Weeding the yard and changing family relations: Slow progress is still progress #mentalhealth #mentalillness #financialrecovery #alcoholism

September 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday we worked our way down the east side of the property pulling weeds and grass. We have now cleared the grass from the boulevard that edges our corner lot on both sides. The weeding started from the front walk in the middle of the south end of the yard and proceeded across the front of the house and down the side yard. We now have 6 trash barrels full of weeds for the composting truck to pick up tomorrow. It feels so good to look at that fresh turned soil. It holds great promise for the future.

Today the work week begins again with myriad pressures – earn enough money to live on, earn enough money to pay the mortgage, property tax and house insurance, finish the dissertation, clean out the fridge, clean the bathrooms, vacuum up the dog hair, etc. Our basement suite tenants are going to be giving their notice soon, they have started looking for another place. We have decided not to rent the suite for long term tenants again. We are going to figure out other ways to monetize the space. Definitely seeing some financial pressure up ahead. It doesn’t help that I have taken time off wage earning work to write the dissertation. Again. The never-ending time and money drain with a dubious promise of unspecified payback.

It seems that the story of my life is one of constantly facing pressures from numerous sides and feeling unprepared to meet them.

I had a long talk with Brother1 last week as I was staining pergola posts at work. He had finally asked me why I was estranged from his beloved father, my emotional and psychological abuser. I was finally able to explain to him what it means to have a parent who is unable to put your needs first, who is blind to his own narcissistic self-centredness. My brother had revealed to me that my dad thinks the reason I am estranged from him is that he thinks I think he owes us money for the oil tank removal and contaminated soil clean up.

A bit of back story. Husband and I bought our house from my dad in 2010. He sold it to us at appraised value. When we bought it, he did not disclose there was an oil tank on the property. When we discovered the oil tank, Dad did not take any responsibility for selling us the property without telling us about the tank. We paid for the clean up, it was a $26,000 bill. In my mind, while feeling completely betrayed and abandoned by my father, I reconciled the financial part to the fact that we had not used a real estate agent to handle the sale. The clean up bill amounted to the fee we would have paid an agent, which would have revealed the oil tank in the sale. What hurt so much was, more than the fact that my dad was a liar and a cheat, was that he never once gave us any encouragement, as we faced one the greatest challenges of our lives. The problem of the oil tank and contaminated soil came to a head when our house was up on cribs getting a new basement. The City put a stop work order on our renovation to force us to clean up the contaminated soil in the side yard. We couldn’t handle everything at once and it was our luck to have a very capable contractor who was able to broker an agreement with the city so we could get our house down on a new foundation and then clean up the contaminated soil. A nightmare.

What this incident revealed to me, which I have only been able to piece together in recent months, was the kind of father I have. A man who would sell his daughter a piece of property with a buried oil tank and then would do nothing to help – not even words of encouragement, emotional support, empathy for the burden placed on her shoulders. It was this incident that helped me piece together the real damage of my relationship with my father, the pattern of abandonment, undermining and betrayal that I have laboured under my whole life.

My brother, none of my four brothers, up until now, has been able to understand why I am estranged from my father. Their common reaction is, just get over it! They can’t stand the rift in the family that “I” am causing. They are incapable of conceiving that their myth of a heroic father might be at fault and might be culpable in the situation.

On the phone the other day it seemed that my brother actually heard me and took in what I was saying without the knee-jerk reaction of shutting me down. I am wondering how he is doing now. I know what it is like to have one impression of a person and then have a completely opposite story of that person. It is very upsetting and disorienting. When you love both people and one has suffered so badly by the treatment of the other, and the other is someone you have relied on, trusted, turned to for inspiration and guidance, your mind has to come to terms with these two opposite pictures.

For my part, when it happened to me, the truthfulness of my daughter’s disclosure was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my ex-husband. Some part of what she told me rang true, even though I was completely unable to put the two parts together in my own mind at the time. It took another 8 years for the truth to sink in and for me to act on it.

I just wonder how my brother is doing with it. He suffers from extreme anxiety disorder. He has never talked to me about his relationship with our dad as having anything to do with his condition. I hope he is okay.

Me? I got my yard weeded! Whoot! Small progress. That is how I measure my life. In small steps forward, pulling weeds, raking out the rough spots, and eyeing the next project for rebuilding my life.


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