The dreadful matter with the trusts and my manipulative, destructive siblings drags on. But I took one big step forward for Survivors — a step toward closure. I had imagined closure would only be sure upon the sisters’ deaths, but I discovered inner resources to insist on and arrange for final closure with the closing of this grievous matter.
The inheritance dispute just merges into the two-year aftermath of my parents’ deaths: with the crumbling of the foundational family fiction which enforced and propagated abuse now gone, a new awareness grows.
To the extent I have had therapy for the abuse I suffered growing up, the physical violence has featured most prominently. Thus, as my eldest sister only physically abused me after age nine, the focus lay on the primary care taker.
It was two months after my father’s death that the figment of family foundations first crumbled. My father — stern, disapproving, usually angry, especially about me not being a boy — could no longer enforce the fiction of a happy family . . . with a scapegoat, me.
My father bucked the trend of moving to up-scale Kansas from Missouri — that way mom could never win adequate alimony and they could beat, belt and thrash me without repercussion. My father always backed my mother’s ex post facto justifications for “discipline”, but mom’s actions hardly constituted discipline. Rather, mother, arriving at the scene would grab for me immediately, without inquiry into facts or events. Yes, I was the scapegoat, young, and defenseless. I rarely saw it coming. Even when I did anticipate it, I dared not avoid it — whump, side-smacked, tossed into the air, sometimes careening off a wall onto the floor. I would find myself prone on the floor, my mother straddling me, bouncing up and down on my lower back, her powerful bread-kneading arms joyously flailing and pumping at my head and back.
Usually, I blacked out. I don’t ever remember a beating just stopping. I remember awaking in a still, empty room, still on the floor, often with a pounding headache. Mother had trained me well. Reflexively, I would go to the kitchen and prepare pineapple juice for her: something awful must have happened and whatever it was, I needed to make a peace offering and apologize.
My childhood world was largely upside-down. What I remembered happened was quite at odds with my mother’s very publicly broadcast tales. Instead, I would learn from a neighborhood friend that my mother described me as “possessed by the devil” to the Catholic mothers (Presbyterians of our ilk sis not believe in spirit possession). Or hear from another that she “already knew I was a bad kid,” although we had never previously met. Mom developed an amazing system of isolation and humiliation to protect the privilege of having a human punching bag.
The trust ordeal began August 11, as we three sisters talked on the phone. My sisters, after having shouted me into utter silence, erroneously assumed I was no longer on the line. They commenced to argue about whether “they should have colluded” against me. I was shocked by the terms with which they referred to me. I won’t even repeat them here. Clearly they considered me an inanimate object without sensory perception or intelligence. I left the room to get away from the high volume of their argument. I didn’t need to hear more insults.
From that night, the sisters, trustees of the trusts in question. have refused any and all communication with me; it has been next to impossible to get EITHER of their attorneys to respond timely or appropriately. Initially, this shocked, saddened and surprised me. But a little while longer, and I could see through a new crack in the family fiction: that my sisters had never cared for me, never “loved” me. No, rather than reinforcing loving treatment of her youngest daughter, what in fact my mother reinforced was neglect, discounting, mockery and sadism. For decades I extreme depression cloaked me when near my sisters, literally I disassociated around them and felt apologetic for mere living, or breathing.
Growing up, the two sisters ALWAYS sat in the front seat of the car with mother; I was always relegated to the back, where, in a 1968 Oldsmobile station wagon, no one could possibly here a thing I said. I was ignored, until I was picked out for beatings. Starting as early as I can remember, one of the great pleasures of the three was driving downtown to the juvenile detention center. Mom would drive around, and around and around the block claiming she would leave me there because I was just “bad.” My sisters hooted and hollered at my tears, mocking me, egging mom and each other on at tearing down a tiny two-year-old with yet a small vocabulary, tears streaming down her face.
Oh, later years, one sister claimed she “never hit” her children because she had supposedly been traumatized by watching what mother did to me. But she verbally abused her kids, just as she had verbally abused me. Because it entertained and delighted my mother. Verbal abuse was high on mother’s chart of delights.
The older sister, of course, was more clever: I was her pawn when she hit puberty and argued incessantly with mother. She screamed at mother for not feeding me enough, keeping me from developing my full potential as a swimmer (though this sister was a B swimmer, she had Olympic ambitions and lassoed me into sit-ups every morning with her).
But then, briefly, the middle sister and I thought we had become friends. And the eldest, furious to lose a companion in crime, brutally joined my mother in the beatings, holding me down and shouting that “she’s still breathing, she’s not gonna die yet!”
In the family story, my A times were attributed to my sisters. That was true of every accomplishment of mine. I did not exist as anything other than a scapegoat and object of derision. And I was duty-bound to love it because children search endlessly for love and nurture.