Silent treatment is mental, emotional and psychological abuse.
Just trying to track our childhood memories by location of place as well as by time is a difficult task for any of us Lloyd children. As I try to track our whereabouts for this next memory, I piece together the time by the places we lived as I come up to the memory.
As I try to find my memories in our family’s patterns of chaos, I find that the end of my 5th grade (1961-1962 school year), when I was 10, saw us moving back up to the mountain from the log house in Eagle River as I described in *THE SHAMPOO LIE AND RUNNING AWAY. We stayed there for the summer and by the time the roads were covered with snow late the next fall of my 6th grade year we were split between living at the log house and the mountain. Spring of this 1962-1963 school year we were out of the log house, where my mother had rented out one of the rooms and carried on a day care center during the day, and were back on the mountain full time.
The fall of my 7th grade (1963-1964 school year) found us arriving late for the start of school in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we spent several months of the winter in The Silver Saddle Motel as my father remained in Alaska. By early spring we were all back on the homestead in time for the great Alaskan earthquake on March 27, 1964.
We spent the summer on the mountain and moved into an apartment on Birchwood Loop Road near Eagle River the following fall I was in 8th grade. My youngest brother was born in February 1965. That spring we moved back to the homestead and by fall my mother and we children had driven down to spend the winter I was in 9th grade (again starting school late), the 1965-1966 school year, in Tucson, Arizona.
My father flew down to Tucson in June 1966 after the school year had ended to drive with us back to Alaska, or at least back as far as Seattle where he planned to buy a new Jeep Wagoneer. This memory originates on my older brother’s June 15th birthday when we stopped on some small country dirt side road near Ashland, Oregon to celebrate with a family picnic.
Everything seemed to be deceptively fine and happy. The day was warm, sky was blue, sun shining through forest leaves as my mother passed each of us a sandwich. She had placed my 18 month old baby brother in his jump seat (like a walker without wheels), and she had NOT asked me to watch him. Yet when she turned around and saw that he had bent over, picked up small pebbles of gravel off of the road and was playing with them on his jumper tray, she exploded at me.
The way my mother’s mind worked I had deliberately killed my baby brother by watching him put pebbles into his mouth so that he could choke to death, and I had deliberately ruined my older brother’s birthday. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the baby, but that had no bearing whatsoever on her reaction or on the rage that she let lose on me.
Her violent volcano erupted with the usual screaming, shouting, yelling and hitting. She forbid anyone in the family to speak to me for the rest of the trip back to Alaska. After my father had picked up the new Jeep in Seattle, she told me to ride with my father because she couldn’t stand the sight of me and didn’t want me in her car with the rest of her children.
So I rode with my father on that long drive home. At least he let me ride in the front seat, but never once on that whole trip did he say a single word to me. Maybe he would not have spoken to anyone else had they been in that seat, either. He drove in silence behind my mother, and at one point half way up the Alaskan highway we crested a hill and saw ahead of us my mother’s station wagon pulled to the side of the road, smoke pouring out from under the hood, children milling around it as my mother stood at the open rear car door frantically yanking suitcases of her Alaskan book writings out of the car so they wouldn’t be burned. (She had told my sister to get the baby out of the car. Her concern was for her papers.)
I don’t remember how the problem of the smoking car was taken care of, but I remember how strange and remote I felt watching the family’s actions from the distant place my father had told me to stand as he ran to help my mother. During that whole long trip nobody spoke to me when we stopped to eat a meal. Nobody spoke to me when we stopped at motels to sleep for the night.
This event was added to her ongoing abuse litany as proof of my irresponsibility and my desire to kill my brother. It proved that I could not be trusted. It proved I thought of nobody but myself. It proved I wanted to be an only child and not a member of my family.
Even now as I remember and try to write about this experience, it’s like my thoughts and my own words seem sucked out of me into some vast unending silence.
My father was and is a part of that silence. I have never found the truth about him within my own self. I don’t even seem to know where to begin to find it. Addressing his treatment of me is far, far harder for me than it is to look at the actions of my mother. I don’t remember ever being aware of wanting her to love me. I wanted my father to love me. It’s like his silence and inaction never gave me anything to hold onto so that he slid on through my childhood being blameless.
Logically, I know that he wasn’t. Emotionally, I still can’t know this truth.
Interestingly, my older brother felt such a powerful attraction to that little town of Ashland as we drove through it that day in 1966 that he went to college there when he left home and continued to consider Ashland his home for the next 25 years. He also says that just as suddenly as he fell in love with that town, a day came just as suddenly when he was “done with Ashland.” He left and has no desire to ever return.
Related post, +GUIDING THE SOUL OF A CHILD — THE OPPOSITE OF TRAUMA September 21, 2011