Secrets I

One of the notable facets of a narcissist family is that it is a family that keeps secrets. For me, there were family secrets and there were secret-secrets. Most of the secret-secrets were not actively suppressed or hidden, just never discussed. One secret-secret was that I was never allowed to know how much money my father or mother made. I can’t begin to comprehend the reasoning behind this--fear I would think we were rich and want to spend money wantonly? Fear I would think we were poor and be ashamed of my family? I have no idea.

Medical issues were another secret-secret. Both my father and mother had a litany of medical issues, but they were never discussed with me. Was this done out of a (misplaced) sense of protection, to not scare me? Was it done because they were ashamed of their own humanness? I cannot say. Once again, it is only in hindsight that I can see how odd it was that my parents' major health issues were never discussed. No attempt to include me or explain risks to me were made. At the same time, from a young age, both my parents told me I had to take care of them when they were old. I was not allowed to put them in a home. When I was around the age of nine, my father told me if I tried to put him in a nursing home, I should just give him a gun so he could shoot himself. They were forcing me as a nine-year-old to commit to taking caring of them.

I had a pretty standard routine as a kid. Saturdays I went to my grandparents house and I’d watch Saturday morning cartoons. It was something I enjoyed and looked forward to. My father, unexpectedly, stopped by early in the day. And asked me to come with him to a doctor’s appointment. I had not been asked earlier about this. I had not been even told he had a doctor’s appointment. He seemed a bit on edge, but I said I did not want to go; that I wanted to watch my cartoons. Clearly hurt, his tone changed, and he got very angry. “You’d rather watch cartoons than be with your father!” he said loudly, almost yelling. And then he hit me. I was on the couch, he aimed for my butt, acting like it was a punishment spank, but it was all wrath. It was not a punishment for doing something wrong; it was a hit to express anger, disappointment, frustration, and grief. I cried, scared more than hurting--my father had never hit me before. Before I could scream my apology and go with him, he left for his appointment.

I can only assume his appointment was for some semi-dire issue. My father was scared and deeply wanted some emotional support--he certainly did not get enough from his wife. It’s a lot to ask from an elementary aged kid, but I feel had I been properly informed I would have been more than willing to go with him. If I had known there was something potentially life-threatening or life-altering going on, I would have more than wanted to be with my father--we had not grown apart yet at this point. Having been raised to be scared and largely helpless, I deeply feared losing my parents. I was very sympathetic to them. Children, just like everyone else, deserve to be able to make informed decisions. I wish I had had the wherewithal to assert my right to know and be involved, but I was pushed towards ignorance and being left to my own devices. The implicit message was, don't get involved and you will not be troubled and that was how I found a modicum safety and happiness.