I Knew It All Along!

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Escape Goat

That nice living standard we had back in the city fell to a new abysmal low after we settled in that little mining town and Dad’s business partnership failed so soon after. I was 13 when we made that big move a full day’s drive away from the city we left behind, along with all that it promised for our futures. It was the most confusing, most bewildering thing to adjust from life in a loose-knit city to a tight-knit little town run by the descendents of its founding families and having the most incredibly provincial local culture.

Gone was the camaraderie of cousins in the schoolyard who doubled as my henchmen when trouble with aggressive schoolmates arose. I now stood alone against the powerful local mafia that was made of the children of the founding families; a massive and solid network borne of the many decades of their family togetherness. There, rumors and gossip flew like wildfire and good people got ruined beyond redemption for it.

As newbie’s in the little town we had no such close-by human resources and no such recourse. Dad had always been harsh with all of us but in the new town his already terrible temper became mega-volcanic. I hated him like poison for it.

In my earlier years, Mom had gone out on a limb to salvage me from what it was that had me all along. After the move she gave up on me, not out of malice but out of despair. No doctor or expert in psychology had been able to decipher it. Not until much later in my adult life did it get revealed: Asperger’s syndrome and it co-morbid complex partial seizures. All I knew was I was different but I had no control, and I knew I generated enormous acrimony in the town’s population as well as enormous controversy within my family. I was more vilified for it than the scum-of-the-earth criminals that made the In the Courts page of the local newspaper. Being “different” was a heinous crime

I also saw the enormous shift in the dynamics of my family after the move. We were uprooted from that old high standard and its fun-filled summer vacations and what I once knew as an opulent and often festive lifestyle. Now it seemed it had become a new rule: each and everyone looking out for Number One. There was something else I caught on: my status in my family had become as an island detached from what was now a 5-piece “mainland” all under one roof. I had to grow up fast. It didn’t happen overnight, but it all went on a tangent that grew and morphed like the larva of some vile insect.

The neglect wasn’t willful. Dad sunk into a depression after the failure of his partnership although I didn’t recognize it myself at the time from the perspective of my youthful age. I now realize that was why Dad never took up that opportunity and extra time to connect more closely with his family. He never sought help or counseling either: it “wasn’t” a man thing to do. Dad was a classic example of a man of the old school. His singular function was to “bring home the bacon” and coming from that culture the wife and sometimes the children were expected to attend to him in the house like servants. All he became was this idle fixture that contributed nothing. He now played me like a yo-yo for his store errands repeatedly sending me out for never than one item at a time even though the list was longer than both arms and both legs put together. My acrimony for him grew like a simmering volcano threatening to erupt. Dad eventually started his own business but it never made any profit. He didn’t have it in him for the time management, planning, and execution parts of entrepreneurship. That first year, the only income was from Mom’s casual and part-time work.

In her childhood, Mom grew up in poverty and neglect in a gigantic Catholic family and carried its version of overzealous Catholic fundamentalism into our lives. As I found out much much later in my life, it was a condition of employment with her Catholic-affiliated employer to never miss the Sunday morning service. After Dad lost his job, Mom went back to school to further our chances and to restore some semblance of the old standard we knew back in the city. The new imposition on her schedule and Dad’s inability to offer any support put a whole new spin on how life would go on in the house for the next 2 years. I was always and forever the one dispatched to church on Sunday morning while my siblings stayed home, watched the morning cartoons, and frolicked among all the half-full milk and cereal bowls, toys and books strewn all over, Dad’s many empty beer bottles and his 2 or 3 overflowing ashtrays. By then I was almost always avoiding the company of my siblings as well as being inside that house. It was too shameful.

Dad had changed too and it seemed that nothing mattered in his life other than the TV hockey games, his beer, and his ever-present cigarettes. The house smelled like a pool hall because of that. He was never, ever without a lit cigarette. It was as if he too shut his family out of his life. As a couple my parents had their serious issues even before the move. Now with the much lower income they earned and the new abysmal standards by which we lived, the situation went out of control. My feelings towards Dad for having uprooted us like that and then dragged us into such a substandard lifestyle were acrimonious beyond words. I was around 14 and couldn’t make the connection: why? Meanwhile his temper had shifted from very bad to being a hair trigger.

