By Carol Bradley Bursack, AgingCare.com
Last week, a journalist (we’ll call her Nancy) wanted to interview me about some caregiving issues. We chatted a bit about the article she was writing and she got some quotes. During the talk, we bonded.
As Nancy talked, she described the turmoil she is facing as her parents age. I was able to assure her that she is not alone in her feelings. She grew up with an abusive mother. The abuse was physical as well as emotional. Her father was gone much of the time, doing what most men of that generation did. He was making a living for his family and that was his role as he saw it. He wasn’t around much and didn’t “interfere” with the raising of the children.
Now her parents are getting frail. Nancy had been through a lot of therapy so she could learn to cope with her childhood issues. She’s come to terms with the fact that her father did what he thought he was supposed to do. She rightly felt, as a child, that he should recognize and stop the abuse her mother was doling out. Through therapy, she has learned to forgive her father for his lack of involvement and the fact that he didn’t stop the abuse.
She’s learned that he likely didn’t know about a lot of it. She’s also learned that he probably was in denial about what he did suspect, because he really didn’t know what to do. He was wrong, but she’s managed to forgive him for what he didn’t know, and for what he didn’t do about what he did know. Part of this is that her father recognizes where he failed. As he ages – and he’s the one who is showing the need for care at this point – she feels she is capable of caring for him, in some “hands-on” capacity.
Nancy’s even formed a bond with him, and though a bit envious about the fact that he’s become a terrific grandfather to her children (the dad she didn’t have), she is also happy that the bond is there for all of their sakes.
The issue remains that her mother will not admit to having been abusive. Nancy is willing to work on the issue with her mother and a counselor, but her mother totally denies any abuse. Whether this denial is conscious or “selective memory” doesn’t matter to Nancy. She was abused as a child and she wants her mother to admit it and work on it. She wants to see the cycle broken.