When Pain Becomes Something Else
The thing I can say about my father is that I do remember him planning to punish me for actual wrongdoing. It wasn't just some mood that took over him. We were living on Woodruff Street in Southington, CT. I readily dropped my pants and was eager. I know that's a bit creepy.... but this made sense. It also involved attention. The spanking never happened. Things were a bit awkward like walking into their bathroom on East Mountain Drive where we lived after we lived on Woodruff Street. I walked in on him coming out of the shower nude.
We both quickly tried to save face. I was red as a beet. He said something about privacy and I was too fast to retreat.
There was another awkward moment when we were in the pool on East Mountain Drive. I was overcome with a need to use adult jokes and innuendo. Dad pointed out the awkwardness of this scene later. I had no answer as to why it happened.
The spankings that never came were a curiosity to me. Had I wanted to be spanked? Of course, I had. The eagerness was all too obvious. I knew my desire was unusual and I never in my life imagined that another person wanted that... well until I learned that this was not something that didn't exist. As an adult, I never sought it out. It was relegated to a strange place in my mind.
My Father Was An Enforcer for Mom
The notion of my father being the enforcer is a bit complicated. Kathy was often feeling slighted by us for not showing her enough respect. Her husband never seemed to be curious about why Kathy was so convinced that she wasn't being respected enough. I could say that I recoiled in shock from the icy cold touch of her hand and that look of rage on her face but I doubt she shared that with her husband. It's one of those reactions that happen so fast that you have no control over the sudden reflexive withdrawal of your hand when she touched me at the wrong moment and unexpectedly.
The point is that it was a reflex. It was not a result of her having cold hands. My grandfather, her father, never caused that kind of reaction in me. It seemed so inopportune and unexpected. There was no prior experience that I had of her showing compassion or concern for me.
My instinctual recoil from her touch so enraged her that she seemed to turn into a different person. Slighted and shocked no matter how often it occurred! It was as if I had intended to hurt her. I had passionately and desperately wanted her compassion, empathy, and warmth, like every child. It's a common desire for any mammal. Someone not too long ago asked if I thought that parents should be punished for not hugging their children. That's not the point. Of course, they shouldn't be punished if that's all that they have done was to withhold the nurturance that a child needs. We typically assume that a parent, especially a mother, will have that instinct but we don't punish those who lack it.
We just assume that what is typically found exists in all cases. If there are no visits to the Emergency Room or comments to a teacher, it does unnoticed. Those are just a few examples of when the "problem" of a parent's behavior or lack of capacity for being a parent comes to the attention of anyone. My father felt the need to go along with the enforcement of the perceived slights against Mom.
The body keeps the score, said Besser Van Der Kolk in his book by the same name. For what it's worth, my side always lost because I never imagined fighting back. My protests of confusion did little to sway my father and they only seemed to anger him more. I was usually stating my confusion and frustration that I did not know what I could do to make Kathy happy.
I"ve stopped trying to understand Carrie's comments that are so confusing in response to my reminiscence of being assaulted. Her last comment in reference to this was "oh, come on." What the heck does that mean?
Should I get over it when you, Carrie, have held onto a memory of my "mistake" for not working as an engineer before continuing my education in a different field., implying that I owed them something while simultaneously stating that I should be grateful for this gift.
Appearances matter and so we got all the conditional vacations to Disney, where we were told that we might not actually go because we weren't good enough. Or we weren't going to get any Christmas gifts because surely Santa Claus would withhold gifts from a few kids like us. The very notion of what we did wrong was never discussed or revealed. What would discourage Santa Claus from coming this Christmas when I was 8 years old? I suppose I wasn't an angel yet. That only happens when you die.
My neighbor and friend Frank's brother died when we were still kids in Elementary school. Mother announced that there was a new angel in heaven. Michael Kristopic. He rode his bike down a sloping driveway and into to street - Andrews St. Mrs. Seitz (whose daughter was in my classes and on my bus route) hit him and I suppose she must have hurt so much after that despite having done no wrong. Mrs. Kristopic fought for a slower speed limit on Andrews Street. That wouldn't bring back Michael.
