Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Out of the Nest (1985 - 1988)

I graduated from high school with honor roll grades, a Leadership Award in one sport, barring in two sports, and getting advanced placement in English & Math. Through all of the confusion, I managed to excel at school. I was accepted into several colleges and per my parents' divorce agreement, I had to selected a state university for my Dad to pay my tuition, books, room, transportation, lab fees, and food. My mother gave up equity in the house in exchange for my Dad to pay for my brother's and my college (more on this later). During this time, my Dad and I started talking again, and rekindling a relationship with him felt good.

I went off to college and adjusted well; however, I missed my family & friends, so I came home on some weekends. I missed a couple of weekends due to illness (I had a very BAD case of strep throat at one point, which friends came to check on me, but not my family) and obligations at school on others.

After I came home one random weekend and spent an afternoon running with a friend, I was eating dinner with my mother, step-father, and brother. My mother made a statement, "If you are coming home and not to spending time with your family, then don't bother coming home". I was puzzled as I was coming home and spending time with friends AND family. Again, I felt like I could rarely anything right in her eyes.

Well, one weekend, I knew I was going to be spending a great deal of time with my friends, helping them with their job. I decided that I would come back to the local area, help them out, stay in their dorm, and head back the next morning. I figured I would tell my mother about the excursion afterward, but one of her friends saw me and told my mother in conversation that she had seen me in town.

You would have thought the world had ended. My mother was hysterical, saying that I didn't love her, that I would have never come into town and not called if I did love her. No matter what reassurances I presented, she continued to get more and more upset. Her hysteria and being convinced I didn't love her because I came into town & didn't call her continued through phone calls AND letters, until the situation escalated after a few weeks to her telling me to not come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and that she would put all of my possessions on the curb to be picked-up on a certain date. And if the items weren't retrieved on that date, she would have the Salvation Army pick them up (I had a final exam on that day and my school was almost a 2 hour drive to her house). I was floored that the situation had heightened to this level. My friends tried talking to her, but she was irrational.

Each of her letters became more and more bizarre. "Borderlines distort the truth because their perceptions are distorted. Distortion is an unconscious way of processing information that reflects the individual’s reality. Distortion misleads and aggravates family members, who may take a borderline’s statement at face value before discovering the facts” p 9 Lawson. She grew further away from what the point actually was. She became so upsetting and abusive with her words that one of my friends wrote her a letter (unknown to me) asking her to back off, that she was behaving crazy.

My friends ended up having to retrieve my things off of the street due to my exam that day. She also placed a condition that I had to return all of the things she sent me off to college with (towels, linens, and such), as well as a ring that I had never heard of or seen (she claimed it was 'stolen' from her). She said that if I didn't have all of these items contained in the suitcase that she sent me off with that I couldn't have my things. So, I gathered the towels, linens, suitcase, and other items (that I thought were mine for college and in the future) so that I could have my clothes and other belongings. I also wrote a note that I didn't know what ring she was asking for. Again, I am accused of something I didn't do.

My friends were able to get my things. I didn't have enough room in my tiny dorm room for all of the stuff (records, photo albums, clothes, record player, and so much more ... the stuff filled a van) that I had to leave most of the things in the van. Thankfully my friend allowed me to leave the things there until I was able to accommodate the items into my living space.

Later in life, I discovered that my mother had been telling people all sorts of lies about me. I don't understand how my mother, who will tell you how I am the best thing to hit this planet, will turn around and say the most horrible things about me. I don't understand how a mother would talk so terribly about their own child -- why a mother would want to make their child look so badly. Anyway, during the time of the letter writing and going off the deep-end, my mother was telling people that I was so thin because I had a drug problem. She said that I spent all my money on drugs too. Of course, people who knew me thought these statements were ludicrous as I didn't use drugs, was an avid runner, worked during college, and made excellent grades. But why my mother felt compelled to spread such hurtful things about a daughter, who just a few weeks prior hung the moon, is baffling. See subsequent blog post: Understanding the Borderline Mother: Enlisting Allies Against Her Target of Rage about how my mother organized campaigns of denigration against me.

