As I suppose most other kids do, I started out in life seeing my father as the most god-like creature imaginable. A perfect specimen of a human being, the best father the world had ever known, and I hoped that some day I would come to be just like him. I’d be big, and handsome, and smart, and know all kinds of things, and be invincible. Just like Dad.
My earliest memory of my father: I was not yet in school and it was time to wake him to prepare for his swing shift job. My mother, my sister, and I went down the hall to their bedroom, mom opened the door, and my father was lying at the foot of the bed with his hands behind his head and his feet on the floor. With an erection sticking out of his jockey shorts. My mother stopped and demanded in an angry tone, “Put that thing away!”. I knew that tone — it meant don’t hesitate, don’t ask questions, just do what she said or get whacked on. So I ran over to my father and attempted to do as I thought I’d been instructed, and upon realizing that it wasn’t going to go well I pleaded with her, “It won’t go”, hoping I wouldn’t get smacked around. She gathered me up and took me out of the room, then went back to give my father the ration of shit he so richly deserved. He hadn’t been asleep. He was grinning the whole time and neither said nor did anything to stop his young son from grabbing hold of his erect penis, and didn’t stir either while it was happening or afterward.
Most mornings didn’t go like that. Instead of grabbing his dick, I’d fill a glass with water, and when he attained a sitting position I’d plop two Alka Seltzer tablets into it — Alky Seltzer, we fittingly called it. Dad started every day with Alky Seltzer because he ended every day with Burgermeister. They’ve stopped making Burgermeister; the modern equivalent is Milwaukee’s Best, which became his preferred brand when they stopped making Burgermeister. There is much of which Wisconsin should be ashamed if the brand is aptly named.
Other than that, once I started school I saw very little of my father because he always worked the swing shift. I’d be at school when he quaffed his Alky Seltzer, and in bed before he got home at night. He was considerate, though: Even though I was awake most nights when he got home, being a lifelong night owl, I’d never hear him moving about. The only thing that gave his presence away was the regular pfffft pop! of beer cans opening. On the weekends he’d be around, in a manner of speaking, but within two or three hours of arising he didn’t know where he was any more. Pffft pop! Pffffft pop! Pffffft pop! He’d end up sitting on a folding chair in the garage, slumped like a sack of wet manure, oblivious to his surroundings and grinning like the storied drunken monkey.
It got to where I didn’t mind that he was a drunken buffoon. There was no denying it as the entire neighborhood had seen him at his stumbling worst far too often for even the most polite among them to continue making excuses for him. The friendships he would make at work were usually not long-lived, and most ended when it became apparent that commode hugging drunk was his normal state outside of work. The most embarrassing thing was his overflowing generosity with unbelievable tall tales. There’s no such thing as a pathological narcissist who doesn’t lie at every opportunity, but it’s just painful to watch a stupid man expounding about his grand adventures, daring exploits, remarkable intelligence, and sexual conquests, completely unaware that none in his audience believe a single word of it and it’s only because they’re too polite or too cowardly that they aren’t jumping up and down screaming, “Bullshit! Bullshit! BULLShit! BullSHIT!“. Every now and then he’d encounter someone who was neither too polite nor too cowardly, and who would eventually call him out. Then the old man would put on his hurt look and turn the call around to make it the fuel for a guilt trip, and quite often the others would look with scorn upon the brave one. I always wondered if it was because they thought him wrong for making the call, or wrong for subjecting them to my father’s display of righteous indignation and making them feel that they now had to take a side in the conflict.
Another of my father’s stupid narcissist tricks was flirting with every woman with whom he came into social contact. It was his favorite ego gratification, knowing that he could make women want him. Worse, he would lead them on and have them believing that something might come of it, which was a vicious thing to do to lonely women. Once they were good and pumped up on self esteem because a good looking, confident man was attracted to them, and panting with lust and eagerness to experience the ultimate proof that the man was truly attracted, he’d explain that it was just harmless flirting and he meant nothing by it, as he’s a happily married man who would never cheat on his wife. His ego would be as big as a professional football stadium for weeks afterward. Unfortunately, as I got older, some of those women seemed to believe that it fell to me to palliate their aches — I looked just like him except for being younger and thinner, and I couldn’t claim a wife to whom I was being faithful. I’d feign ignorance, pretending to be blind to their advances, but there were a few who were too forward and too persistent who wouldn’t accept my generous offer to let them out gracefully. I had to be a jerk to get rid of them, and though I’m quite proficient at it I really hate being a jerk.
