Kiki made me think about it again. She re-examines her father's role in her narcissistic family dynamic. In light of her discoveries of her mother's disorder, she is also beginning to see her father's behavior in a different light.
Which makes me ask myself one more time: What was my mother's role in our family dynamic? My problem is, I can't look at the way she's acting now, with my new-found knowledge and awareness, as she died when I was 20. And I don't remember much of her and our relationship. And it's bad form to speak ill of the dead, anyway.
She let him have me, but she probably thought we were having a good time together, and he may have even been making her jealous on purpose by focusing his attention on me. She didn't stand up for herself and her right to have a relationship with her little daughter, but she probably didn't even think she needed to stand up for me and my right to have a relationship with my mother.
Whenever I think of the bad stuff he did or said when I was little, she doesn't appear in the picture, and, most probably, she wasn't anywhere near us at the time. NF and I had plenty of unsupervised time alone together.
When I was 7 and my father slapped me repeatedly in the face because I'd "offended" him, she was there. I told her later that "Now I love you more". I guess what I meant was "I realize clearly at this point that my father is a disturbed man and am asking for a closer relationship with you". To which she replied, after a long, nervous pause, something like "Well, I don't... Not like this..." I don't know what she meant at all. She didn't want to "win" like this? She didn't need to be loved more, just family peace? She didn't want us both to get into trouble if he found out I'd "cheated" on him with her? I don't know what she should have said. But I felt I was on my own here, that every act of rebellion would be mine alone.
Later, in the evening, I heard her tell him "You might have gone too far", to which he snapped angrily, and she went quiet. Overhearing this surprised me, mostly, I guess, because I'd never imagined anyone would ever question anything my father did.
Mostly, my deeper impressions of her inside our family dynamic were of a weak woman who wanted peace above all, although she was usually cheerful, outspoken, and loud, and, especially outside of the home, always said what she thought openly.
I do remember her gently mocking his antics. And this approach worked. He was manageable for at least a decade of my life that I remember, until she died. He would storm into our home, for instance, demanding to know whose fault something that was "amiss" was, and I dreaded his return from work, but the two of us, mom and I, devised a skit we played on him, shouting his usual words in unison before he had the time to:
"Who left the shoes on the floor? Why did you leave the shoes on the floor?" And we'd laugh pre-emptively. And he couldn't pull that anymore and look serious. So he didn't.
When he accused her of cheating, she replied as if she'd, naturally, assumed he was joking. And it worked. From what his girlfriend tells me, any other approach gets a woman seriously verbally abused!
Possibly he thought of her, a sane psychologist, as an authority on Normal. And tried to play the part of a sane man with her as his audience, at least a little bit.
When she died, there was no one who could use gentle, good-natured humor to stem his madness. And no authority on sanity to perform for. I only knew how to argue, defend, justify, explain; I fought back the best way I knew how, but living with him became impossible.
Could she have done things differently and how? I honestly don't know. She was the daughter of divorced parents and had to balance between her father and stepfather all her life, which may have made her good prey for a narcissist; also, her experiences may have made her very reluctant to even consider divorce as an option.
I was told by her colleague that she wanted my father to get therapy for his drink problem, and he said "No way. I'd sooner be divorced from you" so she didn't push it. She never diagnosed his NPD, or if she had, she never told anyone about it. He was in stealth mode back then. If she had known, really known, would she have done anything different? And should she have?
Thoughts? Help me see this a bit more objectively!