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#440717 - 07/12/13 11:01 AM running the relatives gauntlet
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3323
Loc: somewhere in Africa
Now that I am back in the US, I have started to run the gauntlet of obligatory visits to relatives. Since it has been 7 years since we have spent more than just a month or 2 here, we haven’t seen some of them in a long time. Some I have not seen for 11 years – or even more than 15 – since before we went overseas the first time. It is a grueling experience for me. We saw our “kids” immediately – with varying degrees of warmth and success. A couple were open and happy to see us. One was more distant and seemed to be harboring some unspoken resentment. That will take some work to get settled. Not looking forward to it.

None of the relatives know about the abuse in my past except for my full brother – who is 3 years younger – and he knows only about the verbal, physical and emotional abuse from the step-dad and the bullying at middle school. He does not know how bad it was – only that it happened – and I never told him that it crossed the line into CSA at the hands of multiple perps and even a stranger later in my teens. I may tell my kids something too, but not sure yet how many of them or how much. One for certain.

I will be seeing my brother at the end of this month – and I will tell him more. He also has all the stuff from our mom’s house that was saved when she moved into a retirement center. I plan to look through old photos of us as kids – the 1st time I have ever wanted to do that. It will be strange and I hope revealing to revisit some old times – I can’t imagine what memories might come back – some familiar and possibly some “new.” I am both excited and afraid. Good thing my wife and number 1 supporter will be there. And my brother is safe – my own fault that I never revealed more to him.

A couple of days ago I saw my mother’s sister after maybe 15 years. I had no idea that she wanted to see me so badly. My family is not big on communication or keeping in touch. All my life I have felt like – out of sight, out of mind. Most contact that has happened has been at my initiation – and that has been seldom and far between. I have made an intentional decision to avoid relatives as much as I could get away with.

Anyway – my aunt told me more about her growing up years and confirmed some things that I’d suspected about her sister. My mom was older by several years and was more aware of their desertion by their father. She ended up much more insecure and fearful. She was so desperate for security that she was willing to sacrifice anything – (even me – as I realized long ago) for the safety and comfort of being provided for by a husband. And she had to believe that everything was wonderful for her own peace of mind. She literally could not admit that there was anything wrong in her life. (my aunt does not know this – but I was the sacrificial lamb that paid the price for the welfare of the rest of the family.)

My mom has Alzheimer’s really bad and has lost much of her memory – but has retained her own version of the distant past. During my childhood – everything was just perfect-peachy! – according to her. It is hard for me to be around her. She was in denial even while I was being abused by her 2nd husband (from 5 to 18) – so how could I even hope that she would ever acknowledge it after he is dead and remembered by her as the most wonderful husband ever? I find it bitterly ironic that after selectively remembering and forgetting for so many years, she has lost many more memories than she ever intended to- even including some that she’d have wanted to retain. I will have to visit her – and pretend to be the concerned and loving and dutiful firstborn son. At least I won’t have to strain myself in making conversation – she gets into a single track and repeats it over and over.

It has always been obvious that it is the youngest – the second son of the step-dad – that is her favorite. I will have to visit him and his family too. I really don’t know how to relate to him at all. He was just a tiny kid when I turned 18 and went away to university. We are cordial but more like professional colleagues than half-brothers.

The older half-brother is a recluse – he never sees or speaks to the rest of us unless he absolutely has to. No idea what is behind that. He was the golden boy as a kid – but never fulfilled his expected promise and potential. No idea if I will see him at all – or what will transpire if I do.

My real father’s family is a whole different story. They are good and appear normal and healthy and welcoming and accepting – but I have always felt distant from them because I hardly ever saw them growing up and I also felt unworthy to be part of their family – different and disqualified by my association with that other father figure who isolated me and demeaned me. I will see my real father’s older brother – a strange experience because he sometimes forgets and calls me by my father’s name. it makes me feel good and tear up at the same time.

So ... I have a long hard road ahead of me. I anticipate some new discoveries. in a way it feels like sort of a pilgrimage to find lost parts of my self. Hope the positives make up for the dread and anxiety I feel going into it. And good thing that there are long drives between some of the stops.

lee
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


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#440723 - 07/12/13 01:17 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
bodyguard8367 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/16/12
Posts: 1159
Loc: ""
""


Edited by bodyguard8367 (02/27/14 05:32 PM)

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#440726 - 07/12/13 02:15 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
ThisMan Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 01/22/13
Posts: 767
Loc: upper south
Lee,

it is good to see you posting again. I don't have any big advice for the family visits other than just remember who you are, where you came from, and how far you have moved forward. Don't let the fam pull you back into the dynamics that they are so familiar with, the same dynamics that caused you such hurt in the past.

I like Geoff's idea of the "Ten Truths". Being such a literal guy, I need further info on that, but it sounds like something I would maybe like for myself. My own family is gearing up (has already started) the "dynamics of old" as my mother's health is beginning to fail. I posted about that around Memorial Day. It's an idea that would help me retain the new me from the harms of the old way. Care to elaborate, Geoff?...
_________________________
For now we see through a glass, darkly.



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#440729 - 07/12/13 03:10 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
bodyguard8367 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/16/12
Posts: 1159
Loc: ""
""



Edited by bodyguard8367 (02/27/14 05:32 PM)

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#440750 - 07/12/13 10:55 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3323
Loc: somewhere in Africa
bodyguard - thanks for the suggestion.

bill - your comments helped me get started.

i can do lists. i am good at lists. i even get teased about that. i took your advice and wrote 10 points out this afternoon. here is the list - in case anyone else can relate:

1. I know what happened - what was done to me. It cannot be denied, negated, minimized, excused or rationalized away.

2. It was not my fault – I bear no part of the responsibility, shame or blame.

3. I am no longer small, young, weak, helpless – and they can no longer hurt me or intimidate me by active or passive means. i no longer have anything to fear.

