*Age 5 – me in mother’s June 1957 letters to dad
Having just completed the transcription of the nearly 29,000 words contained in the *JUNE 1957 LETTERS BETWEEN MOTHER AND FATHER I now face the most difficult task of all. Do I do what I suggest in the title I have found for the collection of my essays if I ever publish them, “Breaking the Silence that Binds,” or do I let the silence of the words NOT written in my parents’ letters remain intact?
First of all, I know about the silence because I was there, and because 53 years later I can feel that silence now. I know I feel it, because it upsets me. “How dare I speak about what I know?” “DARE” is a word my mother frequently used against her children, especially me. “How DARE you look at me that way?” “How DARE you – blah – blah – blah…..?”
How DARE I, 53 years later, speak my own truth about what I know about what went on in my family? Well, do I dare? Can I dare? Will I dare? It’s as if I stand at a silent, invisible boundary line at which I need to summon my courage, my willingness, my commitment to my own self (and to those who suffered abuse within a family similar to mine), and all of my ability to differentiate myself from both of my parents so that I CAN break this binding silence contained within these letters.
“Dive in, Linda. What is most troubling you?” I find it hard to think at this moment. It’s like I am at the center of a powerful vacuum that sucks all my thoughts along with my whole version of my own reality away from me. How do I begin? I will simply locate the passages within my mother’s writing that I need to use my voice about.
I can feel my fear. I can feel the inner experience of DARING to challenge my mother, even now, all these 53 years later. Where are my thoughts? Where are my words?
First, there are seeds of my truth within these words from mother’s June 12, 1957 Wednesday letter to my father:
“Darling I can’t stand being away from you. I must be with you. I’ll never let anyone separate us again. Never, never, not even the Army – oh darling, I love you.
We loved your letter and cards. Linda didn’t get one – I hope you didn’t forget, I know you wouldn’t. I gave her mine. They were so proud and happy. Come to think of it mornings and afternoons aren’t so bad, but far from good. But from 4:00 on I am SICK!! All this I’ve heard of mind over matter, I must put it into practice. Can I??“
Second, there are seeds of my truth within these words from my mother’s June 27, 1957 letter:
“Oh darling, my heart never ceases aching for you. I had ‘the feeling’ this afternoon I should check again to see if there was mail again. I usually only go in the morning but I had to go again and there was!
It was the letter written before the one I got this morning. It was written Friday. It’s funny to read them backwards. I drove over to the little park in Glendora and let the kids play awhile, took a few impromptu pictures, which I’ll send to you, and read your letter there! I took one close-up of Linda as she lost her 2nd front tooth today. Isn’t nature wonderful, right on time? Tonight the angel will visit her – usually you do that – I know.”
Finally, the contrast I am going to speak about relates to this in her ‘fun filled’ descriptions in her June 27, 1957 Thursday night letter:
“I wish you could have seen John when he caught his trout! He was so excited, he swung his line around and caught it in a tree. Naturally, he had had several bites and near catches before he actually caught one. It really was priceless! He jumped up and down and exclaimed.
Cindy was such a ‘patient fisherwoman’ and soon caught a big one. I took a picture of her holding the line with the fish on it, with the others standing close, admiring it. J I surely hope IT comes out!
Linda caught the biggest and is so proud! We got home at 8:00 P.M. and so will cook them tomorrow! Grandma will be here then, as I have errands in Pasadena (what a let-down) to do tomorrow. I know she loves trout and I’m afraid the children might not eat it.
The only one that minded ‘hurting the fish’ was John. He couldn’t stand to see it bled and naturally I had to get someone else to pull the hook out. J I was glad cleaning them was part of the price and I even had her cut the heads off.“
OK. Step one is completed. I have used my net woven of my bravery and determination to snatch this collection of my mother’s words out of her letters, out of the context that she wrote them within, and I have moved them into MY universe – 53 years later.
How telling it is to me that the power of my mother’s severe abuse of me, coupled with my father’s unwillingness to EVER stop her or to even recognize that the abuse was happening, makes it this difficult even today for me to DARE to speak about what I know about my parents’ version of reality.
