Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Emotional Orphan

Ten years ago we buried my father and two years later my mom. I remember standing with my sister after my mother’s funeral and her saying both parents gone: we are orphans. It troubled me – an orphan is a child, it is one of life’s sadness’s. Who are we – adults in our forty’s - to make such a comparison, to make light of the true orphan’s pain.

Over the ensuing years, this has not been an area which has commanded much of my attention. But recently through the discipline of therapy, I have been forced to revisit my childhood – a Freudian tilt to it all. Now I have had a simple enough view – life began around age 14, a time my friends and I called the Renaissance, the beginning of sex and drugs and rock and roll, even if there was not much of the sex. As a late in life child, my parents were older and my mother was beginning down the road of depression blurring into Alzheimer’s. She was simply put, not a presence.

Now therapy – looking inward is good, but there is something to be said for an outside reality and I am the baby of the family. I share some of these thoughts with my sisters – my older sisters – and they add a new layer of reality. It seems that there were some family problems, problems not involving me, problems involving my siblings. And these issues – these issues and my father - took a toll on my mom. An already meek woman, she was jump started into a depression that would color the rest of her life.

I was four at the time. Four.

Now, you may be wondering about the other half of the equation – my father. He was in many ways a dominant figure and in so being he was the one who helped push my mom into the dark alley of depression. He was there in the overview, in the myth, but he was not a day to day dad, he was an off to work dad, he was, as Bob my therapist phrases it, an emotionally absent dad. He was a fifties dad, living in the sixties, but a fifties dad. Fifties by generation and for much of my formative years fifties by age.

So a lifetime of wondering why I had blocked my childhood, a lifetime of thinking my memory was poor – me who has developed a steel trap memory. It was not my memory after all. The reason I do not remember my childhood is that in many ways I did not have one. I have written of Carrie’s childhood, a singularly abusive background, and I tell Bob that I am not comfortable in making issue of my childhood, not when those around me have known worse. But as I say these words, I realize the silliness of engaging in comparative angst – she can have hers and I can still have mine, albeit meager by comparison.

Bob does not agree with comparing childhoods, but he still jumps in. Not meaning to make light of an abusive parent, he asks is not an abusive parent in some ways better than an absent one, a non-existent one. Abuse has an inherent aspect of caring – very twisted, very misplaced, but caring, of existing all the same.

Over the course of the last year, Carrie has coined an expression to describe my behavior – Never Enough. I have not denied this; it has been self evident in too many ways. And I have explained this as a by-product of a life of denial, that first hint of self awareness dating back forty plus years. If I waited that long for anything, would I not be insatiable, at least for a while. While the emotional truth of this is clear to me, with gentle prodding the intellect can see the more nuanced version: looking to fill in that missing childhood, looking for affirmation.

Part of me wants to keep on writing – a good post should have a conclusion, but I fear this one must dangle as I continue to examine intellectually which is ultimately only a prelude to exploring emotionally. I am not ready for the emotions, not today.

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