book reviews, family

Repost: 20 years… or things I have in common with Pat Conroy

This is a repost. I composed this on December 7, 2013, when we lived in Texas. A lot has changed since I wrote this post. My father died in July 2014. My husband now has contact with one of his daughters and they have done a lot of reconciliation. This post was true as of 2013, at least from my perspective. It’s now 2023, so please bear that in mind… I’m just reposting this because it includes a book review. Incidentally, I believe Pat Conroy’s daughter, Susannah, eventually came around, too.

Yesterday, was my husband’s daughter’s 20th birthday.  Surprisingly enough, we didn’t talk about her.  We usually talk about my husband’s kids on significant days like their birthdays or on Christmas.  I don’t know if he thought about her at all, though I did, in a fleeting way.  I have only met her once, but she’s still my husband’s kid and he loves her, despite her painful rejection of his affections. ETA: My husband’s daughter is a totally different person since she got away from her mother.

I don’t like my husband’s kids.  I liked them when I met them and I know they’ve been used as pawns and were lied to.  But that doesn’t change the way they’ve behaved.  I never had enough time to get to know them and understand why they are the way they are.  I’ve only seen the aftermath of their actions, which were devastating and deeply painful to their father and to me, simply because I happen to live with and love their dad.  And so, as curious as I am about them and as sorry as I am that things are the way they are, I don’t want to know them. ETA: I’m glad I know younger daughter better today.

Curiously, as I write this, I am also thinking about Pat Conroy’s latest book, The Death of Santini.  Pat Conroy and I share some common experiences.  We are both children of alcoholic, abusive military officers.  Pat and I were both born and raised in the South.  We have lived and spent time in some of the same places.  We both have Celtic origins.  And like my husband, Pat Conroy has a daughter who doesn’t speak to him. 

Conroy’s daughter, Susannah, is a product of his second marriage.  She was born in Italy, where Conroy and his second wife, Lenore, were living at the time.  If you read Conroy’s novel, Beach Music, you get a sense of her.  It seems to me it was around the time that novel came out that Susannah quit talking to her father.  I’m sure the book and her parents’ divorce had a lot to do with that decision.  As I don’t know what it’s like to live with Pat Conroy, I can’t say whether or not the decision was ultimately justified.  I will say that based on what Conroy writes in The Death of Santini, his second wife had things in common with Bill’s ex wife.

Conroy’s latest book also deals a lot with the divorce and death of his parents.  He adored his mother, though admits that she was a very flawed person.  Conroy’s books always feature a beautiful mother figure who is both vain and ambitious.  He had a complicated love/hate relationship with his fighter pilot father, whom he alternately describes as a heartless tyrant and a comical, larger than life, hero of a man. 

While my own parents aren’t quite as vivid as Conroy’s parents apparently were, I am familiar with the roles.  My dad was an Air Force navigator who had ambitions to be a pilot and once told me that had he done it over, he would have joined the Marines and been a fighter pilot.  My mother is a beautiful, classy woman who always seemed to aspire to better living.  Without benefit of a bachelor’s degree, she ran her own business for about 30 years and played organ for local churches.  They are still married and will celebrate 56 years of marriage three days after Christmas.  Or… maybe my mom will remember it. My dad has pretty severe dementia these days.

Conroy’s book has him sort of reconciling with his parents.  I don’t know if it really happened the way he describes it, though it makes for a hell of a story.  It’s unlikely I will reconcile with my dad because my dad is not in his right mind and lives about 1500 miles away from me.  I mostly get along with my mother, when she’s not in a mood. ETA: My mom is a totally different person since my dad passed.

I have three sisters, too.  They are much older and we’ve never been very close.  I have a cordial relationship with two of my sisters and pretty much avoid talking to the third one.  Like me, Conroy has a sister who is at odds with him.  However, my sister is not quite as brilliant or batshit crazy as Conroy’s apparently is.  Carol Conroy is a poet and, reading her brother’s book, I’m led to believe that she’s brilliant.  I see on Amazon.com that she has one book currently available called The Beauty Wars and on the book’s cover, she’s called Carol “Yonroy”.  I don’t read a lot of poetry, but somehow I don’t doubt that Pat’s sister is talented… though not nearly as famous as he is.  She might deeply resent that. 

On the other hand, Conroy seems to have a mostly convivial relationship with his brothers, two of whom worked at “Bull Street”, which is where the state mental hospital in South Carolina was located. I am familiar with that complex because I, too, worked there when I lived in South Carolina.  It was when worked for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as a graduate assistant.  I want to say the state mental hospital had been relocated by that time… I think it’s now on Farrow Road.  But the buildings are still there and if you read Conroy’s novels, you will read his references to it.  It’s where they used to send the crazy folks. 

