the perplexing conundrum of narcissism and family #aa #na #slaa #alanon #recovery

July 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

My father-in-law passed away on Thursday afternoon. We got the news yesterday morning. I left work to be home with Husband for the day. It was a strange day.

When I heard the news I cried, I was fond of HusbandFatherInLaw and I felt the loss. My feelings were conflicted with a sense of relief. We had known he was in hospice and recently had a fall that broke his hip. He survived the surgery to stabilize the hip, but never really woke up after the procedure. He had been living in a secure facility for the past number of years as he suffered from dementia and could no longer be trusted to look after himself out in the world.

He seemed to adapt well to living in the care facility. When we visited him, he showed us his room. It showed the signs of his nascent intellectual interests and also tendency to clutter and hoarding. There was a path from the door to his bed lined with piles of books and papers. It wasn’t too bad, though, I suppose the care staff made sure things couldn’t get out of hand. At that time, during our visit, a nurse brought him his medication and a glass of water. As he took his pills he explained to us that he was ‘helping out with the running of the facility’ by taking his medication. He hinted that he was part of a medical research team. This was a typical invention of HusbandFatherInLaw. He would find a way to position himself as an authority in every situation, no matter that he did not know what he was talking about or doing.

I met Husband in 1996 and from the earliest days of our relationship he talked about his troubled relationship with his father. At that time, HusbandFatherInLaw still had property and a trust fund. He lived on his own, obsessed with one grand project: to write a software application that could predict the stock market. In his pursuit of this quest he squandered something in the order of a million dollars on bad stock market purchases. He used up the funds from the sale of two houses and ended up living in one bedroom of a B&B during the off-season. No matter that he knew so little about computers that he  was unable to install a power cord on his own. He knew enough to gamble online with the stock market and that was enough to qualify him in this grand illusion.

HusbandFatherInLaw was an enigma. He was handsome, dapper in his fashion sense, very much the scion of a New England blue blood family. He was intelligent and well-educated. However, he was utterly unable to make emotional connections. So there was always this pseudo intellectual superiority, wherein he would seek to establish himself on an authoritarian high ground, even though there was nothing in his actual knowledge or behaviour that would warrant such a position. It was extremely difficult to identify what was missing. Being around HusbandFatherInLaw was like being at a crime scene where there was blood spatter but no body. Husband’s emotional condition of needing endless emotional validation was evidence that he had grown up in a condition of deprival, while HusbandFatherInLaw’s erudite proclamations on every topic, including taking responsibility, fatherhood, being a man, etc. belied the fact that he could not actually enact any of these qualities or characteristics in his own family relationships.

According to Husband, HusbandFatherInLaw had ‘checked out’ from the family long ago, retreating to his basement office to ‘write software’ sometime during Husband’s early teens. HusbandFatherInLaw had managed to reduce a sizable family fund of property and trust income to nothing before he was taken into care. One of the dilemmas Husband and his siblings faced was the issue of funding care for their father after his funds were complete gone. Should his care be paid out of Husband’s mother’s estate? Even though she had divorced him years ago because his behaviour was putting her hard-earned savings at risk? Or should he be put into a state facility because he had so thoroughly jeopardized the family financial security while at the same time depriving all his children of the parent and father he was responsible to provide? This decision weighed heavily on our minds these last two years, knowing that his care was going to fall to the children and the cost of that care represented the entire income of a well-placed professional.

Yesterday we spent time talking about HusbandFatherInLaw, and Husband continued to process the complicated thoughts and feelings arising from his passing. Husband was depressed most of the day, at times sharing his state of mind, and at others retreating into his own world. It was much easier to feel the uncomplicated grief and sadness at the passing of Husband’s mother. We continue to miss her and talk about her. Her presence is very real in our lives on a day to day basis. It is not so simple when it comes to HusbandFatherInLaw. He had never been a positive contributor to family stability since I had met Husband. He had been a continuing source of depression and anxiety for decades. He always needed care and handling when he wasn’t isolating. We felt some relief that his suffering had ended, but some angst as well. How can someone who has lived for eight decades have their lives end and leave barely a ripple in the lives of their family? It was like he had been fading from Husband’s life as long as I had known him, and now he had disappeared completely.

It certainly gives me pause to think about my own family relationships and how I want to conduct my affairs. It is painful, but sometimes easier to withdraw from these painful family relationships because they appear hopeless. However, when we are the ones left standing, we are also the ones left with the memories, regrets, and pride for our past deeds. In the case of HusbandFatherInLaw, I have no regrets, as I tried to make connections with him. I saw the frustration and pain his state of mind and actions caused Husband. I saw Husband work, year after year, to improve his relationship with his father. I think of my relationship with my own father, and the complicated feelings of pain, absence, loneliness and yearning his presence in my life engenders. As long as I continue to work on my own healing and recovery, and hope for a day that we might forge a new relationship, I will be content with the state of our relationship today.

Farewell HusbandFatherInLaw! I hope that you finally feel the peace of mind and body that so eluded you during your life. You were loved.


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