"The borderline enlists others as allies against the person who is the target of her rage. She may seek out friends, family members (including siblings and children), and co-workers of her victim in whom to confide fabricated stories designed to discredit her enemy. She intentionally leaves out discussion of her own behavior, presenting the other person's behavior as entirely unjustified. Others may believe the allegations because of the intensity of her emotion. Misinformation is calculated and constructed in order to destroy the victim's reputation. Those who do not know the true situation may not notice the inconsistencies in the story. It's difficult to verify the truth because the intensity of her emotions dissuades others from asking details" p 141 Lawson.

I was talking to my Dad more and more at this time. He was supportive of me not talking to my mother, and he started inviting me over to his house for events. However, that Christmas I spent Christmas morning with my friend and her family, which felt very strange. I felt orphaned. Christmas never was the same after the 1976 Christmas-- after my grandmother died in 1977. And then Christmases were even weirder with my parents divorce, spending it without my mother in 1979, and trying to appease both sets of parents in the years after their remarriages. But now, in 1985, I am alone with my friend and her family, celebrating with them, while my parents are without me, and seemingly not concerned. See subsequent blog post: Feeling Like I Don't Belong to a Family

I finished out the school year but transferred to a school closer to the local area. I had a job that I had been working for 3 years at that point, and I also wanted to be closer to my friends. When I made that decision, school had ended, which also meant my dorm-room had ended, and I had no place to stay. (My Dad also decided that he wouldn't pay for my college as agreed to per his divorce agreement). My Dad allowed me to stay at his house for a week (a decade later, my step-sister ends up pregnant and lives in his house for SEVEN years with her daughter-- but I am allotted one week; my brother is not allowed back home as a teenager; my step-brother is asked to leave and handed a handful of money. More on this later). After the week at my Dad's and continuing to search for a place to rent, I spent a week at 3 different friends' houses.

I found a room for rent in a large house. I had 3 jobs and no car. I ran to my first job and back (approximately 4 miles each way), rode my bike to my 2nd job and back, and hitched a ride to my 3rd job as well as school. Eventually I earned enough money to purchase a small car. Money was very tight but I got by. I made straight A's that first quarter of my 2nd year of college, and the A's continued through the quarters.

An interesting observation at this point: I was running to my 1st job, and my boss noticed that I was getting sicker and sicker. I just blew it off that I was not feeling well but I was okay. One day, she came to check on me, and upon seeing me, she ran me off to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs, prescribed some heavy medication, and told to stay in bed. During the two weeks that I was bed-bound and woozy from fever & medication, my Dad didn't come to check on me one time. He didn't even call me. The lady that I rented the room from was the one who checked on me as she knew I was alone. She made sure I ate soup here and there, and she always asked if there was anything she could do for me. I have felt like an orphan many times in my life, and this was one of them. See subsequent blog post: Feeling Like I Don't Belong to a Family

My brother has some issues with my mother during this time, and her way of dealing with it was to stick him into 'rehab' for teenagers. I found the 'rehab' to be an insurance sucking crock, but she kept him there. I actually went to see him when I had that case of pneumonia. Sitting there, riddled with fever and seeing my brother in this surreal place was more than I could bear. When he got out, she wouldn't let him come back home. Instead, he was placed into a 'halfway house' with ADULTS (he was still a teenager). My Dad wouldn't take him to his home either, so here is a boy, a lost boy, out on his own as a teenager without parents to provide love, safety, and security. No matter what had transpired with him, no matter how frustrated my mother was, no matter how hurt my Dad was with him, they shouldn't have EVER turned their back on him like this. The repercussions are still echoing to this day.

My relationship with my Dad grew with me seeing him more often. He even had me take care of his house when he vacationed with my step-mother (my step-sister and step-brother still lived at the house). If you recall from earlier posts, I had issues with my Dad taking sides with my step-mother regardless of the issue. I felt he had chosen his life, which didn't include my brother or me. Well, I was thrilled to have acceptance back again- or at least I thought.