A funny thing about my father: He’s a pathological narcissist married to a full on psychopath. It’s rare outside of the realm of the nouveau riche to find two Cluster B Personalities married to each other, but my parents have a kind of evil symbiotic relationship. My father is the social one who attracts victims into their sphere, a thing my mother cannot do because her malignance is very conspicuous. But then, as every narcissist will, he will seek to own the soul of the new victim and he does it by way of appearing sympathetic — he’s the faithfully devoted, long suffering spouse of an evil cunt, and a generous man to boot. It’s transparent as hell, but people still fall for it. He only has the one game; if you don’t want or need the things he tries to give you he’ll browbeat you into taking them. Gee, why does this guy want me beholden to him? The smart ones bail out when they see it. The dumb ones hang around, and then my mother gets involved. My father permits it, for a time, as she’s very efficient at her work and can beat the self esteem out of someone in short order and they’ll turn to him for comfort (Will you walk into my parlor? Said the spider to the fly). But then having done so, she considers the victim hers and the two of them get into a contest over ownership of this new soul. Eventually the victim wises up and gets out of there. Some will return from time to time, unable to believe their own perceptions of what was done to them, and ready for another round.
I can relate.
Because of that crafty way he had of hiding in my mother’s cold shadow, many of their victims escaped being still enamored of my father, and fled only because they were terrified of my mother. I was aware of how he hid in my mother’s shadow, but oblivious to the full extent of their cooperation until six or seven years ago. He had always been crafty enough to avoid mention or discussion of the things he wanted most to conceal from me, but his mind which had never been very sharp was losing traction — he was then 78 or 79 years old, in poor health, and on a fruit salad of medications that were disabling him more than his ailments were. I was annoyed with my mother for having repeated her favorite lie yet again, and outside of his garage I vented a bit of frustration by stating that I was sick of her continued claims that she’d had nothing to do with breaking Amethyst and I up in 1979. I told him straight out that since we’d got back together I’d heard all of Amethyst’s side of it, know her to be honest even when it’s counter to her own best interests, and had found everything she said to be consistent with facts I knew to be true. He surprised me. He was so eager to prove himself more in the know and smarter than me that he told me he’d been aware of what was happening all along, while it was happening, and couldn’t believe I was too stupid to have seen it for myself. He said that he’d figured that I’d just let them do it.
That set the dominoes to falling. And in no more than an instant things that had never made any sense to me before became clear. He wasn’t just aware and silent; he was complicit. He had been complicit in all of my mother’s evil machinations all along. I felt stupid. I’d thought that I was special, his “only son” despite having a half-brother who was never in the picture. That’s what he’d always told me. But all of a sudden I saw that his actions toward me were exactly the same as with any other of their victims over the years. Will you walk into my parlor? Said the spider to the fly. I’d often gone to him for solace and support when my mother was particularly abusive, psychologically or physically, and received some small measure of it despite his defense of her. When they’d succeeded in driving Amethyst away in 1979, while my mother sat in the living room gloating, my father had come into my room and offered support. He’d told me how sorry he was about the pain I was in and how highly he’d always thought of Amethyst. But suddenly on that driveway outside of his garage I knew that they were complicit, and everything I’d ever said to him went straight to her. He’d always sworn that he’d said nothing, said she was just very perceptive and could see things…
In that instant I came to hate my father. I hated him more than I hated my mother. Though purely evil, her malignance was most often overt because she was proud of it. She wanted people to know that she was abusive, and would dare others to call her out on it. My father, he was a conniving coward who worked behind the scenes as her proxy and lackey because it fit his ends as well as hers. He’d been working just as diligently at destroying my life as my mother ever had, but he lied about it and told me right to my face that he loved me and wanted what was best for me. I walked away from the garage that afternoon because I feared that if I stayed there I’d beat my father to death.
