Here’s a story I didn’t share in therapy yesterday, but it has been on my mind. We discussed how I was criticized a lot as a child.
My father is a very enthusiastic cross-country skier, and so as children, we spent many weekends off at various trails. One particularly cold Sunday, we had driven to a favorite resort and skied the trails all day, stopping only for lunch at the heated chalet. The chalet closed up around 4 pm, and we continued skiing until maybe five. When we got back to the parking lot and our car, most people had already left. We undid our skis, got into the car…my father turned the ignition, and nothing. The car battery was completely dead.
Somehow we must have phoned for help – this was before cell phones of course. Then we sat and sat in that freezing car, waiting for whoever it was to come. Cars all around left, we were the only car there, and dark was falling. It was a cold and kind of scary experience.
OK. Shit happens. Here’s what didn’t happen. There was absolutely no discussion about what had happened, that this was a crappy situation, or that help would come soon. The fact was, my father must have left the lights of the car on in the morning (cars didn’t used to beep helpfully when that happened, as they do now). That never really occurred to me. To me, this was a mysterious occurrence with no cause.
I just think in a normal family, the father might have said something like ‘I did this, how could I have been so stupid…’, or the wife would make some protest, like ‘you did this, this is really a pain in the butt now’. No. My father never did anything wrong, ever, that was acknowledged by him or by my mother or by anyone else. It was not OK to make mistakes, and so he officially never made any. Only other people made those.
Now this is not a huge deal. Shit happens. People forget things. Just – it’s an example that I can actually remember, of how things were covered up, even quite innocuous things, to the extent that at the time, I didn’t even have the thought that oh, my father made some kind of mistake.
We were sitting freezing our butts off through mysterious circumstances that had nothing to do with him, according to family wisdom.
It just strikes me that I didn’t draw the obvious conclusion at the time – it was like I couldn’t think bad things about him. Not even think and suppress. Just not see.