My sister was Sibling #3 and the only girl as well as the Golden Child. She had always and forever been the GC and my parents’ blameless and Darling Little Princess. On any and every long road trip she always sat in the front seat between the parents. Always completely blameless, faultless, she insulted the rest of us and tore shreds of skin out of us in her attacks with impunity. Anything ever done against her would always and inevitably illicit Mom’s wrath and long and fiery diatribes: “There is only ONE girl in the house…” Her impunity included always having eyes bigger than her stomach at every meal and enormous quantities of food were wasted every day by her even if we 3 growing boys had to do without. How could my parents not see that? My GC sister ALWAYS got her way, including circumventing the Sunday morning church service, even while the other 5 of us attended. In the very rare times she was ever punished for any deed, I too was denied privileges even if I had nothing to do with the dispute. My siblings stirred up the dirt, I took all the flack for it. It was so typical in that house.

I had my last straw with Dad on a Saturday morning while all were in the middle of their kiddy frolicking and the TV cartoons that played. After another busy and late night with TV hockey, beer, and cigarettes Dad came storming down and screamed at us so loud about our “noise-making” that the windows rattled in their frames. I stood up to Dad: “You really hate us kids, don’t you? What are we to you, Dad, just a bunch of unwanted parasites?”

Why did Mom ever marry anything like that? And why did she pop so many kids with that? I didn’t believe every family household was that miserable. Hunting season was on and I headed out to the woods regardless of the miserable weather, hunting gun in tow. I did not return until it was dark.

The endless wilderness that surrounded the little town was my salvation and I got creative in my escapism. One winter I operated a trap line and attended to the same every day after school and every weekend. In hunting season I would slip out before first light on weekend mornings and not be back until after dark, religiously every weekend until closing of the season. Other times of the year I took long hikes to the fishing holes. Back at the house it was always a given that I was going to be a target. While I was burning up in fever and at peak agony from the infamous Bangkok flu of 1977 (and Brother #2 was down with it at the same time), Mom forced me to get up out of bed and accompany her to the grocery store. Dad was away on business with the car. Although my sister was available and not in any such duress, that was just one of the myriad examples where she never had to do anything she didn’t want to do. Everything went to my sister. Everything evolved around my sister. Meanwhile my sister never learned, let alone knew about sharing. She got away with everything. A simple “no” was all she needed if she didn’t want to do it and her wish was granted.

I could see how Mom was pushed to the breaking point with all the overwhelming conditions and I too silently took on supporting roles. I got her to show me how to man the washing machine. That way, at least there was always clean laundry. I learned how to cook and then led the evening meal prep, often in the scrum of 3 siblings who ganged up on me all the time. In my “defense” Mom would just wave them off as if flushing the pigeons off the garbage bin. It was so lame. By my mid-teens I took summer jobs and used the earnings to outfit my school wardrobe, relieving the meager family budget. It kept the peace to some extent but it wasn’t good enough. Mom always and forever found “reasons” to flame me with her diatribes and the situation continued to escalate exponentially through my later teen years. Brother #2 became the Hero taking on responsibilities like an adult to the point Mom now saw fit to delegate him as an auxiliary parent to help her “raise” me. Bro #2 was always at her side assisting with the “discipline”. What kind of parenting was that? And what did Bro #2 do to earn such a “special” privilege? It didn’t add up. I protested by telling him off with torrents of verbal raw sewage, and did it in blatant defiance to the strict in-house edict for such language.

My grades at school were the lowest of all the children in my family and a constant thorn in my parents’ sides. Dad said “Your grades are getting lower every year and there’s not much more room to go down”. Mom accused me of “throwing away my future to the wind”, although she did act one time on my behalf with an English teacher who bullied me relentlessly.

I was a one-boy resistance faction growing up in some kind of freak show and war. The high school I attended was nothing more than a concentration camp without gas chambers, ovens, and barb wires. Its management ought to have been the Schutzstaffel itself, its teachers the SS Guards, and its jocks the Kapos. The entire population of the little town ostracized me like some kind of undesirable. I lived those years like a Jew in Hitler’s regime. How was I expected to be any model student when this was NOT a place of learning, but a place to survive one more day and repeat the process each and every day? How was I expected to perform as a “student” when my experience there was nothing but a 5-year marathon of shame, degradation, and humiliation every minute of every day?

How did I get through all that without going on one of those rampages we hear so much about? Don’t ask because I don’t know. It must have been all the sugar coated lies, gaslighting, and deception that I was raised on. As a one-boy resistance faction I stood alone against 5 people. The expectations my family put on me could only be found in Superman comics.

I had a Buckaroo moment (like that toy donkey) with my sister after how many millions of unprovoked barbs from her over the years and how many million “Aw just ignore her” from Mom. Spontaneously and noting her bad complexion I called my sister “Crater Face”. She melted in her seat looking like the 9/11 towers and then fled up to her room to bawl her eyes out for the next many hours. “There is ONLY ONE GIRL in this house” were the words that came up as always from Mom in another of her long and flaming diatribes. Brother #2, always and forever the auxiliary parent at her side, denounced me as “the cruelest thing I could have done”. I was dumb and speechless. As Mom slumped over the table wailing and sobbing, I could have been Josef Mengele himself having live-butchered “her only girl” and GC, and left her bloodied parts on the table before her. How could it be okay for her to treat me like that each and every day but not okay for me to return fire?

