Detoxing from visiting Father and Mom. Two weeks later and I’m still processing. Avoiding writing this blog entry. Except yesterday I spoke with a friend, and they asked about it.
A heavy lump settled in my chest and stomach. Calcified poison.
Bitterness. Exhaustion. Hatred.
First day, Father’s charming and excited. Both Daughter and Husband, relieved, say to me in different words ‘maybe he won’t be so bad this time.’
‘Careful. He’s #lovebombing. Don’t believe his compliments or his smile. This is where he makes you feel safe, welcome, and loved. Seen.’
We’re here for Mom. And this is also the safest way for Daughter to be in contact with a #narcissist, see how they operate and (fingers crossed) recognise red flags in the future. Here, I can point to the tactics, support her through confusion, anger, sadness. I want her to understand narcs are just that good at manipulation, it isn’t your fault for wanting their lies to be real.
Most importantly, we can leave anytime.
My bears and I make ready for the next few days.
First morning—it begins.
Promises broken. Plans in disarray. Mom was supposed to come with us to Daughter’s ski lesson, but Father says ‘I didn’t think about how dangerous it might be for her, and spoke with her this morning. She agrees she shouldn’t go.’
COVID-19 is not to be trifled with. You can’t argue that we’ll be in a public space and the mask mandates are being phased out. Except he built her up so much, getting her so excited. Classic. And I know him. I’m sure he took that awful, dehumanising tone with her. Mom’s automatic response is to shut down. She never hears a word he says and just mumbles ‘yes’ to get him away as quickly as possible.
A moment later she walks into the kitchen, dressed for a day at the chalet. “I’m ready!”
‘You agreed it’s too dangerous.’ Father’s eyes narrow. ‘You’re not going.’
‘Oh.” The light leaves her face. ‘I’m not going.’
‘Mom, do you want to go?’
Father spits acid. ‘How dare you ask her!’ (His actual words, no joke.)
‘Of course I asked her. She’d an adult and can make her own choices.’
‘I want to go.”
‘It’s not logical.’ He stares at Mom across the kitchen, a coldness in his gaze that used to chill me to the bone.
Mom’s head bows, she takes a large step back and stares at the floor.
‘IT’S NOT SAFE.’
I rise and go to the sink with my breakfast dishes. As soon as he sees movement, he yells straight at me. I don’t remember his words. They really aren’t important.
Big man with a large kitchen island between us, spit flying from his mouth, terrified he’s lost control over his wife. And he has. Because I’m here.
My mom pointy-finger comes out. I reserve it for very special tantrums. When I’ve had enough and nobody is going to push me around.
‘Yelling is not going to get you your way.’ My heartbeat pounds in my ears. Have to keep calm. Deep breaths. ‘You already said you were willing to come and pick her up if she gets tired. She comes with us, we don’t go in the chalet but enjoy the outdoors and seeing Daughter ski. It’s cold, so you come and get her after 30 minutes. Everybody’s happy.’
Father calms. ‘That’s actually a really good compromise.’
He’s so concerned for her comfort and safety, he doesn’t show up for over 90 minutes.
Mom is freezing. I take her into the nearly deserted chalet and we enjoy a warm meal. She’s bright and fun. Animated. We laugh and gush over how much we love Daughter’s fire and sense of humour. Our hearts runneth over.
When I see Father, we rush to get outside. I tell him we enjoyed a lovely time inside until he arrived. No contact with anyone, no fear of infection.
Mom stares at the ground. The joy is gone. She seems five inches smaller, the way she hunches, when earlier she sat straight with her shoulders back.
This pattern repeats itself the whole visit.
One morning, Husband wakes me.
‘He’s gone to some appointments and it’s so peaceful.’
I jump out of bed.
The house is serene. Beautiful views, fresh coffee, mountain stillness.
It’s obvious we’re both exhausted.
We hide so much in the guest bedroom, hyperaware of when Father is outside the door. He listens to our conversations and barges in whenever he wants. I keep telling Husband to escort him out of the room with slow, controlled movements. Herd him like you would a bison, which is Father’s spirit animal. But Husband isn’t as experienced as I am.
Daughter and I spend as much time with Mom as we can. She’s our whole reason for being here. And it’s glorious. She’s worth braving Father, and always will be.
Despite that joy, we’re all itching to go home. And relieved when it’s finally time.
We share war stories in the car. Each of us taking turns to share feelings and experiences on the long car ride. Before long we’re laughing so hard at the ridiculousness, breathing so much better being out of Father’s toxic home. We all feel lighter.
But at some point, Husband’s shoulders tense. ‘I decided not to tell you this story until we left, because I was afraid you might raze the house to the ground.’
My grip tightens on the steering wheel.