Pat Conroy’s youngest brother, Tom, had schizophrenia and spent a lot of time on “Bull Street”.  He spent a lot of time as a crazy derelict, wandering around Columbia, getting into legal trouble, and eventually taking his own life.  Pat writes about this in his book and it was eerie to read, since his brother killed himself by jumping off the 14th floor of the Cornell Arms apartment building, which is just kitty cornered to the South Carolina Statehouse.  I used to walk and jog around that area a lot and I know just where that building is located.  Tom Conroy died in August 1994, just months after I finished my college degree at Longwood College and only a few years before I would matriculate at the University of South Carolina, where Conroy (after earning a degree at The Citadel) and his siblings also studied. 

In one part of his latest book, he writes about delivering a eulogy for James Dickey on the campus at USC… in the Horseshoe, where he could easily see the building where his brother died.  I spent a lot of time on the Horseshoe, a beautiful, historic, lush part of campus.  And when I was a student at Longwood, I had a couple of professors who earned their doctoral degrees at USC.  One of my professors studied under Dickey and went drinking with him.  

Though I didn’t study English at USC, I often felt a tug toward that department when I would see writers come to speak there.  Pat Conroy spoke at USC in 2000; he was a last minute replacement for the late Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite writer who had to cancel because of a house fire.  I would have gone to hear either of them speak, but I was delighted that Conroy visited… I even flunked a healthcare finance exam so I could attend.  Granted, I probably would have flunked the exam regardless, but Conroy gave me a good reason to quit studying.  In the grand scheme of things, passing the exam ultimately wouldn’t have made a difference in my life.  Technically, I got a D on the exam, but ended up passing the class with a suitable grade.

Anyway… this post has rambled on long enough.  I just wanted to put in words these thoughts, which don’t really belong in a book review, but are still in my head.  I really feel a kinship with Pat Conroy, not just because he’s a southern writer, but because his life has many parallels to mine.  And we both share a love of ribald humor.  If you’re a Conroy fan, I recommend reading his latest non-fiction effort.  In fact, I would say that as much as I like his novels, his non-fiction books are far better in my opinion.  But I guess he had to become famous by fictionalizing his life story in several novels before people would care about the real story.

And below are the comments on the original posts…

AlexisAR

December 10, 2013 at 8:29 AM

I took a class in regional literature last year. The only thing of value I took from it that I didn’t have going into it was exposure to Conroy’s writings. I’m not a southerner but enjoy his works nonetheless. 

Replies

  1. knottyDecember 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM Most of Pat Conroy’s books are basically the same story. But he has such a way with language that his novels can be a joy to read. I didn’t like his last one, South of Broad, so much, but the others are very entertaining. I love his non-fiction books even more, though. He has led a very interesting life. I imagine he’s not too easy to live with, though.

The Author

January 22, 2019 at 4:32 PM

Pat Conroy’s brother didn’t jump from the 14th floor. I lived there at the time and was with a friend on that floor at the time and actually saw him fall past the window. He may have jumped from the 15th floor as he was helping a wheelchair-bound tenant there. But more likely the roof, as it was easily accessible at the time. After the suicide they made it virtually impossible to access the roof.

Replies

  1. knottyJanuary 22, 2019 at 5:02 PM Interesting… and very sad. Thank you for commenting. This post gets a surprising number of hits. Pat obviously meant a lot to many people.

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Ex, narcissists, social media, TV, Twitter

The sun’ll come out tomorrow…

This afternoon, after Bill and I spent a few hours watching the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale, we started talking about current events and how they kind of tie in with that show. It’s not that I think the United States will eventually turn into Gilead or anything of that nature, but there have been some disturbing parallels to themes of the show. Take, for instance, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the misogynistic nightmare some women are being caught up in, as authoritarian, conservative males decide to try to force them to stay pregnant. I’ve read some disturbing ideas on how some of these power mad men intend to try to enforce the abortion bans in some of the red states. There’s even been talk of preventing pregnant women from traveling to another state for abortion purposes. That sounds pretty “Gilead-esque” to me, actually.

Then there’s the very violent nature of the society, where the citizens get used to seeing people being shot, hanged, or stoned. That kind of barbarism is extending more and more in the United States, as people are getting shot as they do their jobs, go to church, shop for groceries, or attend movies and concerts. Yesterday’s blog post was about a young teacher in Virginia who was shot by one of her first grade students, a boy of just six years of age! It’s just another reminder that anyone can be a threat, especially in a country where guns, and the right to own and carry them, are so revered.

Then there’s the story of June and her husband, Luke, who are still obsessively trying to track down their long, lost daughter, Hannah. And Hannah shows in the fifth season that she still remembers who she really is. But there are so many forces against June and Luke. Every time they think they’ve made progress, another roadblock comes up.

I can’t necessarily relate to how that feels, since I don’t have children. But my husband knows all about it. He’s missed out on most of his daughters’ lives, simply because his ex wife is a selfish, narcissistic asshole. Like Hannah, my husband’s younger child has not forgotten who she is. It definitely wasn’t for a lack of effort on Ex’s part, though. She really did her best to try to eliminate Bill, even as she held onto his extended family. These are “nice” people who aren’t so knowledgeable about who she is. They are sympathetic to her, because they’re nice, but they don’t realize that there’s an agenda.