In the face of it all I remained defiant. I fought back. I fought those who were the dearest to me although they were not my intended targets. I hurt those who where dearest to me although it was not them I wanted to hurt, and I know they haven’t forgotten what I did. What I fought against was the unspeakable unfairness that prevailed in the dynamics of my family. My own words were “Play fair and you won’t have that problem”. The unfairness continued.

Well, dear reader, I touched on only a few of the family dynamics here but as any Lost Child / Scapegoat reading this, I’m sure you can relate. Mom had put herself out for me in having brought me back from the edge with the then unknown condition I had all along. Mom had also been there for me for moral support in my personal triumphs –and even financial support that I never wanted to accept as I struggled for my place in the labor force while all 3 of my siblings skated their ways to the American Dream without ado, and all now making more than $500K a year. Mom had done a fine job of it; credit or credit due in that sense.

How many really know the dichotomy that hid behind Mom’s façade of being such a “good” and doting mother, such a pillar of the standards in her profession, such an upholder in the local Catholic parish, and in the community? How many really know the hidden agenda she had all along for me? We all know the epic effort she put out for me up to around my 13th birthday, the effort she put out to help me find my way and fit with all the rest. How many really know the same epic effort Mom put out to nearly destroy me, to rob me of my sense of identity, and to rob me of so many opportunities that included romantic relationships that never became? What could ever possess Mom to go in contradiction to a line of work that exposed her to every known childhood personality issue over the life of her career?

Dad the more outwardly blatant abuser had been the one I vowed to get back at. That is until he mysteriously shifted in his position in the family. I don’t know how, where, when, why, and what made him change like that. It seemed at some point my sister was no longer his GC in his eyes. I did notice Dad began to act in my behalf in the family dynamics, including smacking my younger brother for his hostile actions against me. He also treated my sister the same way he used to treat me. All I could say was I found it surreal.

How close by had been the real root of all my personality issues all this time! How long had it been hiding all this time in plain sight! By the very one who should have been my main role model I was made a pariah. By the very one who should have been my Guiding Light I had been Gaslighted all along. By the very one who should have been my best friend and confidante I had been deceived. It took me all these years of counseling to have this a-ha moment.

As I near an age where most working people entertain retirement, it will take me many more years of counseling to completely deprogram the old systems. It will take some time to come to terms with the new reality. Like any and every extreme narcissist, Mom cannot and will not be made to see the truth to what she did. That alone has completely changed my relationship with her. Call it my version of truth be told truth be revealed, call it whatever.

And you, the adult Lost Child and Scapegoat of a narcissistic mother, if you are reading this and had an echo of your own to this and have made inroads since then, I welcome your input.
Having dealt with a narcissist in the family, I can recognize the behavior and witnessed first hand the damage. Thank you for sharing your story. You words are both eloquent and powerful.

Escape Goat

TY shrinkingviolet!

The moment came to me so suddenly and so surreptitiously. It is still so surreal, yet so real. My relationship with my family has been suddenly redefined in ways I never thought possible. The best case scenario and my greatest joy is to be able to one day tell my siblings how it was not them that I wanted to fight like that and to hurt like that, and that it was not their fault. It was the unspeakable unfairness that I rebelled against.

The several years of counseling I've been to are a mitigating factor to this culmination. At the next session we will touch on how I shall deal with and play out my life with this new reality.

My mother will notice a difference in me in times to come but all I can see out of it is to gaslight her the same way she did to me all this time, just for the sake of "answering her Q's". From hereon my contact with her will be very measured and there shall be no more sharing any of my personal affairs with her. To this day I'm the only one of her 4 children with whom she still fights.

Both my brothers have since matured and we had some nice chats about what we all went through. The younger (mascot / clown) has noticed and mentioned the completely different dynamics that still stand between me and Mom. The second brother from me (hero / auxiliary parent) I now realize was a case of parentification. I have a good feeling we boys will soon be able to bring that terrible past to closure. I think he too knows it was not normal and not acceptable.

As for my sister (golden child) I figure it best to wait for Mom to pass on to the spirit world. Meanwhile my brother in law has tried to broach things with me that I know stem directly from my skewed family upbringing. He too will have to wait for Mom to pass on before I really and seriously open up. I know there are things about my sister that perplex him to no end.

Love and Peace,

Escape Goat
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