Mainly, there has to be dysfunction of some kind to allow the predator to go about his or her molestation. There are, let's face it, a million types of dysfunction and they can range from alcoholism and drug abuse to mental illness to poverty to narcissism on the part of a parent or caretaker to physical illness to divorce to domestic abuse to...
I can't even list them all.
But the situation almost always involves a child who because of one thing or another feels a lack of love and attention and a parent who, if not complicit in the abuse, is too blinded by a myriad of problems to notice or register what is going on.
My dreams lately have been about living in my mother's house. It's always her house. And she allows C. to live there too. They are both older by far than they were when I actually lived at home. I am being forced to live there by financial circumstances and I am always enraged that my mother is allowing C. to still live with her in this house of hers. C. does not molest me but his very presence makes me angry and sick and revolted and frightened. In last night's dream I was forced to pee in a dresser drawer because C. was in the bathroom, naked, and refused to come out.
Now this is something that never, as far as I know, happened. But it is very common for an abused child to feel as if he or she has nowhere safe to go, to hide, to feel protected and that the abuser is always watching her. In this light, the dream makes perfect sense.
In this dream I finally realized that I COULD move. I could figure out how to support myself and the idea of this was thrilling.
There is so much more to these dreams than can be read on the surface and I think the part I'd like to take up today is my anger at my mother.
I remember distinctly the moment I realized how angry I was at her. I had recently married Mr. Moon and I am certain that his unstinting love allowed me to finally let go of the illusion I had that I had no choice but to love my mother. I was raking the yard when the anger overcame me. And up until that moment I had actually had a decent relationship with her. She was still married to C. and my two youngest brothers were still at home but things were horrible there. C. had become notably crazy. My little brothers would tell me about incidents which had occurred which horrified me. They both hated him and even plotted, in their little boy minds, how to kill him and make it look like suicide.
I will admit that I often fantasized that C. and Mother both would die together in some accident and that I would be allowed to adopt my brothers and raise them. I loved them desperately and after I became a mother myself, my desire to protect and love them, to let them know they were cherished and safe became almost overwhelming.
Of course, no such accident occurred.
And the insanity only increased and it was apparent.
A friend of one of my brothers, when they were in high school, came over to see my brother one day and the door was open and the cars were there but he couldn't find anyone. I can't remember where everyone was but this friend told my brother that he had a horrible feeling that C. had killed the entire family and then himself.
The cracks in the facade of the perfect little American family were widening.
And yet...Mother stayed with him. I talked to her all the time about divorcing him. She wanted to but she was afraid and she also was "staying for the sake of the children." She was determined to hang on until they both graduated from high school.
And she did divorce him when they were both out of the house, to her credit.
But this moment of realization I had came before the divorce. And it shook me to my core.
I had never for a moment believed that Mother knew about the abuse but I did know for certain that she was quite aware of how he was abusing my brothers. Not sexually (perhaps, but that's another story) but emotionally. She, too, was abused by him emotionally. She had to know that the things going on in that house were terrifically damaging to her sons. She had to. She had a Master's degree in early childhood education. She had taught school on and off for most of her adult life. She was not ignorant nor was she uneducated.
But there was no way around the situation except to admit that she, in staying, was allowing her sons to be treated like shit by a crazy man.
And all of my life I had been given the role of caretaker to my mother and as such, her depressions, her verbal declarations of wanting to die, to kill herself, were like chains that a child could not possibly break, keeping me in my role, excusing her behavior, convincing myself that I loved her more than anything on earth.
And then, suddenly, the chains snapped.
This is not to say that I immediately began to treat her differently. I did not. I continued to communicate with her frequently. I even enjoyed times with her. But. I saw her through a different lens. And I began to list in my mind the ways in which she had not protected either me or my brothers and how her needs and the needs of others had always come before ours.
She was something of a martyr. When my grandmother had to be moved to a nursing home, Mother found one in Winter Haven, very close to our house and she visited her EVERY SINGLE DAY. After spending a full day of teaching. And she had two small sons at home.
Now of course it is noble and good that she visited her mother. And she was praised for it by nursing home administration, by neighbors, by friends.
And when Granddaddy needed a place to stay, having become frail and ill, she took him into her home and cared for him and still visited Granny every day.
She railed about this bitterly to me. She was angry at her brothers for not helping more although she no more would have told them this than she would have flown to the moon. She adored her big brothers as she adored her father. And I'm sure she loved her mother but it troubled her greatly that Granny managed to live long, long after her mind was mostly gone and she said on so many occasions that she never, ever wanted to live like that. She told me time and time again that she hoped I would never have to care for her the way she was caring/had cared for her parents.
Complex message there, folks.
I remember finally, one day long after they both died and she was getting up in age, she repeated this to me again and I said, "Don't worry, Mom. I won't. Chuck will do it."
Lord, but she was angry.
I still chuckle a little when I think of that.
Yes. I'm mean.
But all of this is a theme- she wanted me to take care of her while she took care of everyone else in the world. I, like her, was the daughter. This was my role in life.
Remember Like Water For Chocolate?
Oh, how that movie hit home when I saw it.
And the older I got and the more I realized, the less and less I cared to caretake for her.
When I did finally start going to therapy and at long, long last got up the courage to tell her about the abuse (in a letter) she went crazy. Her main reaction was to insist over and over and over again that she had had no knowledge of it, that she never knew, that this was destroying her life. That the one thing in life she had ever wanted to be was a good mother and she obviously WAS NOT!
I encouraged her to find a therapist, which she did. She started going to some church-related counselor who actually WROTE ME A LETTER telling me that for my mother's mental health, I really needed to discuss with her the issue of MY SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH C.
I had not been able to talk to her much about it after I wrote the letter. I simply couldn't. I heard what she had to say and my thoughts just cut off.
Defense mechanism, plain and simple.
And for once, I realized, this was not about her, it was about me. And I could not reassure her that I knew she was innocent in all regards.
And she never could bring herself to tell me she was sorry that it had happened to me.
I was able to write her counselor back. I am sure the letter was venomous. I educated her on the difference between having a sexual relationship with someone and being sexually abused by them. I told her that at the moment, my mother's mental health was not my priority. That mine was.
And it was. This was the time when it was all the hardest. The ripping off of the scab time. I was barely stable, barely functional. And I could not be responsible, for once in my life, for my mother's wellbeing.
This is what is on my mind this morning. Obviously, my thoughts jump and cross, skip and descend as I try to untangle some meaningful explanation of what happened. Of how it happened. Of how it felt then, later, and how it feels now. Of how it affected my entire family. Of how there is never just one type of abuse. Of how the abuse has affected every part of my life and always will. And how, in some ways, the grief I will always carry for the mother I did not have will be worse than the grief I carry for the loss of so many things that the abuse caused.
Innocence, trust, faith in myself, a sense of deserving love and on and on.
I have written myself into a bit of a mental mess here and have taken an Ativan because I fucking need it. But even this is valuable because it makes me realize how very close to the surface all of this still is, after all of these years, after all of that therapy, after all of this life of love and goodness and it reminds me that suffering from depression and anxiety is not a weakness but is, in fact, not only genetic but also a very normal and expected response to my childhood.
And I'm still fucking here.
So are you.
P.S. Please forgive tortured sentences, misspellings, bad punctuation and so forth. I'm sort of writing from the seat of my pants and sometimes I simply can't spend much time going back and rereading and editing the way I should. This is one of those times.