So, even as a Christian, it would be obvious that I could not claim to be an angel without dying nor could I be perfect. I was expected to know exactly how I was supposed to do things in life without any actual feedback or ideas from my sister. Her comments about how I made a mistake in not working as an engineer 30 years ago were held onto by her as a trump card to prove I wasn't perfect and had "made mistakes" myself.
Carrie never actually offered me any advice in the past 30 years about how I should confront life challenges. I tried to imagine what those conversations would be like. I played them out in my head. I tried to imagine a dialogue where I would ask "imagine you are in a situation just like this" and I would have to explain in detail the circumstances that were "just like this." ... continuing I would ask the imaged vision of my sister for an answer that never came.
It was a valiant effort on my part to pursue such ideas and answers from my sister as to how she might handle things in a situation like mine at any particular moment in life. It was too much to ask for her to actually participate in any such discussion. I invited her to therapy sessions over the years... drawing upon the normal instinct of a person to tell "their side of the story." She never took me up on that offer. She could have demonstrated the supposed details I was leaving out of my stories and efforts to seek help from others.
That was the assumption that anyone who supported me in any way was not hearing the full story. They never revealed the nature of what they thought I left out. I can know for certain that leaving anything out would not be very productive. None of the insights I gained over the years would amount to anything if I left out crucial details.
A few months ago I had this dream after speaking to my sister. She was incredibly upset about what I said on social media. She insisted that I should have known what our dead father would have felt and believed about current events - a man with whom I had not had an in-depth conversation in almost 30 years. I know she had an idea about what her father felt about current events before he died. I merely stated that after his passing I had felt a connection to him, whatever that meant and that indeed he had no concern for current events, at least he did not put greater interest in those abstract ideas than he placed an interest in loving the son who had his same name.
Carrie had insisted that I stop doing what I was doing... stop using his photograph. At the time I had merely recognized that Bruce Sr. had looked very much like me. Even Desiree Kuhs on Facebook said that I didn't have the right to use this photograph without permission. That was patently false. It had been voluntarily given to me. I had NEVER intended to cause any harm or upset.
At the time, I was so pathetically needy for approval that I would NEVER have done anything to upset anyone in the "family." The all caps remark by her was perceived by me to imply a threat if I did not comply.
I had been clearly uncomfortable with the entire matter of discussing the abuse by my parents with my therapist. At some point, she gave me a reality test when she asked: "what are they doing to do, sue you?" I said, "no, of course not" adding that my fears were not justified. I faced no danger.
Prior to that discovery, I had the most unusual nightmare. You cannot make stuff like this up. While it's true that you can't make this up, that doesn't mean you should infer that any part of this nightmare was a reflection of literal events in my life. It is merely an emotional expression of some Archetypal images or metaphorical ideas. The all caps comment by Carrie was an implied form of yelling at me.
To put this into perspective consider a recent comment by Carrie about her actions on social media.
My Mother Kathy Whealton At The Center of This
"I'm certainly not going to post anything on Facebook I don't post my business or anything on Facebook or any other social media."
Those were her literal words verbatim. I'm supposed to know intuitively what a dead man with whom I haven't had an in-depth conversation in nearly 30 years thinks about anything at all! This happened when I still desperately wanted the approval, support, and blessing of my family in all matters.
The biggest mistake I ever made in my existence was to think I ever could earn their approval, acceptance, and love. I could write novels on the bizarre and incomprehensible failure to communicate in just the past couple of years! If I expanded that to my entire lifetime, I would rival the collected books of the Encyclopedia Britania when it was still in print that we put on a bookshelf in Southington during the 70s and 80s!
The mere notion that I engaged Carrie in a discussion on this matter is strange to me. She would prefer to see the mother that sent her over 1000 miles north of where they were living than engaging in discussion with me, her brother!
Surely that makes no sense.
As I was about to say, I had this unusual dream within the past few months and following these contentious and disturbing emails with my sister who seemed to be echoing her mother's ideas.