My step-mother still had issues with me, and the Christmas of 1986, she refused to accept a gift from me. My grandmother witnessed my step-mother's rude and cruel behavior and immediately jumped to my defense, but my step-mother was determined not to accept it and to not talk to me. I was simply happy to have someone see the treatment I have endured all these years, and I was even happier to have someone take my defense.

That Christmas, my brother came for a visit, leaving his half way house. My Dad has always treated life very selfishly (remember in earlier posts how my Dad and step-mother would retreat into their room at night, not allowing the kids to disturb them?). Well at holidays, my Dad has his limits, and when he decides he had enough, everyone has to leave. I was fine with that, especially after the awful confrontation with my step-mother; however, my brother wasn't due to be picked up until way later. I couldn't give him a ride as I had to get to work and his place was the opposite direction. So my last sight of that family celebration that Christmas was my pitiful brother walking up the street, alone & dejected. My heart was breaking, once again.

Around year or so later, I was still working my three jobs, I had an apartment with a coworker at this point, and I had a nice little car to zip around in. I felt comfortable with who I was, my friends were my family, and I felt very secure being able to take care of myself and thrive. At this point, I hadn't talked to my mother in 3 years. Then that day happened when she walked into my night job, and I about dropped my teeth. I didn't know what to say, so I didn't. She wanted to talk to me. I told her I had to finish up with my work. We ended up sitting in my car and talking -- she told me she got 'help', apologized for what she did to me, and promised she wouldn't do it again. I listened and didn't say much. I knew how hard I had to work to get where I was. I knew that I was comfortable without the confusion, drama, and sadness of the distention. I knew that I was very hesitant to get involved again-- but this is my MOTHER.

I talked about getting involved again with many people before finally making the decision to let her back into my life. My thought was, "How could she hurt me now?". I am in control of my life, self sufficient, and on my own, so if she does anything to compromise that, I will back off. I don't know if my Dad had an inclination that my mother was coming back around or if someone clued him in, but he came to one of my jobs to visit, and said that he would 'cut me off' if he found out I had a relationship with my mother again. See subsequent blog post: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome. I have a picture of him from that visit, as an unknowing staffer snapped a shot of him sitting there talking to me, and you can see how much of an angry person he is (foreshadowing the future here folks :)

Certainly his words banged around in my head during my decision to allow my mother back into my life, but I decided I had to do what I had to do as it's my life. I also decided that with both my mother and my Dad that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. So I wouldn't talk about the other, I wouldn't mention anything about the other, and I could go on having a relationship with both. Wishful thinking.

Things did move along okay with both in my life. Holidays were always tricky because both would want me to be at their place, and I could only be at one, so I was always stressed with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I actually started to resent the holidays at this time, and also appreciate having jobs that forced me to work a holiday as I didn't have to juggle my parents and their invitations. "I have to work" is much easier.

My Dad and step-mother, although claiming they didn't have any money (so couldn't pay for my college, books, housing, transportation, and all the other items AGREED to in the divorce agreement) traveled all the time. I was enlisted to take care of their house several times, and on this occasion, I was taking care of their house when they went skiing in Denver. I was headed out to work my night job when my step-brother announces that he was going to have a party when I was working. I stressed that I didn't approve of this and that I expected the house to be in the condition when I return as it was in before I left. This didn't happen, and when I got home from work, beer cans, beer cases, and drunk kids were every where (my step-brother is 5 years younger than me, me being 19 at the time, so he was 14-ish). I was completely appalled at what I found and left it the way it was for him to clean in the morning.

When I got up in the morning, the place was in the same condition, and as I got some juice out of the fridge on of my Dad's friends came to the door. He saw all of the party mess, but I didn't explain anything to him. Ultimately he told my Dad what he saw, and my Dad questioned my step-brother about what went on (I was back at my apartment at this point). My step-brother accused me of having a party, and my Dad believed him. The lie went so far as to say I had a boy in my Dad's bed. When I spoke to my Dad, I first pointed out that I worked that night, and that was verifiable. I second pointed out that I have my own place to have a party, why would I pick his place. The third thing I pointed out what his lack of trust in me and how quickly he is to jump to think the worst of me (more of this to come for decades in the future). At this point, I couldn't handle the drama or the accusations and needed to focus on school and working three jobs, so I pulled away. Pulling away was just the beginning...