Now, as I try to locate MY OWN SELF, my own feelings, thoughts, words, perceptions in relationship to my mother’s words, I need to distill this down if I can into my own crystallized words about these letter passages.
(1) My mother’s Borderline reality began to take shape from the time she was very, very young. The neglect, abuse, trauma and malevolent conditions that she was born into influenced the body-brain changes that led to her condition.
(2) My mother’s Borderline reality was already well in place before she ever met and married my father on June 11, 1949. They knew one another six months before the marriage took place.
(3) My the time my oldest brother, John, was born on June 15, 1950 my mother’s Borderline reality had expanded to not only include the existence of her ‘perfect husband’, Bill, but also had grown to include the appearance of this firstborn ‘perfect son’.
(4) A healthy, balanced relationship between my mother and her mother had been trashed beginning with my mother’s birth. While I became the victim-pawn within the complex interplay of the disturbances between my mother and her mother, I was not the cause of them.
(5) Patterns of chronic and severe abuse in a family happen because these patterns both grow into the family dynamics and shape them. These patterns are especially well-disguised within a Borderline-based brain-nervous system-mind-self focused home.
(6) These patterns are at the same time NOT detected because their disguise is perfect and because they have shaped every single interaction and transaction that occurs over time between the people that are part of the close family.
When my mother writes to my father in one of her June 27, 1957 letters, “We’re not ordinary people – we’re a close knit family and should never be separated!” I believe she is recognizing within herself that her entire reality depends upon the ongoing patterns that were not only established within her own Borderline mind when she was a little girl, but also is recognizing that her ongoing reality is completely intertwined with my father’s presence in her life.
(7) The patterns that formed the fabric of the ongoing interactions within our family worked because they were silent. The silence of the truth about what was really going on was as completely necessary to maintain ‘reality’s existence’ as was the presence of my father.
(8) The key point I know about the passages I selected above is that it wasn’t just the presence of my father in my mother’s life that was required for her reality to remain intact. It was absolutely essential that my father completely understand my mother’s version of reality as it regarded me as the kingpin of her mad illusions.
My mother very effectively, efficiently and expertly manipulated how my father saw me throughout my entire childhood. My mother had to convince my father of her mother’s love for me so that she could then justify and defend her abuse of me.
The pattern of the dynamics of my mother’s abuse of me with my father’s acceptance if not approval happened over time because:
(a) My mother could ensure that my father knew she had undying love for him.
(b) My mother could ensure that my father’s entire life involved his love for her at its center.
(c) My mother could ensure that my father could not understand what she did to me in any way than I ‘abused my mother’ by being such a terrible child. My mother was ‘put upon’ by a ‘curse child’ – she bore her burdens with glorious magnanimity. My mother created a pattern of reality that meant my father never questioned her version of the truth.
In the two first passages I include here from my mother’s writings to my father, I know the truth is invisibly included in her words. Both of my parents, whether they made the choices consciously or not, DID exactly choose what words they included within their letters.
Although my mother does mention their other three children in her letters, it is exactly and specifically Linda that she draws attention to in terms of her magnanimous ‘good mother’ actions toward me. In both of these incidents she includes about me in her letter, she directly hooks my father – and his role as my father — into ‘the story’.
(a) Father evidently ‘forgot’ to send Linda a card. Magnanimous ‘good mother’ gives me hers.
(b) Mother makes sure to mention that she took a picture ‘close up’ of just Linda as she hooks in my father by also drawing his attention to his usual role as the lost tooth routine. Magnanimous ‘good mother’ takes his place and performs his job for him.
In the third passage I included above a different dynamic is operating (from my point of view). As mother describes the fishing adventures of her group of children, she does include Linda as one of the group. This mention, to me, is not one that involves the kind of husband-father-conning-manipulation that she used in the first two passages. In the fishing scene, she actually ‘forgot’ to separate me from the rest of ‘the pack’.
