Thursday, March 17, 2011

The hold he has over me

Even before I diagnosed him, I felt my father never really loved me unconditionally, despite his grandiose displays, and I wondered what would happen if I ever really, truly told him how I felt or what I thought. I'm still not telling it to myself, not really. I'm not allowing the words to form in my mind. I got as far as being able to acknowledge that his fathering has not been the ideal that he'd always projected to everyone, including me, and that I might not be who I've always thought I was.

Last year, after he accused us of being neglectful, cruel parents (after seeing us "parent" for a total of 10 hours or so, in his presence, where we just let him play with his granddaughter and tried to disengage from him and thus avoid his constant criticism) because we don't take our daughter out for daily long walks and because we allow her to play on her own, without telling her where to put her legos, I had a moment of honesty. I was pregnant, hormonal, sensitive, and it really hurt my feelings to be told I was a cruel, neglectful parent, by my own father, without any proof. So I confronted him and, in the process, I told him I remember precious little that was pleasant from my "perfect" childhood.

I remember him being angry and giving me the silent treatment for being "disrespectful" when I made a cute little joke at his expense at age 5. I remember he was angry at me for going out to the park with my grandparents, who were taking care of me, after I'd "made plans" to go with him. Seriously, at age 5 I was supposed to remember "our plans" and then tell my grandparents "We mustn't go out now, because I have prior arrangements with My Father"? Really? I remember, again, him, angry, sitting at the table, waiting for me to come home, coldly giving me a list of gruesome punishments I could choose from. The reason? We'd made "plans" to do something together and he got home early from work for that, but I wasn't there. I was 7, a latchkey kid, home alone between the time school ended and the time my parents came home from work. I heard a noise and went to the neighbor to wait for the time my parents would be home, because I was scared. I didn't remember the "plan". I said "I'm sorry, let's do it now!" "It's too late now. I don't want to do it now" was the reply.

When I told him some of these memories, he went pale, then red, then pale again. Silence.

Then I said "I love you and want to have a respectful relationship between two adults with you now."

"But that's impossible. I'll always see you as my child" said he, now in a saccharine tone of voice.

"But I AM an adult and that's how I need you to treat me. You deeply hurt my feelings. You can't attack the very basis of another adult's entire parenting without any proof or knowledge of it whatsoever. That's just not acceptable."

Interestingly enough, he backed off then. I thought I got through to him. Only to find out later that now he's badmouthing us for our cruel, neglectful parenting to the extended family. Behind our backs.

But telling him how I feel now? What would happen?

If I told him I dread his "droppings-in", always at his convenience, because he needs a place to wait while his girlfriend, his current source of supply, is in her classes that he chauffeurs her to and from? That I feel like my independence is jeopardized? That I feel suffocated by his very presence? That it's hard to endure someone I could never communicate with, just being there, even if he generally behaves now? 

Does a person even do something like that? How? He generally announces himself just a little before he'll drop by. He asks "Are you at home? I was thinking of dropping by to see you". Does a sane, decent human being say to her aged father anything but "Yeah, we're here. Sure, drop by"?

And if I said something, what would he do? What would happen? I have vague fears and anxieties about some sort of horrible, monstrous retaliation. But isn't it sad to begin with? That I think in very concrete terms of what he might do to my Family of Choice if I made him angry? That I think about possible revenge awaiting us every time he seems angry or resentful or like he's giving me the silent treatment over some boundary I set?

I imagine social workers, at our door, told we're neglectful parents. I imagine everyone in our family turned against us. I imagine people at the university where I work called, told horrible things about me. I don't rationally think all this would actually happen, and it certainly wouldn't work, but my imagination runs wild. And he has done things like these to people, including me, in the past, not quite to that degree, but unpleasant enough.

And I imagine him exercising the only real power he has over me - getting us evicted from our apartment.

Yes, legally he owns our home. Legally, I own his apartment, and could get him evicted from there, though, and we only switched at my insistence, mainly because he was so attached to the stuff he hoarded at the place that was legally mine and because he was so controlling about every single thing that went on in there that we felt like worse than tenants. No, make that worse than people grudgingly allowed at a homeless shelter of something. He wouldn't let us switch off the lamps. Stop the annoying cuckoo clock. Throw away old sheets. He used his own key to let himself in until I told him that we, a young married couple, actually have sex sometimes when we're home alone and not expecting company.

