Silent treatment is mental, emotional and psychological abuse.
Just trying to track our childhood memories by location of place as well as by time is a difficult task for any of us Lloyd children. As I try to track our whereabouts for this next memory, I piece together the time by the places we lived as I come up to the memory.
As I try to find my memories in our family’s patterns of chaos, I find that the end of my 5th grade (1961-1962 school year), when I was 10, saw us moving back up to the mountain from the log house in Eagle River as I described in *THE SHAMPOO LIE AND RUNNING AWAY. We stayed there for the summer and by the time the roads were covered with snow late the next fall of my 6th grade year we were split between living at the log house and the mountain. Spring of this 1962-1963 school year we were out of the log house, where my mother had rented out one of the rooms and carried on a day care center during the day, and were back on the mountain full time.
The fall of my 7th grade (1963-1964 school year) found us arriving late for the start of school in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we spent several months of the winter in The Silver Saddle Motel as my father remained in Alaska. By early spring we were all back on the homestead in time for the great Alaskan earthquake on March 27, 1964.
We spent the summer on the mountain and moved into an apartment on Birchwood Loop Road near Eagle River the following fall I was in 8th grade. My youngest brother was born in February 1965. That spring we moved back to the homestead and by fall my mother and we children had driven down to spend the winter I was in 9th grade (again starting school late), the 1965-1966 school year, in Tucson, Arizona.
My father flew down to Tucson in June 1966 after the school year had ended to drive with us back to Alaska, or at least back as far as Seattle where he planned to buy a new Jeep Wagoneer. This memory originates on my older brother’s June 15th birthday when we stopped on some small country dirt side road near Ashland, Oregon to celebrate with a family picnic.
Everything seemed to be deceptively fine and happy. The day was warm, sky was blue, sun shining through forest leaves as my mother passed each of us a sandwich. She had placed my 18 month old baby brother in his jump seat (like a walker without wheels), and she had NOT asked me to watch him. Yet when she turned around and saw that he had bent over, picked up small pebbles of gravel off of the road and was playing with them on his jumper tray, she exploded at me.
The way my mother’s mind worked I had deliberately killed my baby brother by watching him put pebbles into his mouth so that he could choke to death, and I had deliberately ruined my older brother’s birthday. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the baby, but that had no bearing whatsoever on her reaction or on the rage that she let lose on me.
Her violent volcano erupted with the usual screaming, shouting, yelling and hitting. She forbid anyone in the family to speak to me for the rest of the trip back to Alaska. After my father had picked up the new Jeep in Seattle, she told me to ride with my father because she couldn’t stand the sight of me and didn’t want me in her car with the rest of her children.
So I rode with my father on that long drive home. At least he let me ride in the front seat, but never once on that whole trip did he say a single word to me. Maybe he would not have spoken to anyone else had they been in that seat, either. He drove in silence behind my mother, and at one point half way up the Alaskan highway we crested a hill and saw ahead of us my mother’s station wagon pulled to the side of the road, smoke pouring out from under the hood, children milling around it as my mother stood at the open rear car door frantically yanking suitcases of her Alaskan book writings out of the car so they wouldn’t be burned. (She had told my sister to get the baby out of the car. Her concern was for her papers.)
I don’t remember how the problem of the smoking car was taken care of, but I remember how strange and remote I felt watching the family’s actions from the distant place my father had told me to stand as he ran to help my mother. During that whole long trip nobody spoke to me when we stopped to eat a meal. Nobody spoke to me when we stopped at motels to sleep for the night.
This event was added to her ongoing abuse litany as proof of my irresponsibility and my desire to kill my brother. It proved that I could not be trusted. It proved I thought of nobody but myself. It proved I wanted to be an only child and not a member of my family.
Even now as I remember and try to write about this experience, it’s like my thoughts and my own words seem sucked out of me into some vast unending silence.
My father was and is a part of that silence. I have never found the truth about him within my own self. I don’t even seem to know where to begin to find it. Addressing his treatment of me is far, far harder for me than it is to look at the actions of my mother. I don’t remember ever being aware of wanting her to love me. I wanted my father to love me. It’s like his silence and inaction never gave me anything to hold onto so that he slid on through my childhood being blameless.
Logically, I know that he wasn’t. Emotionally, I still can’t know this truth.
Interestingly, my older brother felt such a powerful attraction to that little town of Ashland as we drove through it that day in 1966 that he went to college there when he left home and continued to consider Ashland his home for the next 25 years. He also says that just as suddenly as he fell in love with that town, a day came just as suddenly when he was “done with Ashland.” He left and has no desire to ever return.
Related post, +GUIDING THE SOUL OF A CHILD — THE OPPOSITE OF TRAUMA September 21, 2011
7 thoughts on “*Age 14 – SILENT TREATMENT”
Your mother sounds just like my mother. How unlucky we were. (How unlucky our mothers were.)