The problem with this thirdly-mentioned experience is that any time I was ‘accidentally’ left out of my mother’s psychosis regarding me at the same time I was ‘accidentally’ included as a member of the sibling group, I never, never, never knew when to expect my mother’s psychosis to reappear in some random violent extreme outburst against me.
I mention this fact here because these ‘happy Linda as part of the group’ experiences did as much to create major dissociational patterns in my ongoing experience of my life in the world as did the violence. I never could anticipate ‘which was going to be which’. I could not predict, I could not prevent, I could not understand any of it.
So when something good actually did happen, when I actually was allowed to be a child, it always happened not because I WAS a child, but happened because mother was in one of her “giddy-happy let’s-do-something-fun isn’t-this-fun” moods that NONE of us could understand.
NOTE: My mother seems to have some peripheral comprehension of the difficulties her shifts of mental state, mood and attitude had on her children when she described this in the same letter where she talks about the fishing trip:
“Next door to us there’s a beautiful trailer court (I don’t think they allow children). Mostly, the people seem to be retired. It really is nice. They have a lovely swimming pool, shuffle-board etc. Some of them have their patios fixed so nicely with ferns, tropical plants etc. We all enjoyed seeing it. You can’t imagine how much I enjoy the children – they’re truly fun to be with – if no other adults are along. When we’re alone I treat them more as adults. We talk and laugh and have fun. When other adults are there or in the car they’re treated as children and resent it. I can’t blame them. It must be hard (Pals and friends one minute and a mere child, the next).“
But it is obvious to me that even as she wrote these words, even as she noticed the process she described here, it doesn’t MEAN ANYTHING TO HER. My mother remained consistently at the center of her own universe and everything that happened always happened to us with her at this center.
With the exception of the simple report that I caught the biggest fish and I was proud (she doesn’t’ describe to my father what her reaction to my pride might have been), the other two examples regarding me have nothing to do with Linda.
In both of the other two events mother is the star player. Father becomes the blind, manipulated hooked-into-my-mother’s-version-of-reality player. All I am is the actress-prop being used to continue the solidification of the pattern-dynamics that HAD to be protected and maintained in the family even though my father was not physically present in the home. There could be no lapse of pattern.
My mother had to SHINE. My father had to see her SHINE. My father had to stay entranced. He had to see my mother SHINE as his wife. He had to see her SHINE as a mother. And, for the overall, overriding, overarching dynamic of my mother’s psychosis – with me at its center – to continue to operate as my mother’s Borderline madness HAD to have it happen, my father ESPECIALLY had to see my mother SHINE as MY magnanimously good mother.
My mother had to so comprehensively control the pattern-dynamics in her home that when she acted viciously toward me, even her insane, mad violence would be seen by my father as just another aspect of her SHINING ability to be this terribly BAD child’s magnanimous good mother.
To say that ‘my mother as martyr’ was an aspect of the pattern-dynamics of our home is such an understatement it’s almost ridiculous. At the same time, my grandmother did the ‘martyr thing’ to near perfection. Adding another bizarre twist, it was a part of my mother’s abuse litany against my father that HE played such an excellent martyr role!
All the while these dynamics were slithering around among the only grown-ups in my child life, it was ME that was being sacrificed. I was not ‘a martyr’, I was martyred.
I need to take my word-search detour here for a moment:
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Greek martyr-, martys witness
Date: before 12th century
1 : a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2 : a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle
3 : victim; especially : a great or constant sufferer
Date: before 12th century
1 : to put to death for adhering to a belief, faith, or profession
2 : to inflict agonizing pain on : torture
As an infant-child I certainly had no ability to volunteer as a martyr. At the same time, I was accused from birth of being sent as an agent of the devil to kill my mother, I was not given any means of defending myself. I could not ‘renounce’ the devil! I had no principle or religion to denounce. I had been assigned a religion as being ‘the devil’s child’.
Yes, I witnessed. Yes I sacrificed. Yes, I greatly and nearly constantly suffered. But this truth only appears in my parents’ letters by its silence.
whole letters: *JUNE 1957 LETTERS BETWEEN MOTHER AND FATHER