Son of a NarciMom 4: Night of the Subterranean Phone Call
08/05/2013 § 2 Comments
Imagine having a mother who sets you up to take the blame for all of her mistakes while you are still in the cradle. Imagine being infatuated with her with no idea that she’s setting up everyone else in the family to blame you for her mistakes and problems. Imagine it takes you 55 years to get it straight, only after losing your entire family, including your spouse, because of her.
Recently, my mother requested to join my Google + site. Today, I deactivated the whole site. In truth I was going to do it anyway, but her request made me get off my butt.
I wrote her a letter asserting that she needs to find another way to reach out to me other than ignoring my ban on internet communication. I deleted the letter. I can predict how she would respond and it ain’t pretty. Sigh. She’s only depriving herself. We’ll have to settle for my silence, as we have so many times before.
This episode reminded me of one of the worst things that happened between us since I’ve been an adult. I’ve told almost no one this story, even my (ex)wife who plays a big part in it. It’s bizarre and unusual if not unique, and a lot of people might think I were very sick indeed for telling it. But it belongs in this blog, and I can pat myself on the back for creating a venue for telling it.
* * *
Its 1995. I’ve been on a high all week because my long-time on-again off again girlfriend, Roseanne, had become engaged to me. But she lived in New York, and I, California. She decided to give up her location and share mine, but stipulated that I drive all the way out to NY and pick her up and bring her back. But I couldn’t do it; I didn’t have the money. I had no regular employment, and instead made and sold batik t-shirts at two or three different crafts fairs. I made an effort to sell out at the year-end holiday market, but I couldn’t do it. When I told her that over the phone she broke off the engagement.
I was devastated. I never wanted anything this bad, and I didn’t know what to do; I felt so miserable I couldn’t think straight. So I got the idea that I would call my mother for advice and support, which I knew was bad but I couldn’t get it out of my head.
This, after I made a vow never to ever call her again for support, after the last time I called her 7 years earlier. That was a whole other story.
So I called her, and it went surprisingly fine. She rose to the occasion, supported me, encouraged me, and predicted (correctly) that Rosanne would change her mind and call the engagement back on. Mom and I chatted, and I settled into a state of warmth and safety I hadn’t let myself feel for a long time.
In short, I let me guard down.
Suddenly, in the midst of this rare state of tranquility that I was in, she sai om out of nowhere, “So, how could you drop out of college?” Before I could answer her, she was giving me the riot act, again, for something I had done 20 years earlier. I started to defend myself, but I felt the ground caving in beneath me.
–The next thing I remember, I was off the phone and crying like a baby. Literally. Maybe 15 minutes had past. My sinuses were completely flooded with mucous and tears, feeling like an ocean saturated with stars inside my head. I used to cry like this when I was a baby, always after a traumatic conflict with Mom. But I never remembered crying like this until now, because every time it happened before, I cried myself asleep and didn’t remember it again upon waking.
I swear to God that I don’t remember anything we talked about after she mentioned dropping out of school. I had the vague sense that she walked me back in time through a hit parade of her worst grievances against me all the way back to my infancy. Probably the same incidents for which I cried myself to sleep about. But I still don’t, to this day, remember any of it, or why I cried. I was 40.
I was fragmented and dysfunctional for a week or two after that. It took me a while to recover. I stumbled a lot, left personal items behind wherever I went, missed appointments, handled social relations ineptly, etc. Gradually, I got in my groove again, but couldn’t control a rising fury inside of me. “You don’t do that!” I thought. “Not to your own son, not to anybody! You don’t just go inside somebody’s head like a thief in the night. I feel like you raped me, like you raped my soul! What you did was monsterous!” My rage grew for a few weeks until I finally resolved to write her the mother-of-all-angry-letters to put the Holy Fear of God in her. I wanted to ingrain it inside her to not even think about doing whatever the fuck it was that she did. I threatened to make her life a living hell if she ever did anything like that.
If I knew then what I know now, that she was in fact a Narcissist, I would never have written to her like that, because she’s physiologically incapable of admitting a mistake or lapse of judgement.
Basically, she blanked out on what she did to me completely, neither remembering the conversation nor understanding my account of it. Which meant that my anger and threats to her had no basis in anything that she had caused; to her I had just had a psychotic break which she had always expected from me, apparently. She was sublimely terrified of me, I know now. Usually, if she was upset by something I had written, she would send me a letter back immediately, but after this letter, nothing. I thought this was a good thing at the time. “Good. She heard me,” I thought.
