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My dad, my childhood and memories: don't know what to think (long and might be triggering)(14 Posts)
I've name changed for this as DS knows my username and I want to keep this separate.
I'm in my 50s. My father died a few years ago, my mum is still alive although rather elderly. According to my mum, he worshipped the ground I walked on. My recollection is very different: he was overbearing, intolerant and weak. He drank steadily and heavily. He treated my mum like a skivvy. He made no effort to understand my point of view and did a pretty good job of stifling and alienating me. When I was 14 he didn't like the back chat I was giving him and belted me across the face. After that all my emotions towards him switched off.
As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I cupped my chin in my hand, and suddenly felt transported back 40 odd years. I remembered, vividly, my dad holding me by the chin and pulling me near a lamp, and saying (slurring) what wonderful bone structure I had. I would have been about 13 I should think. I remember feeling embarrassed and awkward and pulling away. It was creepy.
I started thinking more about my childhood and then remembered some photos my dad took of me. He was very keen on photography, mainly dull rural landscapes if I recall correctly. However when I was probably about 10, he took some pictures of me. I think my mum was there too but can't remember exactly. In some of them, I'm posing around in my brownie uniform, and playing the piano. But in others, I'm completely naked. I can remember two photos, one where I'm playing the piano naked, and one where I'm sort of loitering in a doorway. I remember rather enjoying being the centre of attention although for the life of me I can't imagine why either of my parents would have encouraged me to strip off, or if I had done of my own accord (why would I do that?) why they would have let me prance about. And why the hell did they think that taking photos was a good idea. To be clear, both my parents were extremely prudish, we certainly weren't naturists.
I think the photos might have been Polaroids. I don't imagine the pictures would have been sent off for developing. I do remember my mum saying not to show them to anyone in case they got the wrong idea. I'm pretty sure the pictures were destroyed fairly quickly although what do I know?
I can't speak to my mum about this: she's elderly, vulnerable and not in good health. She adored my dad and will never hear a bad word against him, never did.
As I've pondered on this, I remember a few other creepy things from the same sort of period. I can't recall any physical abuse, and I'm not trying to do so. But I want to make sense of all of this and don't really know where to turn. I feel that I want to talk it through with someone (therapist??), but don't know where to start or even if that is what one would talk to a therapist about.
I realise this is long and vague, and thank you for bearing with me. The battery on my phone is about to pack in so apologies if I'm not back for a bit.
I have no experience of what you described but just wanted to say, as someone currently having counselling that of course you can talk to someone about this. They may be able to help you process and understand the events and your feelings about them, if that is what you want to do.
A counseller would be good, as suggested above. Obv nobody, aside from your mother, is going to be able to fill in the blanks and tell you why that whole weirdness happened, though. Unless, were there any other family members or adults aware of this?
The nakedness does seem unncessary but then it doesn´t automatically make it pervy either. God knows artists are a weird bunch anyway and find ¨art¨ in all sorts of situations....
It´s a shame you can´t say to your mother ¨Do you remember those pictures Dad took of me playing the piano when I was a kid?¨ and just see what happens. It doesn´t have to be anything heavy, but elderly people always have a better long-term memory so she may even be able to recall the scene and elaborate?
Thanks both. I would be concerned about asking my mum for two reasons: I might lose my cool, which I don't want to do; and she's also a chronic worrier and goes over conversations in her mind for ages. Not fair to her as she's not well generally. No other family members etc to ask.
I don't think this was necessarily pervy but it wasn't 'artistic' either: dad didn't have an aesthetic bone in his body, the cameras were all about fiddling with the latest gadget.
I'll think about counselling, not sure where to start or if it's my sort of thing but I do want to rationalise this or at least know what I think.
No wisdom, just a handhold here.
I really would recommend counselling. I'm going through something similar. However, I'd also talk to your mum. She's a worrier and elderly but if it is what you think it is, she enabled him to do it. Worse, she discouraged you from getting help. It sounds like she failed to protect you and these days you would have been taken into care. I'd be furious with her and quite frankly, she deserves any worry she gets. Question, would you allow that to happen and facilitate it for your kids? Maybe start counselling and you can always ask later.
Thanks for your replies and sorry to hear about your situation, Rosenwyn. For the moment I won't speak to mum, there's nothing to gain apart from trouble and upset. I'd be interested to know more about finding a counsellor.
Speak to your GP or look into the local self referral service, such as italk. I've been doing work on just accepting what I can't remember (lots of memories buried and no one I can ask for facts). It's been really helpful. What I will say is I wish I'd done it years ago. It's hard going, really hard, but I feel like I'm moving on. I hadn't even realised how much it was effecting me until recently so I can imagine it must be worrying for you. Feel free to message me if you need a chat.
if you do not ask your mum to tell what may have happened before she dies, you will always be wondering what the truth is. she may want to tell you also.
Thank you all. I take the point about what if mum dies without our discussing this. For the moment I think I've no real choice. I want to know what was going on, but I don't feel actively distressed if that makes sense. Raising it with mum would upset her to the point of making her ill (or at least it might). If she were 20 years younger and in better shape that would be a risk I'd take, but not now, especially when there is so much doubt in my mind about what was going on. But I will follow up the therapy idea albeit not through my GP: I've had a couple of health issues recently and don't want to muddy the water with this. Thank you all again.
I have no specific thought about the pictures, but please - please - do whatever you can to not let the secrets die with your mother.
I'm with previous posters on your mum. It might not be actively distressing now but it can, and most likely will, hit hard at some point. Take it from someone who wasn't actively distressed for 15 years. It is not nice and it would certainly be easier if I had someone to ask! Personally I don't think she deserves your kindness but obviously that choice is yours. Just do whatever you need to look after you!
Dear OP, I'm so sorry, this must have you racking your brain constantly. I agree with the others in as much as I think you should seek therapy, someone to talk this over with who may have methods of sifting memories and how to interperate them.
Personally I would do this first before considering discussing it openly with your mother, it seems like she had a very unhealthy relationship with your father and is probably conditioned and is possibly in deep denial, which could be intentional or not.
Don't be afraid if you don't gel with a therapist, move on and find another.
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