Bill and I have come to the conclusion now that we will never be totally rid of her, because she’s always lurking in the shadows, especially when she’s in need. I suspect that she’s in need right now. I’ve been watching the signs for a long time, and I think this year could be one for the books.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed some patterns in Ex’s behavior. She’s been trying to raise money, even to the point of visiting my husband’s stepmother and asking for it. She even proposed having SMIL move in with her in a different state. She also asked for any items SMIL might want to “pass down”, even though older daughter doesn’t speak to Bill anymore, and Bill is the only reason Ex even knows SMIL.

Ex has made some social media comments that suggest that she’s on the brink of divorce. I don’t actually know if she is or not, but I suspect she could be. Recently, she’s made mention of a certain television show having the potential to save her marriage. She’s made some oblique comments about her husband, as well as made some creative financial decisions. And finally, there’s this recent tweet.

Indeed, she’s been there before… but notice she also writes that she’s “facing the exact dilemma”. Interesting.

She continues by posting to the same person…

Yes… because she needs support.

And some more entertaining, but less relevant tweets that I feel like sharing for Alexis, whom I’ve been missing… As you can see, she’s still tweeting Mark Hamill and other “somebodies” out there… people who might throw her a bone.

You may be wondering… what does this have to do with the title of my post, or The Handmaid’s Tale? As I mentioned up post, I think Bill can identify with June and Luke. He loves his daughters, and he was denied access to them. There were times when he didn’t know where they were, and he felt powerless to do anything about Ex’s craziness, back when it would have mattered the most.

Hannah has been raised by “new parents”, and June and Luke have been told that she loves them and has “moved on”. That’s how Bill felt for a long time. He thought that his daughters had moved on and forgotten him. Of course, they hadn’t, and haven’t… One of them has come back, and compares notes with Bill regularly. And now we know that hope is a good thing, as long as it’s coupled with reality. I guess, in a sense, being raised by Ex might be something like being trapped in Gilead… or raised by Aunt Lydia.

What really sucks about this situation is that, on the whole, people tend to be unsympathetic to men. They get mixed messages, too. Either they hear that they should step aside and let their kid bond with the new “daddy figure”, or they’re reminded not to “give up on their children”. I’ve been told, more than once, that I shouldn’t write about this topic, because I’m “obsessive and unhealthy” and it’s “inappropriate”. I usually respond to such comments by first reminding the person that they don’t know the people involved and therefore shouldn’t judge. Then I wonder what they would do, if they were parents of a child who was pretty much “abducted” from their lives. It happens all the time when marriages end and parents try to force their children to choose sides.

I know I’m just the stepmother. Hell, I’m barely even that, since I’ve only met my husband’s daughters in person once. But what kind of wife would I be if I didn’t have empathy for my husband and his tremendous loss? He was a very involved father when his daughters were small. Younger daughter remembered how loving he was to her, and even though she was scared to talk to him again after so many years, she managed it. Why? Because Ex wasn’t able to erase those memories, in spite of her best efforts.

Even today, she tries to turn younger daughter away from her dad. But her efforts seem to be having the opposite effect, as younger daughter can see pretty clearly what her mother is doing. She knows her mother lies, exaggerates, and takes things out of context, so she can spin an agenda and keep people under control. Better yet, younger daughter knows she doesn’t want her kids exposed to the same crazy train.

And what about the title of the post today? Well, if you notice in the gallery of tweets, Ex posts “I will not be tomorrow who I am today.” She posts that as if it’s a positive thing. It’s like saying “the sun will come out tomorrow” or “tomorrow is another day” or “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Maybe that’s true… but the opposite can also be true. You won’t be the same as you are today. You’ll be worse off. Or maybe better off. But you won’t be the same. The sun might come out tomorrow… or maybe it’ll be a dark and stormy day. Who knows?

I’d like to be at a point of my life at which I don’t really care about this anymore. That would probably only happen, though, if Bill and I split up. Ex still harasses people Bill loves. And we are not going to be splitting up, because in spite of everything, we’re still very much in love. We’re still very compatible. So I will keep writing about this, for as long as there’s reason. Just think of me as like Prince Harry, writing “my truth”.

I don’t know what’s going on in Ex’s world… but I suspect it’s nothing good. She’s putting on a face to her public. But behind the scenes, I think she’s probably on the verge of a crisis. Just a hunch I have.

Well, that about does it for today. Time for a shower and some black-eyed peas. It actually has been cloudy recently. It would be nice if the sun really did come out tomorrow. Here’s hoping.

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divorce, Ex, family, marriage, narcissists

Carolyn Hax says, “There isn’t enough hell for this no!”

This morning, as I was waking up to another Monday morning, I happened to read a letter to an advice column in the Washington Post (it’s unlocked for people who don’t subscribe). Sometimes letters to Carolyn Hax trigger me a little bit. And then I read other people’s comments, and I get triggered all the more. That’s what happened this morning. So now I need to vent in my blog. Below is the letter that got me all hot and bothered:

Dear Carolyn: I very recently had a baby with my boyfriend of several years. We were both married when we met, but after developing feelings for each other we divorced our spouses and committed to each other. Neither marriage was fulfilling, but I’m on very good terms with my ex as we co-parent our children as a united team.

