The first volume of the “The Demise of Mildred” forensic biography I am working on contains my parents’ “love letters” from the summer of 1957. My father had left his wife and 4 young children in Los Angeles as he left ahead of us for Alaska to start his new job and to obtain housing so that we could follow.
This body of letters provides the sole opportunity among all the papers I ‘inherited’ from my Borderline Personality Disorder severely abusive mother to see inside the mind of my father. He was her perfect enabler. Father never ONCE protected me from Mother’s abuse. He never intervened on my behalf.
The role of my father in Mother’s madness has always remained a mystery not only to me, but also to all five of my siblings and to everyone I have ever talked to about the horror of the history of what went on in the home of origin I spent the first 18 years of my life so suffering within.
(Note: It has been explained in previous chapters that the idea of moving to Alaska was entirely Mother’s. Her BPD need was to get me as far away from my grandmother as she possibly could. I was nearing my 6th birthday and it was no longer possible for Mother to continue to abuse me in her hell without her mother noticing.)
This letter from my father contains my comments that are still in first rough draft form contained in CHAPTER NINE:
June 24, 1957 Monday
Don’t worry any more about my not getting your letters – I got four again today, the latest one postmarked Saturday. All you need use for an address is: c/o District Engineer, Anchorage, Alaska. The box number etc. is the official address but it isn’t needed. I think by now I’ve received all the mail that you sent to the APO box number in Seattle.
Oh, my Darling, I feel so sorry for all the troubles you’ve gone through. I know how much has happened to you and how much you’ve had to do all by yourself. I feel so helpless, as though I was sitting here wasting my time while you have so much to do. I am proud of the way you’ve gotten along by yourself, and I worship you for the wonderful wife and mother that you are to me (and our children). This is a trying time we’re going through right now, and I swear I’ll make it up to you for the rest of our lives. If you hadn’t been willing to do what you’re doing I never could have come here, so we are truly partners in everything we do.
I know more every day that we’re going to like it here, and on that glorious day when we’re all settled here we’ll both really begin to live again. I die a little too every day that I spend without you, and I dread the days that lie just ahead. I could never grow accustomed to living without you – instead it gets worse every single day that we’re apart. I feel it most of all at night when I turn off the light and go to bed. I could never sleep well alone again! When the light’s on I can see where I am and see how alone I am, but when I lie down in the dark I feel that you should be there beside me – and when I’m half-asleep I reach out to hold you close to me. That horrible empty feeling when my hand finds nothing but the wall – it would be impossible to describe if you didn’t feel it too. Oh my Mildred, my life is only in you. I won’t really live again at all until you are in my arms again.
You must take care of yourself and try to live some sort of a “normal” life while you’re there, get into a routine and have your meals on time and get enough sleep. You do have a big load to carry, there’s no getting away from that, and you just have to take care of yourself! I know there doesn’t seem to be anything but trouble and worries and waiting but please try to relax and have at least a little fun this summer.
Before you do any driving though, you’ll have to have a spare tire. Go to a tire store and get a retread – not a new one – and don’t let them charge you over about $9.00 for the tire and tube. It sounds like the car needs new spark plugs and a tune-up. Go to a garage – George and Murray’s down the highway is good – and have it done and I think the car will run OK. Don’t let them sell you an overhaul or anything else. [Why did Bill not leave the car in good repair before he flew north?] By the way – I forgot to tell you to use the 25¢ oil and regular gas in the car, anything better would spoil it. [smiley face]
This afternoon my boss “invited” me to go out and look at the runway paving that I’m working on, and he’s a real “company-man” so we got back too late for me to get to the Beneficial Finance office before they closed. So I’ll take off in the morning and be there when they open up. Then, I’ll go right over to the post office and mail it to you. If it doesn’t get there the same time this does, go back in the afternoon and it might be there then.
I’ll ask you once more, although you may already have answered, what about writing to you at the Motel?
I’ve already written a card to Ben Wright and I’ll write him a letter soon. Also I’ll send a postcard to all of our friends – although it will be hard not to make them all sound alike (I hope they don’t get together and compare them).
I agree emphatically about sending the card back to my mother! She must have rocks in her head to think she can go right on as though nothing had ever happened. Believe me, I didn’t write to her for her sake – only to get it off my chest so I could forget about it!
