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Do elderly parents re-write history?

 
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 05:20 am
Phoenix

Yes, I think that's exactly what I have done to protect myself. It often felt, when I was a child, that I had to look after her rather than the other way around.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 05:27 am
msolga- Exactly. Now my mother is very old. She lives near me, and depends on me for all of her shopping, banking, going to doctors, and helping her when something becomes too much for her (Which is often).

I find it very difficult not to resent that I am a far better mother to her than she was to me, but I cope with the situation.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 05:30 am
CodeBorg

How vividly you remember that moment of that photograph! That was the moment that you understood the dynamics of your family. Children understand so much more than their parents & other adults realize. And moments like that you never forget.

I understand completely what you mean about people who change their own understanding of reality being "gone". You are no longer able to discuss the issue of concern with them. It as though 2 entirely different things happened & there's no way of being able to communicate properly about what happened. Very sad, when that happens. The person is lost to you.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 05:32 am
Phoenix

I hope that she's appreciative of your time & effort.
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 08:21 am
msolga - the saying about being able to choose your friends but not your family is so true.

i was never close to my father's parents and nor was he. They were cold people and rather like Codeborg's example, they put on a face and there was no substance behind it. They weren't affectionate grandparents but wanted people to think they were. I had never been very fond of them and at 15 I suddently clearly saw them for what they were and never visited them again. When they died i felt absolutely nothing. They always had money and thought an expensive dress (which would be shown to the neighbours to impress them first) at Christmas was the sum total of grandparenting. I always hated those damn dresses as well!

My mother's parents on the other hand were loving and generous with time and attention - much more important to a child.

I'm glad you have got over it and can quite see why you are thinking about it at this time.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 08:57 am
msolga, yes yes and yes. I know just what you mean.

I have an ongoing dialogue with my father, in continuous loop. It starts with him asking, in one way or another, why I don't like him, why I have "built all of these walls." I demur, I say I like him just fine, love him in fact, I always respond to his emails, no? Always am happy to have him come visit, no? Always put a lot of time and energy into selecting or creating gifts I know he will appreciate, no? This section usually goes on for a while, some sort of subjective "proof" comes out... that I have in fact sent him more emails than he has sent me, say, or that my average response time is significantly less than his average response time.

Once we get past that, he harrumphs and says yes but you just seem to think I'm like I used to be (alcoholic). I've changed, I tell you, I've changed. IF we get into it at this point -- I rarely take the bait anymore for the first go-round, even more rarely take it at this point -- I say, well, it was just a month ago that you _______. (It's always something.)

We hammer that out, he sees the light, he apologizes profusely, he asks for a clean start, promises never to do something so thoughtless again. I say well, that's what you said after we last had this conversation. He says What? What are you talking about? We haven't had this conversation. I say Yes, when you ________.

That's when he gets firmly into "that didn't happen."

If I have the patience at this point, I walk him through it. A lifetime of this has made me very adept. I start with something obvious, something I'm sure he'll remember. Then I connect the dots. Then remember this? And this? And then this? He sputters, posits alternative universe theories, I point out the flaws, he has a eureka moment... Oh wow, I remember now, gosh, I'm so sorry... OK, but it was just those two times, you don't like me because of two lousy mistakes? Now I know, now I won't do that ever again.

It's like Russian nesting dolls, going back to the first time we had this conversation, when I was 18, and each conversation after it with new problems appended... when he didn't contribute enough money to my college education to legally claim me as a dependent on his taxes, though he did, and I was desperately poor even with the scholarships I managed to rustle up, and he went into a terrifying rage when I asked him for more money... when I happened across the letter from my cousin wherein she offered sympathy to him for my hysterical, baseless accusation of abuse (which I had never made)... when he was furious with me for not going to my grandmother's funeral, which I wanted to do but literally (no credit cards) could not come up with the $800 plane ticket (down from about $2000 with bereavement discount), and he refused to pay even part of it (this shortly after he had bought a new SUV with leather seats.) Etc., etc., etc.

At some point... around when I found the letter from my cousin... I decided that I did not have the energy to deal with this on an ongoing basis, and was willing to cut off all ties with him. While I don't think I said the words, he saw my determination, and that was one of the most productive conversations we had. If asked, he won't remember it, but his behavior has improved since. "Improved", but still many, many problems.

He is a sweet grandfather -- he has always been better with kids than adults -- and at this point, I am not willing to cut him out of my daughter's life. Both of my parents had terrible relationships with their own parents and siblings, so I grew up with basically no extended family. It was me and my parents, period. My parents both became closer to their own parents later in life, and were sad I didn't have more of a relationship with them. Hello, if you keep me away from them for the first 18 years of my life and make horrible disparaging comments behind their backs, what exactly do you expect? (I was actually very close to my dad's mom, but that was rather more in spite of him than because of.)