My boyfriend’s ex-wife, however, has continued a pattern of manipulative and controlling behavior. For example, she told my boyfriend that the pastor at their church expects him to apologize to the church leaders for having divorced his wife. When my boyfriend sought to clarify this with the pastor, the pastor was stunned and assured him she never had a conversation like that with the ex-wife.

His 16-year-old, “Sam,” also refuses to meet the baby without his mother present. And JUST his mother present. My boyfriend is desperate to reconnect with his son (whose estrangement is enabled by the ex) and thinks meeting the baby will soften his son’s heart. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with the conditions. For context: I’ve learned his ex-wife has on multiple occasions made fun of the name we chose for our daughter. She also demanded to know all sorts of intimate details about me, such as my plans for breastfeeding.

His ex-wife has been pushing hard to meet the baby. My boyfriend says she and Sam are a package deal. But my mama instincts are screaming that my baby is not safe around this woman. She recently made it clear she expects to meet the baby soon, whether Sam does or not.

I am obviously sleep-deprived and hormones are crashing, but am I being unreasonable? I know she will someday meet her, but I don’t see why it’s necessary for her to have this experience with my newborn.

— Mama Bear

I actually liked Carolyn’s advice. Her first sentence summed it up nicely. She wrote, “There isn’t enough hell for this no.” I totally agree with her. I’ve never had a child, but I can plainly see how inappropriate this demand is. But other people didn’t see it Carolyn’s way at all. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, because we’re dealing with people in a culture who automatically see men and any subsequent female partners at fault when a heterosexual relationship falls apart. And some people seem to think that the jilted woman is automatically entitled to whatever she wants. Can you believe the ex wife in the above example thinks she’s entitled to meet the baby even without her son in tow?

To Carolyn’s credit, she simply looked at what was written in the letter. She didn’t attempt to recreate the letter from the ex wife’s perspective, as one reader did. It’s not that I don’t think it’s useful to consider the ex wife’s perspective so much, as that the person who did it added details to the situation that didn’t exist in the original letter. I saw a lot of people projecting their own opinions and experiences into this situation, complicating what, to me, looks like a pretty cut and dried situation. The letter writer has a brand new baby. It’s HER baby. She’s the mom, and she gets to decide who is around her newborn baby. Ex wife has ZERO standing to demand anything regarding the letter writer’s brand new baby, her son with the boyfriend notwithstanding. Below was one commenter’s take.

Um… did this person miss the part where the EX said her ex husband needed to apologize to church leaders for the divorce? And the church leader said the conversation never took place? Also, the original letter says that the couple had been together for several years, and made no mention of the mom’s age. And personally, I think gifts related to breastfeeding are inappropriate, unless it’s something the person specifically requested.

As for “Sam”, my comment would be that it’s regrettable that he evidently doesn’t want to meet his half-sister. He can meet her when he grows up, if he wants to. But his mom is not in this, and needs to butt out immediately. She has absolutely no right to demand to meet the baby, at all.

I write this from the perspective of a second wife whose husband was denied access to his daughters for many years. One of them finally came around five years ago, and we continually find out more about the total fuckery that went on during those years they weren’t talking and continues to go on today. I know, in our case, there really is a wacko ex involved. I also know that when there’s a wacko ex, you have to be careful not to give ’em an inch, or they will take a mile. The bit about the fabricated church leader story, coupled with the demands to know about breastfeeding habits, makes me think the ex in this story could be a bit looney.

I also write this as a woman who DID NOT have an affair with a married man, but many people assume that I broke up his marriage to his ex wife, simply because people often think that about second or subsequent wives and girlfriends. Many people commenting made the assumption that this couple had an affair. Nowhere in the letter does it say that. It’s entirely possible this couple met and had a platonic relationship until they got divorced. That’s how it happened between Bill and me.

We met online in a chat room back in late 1999. Both of us were lonely. I was single and in graduate school. He and Ex had separated because he had decided to rejoin the Army full time. She was already dating #3. Bill and I chatted for three whole months before he finally sent me an email explaining his situation. I was shocked by the email and sorry about Bill’s marriage breaking up, but I never expected to ever meet him in person, let alone marry him. I had never thought to ask him about his marital status, because we weren’t talking about or doing intimate stuff that would necessitate my knowledge of his marital status. Our relationship at that time consisted entirely of chatting online and emails. We also lived in different states and time zones, and at the time, I had never met anyone offline that I had originally met on the Internet.

A couple of months after Bill explained his situation to me, it was time for that infamous Easter confrontation in his father’s house, where Ex dramatically presented an ultimatum that Bill bend to her will, or dissolve the marriage. She knew nothing about me or my existence, and I had absolutely NOTHING to do with her ultimatum. She didn’t find out about me until we had been dating for about eight months; by that time, #3 was already living in the house Bill was still paying for, and had proposed to her a couple of times.

