship w/a man who came into my life after I became a widow 5 years prior to meeting him… he and I clicked like u would not believe… But he had issues that slowly came out over the years… namely -drinking that he hid as well as his issues w/his dad who had verbally abused him and who did not know how to be a father… Anyhow, I found that I wasn’t as important to him as he was to me.. He found it hard to adapt to California, he lived in Hawaii since he was 12 ( originally from VA.), also what I realized was that he couldn’t adapt to family.. Family that didn’t have drama, stress.. Family that had laughter, camraderie and no daily drinkers… He was full of false promises which left me w/ a lot of hurt hopes… So I see my ex bf in your Dad… or vice versa… and yes I realize my ex bf had a disease which attributed to his actions but still many others like him can over come them… I am just hurt that he didn’t love me enough or that I didn’t matter enough…

  2. Lori permalink*
    June 15, 2010 9:28 am

    That’s the thing about blogging, Chrissy–you really see yourself in others, and it’s refreshing to realize that you’re not this oddball alone out here.

    The nice thing about identifying narcissism in someone in your life is how freeing it can be. You have to see this. It’s not your fault, it’s nothing you’ve done, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. From what I’ve read, the individual was shaped into who he/she is at a very young age, and no amount of psychology or medication is going to alter their perception of their reality. Once you understand that, you move on. You don’t let it hurt you anymore. If anything, it’s amusing–their delusions of grandeur, their perception that everything revolves around them…it can actually be a source of amusement. If you love them, you learn to deal with their faults with no expectations. I’m going to have to teach this concept to my children, which may or may not be easy–fortunately, they already have a wonderful grandparent support system.

  3. June 18, 2010 2:44 pm

    The part about being amused, well I have to laugh.. Yes u r right… and its also very sad…and yes, I use to think I did something until I realized my logic was spot on.. even my grief counselor said I was a linear thinker and not like my ex bf… I guess I was just trying to hold on to what I thought I had and it did take awhile to wake up…

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