I’ll check on the price of the Chevy Station Wagon – just out of curiosity. It would sure be nice to get it, but that’s another wild idea we’d better forget about – along with my idea of buying a house! If we can just get settled here without going broke we’ll be doing well – without buying anything more.
I’m glad I’m in time in telling you about the stove. I know how hard it is to part with our one remaining original appliance, but it would be completely useless here so sell it!
I know there was something else I wanted to say but I can’t remember it. If it comes to me I’ll put a note in with the papers in the morning.
Try to tell the children how I love them and miss being with them, miss hearing their voices and hearing their prayers. Every time I see a little child it reminds me of them and makes me all the more homesick. As soon as I get paid I’ll send everyone a little gift – something Alaskan if I can find something that wasn’t made in Japan. Good night now, my beloved Mildred, and remember:
[He drew little musical notes all around the edges of this]
‘Till I hold you in my arms,
I will hold you in my heart.
I love you sweetheart, I love you forever and for always, I Love You, Bill
[Mildred wrote in the top margin of this letter in 1966: – “Sounds so much like now, only it’s nine years later and tonight I’m bitter, lonely and can’t even write you – I can’t – it’s like an old record playing ‘yes later’ over and over.”]
“I worship you for the wonderful wife and mother that you are to me (and our children)” — I believe my father meant these words absolutely when he wrote them, but oh what a scary condition this created for me having him in this state in relationship to this woman who so devastatingly – and frequently – so harmed me. While most of her severe abuse of me happened when my father was not home, I know there were many occasions when no normal human being could have witnessed what he did — and not do ANYTHING to protect me against her.
But, then, nothing in our home approached normal. In my thinking Father lost his sovereignty as an individual person in his relationship with Mildred a long time before he wrote these words. Mildred had no capacity to ‘stand on her own two feet’ with a strong, clear, intact healthy self at her own center. Mildred WAS her illness. Neither, evidently, could my father maintain his own personhood in his relationship with her.
Worshiping any human being is, to me, an extremely dangerous if not downright stupid thing to do. Yet so comprehensive was Mildred’s illness that there was no possible option in relationship with her but to be swallowed up whole by her disease, as well. My father had not only given up his ghost — even the ghost of my father had given up. Their was nothing left for any of us BUT Mildred’s madness.
“This is a trying time we’re going through right now, and I swear I’ll make it up to you for the rest of our lives. If you hadn’t been willing to do what you’re doing I never could have come here, so we are truly partners in everything we do.” — My parents were partners in crime. A few years ago it struck me exactly how criminal they were. As I listened to the many neighborhood children playing happily outside one day I imagined my mother inside my house. I imagined her stomping to open my front door and slamming it open, clamoring down my front steps. I imagined her in a rage even approaching one of these children — and then I imagined what would happen if she had so much as touched one of them in her rage.
I realized that every adult on the street would have been out of their houses so fast Mother would not have seen them coming. They would have grabbed her, would have knocked her to the ground and sat on her until police arrived if they had to. But NEVER would anyone allow her to hurt one of these children.
I then came up with a low estimate of how many times in the 18 years of my early life Mildred had brutally assaulted me physically without even considering the nearly continual verbal and emotional abuse. I assigned a fair jail sentence to each count and realized the minimum combined jail time my mother deserved would have been 15,000 years. Accounting for my father’s complicity in her crimes would, in my mind, have earned him a sentence at least equal to hers.
If people think there’s some kind of ‘ordinary’ and therefore acceptable child abuse, my parents did not match this description. Considering that in 2012 nineteen states in America allowed corporeal punishment in public schools, our culture must waver on at a very fine edge between child assault that is acceptable and child assault that is not. In my own case, among the many therapists I sought help from in my 30s during the decade of the 1980s, not one single one of them EVER mentioned to me that my mother was mentally ill. Not one. Ever.
I don’t think Mildred made it out of her childhood having a mind to lose, but I believe my father did. Or did he? What was it about his needs and about how his needs were met by this woman that so completely robbed him of his own sanity and selfhood? Mildred evidently had her husband’s mind as her own as surely as she had mine. But she had been forming my mind to match hers from the moment I was born.
That Mildred so completely mind-melded with her husband is so far past intriguing it is horrifying. It is processes like these that create holocausts, which is exactly what my infancy and childhood with these parents was like. In his wedded blissfulness, it seems to me, Father was just as lost and powerless as a human being as he would have been if he had never been born at all. As he so clearly and blindly stated, “Oh my Mildred, my life is only in you. ”