I am taking a break from my travel blogging to get something off my chest. I am hoping that writing this out will help me release some of the feelings that threaten to hold me back, push me down, engulf me…. feelings that haunt me and make me question the validity of my choices. Everywhere I turn, I see photos of Blue Eyes’ family, his parents, siblings, they were a big part of Blue Eyes’ life for 50+ years and a big part of my life for more than 30 years.
Unfortunately, they are toxic. I have talked some about Blue Eyes’ mother and I think most people understand the characteristics of a narcissist and the implications of being raised by one. Blue Eyes’ brother is already gone from us forever. The entire family has been shaped by the selfish and abusive behavior of the matriarch of this clan. Even the father has morphed into an emotionless, mean spirited enabling asshole. I know this all sounds so exaggerated and dramatic, but I assure you, it is real.
At 20 years old, I had no idea the man I fell in love with was a sex addict, most likely having been failed by nature, and without a doubt, decimated by nurture, all those years of neglect, verbal and physical abuse, sexual abuse, belittling and being made to feel like a failure. The patterns were set. Don’t get me wrong, no one is blaming Blue Eyes’ parents for the abhorrent behavior he exhibited towards me and others. He made his choices as an adult, albeit a really fucked up one, but I am blaming his parents for the continual abuse of me, my husband, and my children. I could see the poison seeping into our married life, I could feel the sickness, but I thought the love I had for my little family would obliterate the toxin and I spent years trying to run interference for my husband and my boys. I spent years trying to make sure that my children did not have a life like their father. I gave them stability, proper nurturing, respect, love, and attention. I also respected my husband’s wishes to continue giving his parents and family time in his life. Many of us have in-laws we merely put up with versus enjoy. I thought it was my duty to play nice. In hindsight, I don’t think Blue Eyes thought there was any other option, and I guess I didn’t either. When I finally stopped speaking with Blue Eyes’ parents three years ago next month, it did not drive a wedge between me and my husband. It brought us closer. Blue Eyes did not stop communicating with his parents until after diagnosis and even that was prompted by the inevitable continued abuse by them.
What I did not acknowledge, or even realize, was the toll his family’s dysfunctional behavior was having on me. With Blue Eyes, his fate had been set the day he was conceived. It was a genetic crap shoot and years of reinforcement of low self worth, hiding, secrets, pretending, and lies. That was not my fate. After discovery, after diagnosis, and after a particularly disturbing email from them, Blue Eyes cut off all communication with his parents. The mistake that was made, and mostly my doing, is he did tell his sister about his sex addiction diagnosis and treatment plan. I thought maybe she would be there to support him. We had all promised each other after their brother’s suicide, that we would treat each other with respect, kindness, and love. Old habits die hard, or they don’t die at all. We had no idea she would react so negatively and then try to break apart our marriage. We should have known, but didn’t, that she would become so controlling and continue the pattern of behavior that was also so ingrained in her.
After a rather brutal conversation with my sister in law, and a severe panic attack on my part, we realized we would also need to cut contact with the sister. She was using her communications with Blue Eyes to manipulate their mother and make her jealous. She was also manipulating me and Blue Eyes with her continued conversations with us separately designed to drive a wedge between us. This was also an old tactic of their mother. Staying in contact just wasn’t healthy. We had not officially cut communication with the parents, even though I had only spoken to them once since November 2013. An email to Blue Eyes in February 2014 read, “if you cannot change yourself and be a better son, please don’t contact us.” Since Blue Eyes was just beginning to realize the effect of his childhood trauma, their suggestion that he not contact them seemed like a good idea. They have since sent emails, as if nothing has happened (and indeed they know nothing of the hell we have been through in the past 21 months) which have gone unanswered. We met in person with the sister to let her know that we would not be able to have contact with her during the healing and recovery stage. We explained that we would contact her when we felt like we were strong enough. She pretended to be understanding for a while, but at three months, more than a year ago, she created some fabricated date in her mind that we told her we would be in contact. No such date existed. She has since sent unkind emails and texts and Facebook messages. Like the other destructive people in our lives, we ignore all communication.