At the time Ex demanded the divorce, I was just Bill’s Internet acquaintance, anyway. We were completely platonic until after his divorce, which happened less than nine months after we encountered each other online. Bill decided to accept Ex’s divorce proposal because he knew his marriage wasn’t working and wouldn’t get better. He was tired of living hand to mouth, and wanted to have a job that paid better than factory work. He loved the Army; it’s his vocation. And he and Ex have nothing in common, other than their kids and where they went to high school.

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of meeting Bill when the idea first came up. When were still talking online a year later, I agreed to it. And even after the first in person meeting, I wasn’t sure where our friendship was going.

About three months after that dramatic Easter scene, their divorce was final. Bill and I met in person almost a year later, when the Army sent him on a work trip to the city where I was living at the time. That’s when we started dating offline, as Bill later relocated to Virginia, which is my home state. On long weekends, I would drive from South Carolina to Virginia to see him, and he would sometimes return the favor. We did not have a sexual relationship until two weeks after our wedding.

I know some people might not believe me, but I swear it’s the truth, and yes, of course it’s possible. Neither of us were much into dating when we were growing up. When I met Bill, he was my first boyfriend since high school, and he is my only sexual partner, ever. Besides Ex, I am his only partner. And if we can do it that way, anyone can.

I’m not implying that what happened in my case is what happened in the letter writer’s situation, only that it could have happened that way. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that this couple had an affair before they divorced their ex spouses. All it says is that they were both in unfulfilling marriages, and that they had been together for a few years before their daughter was born. No, they aren’t married, but not everyone wants or needs to be married to have children. God knows, that happens every day, although personally, I would not want to have a baby out of wedlock. But that’s just me… and at my age, it’s no longer a possibility, anyway.

“Sam” is estranged from his dad. Regrettably, that’s not uncommon when parents divorce, and it’s often the fathers who wind up alienated. The letter writer’s boyfriend obviously loves his son and wants to be in his life. It sounds like his ex wife is not facilitating things, which is also a common and, perhaps, even an understandable reaction after divorce. A lot of people are bitter after a divorce, and that leads to asking other people to take sides, especially if they are the custodial parents of a child that came from the relationship. But you know what? In two years, Sam will be an adult, and he can make his own choices.

If Sam’s parents’ divorce is the most painful thing he ever deals with, he’s going to be lucky. Maybe his father is a jerk, but maybe he’s not. It will be up to Sam to decide if he really wants to jettison his father forever. He may eventually realize that this isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. But, it could turn out that after a few years and some perspective, Sam may come to realize that he was used as a weapon. Or maybe that isn’t the situation. Either way, it’s not up to him or his mother to dictate, if, when, or how he meets his half-sister. At age 16, he’s allowed to say no to visitation with his dad, even if it’s not the wisest decision. At age 18, it will be entirely up to him, legally speaking. Of course, if his mother is anything like Ex is, she might still make it extremely difficult for the wounds to heal. It might take a few years of adulthood before the blinders come off and Sam is ready to have a relationship with his father on his own terms.

In twenty years of marriage, I have only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was many years ago, because his ex wife refused to cooperate and actively sabotaged the loving relationship Bill once had with his kids. She did this for purely vindictive, selfish, narcissistic reasons. And now, younger daughter can see, plain as day, what happened, because she’s been treated in the same disrespectful way that Bill was. Now that they’re finally speaking, younger daughter is finding out things she hadn’t known, and I have a feeling that some of what she’s learning is very upsetting. Pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together… and if I’m honest, I worry what will happen when she finally understands just what she was denied when she was growing up. Her mother betrayed her by alienating her from her father and trying to force her to bond with #3, a man who clearly doesn’t care about her.

For Bill’s part, he now very much regrets not fighting much harder for his daughters. That was a terrible mistake. All he can do now is be there for the present and future, if they want him around. On the other hand, we’ve also learned that life continues to go on if there’s estrangement. There are some things you can’t control, like trying to force a horse to drink water. I would say reconnecting with estranged children often falls into this category. Sometimes these situations happen even when there hasn’t been a divorce. One person can’t control how another person feels or reacts. Ha ha… Ex actually said that to Bill once. “I can’t help how you feel.” Well, that goes for her, too… It goes for EVERYONE.

Another one of Ex’s expressions that Bill brought into our marriage is “Murder will out.” I had never heard that expression before I married Bill, but he’s said it many times over the years. And I can see by Ex’s very public social media accounts that she says it, too. Things are coming home to roost now, and I suspect they could get very dramatic soon. I probably shouldn’t read Carolyn Hax’s advice column, because letters like the one I read this morning are still very triggering for me. Our situation is extreme, but it’s been educational for me, and it’s taught me that stereotypical explanations of situations aren’t always accurate. Many commenters were assuming that the boyfriend in this letter was a spineless coward who cheated. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that.

But… bottom line is, the ex wife in this situation has absolutely no standing to demand that the letter writer surrender her baby for a private meeting with the ex and “Sam”. As I mentioned up post, I have never been a mother myself, but I would imagine that those mama bear instincts are there for very good reason. Yes, she’s the girlfriend, but she’s also the MOM of that baby, and it’s her job to protect her child. So she should politely tell the ex to fuck off, if she deems it appropriate. If it means Sam doesn’t meet his half-sister for the time being, so be it.