The very next day things turned ugly there at my parents’ place, and got progressively uglier. Clearly, my father told my mother about having slipped up and spilled the historical beans. Amethyst and I had already sunk our savings into moving there to help them out and then preparing their house and property for market. We’d had an agreement that in exchange for our help my parents would essentially break us even on our expenses and our lost income when the property sold. Within a week of that fateful day in front of the garage, my mother made it clear that they were reneging on the deal and we were now “stuck and screwed”. She took delight in delivering the news, repeating “stuck and screwed” several times. With it in the open, and us trapped because we were bankrupt, they set about trying to drive Amethyst away and destroy my business. When Amethyst wouldn’t be driven away, my mother sought to kill her by way of her formerly latent heart condition and just relentlessly attacked her verbally. I did my best to run interference and take the heat but it didn’t really help matters any and we were back and forth to the ER routinely. I mentioned it to my father one afternoon, away from the house, just because he was there and I was pissed off, and he defended my mother and informed me that Amethyst and I had better just shut up and do as we were told or we’d be put out on the street. That did it. The gloves were off.
They fell right into the same tactics they’d used on me as a child. One would yell and scream and bitch and demand that thing A be done, the other would yell and scream and bitch that thing B must be done, and both immediately. They’d come to me to complain about each other, trying to force me to take sides in an imaginary battle or one that was staged just to create the environment for the demands. They’d come to me talking trash about Amethyst, and go to her talking trash about me. They accused us of stealing things from them. They demanded money for this and that — including replacement of the flat tire on the pickup truck that was punctured by a screw at the landfill when I hauled away 15 years worth of crap they’d dumped into a pile and forgot about. Every time I turned around my mother was either presenting me a bill for something or just demanding payment without evidence of the expense, and saying that if I didn’t pay up we’d be put out on the street. From time to time my father would make noise at me about how much it was costing them for us to be there, and wasn’t dissuaded when I pointed at that we were begged to come and had spent our life savings on them, and the thanks we got for it was a broken promise and loads of abuse. “What abuse? What the hell are you talking about?”.
During the two winters we were there, I had to shovel Sierra Cement off of 600 feet of driveway in the middle of the night five or six times to get Amethyst to the ER to have her heart stopped during a tachycardia event. We had no vehicle at the time, had to rely upon my father’s pickup truck. Why on Earth a man who lives in snow country would even own a two wheel drive truck is beyond me, and their other vehicle was a low slung passenger car. Neither would get more than ten feet in the snow, so I had to shovel that wet, heavy Sierra Cement like a madman to save my wife’s life. Six hundred feet of it to reach the road. During two of those episodes my father came out to give me shit. “You’re never going to get out of here. You’re wasting your time. Just give it up”. I asked him if I was just supposed to let my wife die, and his only response was, “You’re never getting out of here. If you want to kill yourself shoveling, be my guest”. Yes indeed, the son of a bitch was complicit and he wanted Amethyst gone or dead every bit as much as my mother did.
Working to destroy my business, they’d launch attacks while I was trying to work. I finally took to staying up late to work in the night after they’d gone to bed, but then they took to getting up several times a night to lay into me. My father’s favorite thing to bitch about was how the electric bill was killing them and they were going broke because of it. It didn’t matter to him when I explained that the miserly eight watt compact fluorescent that was the only light burning in the room cost less than a dollar a month to run. Of course it didn’t matter. It was his excuse, not a reason. And they weren’t going broke anyway. They were putting money in the bank every month, and there was still plenty left from what they’d conned my maternal grandmother out of (in addition to the property itself).
We’d been trying to save money to get out of there, but the threat of being kicked out if we didn’t come across with cash made it impossible. They were keeping us broke, working to destroy my business, and if Amethyst wouldn’t be driven away then she’d just have to be killed. Their goal was to isolate me, make me wholly dependent upon them, and restore the conditions of my childhood in which I was their slave and whipping boy, the target of their narcissistic projections.
It wasn’t long before my mother started speaking openly of murdering us. At first she explained how she’d get away with it, but over time she convinced herself that a life sentence in prison would be a preferable outcome. When a psychopath starts talking herself into committing a crime it’s just a matter of time until it’s done — the talking about it is foreplay, relishing the anticipation. I had one of my father’s firearms, a revolver, on my desk because of recent problems with housebreaking bears, and had it loaded with rounds adequate for dropping a bear at close range — he took it off of my desk and hid it. I didn’t go looking for it, but I could plainly see that it wasn’t in its customary place on his nightstand. Once again, the son of a bitch was complicit. He was going to help her murder us.