Although Blue Eyes’ family has always been abusive, things really started to go downhill in Fall 2004. That was the time of our oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah. A Bar Mitzvah is cause for a huge celebration. In general, Bar Mitzvah is simply a point in time when a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13 and is officially regarded as ready to take part in religious worship. I did not grow up Jewish and I am not religious. I converted to Judaism before I was married because I wanted any children Blue Eyes and I brought into this world to have that religious affiliation and upbringing that had been uninterrupted in his family for centuries. If I had married a non-religious person, mostly likely I would have brought up my children with no religion. I grew up with two religions strong in my family, Episcopal and Mormon. I connected with neither. That is who I am. Being dragged back and forth between two very different churches week after week did not give me comfort. It did not make me feel like part of a community. On the other hand, I was embraced by the Jewish community we live in. The boys went to a religious preschool and I learned with them all about Shabbat, and all the Jewish holidays and traditions. Our boys went to religious school (first on Sundays, then on Wednesday nights) throughout their school years and they prepared diligently for their Bar Mitzvah services where they read from the Torah in Hebrew and also chanted, beautifully. Throwing a party in honor of the Bar Mitzvah boy (or Bat Mitzvah girl) is very common in the United States. The Pragmatist had quite the party planned for his big day. We held it out at a restaurant in the suburbs surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. Although it was mid-September, the weather turned cold that weekend, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. The party was sort of country fair themed with sack races, and pie eating contests and the children did fine outside while the adults remained inside sipping their apple-tinis and belting out Karaoke. This was a big affair, a bit like a wedding actually. We had 180 guests for a lovely buffet dinner with birthday cake and a sundae bar for dessert. I loved all the centerpieces. On the adult tables were gorgeous fall floral arrangements with mini apples throughout and the kids tables had small metal buckets filled with huge colorful swirly suckers. It was all planned out beautifully and everything would have gone so smoothly, if not for Blue Eyes’ family. Not a single one of them behaved. As a matter of fact, in my mind, The Pragmatist’s Bar Mitzvah weekend would be the beginning of the end for that entire family. As it turned out, it would take years for all the consequences of everyone’s behavior to be known.
It all started with my mother in law demanding numerous special arrangements for her and her friends. So not only did we have all of our son’s needs to meet including daily trips to the Synagogue for practice and rehearsals, but also all the general party planning for all our guests. We decided to let Blue Eyes’ parents invite a table of friends so they would be busy with them and not bother us. That turned out to be a great idea, except for the fact that their own daughter had not allowed them to invite any of their friends to her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah two years earlier, so they kept rubbing it in with her. Our sons both knew all the friends they invited and we were very comfortable with it. We also invited Blue Eyes’ Japanese mentor, Asa. There were numerous guests from around the world who all coordinated their own transportation, but my mil insisted I take care of all her guest’s transportation to and from the Bar Mitzvah service & luncheon and the evening party. I had already garnered a block of rooms at her favorite hotel within a price range that was acceptable to her. I was unable to get a good sized bus as we were competing with a city full of weddings. We rented the use of a vehicle and driver that held 14. This would cover the in-laws and all their friends plus Asa, however, it would not hold the sister, her husband and the two daughters. There was a little wiggle room on the bus, but not enough for all four. We asked them to rent a car. They balked saying they deserved to have reserved transportation and why should they have to pay when the parents and their friends weren’t. Now, mind you, the sister had just had this same event two years prior, so she knows how stressful it is to coordinate. She cared not one bit, the more she could put us out, the better. I explained to them that renting a car would actually cost them less than a taxi to and from the airport and they would have more flexibility, but they still were unhappy. I explained that we have plenty of friends and family here that could transport them. Finally they very rudely agreed to rent a car. Add to that the fact that Blue Eyes brother and his then Japanese wife were refusing to stay at the hotel with the rest of the family. The Japanese wife and the mother in law did not get along (HELLO, nobody gets along with her). They said they wanted to stay with us. With so much going on, Blue Eyes and I had agreed no one would be able to stay with us. Seriously, most of my family was coming in from out of town too and they didn’t ask to stay with us. They were neatly tucked away at a modest hotel near the party. We said the brother and wife needed to stay at a hotel the first night, but we would book them a different hotel from the rest of the family. We ended up paying for their hotel, because, he refused to and said it was our responsibility if we weren’t allowing him to stay with us. They stayed with us two nights after the party. It was still a huge imposition and became all about them, but that turned out to be the least of our worries.
Friday night is dedicated to Shabbat. We scheduled a Shabbat Dinner after the service for all (well not all, not most of my out of town immediate family) out of town guests. This turned out to be nearly 50 people. We held it at a fancy downtown restaurant in a high rise building with a sweeping view of the city. I was very careful with table seating. The in-laws were happy hosting their table of guests. Blue Eyes hosted the table of out of town business guests. The Pragmatist (at 13) hosted the table with Blue Eyes’ brother and wife plus other family members from Blue Eyes side of the family and my mother and step father (the Episcopalians). Our younger son and I hosted the table with my father and step mother (the Mormons), plus Blue Eyes’ sister and her family. It was obvious very early on that the Sister and her husband, plus their older daughter, were bound and determined to be drunk before the entree reached the table. They were loud and rude and drunk off their asses. The room was gorgeous, the food was amazing, and these people were acting like they were at a frat party. It was so embarrassing. They ended up with their 15 year old being the designated driver back to their hotel. Crazy. At one point the sister said to me, while she was drunk of course, that it was because they were seated at the “reject” table and that is why they needed to drink so much.
The next day we were all wrapped up in our son and his big day. The ceremony went beautifully. The luncheon was very fun as most of my son’s classmates had never been to a Bar Mitzvah before and they were all so cute asking him questions and congratulating him and telling him how excited they were for his birthday party. My mil kept complaining about the temperature in every space she was in, she complained about the food, she complained about everything, constantly. Later that afternoon while we were resting before the party, I had Blue Eyes call his sister and make sure they were good for transportation to the party and that they had directions. His sister said they were fine. That she had such a hangover from the night before, that she would be the designated driver because she wasn’t going to drink anything.