Edited to add…. Sorry, this letter really got under my skin. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of upsetting new information that has me a bit spun up.

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Ex, LDS, music, narcissists

Introducing “Bill” to his daughter…

Happy Halloween, everybody. My morning got off to a rough start, but after a bowl of oatmeal and some fresh coffee, I’m feeling somewhat better. Daylight Savings Time ended on Saturday, so our dogs are a little confused. Arran got up at 3:40am, thinking it was an hour later, and he demanded his breakfast. And because Bill is a good guy, he gave in to Arran’s demands. I’m a little tired and out of sorts this morning.

Bill got a message from his younger daughter. I had sent her child a birthday gift, and it was delivered to the wrong apartment. There are a bunch of single guys in the apartment, and younger daughter went over in her church dress and knocked on the door. They ignored her. I guess they figured she was going to ask them to go to church, as they live in Mormon mecca. I hope she’ll leave them a note and tell them that the package they got (and for which we have a photo) contains a present for a child. She doesn’t care if they go to church. She just wants her package.

Bill sent her a link to my video of the song, “Bill”, which she had never heard before. She apparently loved it, probably because the video has tons of pictures in it of her dad. For so many years, she was denied contact with him, so she never got to see the warm, funny, and sweet side of him that makes me love him so much. She also had questions about how I made the video and others like it. And that just struck me as kind of sad, because she’s a young woman in her 20s, and she should be teaching ME about stuff like this. Unfortunately, she grew up very sheltered. She’s very bright, but her education is apparently not as good as it could have been. At least when it comes to basic computing skills. I was thinking that if Bill and I could have been involved with her life when she was growing up, we could have taught her some of these things, along with some other stuff. But that was too threatening for her mother to contemplate.

I’ll bet she’d love Ron Block’s music, even though he’s not LDS.

I’m glad she liked the song, especially since she has a music calling in church. She said that she listened to a couple of the other videos, including my version of “There Is A Reason”, a song written by Ron Block and made famous by Alison Krauss and Union Station. To date, I think it’s my most popular video. It even gets ads! She wonders how I made the video, having never been exposed to Garageband and iMovie, and she doesn’t know the songs, but likes them. If I had known her when she was growing up, imagine how much broader her experiences could have been. She might have made different choices.

That’s not to say I think she’s made bad choices, per se. She has a beautiful family and is completely on her own now. But I can see that she never learned things that most young people get exposed to when they’re growing up, because she was basically trained to be her mother’s minion instead of a person in her own right… with her own hopes, dreams, and desires to fulfill. She got away from her mother, anyway, thanks to people in the LDS church who helped her. But she never had the chance to get exposed to other things– other experiences and beliefs that she never considered. She’s been all over the United States, thanks to Ex’s love of road trips, but she’s never been to Europe or anywhere else outside of North America. If Bill had been in her life when she was growing up, she would have had those experiences. She might be living a completely different life– for better or worse.

Last week, I posted about how Ex has been hinting that maybe her marriage is not working so well lately. She had tweeted to actors on a certain TV show that their on screen relationship might literally save her marriage:

A screenshot from my last post about Ex… Something’s got her perturbed.

Today, after hearing younger daughter express amazement at my simple and quite amateur videos with music and pictures of her dad, I went looking to see what Ex might be up to… and this is what I found:

Note the wording… On the other hand, maybe she is learning to “love herself”, which may not be a bad thing, if she manages to do it in a non-narcissistic way. But experience has taught us that the kind of “loving herself” she’s writing of will probably be the toxic kind.

She’s “unlearned” that someone besides her kids would someday love her. If I take off the “un”, I get “I’ve learned that someone would someday love me.” What does that tell us? Apparently, #3 might have expressed in some way that he doesn’t love her. Add that to what she wrote a few days earlier, when she tweeted to actors about how their relationship could “literally save [her] marriage.” This doesn’t sound good. But then, from what I’ve seen, Ex isn’t very good at returning love. Love is supposed to be reciprocal. It’s hard to keep pouring love and positive regard into someone who is incapable of returning it. It’s like investing in a losing stock. After awhile, it seems crazy to keep sending good money after bad, and you move on to another investment, right? I don’t know what Ex’s relationship with #3 is, but if it’s anything like what it was with Bill, it’s probably very unfulfilling and frustrating for #3.

The irony is, I think I’m actually living the lifestyle that Ex wanted. I got it because I truly love Bill back, appreciate him, and want him in my life because I have regard for him. She just wants men in her life to use– to help her with the children, take orders from her, and support her lifestyle. And this is not necessarily the lifestyle I had planned for myself, because I had planned to have a career and kids of my own. Things didn’t work out that way.