Instead, she contacted everyone in the family, siblings, cousins and second cousins and told them to keep me away from her. I lost contact with my nephews, nieces, cousins’ children, etc. For 17 years and counting. Family members who did talk to me spoke in a very peculiar way that I finally identified as how you talk to a loved one who flew over the Cuckoos Nest. “We don’t think there’s anything wrong, Vic, we love you!” No one, not a single kin-person, checked in with me in all this time to hear my side of the story, about this or any of the subsequent incidents. I was tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia.
6 months letter, I had very good t-shirt sales at the country fair, and drove out to New York to fetch Rosanne and bring her back West with me. It went without saying that although I would be near my family, I wouldn’t be in contact with them or let them know I was coming. But I was losing my grip on why I wasn’t to contact them.
2 days before we started our drive back west, we stopped off at the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal to do some banking business and then take a bus out to Jersey to pick up our drive-away vehicle. Rosanne walked off to the bank, leaving me alone drinking coffee at a doughnut shop in the middle of the terminal. An old woman with snow-white hair and a flower print dress was staring at me. When I looked straight at her, she turned her head and walked away. A minute later, she was staring at me again from another corner.
“No, it can’t be!” I thought. It was. We made eye contact. She had dark brown hair, the same as mine, the last time I saw her. She had a strange, forced expression on her face as she walked toward me saying, “Vic!” This really happened. I don’t know if it was her magic or mine, but we found each other in one of the busiest buildings in New York City, 3,000 miles from my home, by sheer nerve.
I ordered her a coffee, and she did a very strange thing. She started talking to the stranger at the next table, a thin 60-year-old man, asking about his life and telling him about the strange circumstances we were in just then. She had pulled him into our conversation, killing the privacy between us. I didn’t have a clue why although it should have been obvious. It would be 15 -16 years later before the reason dawned on me: she was mortally afraid that I would physically beat her up, so she set this guy up as a shield.
The most interesting thing about this meeting, though, was that I couldn’t figure out that she was making him a human shield. When I think back to that chance meeting, I realize that I had not thought once the entire time about the subterranean nighttime phone call of 6 months earlier. I didn’t recall those central occurrences again until 15 years had passed. I was suffering from traumatic shock; the subterranean phone call was in fact traumatizing, and I had completely blanked out what had happened. I was hopeful about our chance meeting, oblivious to all the freaky tension that had amassed between us.
Rosanne came back from her chores, the three of us hung out together for a while, and then we parted. Throughout the long drive back to California over the next two weeks, I felt odd somehow, twitchy. I spaced out at odd times. At a pit stop, Rosanne’s cat was in my hands, leashed, yet darted out never to be found again. Incidental things like that happened more often than usual for the next 2 years.
By then, it was time to invite the family to our wedding. Mom acted so threatening and hostile to me that I became certain I would have a big anger fit in the middle of my own marriage ceremony. I told her she I wouldn’t let her come if she behaved like this, just to take charge so that we could iron things out, but she only became more aggressive and threatening. Then other family members called to yell at us and tried to brow-beat us into removing the ban. No one listened to our concerns. The opportunity to work things out never came up and we had the wedding without her or Dad. I felt like shit, but was certain I’d completely regret letting her come.
6 months later, Rosanne and I moved to Japan to teach English. We were going to stay for 5 years and then come back home. But now its 15 years later, and I’m still here.
Three years after the wedding I went to a shamanic healer, convinced that the weird twitchiness I’d been feeling ever since the chance meeting at the bus terminal could be healed through shamanism. I had read that during shocking events, fragments of a person’s soul can break away into the air or earth until retrieved by a shaman. The shaman told me that this was indeed a case of soul fragmentation, but I didn’t need a shamanic intervention; eventually the soul fragment would come back to me on its own. It did, slowly between 2011 and 2012, 12 years later. I don’t know why it took so long.
My parent’s 50th anniversary party in 2003 became the crowning occasion in this comedy of errors. At first, I claimed the task of organizing the event, but the family took it away from me without even telling me, as if I never had it to begin with. I was once more being subjected to veiled threats and hostility from Mom and all my siblings if I didn’t do exactly what they wanted from me. They thought they could keep me contained in case I had that psychotic break, but I was more likely to lose control of my temper on account of all this heavy handling. I tried, but I couldn’t see a way out unless I didn’t come at all, lest I found myself in the middle of the most humiliating setup that I could possibly imagine, right in front of my entire extended family and kin.