We’d hoped that perhaps relatives who were of sufficient financial wherewithal that helping us save our lives wouldn’t be burdensome might see their way clear to do so, but all we got was silence or direct statements that we should not ask. Their generosity will not be forgotten. So we had to cook up a plan on our own, and execute it flawlessly. If my parents had the slightest hint that we were planning an escape my mother would accelerate her schedule for killing us. I’d helped others plan and execute their escapes from violent narcissists/psychopaths, so I’d already thought my way through the process several times. It’s not something you can just wing.
Since destroying my business was one of their goals, we let my parents see what they wanted to see. We paid the outrageous 3% fee to cash our checks at one of those ripoff check cashing places and made sure the one we went to was off of my parents’ habitual routes in a town 40 miles away, and in the back of a building so we weren’t visible from the street anyway once parked. We bought a cheap prepaid cell phone that could be activated and reloaded without identification, kept it hidden, and took the battery completely out except when we used it far away from the property so it could neither make noise to give itself away nor be tracked. It was the only phone we used when talking about plans for our escape. We spoke with the folks who ran the commercial mail receiving agency where we got our mail, and told them that if anyone, even if it was certainly one of us, called to ask if we had mail they were to report that there were a few bills and ads but nothing worth driving in for, and made sure that they’d not surrender our mail to anyone but us. We moved a few of our things at a time out of my parents’ house into our storage unit, explaining that we were just tired of tripping over things we weren’t using anyway. We didn’t dare to move too much, even on the sly, as by its absence it would be a clue to our plans. The hardest part of all was not allowing our demeanors to change. We had to keep looking “stuck and screwed”, and in many ways, more so. I’d pay you if I had it, but I’m just not making any money. I can’t give what I don’t have. (Look, dammit. This is what you want to see and I’m showing it to you. Pay no attention to what my other hand is doing.)
A couple of weeks into it I was able to project an escape date: February 25, 2009. That was when my projected income, minus what we had to cop to and surrender in order to keep the ruse intact, would be sufficient. I reserved a truck. When we were far from the property and couldn’t be overheard we discussed the plan: We’d just continue being “stuck and screwed”, then make an excuse to go to the big town on the morning of the 25th. We’d show up with the truck, which should put the old people into shock, and then we’d go as fast as we could to get our things out, the most important things first, and at the first sign that the shock was wearing off we’d abandon the rest. If we in fact got any of it at all. We’d try, but if it got too twitchy we’d bolt and consider ourselves lucky to get out alive. Naturally, I’d be armed and though the pistol would be concealed it would be obvious — Mommie Dearest had to know that it would be a gunfight, not a murder, so she’d have reason to hesitate. Both of my parents knew I could shoot as they’d seen me eradicating pocket gophers from the yard with a pistol. My father didn’t want to believe it, told me it was impossible and I was a liar if I said otherwise, so I picked up a dead one and showed it to him. Tell me now that I can’t shoot a pistol, old man. They both knew I could shoot… Do ya feel lucky, punk?
In late January, not long after we cooked up the plan, and a day or two after our last midnight snow shoveling ER run, it snowed like it meant it. The day sucked for many reasons but I’ll cut to the important one: My father, as I’ve said before, is a very stupid man. He believes that the best way to clear snow from the driveway without shoveling or plowing is to drive around on it and compact it. And to his credit, it’s true enough that if you can compact it enough that the asphalt underneath receives sunlight it will melt more rapidly. It will also turn to solid ice that night and ice just doesn’t shovel worth a damn. He doesn’t care about reality… Around and around the circular end of the driveway he went, showing off like a spoiled child demonstrating what he can get away with, until his goofy little John Deere (in name only) riding mower was helplessly stuck. It could go neither forward nor back because it was on packed snow and could get no traction. He shut the engine off and commenced to whining. I told him to just go back into the house and I’d get the thing later. Oh, but he can’t walk on snow because he might slip and break his artificial hip — that damned hip was his excuse for not doing anything he didn’t want to do and had been for as long as he’d had it. He could do anything he wanted to do, but nothing he didn’t want to do. Getting drunk and felling very large trees he could do, but taking the garbage out he couldn’t. So I told him he could just sit there until thaw because throwing their words back at my parents has always been one of my favorite things to do. But then my mother got angrily noisy and I figured that if we got evicted by a sheriff’s deputy before February 25th we’d be an entirely different kind of stuck. The work whose projected income would finance our escape was in the house in my computers, and the pigs in that county are infamous bastards. They’d make me leave my computers just because they had it in for one of my cousins.