Also… I have it on good authority that her kids don’t necessarily unconditionally love her, either. At least two of them moved across the country and don’t have much to say to her anymore. And this is because she was abusive to them, and denied them an upbringing that prepared them for adulthood. Both of those kids were plunged into adulthood in a baptism by fire, and both were assisted by other benevolent adults who cared more about them than she did. Like it or not, everyone grows up, and the vast majority of people, sooner or later, move out on their own. It’s up to parents to teach their kids how to function. It sounds as if she failed to do that, and the kids were left to figure things out for themselves.

But kids are resourceful. Ex introduced her children to the LDS church, and for years, it served as a parental alienation tool. My husband left the church; therefore, he wasn’t “good enough” to be their father anymore. She replaced him with #3, and demanded that they call him dad, whether or not they actually felt that connection. They were required to forget about Bill, who was the father of two of them, and had served as substitute dad to her oldest son, as his father was out of the picture even sooner than Bill was. Ex took photos of him away from them, wouldn’t let them talk to him on the phone, threw away his gifts to them, and told them lies. The end result was that at age 18, former stepson visited us with his girlfriend, now wife. For awhile, they had a connection, until Ex manipulated former stepson into trying to put one over on Bill by using him for money. We discovered what he was up to, and there was a falling out that, 13 years later, still hasn’t been rectified.

And then, younger daughter finally broke down the barrier. Her curiosity got the better of her, and at age 23 (in 2017), she finally talked to her father. She gradually found out that she was told many lies. Five years later, she is now being exposed to a lot of stuff that is probably blowing her mind. A lot of it is actually good stuff… but even the good stuff will probably eventually make her sad, because she’s going to realize that she was cheated and used. Her childhood was wasted being a support to her mother, instead of her mother helping her learn how to function as an adult, facilitating new experiences, and encouraging her to get a good education. Now, she’s a married mom of three, and while I know she loves being a mom and is a very good one, she might soon realize that these are the years she could have spread her wings and done something really exciting… and just for her.

I can tell that younger daughter is a very bright and capable young woman. I hope and expect that she will eventually get the chance to see the world and try new things when her children are older. I’m glad she loved the videos– the music and the photos of her dad. Maybe I can teach her some things, if she’ll let me.

As for Ex, I think if #3 is finally done with her, she totally deserves it. However, I worry that if he leaves her, she will end up in a crisis. #3 doesn’t have the resources Bill has. #3 is older than Bill was when he and Ex divorced, and he’s not in the best health. He can’t bounce back financially the way Bill did. Moreover, Ex’s youngest daughter is already an adult, and her youngest child is disabled and will likely never be on his own. Now, I don’t care if Ex is in a crisis, but I do worry about the vulnerable people in her sphere that she will try to exploit. She’s already shown us earlier this year that she’s capable of stooping pretty low, preying on Bill’s stepmother. I wouldn’t be surprised if she hit up Bill’s stepmother or other people in his family for money. So I hope Bill’s family is aware. But maybe this is much ado about nothing.

Anyway… I hope you all have a Happy Halloween. Maybe I’ll play my Halloween mix, since this is the one day of the year it would be most appropriate.

Edited to add: Got tossed in Facebook jail again today, for sharing the video of the claymation guy who says “You can look at my butt.” Apparently, Facebook deems that “sexually suggestive” and “nudity” content. It’s a fucking cartoon, and contains lovely sentiments of acceptance and kindness, even if it is kind of weird and creepy for some. Anyway, it’s too bad Facebook no longer employs human beings, and it’s even worse that they allow some of the most vile insults and rudeness, but a video starring a claymation type dude being kind, comforting, and positive gets me banned from posting in my groups. And because I run two groups, that makes Facebook less useful and functional for me. I think these ridiculous and draconian censorship policies are going to cause their demise sometime very soon. They’ll be the new MySpace.

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divorce, Ex, family, lessons learned, marriage

Repost: An open letter to angry adult stepchildren… 

I wrote this post on October 15, 2010. I am reposting it because I see that it got over 11,000 hits, and some people might find it useful. My personal situation has changed a lot since I wrote this piece 12 years ago, so please keep that in mind if you read this… For instance, one of Bill’s children now speaks to him. Sometimes things can turn out better given some time and perspective.

Before I start with today’s post, I want to explain that my thoughts today are not necessarily directed to my stepchildren. After all, in eight years I have only met my stepchildren once and, since then, have had absolutely no contact with them. No… today’s post is for angry stepchildren who still talk to both of their parents and, for whatever reason, hate one or both of their stepparents. 

Yesterday, I was hanging out at one of my favorite online communities when I noticed a post written by a guy who was very upset with his father. This fellow, who is very open about being a homosexual, had recently written a heartfelt letter to his dad about his homosexuality. He was asking his dad for understanding and support. His father, apparently, didn’t respond to the letter the way the writer had hoped he would. 

So my online friend was understandably devastated about this turn of events and, in the course of describing his pain, happened to refer to his father’s wife as a “heinous harpy”. He did not explain why he thought of his stepmother that way. In fact, most of his posts were about his relationship with his father. But I couldn’t help but notice that, for some reason, he seemed to hate his stepmother and felt the need to express his hatred in a post that, at least on the surface, had nothing to do with her.