I hoped that if I said I wasn’t coming, they would soften up and work with me to hammer out conditions which would be acceptable for all parties. As with my wedding, it didn’t happen. It was as if they were reading from a completely different script than me, with a different theme and different plot and different characters, while dismissing my script out of hand. I couldn’t figure out what there script was. I still had no memory of the night of the subterranean phone call and my angry response.
So I didn’t go, although it broke my heart. I told myself this was the bravest thing I’ve ever done, which it probably was. There were a number of dear family members who I would never get to see again, including my father.
Rosanne and I did meet mother and father at a restaurant in Manhattan 2 days before their anniversary party. It would be the last time I would see either of them, although Mom still lives. Mom had all these obnoxious tricks she used to try and trick me to come to the party, but did nothing to make it safer or relinquish her control. When we were in the restaurant, she chortled to herself throughout the dinner about how ridiculous it was that I had called her a monster. “Monster! He says I’m a monster! I’m not the monster, he’s the monster!” In the letter of 1996, I had written that the way she took advantage of the situation of my openness to condemn me for what I’d done as a child was “monstrous,” but I had absolutely no recollection of the letter at that point. I simply didn’t know she was talking about–
— Until my soul fragments resurfaced between 2011 and 2012. By then, Rosanne and my marriage was tumbling apart. as a result of . I had gotten depressed for being so misused by the family since the 2003 Anniversary party, and it affected her. Nothing we could do made it better, and in 2011 she decided to divorce me.
We had been teaching English in Japan for 13 years by that time, and that summer, a trifecta of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disaster struck 130 miles from us. We scrambled to make do with the situation, as it cast its light on parts of our relationship that had been covered in shadow.
At the time I had a friend with Asberger’s syndrome, and I read up on that so I could understand him better. People with Asberger’s, and other conditions on the Autistic Spectrum, show no signs of empathy. There are other conditions that don’t present empathy as well; Psychopathy, Borderline-ism, and… Narcissism. When it became clear that my mother had NPD, Rosanne finally left me once and for all; she wanted to have nothing to do with my witchy mother and her wounded family.
It was only after Rosanne left me , however, that the memories of the Night of the Subterranean Phone Call came back to me in force. For 6 months, new memories and connections came to me every week. I had insights into my mother’s childhood, and her twin sister’s, and their father’s life; things I knew things but couldn’t piece together until now.
Knowing what I knew, it became impossible to sustain contact with the family, They would never accept that Mom is a Narcissist; they would just go on and on demonizing me as the psychotic Mother-killer from hell. Who knows, maybe they’re safer from her as long as they believe I’m the sick one. Its so stupid. I’m in a very precarious position with the family right now; for all intents and purposes we’re quits; but I’m still holding hope in my heart for a reconciliation. A hope that I don’t dare show them lest they co-opt it.
What the hell did mother do to me in that subterranean phone call? The word for it is “hypnotism” or “hypnotic suggestion,” I think, but its nothing anyone would hold against her in a court of law. When they frequently fought, Dad used to scream at her, “You get away with mur-dah!” And so she does. She uses weapons that are under the radar. And why? Why did she do this? I can only guess, but I notice that she was just informed that she was losing her son to another woman when this all happened. Did she know what she was doing? I don’t know. Recently I decided that because of her Narcissism and inempathy, she just stumbled onto Black Shamanistic techniques without knowing a damn thing about them.
* * *
I don’t believe that she’s evil. She may be dangerous, destructive, even monstrous but she’s not evil. She’s just sick and broken; she can’t help but act this way. But I don’t trust my own sense of compassion towards her. I was encouraged to apologize for her and forgive her and be terrified of her all my life; surely my compassion for her is just part of the programming. She has a serious, debilitating mental health condition, and needs to submit herself to treatment. Narcissists very rarely take responsibility for their illness. The family suffers tremendously yet seem to avoid realizing it by rationalizing me as a failed human being, “Oh, but we don’t think that, Vic!” So I stay away.
I am aware that many exalted people in the government, in business, in entertainment, and so on are Narcissists, Borderlines or Psychopaths. I submit that only the most driven reach the upper echelons of power, and Narcissists, Borderlines and Psychopaths are among the most driven. Good governance and self-governance are sabotaged as a matter of policy all across the world by people who are spiritually broken and don’t realize it. Political and moral activists commit themselves to fighting the results of mental imbalance in high places but not the cause.
Those of us who have faced and persevered against Narcissism and its cousins– in our families, our workplaces, our communities– are developing unique tools for social change. We are not suffering the monstrous and destructive in our own families for naught; we are struggling to respond lovingly to figures of towering dysfunction who are thrown against us by fate. What we learn is our legacy to the future.