My baby brother, the Listener, the one who works for us and knows everything, called my mobile phone last Thursday at about 1:30pm. He didn’t beat around the bush. He said, “dad is gone.” Even though I knew what was coming, the words still hit me with an awful force. It wasn’t shock or surprise, it was a sick pit in my stomach. It was emptiness. I was never going to see my dad again.
I have amazing memories. I was the oldest child of a man who desperately wanted a boy. Back then, early 60’s, boy stuff and girl stuff was pretty well defined, at least for dad. I was his boy when he was home, and my mom’s girl when he was on the road. I never knew any different. I liked dolls and tagging along with dad to basketball games. I liked playing with hot wheels, in a dress. Mom took me to dance lessons and girl scouts. I went fishing with dad with ribbons in my hair. I was an only child for more than five years. I was in 1st grade before my sister could roll over. Dad was not good with babies until he became a grandfather. Way back when, I think he was afraid of infants and annoyed by toddlers with bottles, and diapers. But as soon as I could walk and talk, he took me everywhere. I was his constant little companion.
By the time my sister was old enough to hang out with dad, my parents were divorced and he was starting a new family, with a new wife. She never got that chance with dad. She didn’t want it. My sister was completely attached to our mom. Even though dad picked us up, religiously, every other weekend, on his holidays, and during a portion of the summer, I know she felt betrayed and abandoned. She bonded with our step dad. She’s still completely attached to him and considers him her father. I also adore my step dad, but I love my dad too. We had a special bond.
Even after he had children from his second marriage (I was nine by the time their first one came along), we still had our time together. Sometimes I even went on the road with him. He was a fun guy to be around. He had a wicked sense of humor and he loved food and movies and doing crazy things like getting every pillow in the house, piling it up on the floor and letting us jump off the kitchen counter into the pile of pillows. We would put together side-by-side hot wheel tracks, down the length of the house, starting them high up on a chair, and then race all the cars to see which was the fastest. I watched golf with him every Sunday growing up. Dad was a scratch golfer. He even got more than one hole-in-one. He was athletic and coordinated and good at every sport he tried, until his back wouldn’t allow for it anymore.
Blue Eyes and I had decided not to cut our Japan trip short. We also opted to stay in Los Angeles after we found out the surgeons had told dad there was nothing more they could do. I honestly did not think he would pass as quickly as he did, but once his mind was made up, and the morphine took over, he was gone. I’m glad, in the end, he was in control of his own fate. We had quality time with him last month. He was surrounded by family when he left us. No regrets.
The reason we were in Los Angeles was I had booked us couple’s therapy with my trauma therapist. Unfortunately, a big portion of the appointment was taken up by grief, both mine and Blue Eyes’. My dad was instrumental in me attending University near him and that is where I met Blue Eyes. Dad was always so intrigued by Blue Eyes, and I’m sure vice versa. They are very very different. The therapist spent a good deal of time letting us process our sadness and loss, less than 24 hours after dad’s passing.
We only had three hours with the therapist, and it flew by, as it always does. There is just something about that woman that makes me feel safe. I know she gets me. I want her to get me. I want to be and do better at managing my life, Blue Eyes on the other hand, is a master manipulator. He’s an actor. He doesn’t want to show his true emotions. He wants to behave how he thinks others want him to behave. He goes to a place that’s not real. He becomes a made up person. A palatable interpretation of who he really is.
Hallelujah for the fact that she could see this about him as clearly as I can. I felt so validated by her stopping him, asking him to get out of his head and into his heart. And then out of his heart and into his gut. It wasn’t easy for him, he has trained himself to manipulate. He thinks he can control how other people respond to him. He’s frankly, a lot of the time, disingenuous. I know deep down he created this other Blue Eyes to protect himself against rejection. Unfortunately this persona is based on lies and manipulation.
She worked and worked at him. She gave us each space to speak freely, and to respond to each other. I did okay at first, listening to Blue Eyes. I sat and didn’t say anything. I think she was impressed by my ability to do so, I know I was. She knows I’m a fixer. I want to fix what is broken. But I can’t fix Blue Eyes or the way he interacts with me. And then, as Blue Eyes seemed to get all tangled up in feelings he didn’t want to expose or express, I could feel myself wanting to tell him what to say. I could see that he was skirting around the concepts and topics she was focusing on. I tried to be really patient with the situation. She gently reminded me to let him finish, no matter how long it took. It was frustrating.
But then it happened, after quite a long time of working with him and denying him the ability to manipulate the situation and act his way through feelings, she got him to stop. She got him to a more genuine place. She asked him if he thought I (Kat) was a safe place for him. She told him she knew that one of my big frustrations was that he had put me in the same box with his parents and used that as an excuse to abuse me and lie to me. And then he just closed his eyes tight and sat there for the longest time. I disconnected from his thoughts and feelings. I sat still and waited and he finally did it. His voice was deep with pain, gravelly and broken. He didn’t open his eyes and he said, “Yes. I put her in that place. I don’t let her in. I’m afraid.” I was sitting on the edge of my seat… I desperately wanted him to say it was for fear of abandonment, but he didn’t go that far. Her being able to get him to a genuine place in his heart, not his head, was ground breaking. She then asked him to go deep in the pit of his stomach, to his core and she asked him, “why?” Why is he unable to let me in… and after a long silence he simply said, “I don’t know.” It wasn’t what she was hoping for, I know, but it was progress.
Then the power was gone and he started reverting back to acting mode. We both saw it and we all acknowledged it. She tried to get him deeper, but he was spent. To be honest, it is frustrating that he can’t go deeper without such intense work, but I guess I am just happy to get the bit of validation that I did. I expressed to him that I understood that he felt like he could open up to other people, like Bob from 12 step. Bob gets him, has walked in his shoes. It’s easier. He has nothing to lose with Bob. Bob accepts him unconditionally. Bob met Blue Eyes because he is an addict. They’re both addicts. He made no promises to Bob and he broke no promises to Bob. I understand that Blue Eyes needs these people in his life and I don’t begrudge him that, although it has been difficult for me to adjust to my life partner wanting to open up his soul to someone he has known for months or years, versus the decades of love and loyalty I have given him. It’s simply not fair to me.
There are some male bloggers out there, men who have cheated, and they continue to hold on to the idea that people should be able to keep secrets. That every human has the right to share and not share what’s inside them, based on their own needs, not the needs of their partner. And/or that it’s okay to lie if they think they are protecting someone. I fully disagree with this down to my deepest core. The concept makes me sad. It literally breaks my heart. What I gave and what I asked for in return was full honesty. I stood by my husband since day one, no matter what was shared or in some cases thrust upon me. I love him unconditionally. Unfortunately, I know he is not me and he was not nurtured the same way I was. I feel like honesty and integrity are at the cornerstone of who I am and I’m proud of that. Why would someone need to keep secrets unless they knew they were going to hurt the other person? And if in fact the secrets are hurtful… why would anyone think keeping them inside would be helpful to the coupleship? There is no real relationship or healing in a relationship without the truth. Once the truth is on the table, then and only then, can the couple work on healing. I don’t think Blue Eyes would say, or write, that he thinks it’s okay to keep secrets, but he does. He may not condone it, but he rationalizes it, still to this day he rationalizes it. At this point I am not asking him to divulge any more about his past actions. I am merely asking him to share his current feelings with me, because when he doesn’t… when he doesn’t feel the need to share, he harbors negative feelings that keep him bound in anger, resentment, bitterness, and entitlement. All those emotions that allowed him to live deep in his sex addiction for decades.
We will return in March for more couple’s therapy. I’m very much looking forward to it.