We arrived early for the party to make sure everything was set up properly and to greet guests. All seemed to arrive without issue and things were going well. The kids were having a blast, the adults were entertaining themselves, I was shocked at how well things were going. The weather did throw a wrench in some plans because everything was supposed to be set up outdoors, but it turned out to be too wet and cold throughout the day, so they ended up closing the restaurant and setting the adult party up indoors. We had originally settled on signature drinks themed for the party (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and an Italian soda bar for the kids and adults that act like kids, and wine for the tables. Once we moved the adult party indoors where they had a beautiful and fully stocked bar, my mother in law informed me that her guests would be ordering mixed drinks from the bar, and one friend only drank Scotch. I said no worries as we would have to pay for whatever they drank anyway, so I doubted they would drink that much more just because there was now an open bar. Everyone has a capacity, right? My sister in law marched over to me in a huff about 15 minutes after my mother in law had informed me about the bar situation. The sister was furious saying how dare we allow her mother’s guests to order expensive scotch and mixed drinks. I told her since we had had to move indoors, everyone was free to order what they wanted not just the parents and their guests. The sister proceeded to bitch and complain about her mother and how obnoxious she is. I eventually slipped away to then be called aside by a Japanese friend of ours. She said she felt so bad that our distinguished Japanese visitor had to take a taxi cab to the party and she felt so bad as she had plenty of room in her mini van and would have been happy to pick him up. I was so confused. I said, no we had transportation for them at the hotel. She said no, he arrived in an old taxi with Blue Eyes’ father. I tracked down Blue Eyes so we could figure out what happened. I went over to discreetly ask my mil what had happened and she gave me daggers as an answer. Basically, don’t ask. I left the conversation for a later time.
The rest of the party went pretty smoothly. The next morning we had scheduled brunch for all the hotel guests in a private room at the hotel (in case you are wondering, yes, this weekend cost us a fucking fortune). The sister and her family had an earlier flight than the in laws, so they left shortly after eating. The rest of us hung around and chatted. After nearly everyone was gone, my mother in law called Blue Eyes and I over to discuss the happenings the night before. Our boys were off doing something fun and no one else was around. Blue Eyes’ parents were livid with the sister and her family. The father had been sitting in the lobby waiting to escort their guests onto the bus, when he heard his daughter and family come down stairs and his daughter say, “if we hurry, we can beat them on the bus and then their snooty friends will have no where to sit and they will just fucking have to find their own way to the party.” Obviously she could not see her father sitting within ear shot. The father knew there was going to be trouble, so he called up to the mother and decided she would escort the rest of the guests on the bus, and father would escort their Japanese friend to the party by taxi cab. They didn’t want a scene in front of their friends. He arranged the taxi. They all got there and the daughter didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing how livid her parents were. At this point after the brunch, Blue Eyes’ mother told us that she was cutting her daughter off. That they would no longer be talking with her. That they were sick and tired of her behavior and they forbid us from talking with the sister about it. They wanted her to flounder, not knowing exactly why she was being ignored and basically disowned. The in-laws left town and we breathed a huge sigh of relief, but we still had the brother to entertain for another night, which we did.
A couple weeks after the party, I received a phone call from my sister in law. She proceeded to scream at me for over an hour about how I had turned her mother against her. That I was the root of all evil and that I would regret my actions. I just let it go in one ear and out the other because at this point, she and her mother had been on the outs so many times before that everyone had lost count. When I met Blue Eyes they were not on speaking terms. The situation now, or pretty much since I became a legitimate part of their family, was I was now becoming the scapegoat for everything. Eventually, after numerous rude and obnoxious phone calls and emails from her and her husband, I finally told them that her father had heard them talking about getting on the bus before their friends and that Blue Eyes and I had nothing to do with it. She called me a liar, said we had poisoned them against her, and didn’t speak to me for months, a blissfully peaceful time.
Meantime, things started to fall apart for Blue Eyes’ brother. He had recently been in the states for intensive psychotherapy around his depression and suicidal thoughts. He started to turn on Blue Eyes and try and turn the parents against Blue Eyes to deflect from his own perceived inadequacy in his parents’ eyes. And during this time, Blue Eyes decided that in order to be able to cope with his life, he needed to put in a Craig’s List Ad to find someone “to listen to him, to hold him and nurture him… ” blah, blah, blah.
Since this has become so outrageously long, I will continue the saga of Blue Eyes’ family, and how everything fell apart, in my next post. In the end, writing this out is all about reminding myself why we have no contact with Blue Eyes’ family.
There is just something about me, my personality, that makes me uneasy, that makes me feel strange that we no longer have contact with these people. It does feel like I have given up. I want to believe that I am letting go of something toxic and that it is okay?