  1. I don't want to stalk you but she accused me some weeks ago that I stole a little bear keychain from a closet I never ever use and is stuffed with crap she bought. Second, she spreads that I think the world revolves around me because I'm in college and that she has to "adjust" me because she's a dedicated mother. Yeah ofcourse and that's why she can't remember one single thing about my life. She always spreads those rumours. Last year I had an eating disorder according to her. I am thin but I eat like I'm an elephant. It's the stress that keeps me so thin. She is thin too (52 kilos) and though she has a marihuana-addiction which makes you loose weight, and she's an alcoholic she is still convinced that I bring her so much misery and pain and that she withers because of me. The fact that she doesn't eat regularly (she knows no ROUTINE AT ALL) is, as always, forgotten.

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  3. My mother and step father didnt pay anything for me, but they payed for my brother to go to college and never have to work during those years. I had to work my whole life and never went to college. It was the only thing i wanted.sorry for my english. I still can't forgive or love my mother for all the things she did to me.

  4. Yes, sounds very much like the insanity of my life around that time of life as well. I do NOT miss the annual Xmas Pilgrimages to the metro NY area at all. For years after, I've learned the holidays can be a time of joy, peace and great fun!
    Sonia? I'm an old widow broad, so take this for what it's worth: I've never "forgiven" my "mother" either. I know-GASP! Contrary to popular sentiment, I am not a "Bitter, " "Angry" etc. person and my life has truly been an adventure. We didn't have internet in this remote, impoverished area for years so when I finally got a computer a few years ago and stumbled on other AC's etc. I was quite shocked to read all this "You *have to* forgive to HEAL!" <Note all the buzz words.
    No, you don't.
    Forget all the PC-ers who want to tell you what you "have to do" (or else-dum da dum dum!) I have not spontaneously combusted, been struck down by a bolt of lightening, had the "Karma Bus" run me over etc. and I'm a basically happy, contented person. "Forgiveness" never even crossed my radar-ever. So what does this say about me?!
    FWIW, here's the way it's worked for me: Would I forgive a wolf for being a wolf? A bear for being a bear? Of course not-that's silly. My "mother" was who she was, a Predator. She remained a Predator to her last breath. *That's not my burden to carry.* I put it down decades ago and never went back.
    And that's when my life *really* began! ;)

    1. Excellent points-- love the analogies of forgiving a wolf for being a wolf and a bear for being a bear. Excellent. I have often pondered what actually *forgiveness* is... I wrote two pieces in regard to this point http://thequeenandking.blogspot.com/search/label/forgive%20abusive%20parent I don't think anyone should ever tell you that you should think or feel a certain way in a relationship -- such as forgiving. If your feelings are disruptive in your life, then perhaps some introspection or retrospect is due. But if you don't forgive your parent(s) for what they've done and you are going through your life the way you want (ie: happily, productively, at peace, etc) then that's grand. What is *forgiveness* anyway-- what is forgiveness to one person may not be to another. And who is to judge what you should do or don't as they've never walked in your shoes or lived through the chaos of a parent like your own. Anyhooooooooooo... I have tried to put all the puzzle pieces together, and as each puzzle piece is put into place and an AH-HA moment is captured, I feel a sense of relief. Is that relief forgiveness? Is understanding forgiveness? Is letting go forgiveness? At this point, after a decade of NC, I know I will never trust her again, don't want her in my life again, and have accepted who she is / why she operates the way she does. I do get sad when I look into my child's eyes and see myself as a child and remember all of the pain that my mother caused... how could she do that to an innocent child. So in that case, have I not forgiven? Who knows... and personally, I don't care because I am at peace :) And it sound like you certainly are too :)