4. Knowing and embracing the truth gives me back the power and control in my life as I defy the lies I have believed in the past.

5. I have the choice to decide what to do, say and feel – and that gives me freedom. Only I have the right to decide how to respond to any given situation – I will not be manipulated or pressured into anything I do not agree with.

6. I define myself. I am not defined by the opinions, judgments, or preconceptions of others – whether relatives, acquaintances, abusers or the events and experiences of the past.

7. I am stronger, healthier and more resilient than I have ever been and I can continue to grow and recover regardless of the doubts and negativity of others.

8. I can set the limits in relationships and have the ability to walk away from a destructive situation or cultivate an association that I see as beneficial.

9. I am not required to satisfy others’ expectations or behave in a way that meets their desires or demands. I am under no obligation to do anything that pleases them if it is detrimental to my healing or welfare.

10. Some good and positive traits in my character and personality have resulted from my past difficulties and I can accept them and be thankful for those elements of myself – regardless of their source.

lee
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


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#440773 - 07/13/13 10:26 AM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
BraveFalcon Offline
Greeter
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/25/13
Posts: 1093
Loc: The ATL
Hi Lee. Sounds like you have a road ahead that will be difficult and uncomfortable at times. Your extended family sounds a lot like mine. We are spread out around the country, rarely communicate and even more rarely see one another. It does put you in a weird place when you are with people who are your flesh and blood but you honestly don't know them that well. Lots of awkward, forced conversation, fumbling attempts at small talk, etc.

I'm sorry to hear about your mom with Alzheimer's. That can be so hard to watch someone go though. I watched my maternal grandmother waste away with severe Dementia, which is very similar. Aside from that, my own mother, although not afflicted with Alzheimer's, could definitely give yours a run for her money in the denial/selective memory department, believe me. As far as she is concerned, my childhood was really quite happy. None of those bad things could have possibly happened to me, because she doesn't remember it that way. Before her Alzheimer's, when your mom talked about your childhood, did it sound a little like she may have been confusing it with an episode of Leave It To Beaver she once saw? Yeah, mine too.

Anyway, good luck with the relatives. I know you're dreading some of it and I don't blame you but you'll make it through. Let us know how it goes. Take care. Peace,

Ken

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#441387 - 07/19/13 04:27 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3323
Loc: somewhere in Africa
so far - i am remembering to repeat those 10 points - or whichever ones i need - whenever i need reinforcement.

i successfully resisted pressure to send an email to my youngest bro that i was expected to send - saying something that i did not think or feel or want to say. that could be seen just as procrastination or passivity - but i think i was actually taking a stand by NOT doing what i was "supposed" to do.

here is the next installment:

In a couple of weeks I’ll be visiting my family of origin – what is left of it. The step-dad died 25 years ago – but I am still strongly affected by him. Even though he never lived in the town where mom now is, I know I will feel haunted by him.

Mom has Alzheimer’s and does not “remember” anything of what he did to me – but that is nothing new – she did not admit it was happening when it was right under her nose.

Their older son – my half-brother #1 – who is ten years younger than me – is reclusive and has pretty much cut himself off from most of us. No one knows why.

Half-brother #2 – 13 years younger than me – is the main care-giver for mom – she has recently been moved in with his family. He is OK – but our relationship is rather distant and not too personal. He was only 5 when I moved out and went away to college. I am guessing he was pretty oblivious even to the tension between his dad and me and totally clueless about the various types of abuse. We will be staying with him for a few days.

Then there is my full brother – almost 3 years younger than me – who I am closest to. He is my one link to reality in the family. He knows some of what happened. I will be revealing more to him just before we see the rest of them.

Here is what is really bothering me right now: I have not seen mom since I realized the full extent of how the step-dad and she treated me. And now it is impossible to deal with it and her with any degree of honesty. So I will just be nice and polite and keep it all to myself and let her ramble and reminisce about the rosy past in all the fantasy that she has created in her imagination.

But how do I act with my half-brother. I can’t exactly walk up to him and say: “How are you doing? Your dad was an abusive monster. Can we talk?” on the other hand, I could just try to avoid the whole issue and not bring it up – like I always have done before.

I really feel no emotional connection with any of them except my one full brother. Don’t know if it is worth the effort to try to communicate on a deeper level at all. I do know that no matter what I choose to do, I’ll be pretty stressed the whole time. I am determined not to let anything affect me too seriously – just not sure what path will be best to follow.

lee
_________________________
As my life goes on I believe somehow something's changed
Something deep inside...
I've been searchin so long to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning
Now I see myself as I am, feeling very free...
When my tears have come to an end I will understand
What I left behind: a part of me. Chicago


Top
#441395 - 07/19/13 05:24 PM Re: running the relatives gauntlet [Re: traveler]
victor-victim Offline


Registered: 09/27/03
Posts: 3151
Loc: O Kanada
good for you, lee.

getting it together to get as far as you have with your family relationships.
sounds like you are putting some effort into building some bridges, as hard as that is.
try not to burn any bridges, unless you really think it is necessary.
i am positive it will improve, as your attitude seems very positive and open.
sorry to hear about your mother.
that hurts, no doubt.
best wishes from me as you strive toward honest communications and deeper relationships.
_________________________
Victor|Victim

War
Love
Poetry

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