At any rate, I definitely have experienced this with my (not-so-elderly) father. He is in "why don't you like me?" mode again, and I am debating how to respond. I haven't taken the bait since the sozlet was born, since I have had "And if you don't deal with this, fine, goodbye" in the back of my head during the Conversations we've had over the last decade or so, and am not sure how to adjust/ what I want to say or not say.
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 12:56 pm
Soz how about simply 'I'm not playing this game again' and refuse to discuss it? Firmly change the subject to something happier like the Sozlet. I'm not normally for not discussing stuff but this seems to be an ongoing mind game - refuse to play

himself, being Irish, can moan on and on about some things and we have discussed and discussed - now i just say I'm not playing the game and getting angry and upset and provoked for the same old thing
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2003 02:11 pm
Vivien, have done that, and he says I'm in denial, avoidance, blahbedy blah... because he doesn't remember discussing it ever before, you see. Rolling Eyes

He has been diagnosed as a Narcissistic Personality, so it's definitely into surreal territory. What I have thought of doing is having it out one last time, in writing... all previous discussions have been face to face... and then if/when it comes up again, just refer him back to it. Send him a new copy if he claims he lost it. I have started writing such a thing a few times, but it's just so depressing I leave off after awhile. May just go ahead and do that, or have the "discussion" via email.

At any rate, don't mean to hijack Msolga's thread... I am very sympathetic, and have wondered how I will handle things when his health starts to fail. Phoenix's line really struck home:

Phoenix wrote:
I find it very difficult not to resent that I am a far better mother to her than she was to me, but I cope with the situation.


Dad's now retired, no savings, gallivanting around. He does have a very nice and responsible and thoughtful wife, who I am thankful for every day. If she weren't in the picture... <shudder>
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 01:26 am
Vivien

Yes, thank heavens that we are free to choose our friends!
How else would we survive the rough bits?
Sounds like you were a very discerning 15 year old, Vivien. You understood so much, so early. It took me YEARS to get to the same point of understanding. But once you do get it, well ... there's no turning back is there?
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 01:35 am
msolga wrote:
Vivien

Yes, thank heavens that we are free to choose our friends!
How else would we survive the rough bits?
Sounds like you were a very discerning 15 year old, Vivien. You understood so much, so early. It took me YEARS to get to the same point of understanding. But once you do get it, well ... there's no turning back is there?


probably more just stroppy! I've never been good at tolerating people i don't like - I try but but they realise, a bad character fault I know. I wish I hid it better. I tend to say what others bottle up too!

(I don't know if you'll understand stroppy - an American friend didn't once when i used it - it's sort of grumpy, awkward, uncooperative, typical teenage behaviour)
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 01:38 am
sozobe

I certainly don't feel you are hijacking my thread,
Remember, I asked if anyone else had experienced similar treatment to me from their parents/family? It was an invitation to share stories.
Thank you for talking about your experiences with your father. I sympathise! Good luck to you, sozobe, & feel free to write as much as you need/want to on this topic. Very Happy
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 01:50 am
Oh yes, I understand stroppy! And stroppy sounds quite an appropriate response to the cold grandparents, Vivien!
Like you, I've never been good about hiding my lack of respect/liking for particular people. I have one of those unfortunate "open" faces which show quite clearly EXACTLY what I'm thinking. It causes problems but I'm working on controlling what shows to the world. Laughing
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 06:04 am
Goodness me! Being an orphling certainly has its good points!!!!!

(Actually, I have only been a physical orphling since I was 38....)

I confess, as I see friends beginning to struggle with the issues of elderly parents, I am somewhat grateful to have it all behind me - good luck with it all of you!
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 09:31 am
msolga wrote:
I have one of those unfortunate "open" faces which show quite clearly EXACTLY what I'm thinking. It causes problems but I'm working on controlling what shows to the world. Laughing


me too! I'd never make a poker player!
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 10:23 am
Great thread!

One summer night, my mother came home late, with slurred speech, stumbling gait, and glazed eyes. I was up late taking correspondence courses to graduate a year early from high school. She tried to get into an argument with me. When she paused in her rants, I calmly asked her if she was finished, said that I had to get back to my studies. She then slapped me back and forth. (My youth director had counseled me not to engage with her, but just do everything I needed to do to graduate and get out of the house. I was definitely "turning the other cheek" here. My school counselor, who also went to my church, was helping me get the credits I needed to get out high school and out of my house, too.)

I asked her if she was finished, and then I went back to my studies. She then threw a cup of coffee all over me and my homework.

I lost my cool and--the only time in my life!--I punched her in her face just like they do in the movies with a closed fist.

Then I went upstairs and promptly slid out my window, down the slanted roof, sprawled on the top of a pine tree, and fell to the ground. I ran to a neighbor's house.

My parents found me and told my friend's mother, that they had had so much trouble with me.

Mom remembers nothing.

She seems to have tappered off the drinking now, about thirly years after the incident. But, I've heard that a dry drunk is still a drunk. She's just cut down on the drinking, she's never dealt with her issues.

I've read some in the DSMIV, and Mom is a narcissist, too. A very difficult disorder. Her four kids and four husbands were supposed to provide her with a limitless supply of "narcissistic supply."