Here’s what I’d like to say to that guy, along with anyone else who hates their stepparent(s), yet still loves their parent(s). You may have a very good reason for hating your mother’s or father’s spouse. Or you may not have a good reason for hating them. But have you considered the reasons why your parent married that person? Put aside your personal feelings for a moment and think about it. Just spend a few minutes looking at life through your parent’s eyes.

Divorce sucks. It sucks for almost everybody, including many stepparents. Yes, if you are a child of divorce, you absolutely have a right to be hurt, confused, angry, etc. But chances are, your parent is hurting too, and would like the chance to try to be happy with someone else. Do you really expect your parent to go through life alone, just because their first try at marriage didn’t work out? Would you actually want them to be alone as they get older and less independent? 

Like it or not, your parent made a choice to invite another person into his or her life. Your parent had his or her own reasons for doing so. Maybe you don’t agree with your parent’s reasons or taste. Maybe your stepmother or stepfather is cruel or hateful to you. Maybe you feel like he or she takes your parent’s attention away from you or tries to shut you out of your parent’s life. Perhaps your parent’s remarriage has destroyed any hopes that your parents might reconcile.  

All of these issues are valid reasons for you to feel the way you do. But I’m asking you to stop and consider your parent’s feelings. Think about why he or she made the choice to invite this new person into their life. Then, if you’re able, take an objective look at your stepparent. Is he or she really worthy of your hatred? Does your parent genuinely love his or her spouse? Have you taken a moment to see what your parent sees in their wife or husband? 

Then, think about this… Did you decide to hate your stepparent? Or did your other parent make that decision for you? Consider this. I have met my husband’s daughters just once. During our one meeting, which barely lasted 48 hours, my husband’s daughters and I seemed to get along just fine. One of them went as far as to give me a big hug and refer to me as her other mother. But not long after that meeting, my husband’s daughters mysteriously started distancing themselves from their dad until finally, in 2004, they stopped talking to him altogether and, in 2006, actually sent him letters demanding that he let their current stepfather adopt them.

Since I haven’t seen or talked to my husband’s kids since that one meeting which had seemed to go so well, I can’t help but think their mother was somehow threatened by me and told them they should hate me, as well as their dad for choosing to marry me. In other words, the girls didn’t decide to dislike me until their mother decided for them that I was a bad person. Incidentally, I have never met their mother, and she has very limited knowledge of me, so I’m not sure how she determined I was so evil. I try not to take it personally, since I have a feeling she would have hated anyone my husband had chosen to marry.  

Here’s something else to consider. Relationships are always a two-way street. You may hate your stepparent and that may be all very well and good. But your stepparent may also reserve the right to feel the same way about you, especially if you’re an adult. You might not care about how they feel, but if you want to have a good relationship with your parent, you might be wise to reconsider the way you treat his or her spouse. There may come a time when you’ll wish you were on better terms with them.  

Marriage is a dicey business at best. Statistics show that about half of all married couples eventually divorce. Many of those people will have children, so there are lots of people in the child-of-divorce boat. Moreover, a lot of those children-of-divorce will eventually grow up and be divorced themselves. If that ever happens to you, would you want to spend the rest of your life alone just to spare your child’s feelings? Would you want your child to have the right to choose your mate for you, especially since most kids eventually grow up and have lives of their own?  

In our society, most people reject the idea of arranged marriages decided by their parents or anyone else. Do you really think you should have the right to reject your parent’s choice for a spouse? Would you want your kids to overrule your choice of whom to marry? And would you be happy if your parent eventually divorced and remarried a third or fourth time? Remember, divorce sucks… and it’s very expensive. I think the only people who could possibly enjoy the process of divorce are those who get a paycheck from it. Chances are, if your parent divorces several times, he or she might not be as financially well-prepared to handle growing older. If he or she wants to remarry, it makes good sense to let them (hopefully) choose the right spouse, once and for all.

I know for a fact that my husband is less lonely and a lot happier with me than he ever was with his ex-wife. We are very compatible with each other. Certainly, things would have been less complicated had he and I met first. But that didn’t happen. We make each other happy and belong together. Most parents want the best for their children and hope they will be happy. I’d like to think that a loving child would want the same for their parent(s). I know my husband’s happiness has led to his being healthier and wealthier… perhaps giving his kids more time to reconsider whether or not they really do want to throw away their real dad for good.  

Life is pretty short and there may come a time when you’ll wish you had more time to spend with your mother or father. If you love your parent(s), I would expect you’d want for them what they, hopefully, want for you… health and happiness and freedom from loneliness.

It’s true that you may have all the legitimate reasons in the world to hate your stepparent(s). All I’m asking you to do is to take a minute to understand where your hatred is coming from and determine whether or not it’s truly valid. Maybe your stepmom is a harpy or your stepfather is a selfish bastard. But your parent chose them to be a part of their lives. They must have had a reason… And maybe you should try to have some respect for their reasons. I’m sure you’d wish for and expect the very same if you’re ever in their shoes.

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