So I went to where my father was whining and surveyed the situation. If I pushed him forward I’d have to push him about a hundred feet, and if I fell forward I’d lose flesh, blood, and maybe teeth on his hillbilly trailer hitch hanging off the back of the mower. But pushing it backward would be a bitch because there was nothing up front but a slick, sloped, and not at all sturdy plastic hood. I told him again to get his whiny ass up off of the thing, but he refused. “My hip”, he whined. I looked more closely at the situation. Hmmm. The machine weighs maybe a bit north of 400 pounds, probably about half of it right over the front axle — 22 horsepower engine, battery, and so on up there. His 200 pound whiny ass was over the rear axle so not really a factor once the front end was lifted more than a foot or two. Yeah, I can do that. I told him to just sit still, hold the steering wheel dead straight, and don’t start the engine or touch the brakes. If he turned the steering wheel he’d crush my hands, if he hit the brakes he’d break my back. Got it? Yeah, I got it. Just hold the wheel straight and don’t do anything. I grabbed hold of the front axle, lifted it to waist height so my back was nice and straight, and pushed it back.
Then the son of a bitch stabbed the brake pedal and I both felt and heard my back pop. I dropped his precious mower and he hollered at me, “Wha’d you do that for? Are you trying to break my mower?”. I hollered back, “Why’d you stab the brakes? Are you trying to break my back?”. He said, “We were back far enough”. “Asshole! I told you not to do that!”. I walked away not giving a fuck if he froze to death or not. I hoped my back would feel better by the 25th… It didn’t. It will never be better. It’s a constant pain, sometimes more than others. It’s my constant reminder of that day, of my father’s habit as long as my life of not giving a damn about the dangers he put me into. He got a kick out of it. The previous fall he’d harangued me into felling trees in the wind and just watched as a large oak spun in the wind and tried to take my life. When I asked why he hadn’t honked the horn on his fucking precious mower when the wind came up as we’d agreed he would his response was, “You wouldn’t have heard it anyway”. Heaven forbid that he should be bothered to push a button.
We went back to “stuck and screwed”. Then we got a call from our daughter in law saying that my mother in law was not answering her phone or her door… Our DIL was afraid to go inside the apartment because “What if she’s dead in there?”. I asked, “What if she’s alive, but only has a half hour of life left and you’re spending it on the phone with us instead of finding her and calling 911?”. She wasn’t in there, had been taken away a few hours earlier suffering renal failure. It would soon become a choice for us of putting her into a geriatric warehouse or taking her in with us to keep her out of one. Our destination changed but the escape plan remained.
The plan worked. They were shocked and we didn’t have to abandon much. Not long after we got started, after my office was on the truck and I was working in the bedroom, my father approached. The fucking narcissistic piece of shit actually hauled out his righteous indignation and guilt trip, the only tune he knows for that part of the program.
“I don’t understand. What have we done to deserve this?”
Ordinarily I’d have got up on my hind legs and barked. Ever since I was 15 years old and figured I could take him in a fight I met that guilt trip attempt with fury and told him in certain terms where he could put it. But that day, that wasn’t the battle. That day the battle was to get out while they were still in shock, hopefully without a gunfight, and putting him on known ground would enable him to get out of shock. I was hunched over a box, but I looked up just enough to see that his hands were empty. They were, so I told him, “Just let it be, man. Let it go”. He went for another of his favorite lines, used whenever he judged another to be indebted to him for past generosity: “After all we have done for…”. He pulled up short, then continued, “I don’t understand. What have we done to deserve this?”. Again I repeated, “Just let it go”. I continued loading the box while he stood there for a moment, unsure of himself. He finally said, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should… just let it go”. Then he turned and walked away, and a moment later I heard his recliner reclining.
Five years, three months, and 20 days ago my last conversation with my father was him trying to lay a narcissistic guilt trip on me. I don’t hate him any more, got past that when it was time to get past it, and I don’t blame him for his personality disorder any more than I’d blame a dog for being rabid. But, ya know, I came into this mess as an innocent newborn child and I deserved better.
Fuck Father’s Day. Not your Father’s Day, not your father’s Father’s Day, not your kids’ Father’s Day. If you’ve got a father worth celebrating, do it, and do it often just because he’s worth it and he’s earned it. But fuck Father’s Day.