Borderline Personality Disorder, I believe – with complications – and YES, tragedy all the way around! Bless us!!! So much to learn – and all PREVENTABLE!!!
To me, our mother had an absolute phobia of our father showing us any attention. I can only remember having two substantive talks with him through my whole childhood, though I always adored him. One memory will illustrate how she could take anything positive that happened and turn it into something horrible. Since our school was far from the homestead, most of the time we would either go to the library to wait for our dad to pick us up hours later on his way home from work or to a sitters house. One day when I was about nine, I must have stayed alone after school for Girl Scouts or something. I had the rare experience of dad picking me up by myself and having time to talk to him alone. At school that day we had seen an educational movie starring Mickey Mouse explaining atomic energy! Now, I know that sounds strange in itself but I found it very exciting and I had lots of questions to ask my dad about atoms. We all grew up believing that dad knew the answer to any question we had and sure enough, he easily used an illustration of a room full of ping pong balls and how if one ball could be thrown into the room with enough force it could set all the others to bouncing- just like an atomic explosion. I was so thrilled that I could understand it and as soon as I got home I shared my ‘aha’ moment with my mother, complete with dad’s illustration. She was furious, insisting that I was just trying to show her up by being smarter than her because dad always said she was dumb!!! I don’t remember ever sharing another discovery with her, that’s for sure. I felt crushed and confused that she would be angry when I was so excited. What a bizarre reaction.
Interesting, Cindy, that I had a seemingly unrelated memory appeared as I read your writing. It’s connected to the fact that mother grew up somehow believing she was dumb in part because she was found lacking in intelligence when compared to her mother and her brother. Then I remembered that somewhere along the line grandmother had given mother one of her (in)famous intelligence tests and the report was that mother only had an IQ of 120!
Then I wondered if grandma had given mother that test during mother’s AA degree college tenure of study. That made me remember that during our childhood mother often talked about how after her marriage grandma had somehow exposed mom and dad to one of her ‘couple’s compatibility’ psychological test batteries and then reported to mom that she and dad were absolutely doomed because they were absolutely incompatible.
This remained as an ongoing corrosive component of both the difficulties within mother’s relationship to her mother and to her husband. It was also intertwined with mother’s 120 IQ issues.
And leave it to my rambling mind, but this also somehow ties into the story mother used to tell of when she went fishing with dad (and perhaps Uncle Charlie was there?) during the early years of her marriage. She was left to fish (trout?) by herself and caught lots of them but had no place to put them. Something to do with putting them in her pockets? Dad (and Charlie?) returned with a pitiful catch.
Also directly connected to the purported fact that Dad criticized and made so much fun of mother’s ‘nasal’ singing voice that he shamed her enough in their early marriage that she never sang in front of him again. I remember both mom and dad sang when alone. He sang the old fashioned country songs and she sang the WWII love songs, but always outside of the presence of one another.
OK, I see the common thread to the observations here. They all involve positive and negative self worth as it connects to an initial fragile development of a self. In the fish example, I remember it that mother out-fished the man/men so that ALL were astounded by and impressed with mother’s fishing abilities. She felt good about that. The other experiences connected to how bad she already felt about herself.
Of course little Cindy had no idea how mother’s reactions were rooted within her own traumas and her own traumatically-formed reactions to trauma. Did her reaction hurt you? Confuse you? Contribute to you feeling badly about yourself, as if something was wrong with you?
Three comments/questions on this post:
1. It is beyond belief that your mother ran a day care!!!
2. You mentioned in an earlier post that your mother may have felt a competition for your father’s attention. It does not appear to me that he gave you any attention at all.
3. As your brother was getting older (age 15 now ), did he ever try to help you in any way or show sympathy/empathy for your plight?
Yes, almost beyond belief that she ran a day care. It was a small one and of course she ran it ‘perfectly’ as if from a story book. It is also important to realize that it was a performance of her public persona, not or her ‘real’ private one. This was a repeated effort on her part to earn money for our much-stressed family budget. I think I might be about ready to transcribe some more of her homesteading letters. The references to the day care(s) are in those writings. It makes me think of Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde. http://www.radessays.com/viewpaper/86097/Dr_Jeckel_Mr._Hyde.html
My mother never gave my father an opportunity to pay any attention to me if it was within her control to disallow it. My second page today, *LEADING UP TO GONE FROM HOME also alludes to the insanity of her jealousy.
My brother and I talked on the phone yesterday about your question. I think perhaps the biggest regret of his life is that he did nothing to stop my mother or intervene. He was caught in the insanity of that home as we all were. Yesterday we both came to the conclusion that given our situation at that point in time the only way for any of us children to have stopped my mother would have been to kill her.