It's tough to be a kid. Some things don't make sense and it is upsetting and disorienting. As an adult, some things don't make sense, and it's just not as bad, IMO.

Narcissists are a pain in the rear. I pity anyone who has to deal with them!
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 10:44 am
Amen!

How DO you deal with your mom at this point, dupre? (It sounds like you have more experience with a very very similar kind of person.)
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 11:25 am
Well, I'd have to say getting to "this point" was a process.

When I would share my life with Mom, good or bad, she would always make my life out to be a crisis. I guess, maybe, she did see my accomplishments and worries in terms of her own life's achievements and whether she would be required to offer any help. Always in terms of her, not me.

So, I refrained from talking to her for a long period of time. Then, I would talk to her only about the weather and news.

When she would probe, I just wouldn't give any information. She, herself, is extremely private; I could never get much from her about her life or past, so it really was not difficult to mirror her behavior and keep my life private.

When she would ask about other people in my life, trying to start something, I would offer to give her their number so she could contact them herself.

In the meantime, her fourth husband is now seriously ill. That changes people. I had lost someone dear to me in '94. She did not come to his funeral or even send a card. He was sick for a year. I was running a business and had a child. Mom did nothing. Now, she expects her four children and their spouses to travel to East Texas to do her yard work and shopping. Mom's husband had done all the shopping. Now Mom has to sober up and do for herself and her husband for the first time ever. What a change for her! We have gone up to cook for them . . . anyway . . .

I digress, sorry.

There was another underlying conflict agitating things which I did not discover till a few years back. One of my sisters (also a DSMIV narcissist), the "good" sister, the drug addict, thief, liar, promiscuous, cheater, had been gossiping with my mother all these years about MY life. I rarely even talked to the "good" sister, so I don't know how she could evaluate the worth of my life anyway.

So, one rare day at Mom's, we were both there, after many years apart, and the "good" sister started in with her trying to make me over like herself. She was full of "concern" for me. And when I didn't respond, she got more and more forward, even going far as to inspect my gray hair, my birthmark mole on my forehead, my face, my clothes, my mouth!

I left a note in the middle of the night, and took off for home. I have rarely spoken to the "good" sister since then. But, I did finally have a long-overdue talk with Mom about just what kinds of actitivities the "good" sister had engaged in during our childhood and as a young adult. The "good" sister had been doing hard drugs regularly since she was 12, that I know of. She even stole money from Aunt Lucy, an immigrant, barely employed widow, for drug money. She had stolen my Christmas presents through the years as gifts for drugs. She stole my wardrobe when she went to college, leaving me with two old outfits to get through high school. She had affairs on her husband. She cheated her way through school.

Mom had thoroughly enjoyed the "good" sister's gossiping for years. The "good" sister could make it sound like concern and disgust at the same time, her sole purpose being to make herself look good to Mom, so the good sister could get what narcissists want--narcissistic supply.

I had barely glanced at the good sister's life all those years. I was busy leading my own life: softball, tennis, school, chuch, baking, reading playwrights like Ibsen and other great literature, participating in politics. I didn't care that she was more wayward than me. Why should I? Yet, somehow she had twisted my interesting life out to be something horrific and had made herself to be something to be emulated.

Anyway, after that, I still refrained from telling Mom or anyone in my family any details about my life. The good things in my life made them jealous and the bad things--doesn't everyone have a few complaints?--made them feel better about themselves.

I am not living and sharing my life in order to satisfy anyone's curiosity about who THEY are!

And, I don't have TIME for gossip!

At "this point," due to Mom's personal growth, her new awareness about the "good" sister's game, and my years'-long distancing Mom from any real details about my life, I can now say that when I "complain" about the regular day-to-day stuff, she no longer panics and evaluates her parenting skills (of lack thereof) against my choices. She responds appropriately now, either with "That's nothing to worry about, really," or "I'm sure you'll work that out."

I even get the occassional, "I'm so happy for you," "You deserve it," "Couldn't happen to a more worthy person."

It's a long yearned-for, hard-won relationship. I deserve it . . . I really do.
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Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 11:47 am
How many Narcissists does it take to screw in a light bulb.
One. They just hold the lightbulb up and the world revolves around them.
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 11:55 am
HaHaHaHaHaHa!!!!!!!!!!!
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Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2003 11:58 am
Geez, this all sounds so familiar. They last night of my marraige ended in violence. I called my father at 3am, in the middle of it of it all, to ask him for a ride for me and my kids. Dad could hear the ex in the background raving and smashing things and asked to speak to him. Whatever dad said calmed him down a bit. But the next morning while I packed the ex's mother (godzilla) showed up. My dad and brother appoligized to her for my behavior! They then proceeded to chastise me for leaving him in front her. All the while the evidence of his brutality were evident from bruises round my neck to every door jam in the place being kicked in.
To this day both of the can't believe I would say they did such a thing. The fact that the lectures continued for weeks and blame and fault were laid at me feet makes no difference to their recolections. I was/am doubly wrong.
Ceili
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