In the dream, I am a sitter, as a baby sitter until I find out that the powerful head of the household, a woman, was revealed to be dangerous. I was scared and wanted to get out of the job. I felt unsafe. I had taken payment for the day which might have covered more than the hours I had worked. I returned home to an apartment that I shared with someone important to me that I didn't want to be involved in any kind of dangerous situation.
Looking through the peep door and after opening the front door I saw a couple of individuals in some ridiculous outfits. One of them had a Mickey Mouse outfit. This was extremely bizarre. I had been thinking about how we were taken to Disney growing up and how it was used to control our behavior knowing that we really wanted to go there but were told that they might change the entire plans if we weren't good enough. In reality, these were empty threats and we should have known that all the plans were in place for our trip.
Getting back to the dream... the woman, whose presentation was like that of my mother Kathy was at the apartment I had. She has a recording that she insists that I hear, claiming that I owed her more time... I had agreed when I took the cash to additional service. The recording was played back so I would have no doubt.
Somehow there was a gunfight outside and I could see the bloody details like watching some movie where the director shows the action in slow motion so we see every last bloody explosion of bullets upon flesh.
It was gruesome!
Upon awakening, my mind had no doubt who the woman was supposed to represent. She was my mother, in some extreme metaphorical presentation. I woke up feeling uncomfortable. My heart was beating and I felt it in my ears that tried to remain at peace against my pillow. At first, I thought my eyes were blinking very fast and causing the rhythmic sounds I was hearing.
Then I realized it was my heart pulsing through m body, This was 2020 and almost 54 years since I was born and yet I was frightened of a mother who had cancer and who lost so much weight according to reports that were fairly recent from my sister. Yet the terror still gripped me.
I haven't described events that happened in the distant past. Even childhood stories were told and retold over the years to countless people. My cousin Teresa would have you believe that I am "accusing my parents of abuse": and that this is despicable. I've never approached a judge or magistrate to make a report of these crimes. I haven't been exposed to any form of recovered memory intervention. These are not singular incidents that happened only once or a few times. These are stories that were repeated to countless people over the years.
My own sister, brother, and I discussed these matters throughout life. Until recently, the evens were never contested by the perpetrators nor were they minimized by my siblings. They were part of our legacy and common knowledge to anyone and everyone who had an ear to listen.
I can't begin to understand how this has weaved its way into Carrie's mind, my sister. I can't begin to understand why I am the scapegoat or why she thinks I caused problems for "the family." I haven't been a part of "the family." I don't know how my sister who moved to CT from Florida remained a part of the "family." I can't begin to imagine why it was okay for my brother to strike back physically and yet for some reason, which was not even remotely explained to me... all along I have been the scapegoat.
I did everything I was conditioned to do.
Maybe I just haven't returned for dinner on time after Mother got home from work.
Maybe... no never mind. Once I reveal my thoughts and speculations some "reasonable" explanation will be offered to explain why I am wrong... some reason to believe that I shouldn't be believed now.
Why Is The Truth Only Questioned Now?
One cannot help but wonder what happened over the years.
I can reminisce with friends about who lived where in our neighborhood and no one questions the truth of who was living in Lower Moore Hill neighborhood. Every moment of every event has been recalled and would be open for discussion... all except one topic that was never questioned previously... the topic of abuse and assault by our parents. This was once a common topic for us. It disturbed us enough to tell all cousins and our aunt. It disturbed Carrie enough to move over 1000 miles away.
Why did the sister who defended me when her best friend made a tiny insult have no reaction when a real psychopath harmed me? I never asked Carrie to correct every passing thought of her friend Amy Walsh. I might never have known or cared what she said. We were just kids. The comment was merely about whether or not I was tall enough to reach the pedals in a car when I was 16. This upset Carrie.
Yet a bloody attack by a person who ripped through my face, my loving sister had no reaction whatsoever to that. I would have asked immediately "are you okay?" That is simple, it's common sense and easy to ask. It's what you ask on the phone when someone you love has been brutally assaulted. Yet, to the sister I admired, this never occurred to her.