Thursday, June 23, 2011
Denial of family...
It’s funny how you can know something but not really KNOW it. Maybe it’s that we don’t really acknowledge it rather than know it. Maybe it’s a form of denial.
I grew up in a large family that was greeted each other with hugs and kisses. In the summer, the kids were exchanged back and forth between aunts and uncles so the children could bond with their cousins. We were family.
I remember how my father doted on all the new babies that came into our house. I remember him literally bouncing them on his knee and kissing them a million times before handing them back to my mother. Since that was my “norm” I believed all fathers were like that.
When my son, my first child, was born, I remember how distant Riley seemed to be. Oh, we had a baby, isn’t that neat – I think that was his first reaction. But, he didn’t seem to care if he held him or not – never asked if he could – never just did it because he wanted to. He was not projecting any sense of a need to protect, no kissing, no touching… just OK we have another mouth to feed. I remember feeling very disappointed, but thinking he would change as Brian became more and more a part of our life.
He didn’t change. He had two other boys before Brian that he ignored and I should have seen that as a red flag. In my heart I believed he ignored them so they could have no complications with their new step-father. That was what he had told me. I thought it was admirable – a true sacrifice for his boys. I was young – just barely 18 – what the heck did I know?
As I said, I was only turning 18 years old when I met Riley and outwardly he fit into the format of the man I thought I wanted in my life. I was too young to realize that what I really wanted had nothing to do with outward appearances or occupation or knowing where to get the best scallops. When he described his childhood as Donna Reed Showesque, I thought of a loving family that expressed emotion. I guess I was watching a different “Donna Reed Show” than he was. I believe my denial started right then and there. Isn’t hindsight great?
This morning, during our usual “over coffee” talk, the subject of family was brought up. Riley told me that “I love you” was not something that he ever heard as a child. That there were few, if any, hugs and kisses. There was support and accolades given for excellent school work and tasks, and there were handshakes – but not much emotion.
This morning he was more detailed about the events inside his childhood home. He’s relatively sober today, I think what he says is believable. It felt as though, in his house there was just a safe place to physically grow and get out. I could be wrong – but that was my take anyway.
I asked him if that was why he was so distant to our children, grandchild and great-grandchildren. I asked if he felt a real sense of love towards them. His response was that he loved them, but was not emotionally connected with them. He said that he never felt a real connection with any of his kids. That’s why it would be so easy to just leave
North Carolina and go back to where he could be closer to his brother – the only real emotional connection in his life. California
So now… more than forty years later… I realize that he never really cared whether he was a father or not. In fact, he could have done without fatherhood all together. He had no sense of “family” and that didn’t bother him in the least.
I had always known that Riley did not have a family life as a child that anywhere resembled mine. This morning I finally realized how much his childhood was opposite from mine. I had always known this but maybe I had denied how it would have a negative impact on his own children.
My denial is over. It took me 40 years to realize that my husband doesn’t really care about any of us – the people who have protected and cared for him in spite of every awful thing he has done to us or around us. It explains a lot.
I never really was in denial over Riley’s alcoholism. But I have been in denial as to how his emotional disconnect has contributed to his desire to not stop drinking. In a world where you don’t care if you are “loved” or not, I would imagine that there is no real reason to quit. That fuzzy world of insanity might provide a blanket between him and the rest of the world. I can understand that.
My first instinct is to say “screw him” and send him packing. But, I can’t do that because whether he loves her or not, my daughter loves her father. She will not abandon him – like an abused child protecting the abuser – she will protect him at all costs. In turn, I love my daughter fiercely and won’t allow her to pick up where I leave off.
Riley skirts the edge and believes he is the winner. I skirt the edge and know that Alea is the only one who wins. I’m not in denial about that and it makes me happy.