So we switched and now we've redecorated the old apartment, legally still his, and are living here. If he throws us out of our home, I can legally throw him out of the apartment he's renting (he's living at his girlfriend's house), and we won't be homeless. I don't think he would do it anyway - getting his daughter evicted wouldn't sound too good to anyone. I guess I'm afraid because he'd been dangling the apartment we're living in now for almost a year like a carrot, keeping us in line, so we wouldn't start redecorating the apartment that's legally mine and so we'd think of him, in effect, as the owner of both.

You know, so we'd think of the apartment we were currently in as "his" because he's the one that'll be keeping it, so we can't change anything, and the other apartment as "still not ours", and in effect, his as well. 

And it's not just the fear. I guess I constantly feel like I owe him for the apartment. Big time. And I often think I don't owe him much at all.

So, here's the deal: I actually, truly, honestly don't know if I'm right in thinking that I don't actually owe him much or if I'm right in feeling I owe him a lot.

First, in my country, parents traditionally help their adult children a lot when they get married and embark upon young adulthood. Adult children live with their parents, often forever. Many parents build or buy houses or apartments for their adult children. I never expected that, far from it.

But I'm the only grandchild of two sets of grandparents who all died. My mother also died. He grandiosely gave up his half of her estate to me at the court hearing. He repeats this all the time, to anyone who'll listen. How he gave this up for me. Was it real? Is one of the apartments really mine? He himself only earned about 1/8 of these two apartments, the rest is all inherited. My parents lived with my mother's parents all my life, and my maternal parents sold their own place so they could, all together, afford a decent apartment. So my father basically paid for 1/4 of one apartment. And I let him have both the apartments for three whole years when we first got married, because I was too afraid to ask him if I could move into one of them. So we lived in a dilapidated summer house, which we redecorated, built by my maternal grandparents, also part of my inheritance, because this I felt was not truly his, never was, and he wasn't interested in it anyway. So that was three years of allowing him to live in "my" apartment and rent out "his" apartment and take all the money from that, which was substantial.

But still, isn't ALL that REALLY his, because he's the adult and I'm the kid who's being allowed to "play house"? And he earned 1/8 of it all, but I earned none?

So I really don't know where I stand. Sometimes I think I'm independent, and sometimes I feel like he has a tremendous hold over me. Because I owe him. And then I think that I need to move out to really feel independent, but then I think "But why would I give both apartments to him? They aren't REALLY both his, are they? He might feel that way, but it's not true, legally, morally, factually... Is it?" Besides, we'd starve. For no good reason. IF I'm really "entitled" to an apartment. If I'm not, then moving out is the only decent thing to do, if I'm not feeling grateful and dutiful and worshipful. Dear God. I'm a mess.

So, today I'm waiting to see if and when he'll come. He told a neighbor of mine that he would, and she told me, so does that make me informed? Or will he call me, too? When? He obviously knows already that he's coming, but is waiting for the last minute to inform me. Why?

My otherwise supportive husband tells me I might be overreacting. He says if he does call only a few minutes before he drops by, it makes it even easier for me to say "I've got other plans" than if he were to call in advance. But I don't feel that way.

EDIT: Well, the phone rang as I was pressing "PUBLISH POST".

He asked if we were going to be there tonight and if he could come, then went on and on and on about his plans for the day, and then hung up. I never actually got to answer the "question".



  1. I read with interest the fact that your parents are from another country. Mine are, too. I have been wondering lately if they really are narcs or just "traditional".

    I'm only coming around to this now...I always knew my parents were dysfunctional, though never thought they were narcissists. But I have been realizing lately that they, like other narcs, replace money with love. And I only now realized that all this time, there were strings attached. At the same time, people from our country (we're Asian) also tend to help their adult kids financially. So is it just normal? I don't know.


  2. I think there's a big difference between helping adult kids financially (cultural, normal in many cultures) and replacing money with love and using either or both fo blackmail (narcissistic).

    It's just harder for us, I guess, to realize some of these sick enmeshing/engulfing/blackmailing/intrusive behavior for what it is, because some aspects of it are culturally acceptable!

  3. "Does a person even do something like that? How? He generally announces himself just a little before he'll drop by. He asks "Are you at home? I was thinking of dropping by to see you". Does a sane, decent human being say to her aged father anything but 'Yeah, we're here. Sure, drop by'?"

    They do if their aged father is a walking turd. Dig deep, find the words you never dared utter -- and all the feelings that come with them -- and unload on him. Don't sugar coat; don't blunt the words; don't be merciful or considerate. Just brutally lay into him giving no quarter.

    I'd be very surprised if the aging nuisance would want to "drop by" after that.


I encourage comments!!!