Resident guest author, Tim, continues on from his last post This China Doll Failed Quality Control and Must be Smashed. Read, digest and take something away.
I could quite possibly make a series about the collection and care of the China Doll. Some people seek out dolls that they deface, somehow, in order to create rejects out of perfection. Or, rather, they create their debased perfection out of true perfection.
If you’ve read This China Doll Failed Quality Control and Must be Smashed, which will open in a new tab for you, and, while not required reading, is a piece I suggest to you, you’ll learn more about me, and you’ll learn more about China Dolls; how parents can be terrifying, how some children (well, me) were afraid of their parents. Since I wasn’t smashed because I refused to show imperfection until I escaped you may have worked out that I am not writing about me this time.
Unlike China Dolls, which are created as ROK (something you now will have to read the previous piece to learn about) all children, whether born with disabilities or born without, are perfect. It is as they grow up that things start to change. That is caused, certainly at first, by the creatures referred to in ‘This Be The Verse‘ by Philip Larkin, which we could embed here, but we embedded in my last piece, so you need to look there for it.
I have three friends, one of whom has died. If you make clever remarks along the lines of “Only three, friends, eh?!” I may have to make very rude faces at you! I actually have four friends who are still alive, and I’m working on befriending a fifth, so there!
My Friend, Ron
I want to start by telling you about my friend Ron.
Ron died a couple of years ago, and I miss him. I met Ron online in around 1999, and met him in person a couple of years later, in the USA where I was travelling on business. I feel blessed to have shared part of Ron’s life. He would do anything he could for a friend. He was also a local radio DJ.
I often teased Ron:
He had a late, in the wee small hours show, and an amazing encyclopaedic knowledge of classical music, and yet that song, that story, that sad feeling, that is Radio Ron for me. He was 56 (or so) when he died. I think the root cause of his death was being a wholly unassuming man.
As a baby he was adopted by loving parents and raised well. He and his parents’ wider family lived in the same street in the same industrial US town all their, and all his, life. Ron was so grateful for being adopted that he turned himself into his parents’ servant; he did everything he could for them. When they died he became his aunt down the street’s servant instead.
Or, he did, but he had never been strong enough in character to approach his beloved, whom he admired from afar. He knew, you see, that he would have to leave his self imposed servitude, and risk (in his eyes) the disapproval of those to whom he felt he owed everything – the parents he loved who adopted him as a baby.
I suspect, too, that his parents forged him as their servant. What parent, what real parent, would not applaud as their child, raised with love and care, steps out into the world? And it worked, for Ron, didn’t it? “He was the local DJ…” and yet he died alone, in hospital, uninsured in the USA, of complications following a leg amputation created by his diabetes, terrified by an over $80,000 and rising medical debt.
I still weep real tears for my friend Ron, who slipped out of my life as quietly as he entered it.
My Friend, Jane
Jane, is different from Ron. She is still alive, and her name is not Jane. She is from a country family in the north of England. That country family are not from wealth, though they are not poor. They get by. They got by. Jane was a battered wife, and left home – an abusive, violent husband in the north – to live in the south. Jane doesn’t talk about her father, but she does talk about her mother.
Mother is unwell. She has a dicky ticker. Mother is dying.
Mother has been dying for years, and will be until the day she finds herself at death’s door and someone on the other side finally pulls her through. Nothing Jane can do will prevent her mother from dying when the time comes. Mother is a tough old bird (despite being in the process of dying) and will probably outlive us all.
The thing is, Jane rushes up the motorway at the drop of a hint about illness, or at another harsh word from her mother. Jane’s not like Ron. She’s not a servant to her mother. She has a life, a real life, daughters to whom she is a servant despite the fact that each has left home.
But what she does, is rush up the motorway when mother calls. She hopes, you see, for a kind word, a sign of some sort, a sign of love. Jane loves her mother. What she can’t see is that (while mother, presumably, loves her) mother has trained her to come a-running, in hope of that kind word.
Not until mother’s funeral. The kind words will then be Jane’s about the sweet little old bitch, and she will cry real tears of love for a mother she does not love… yet. She will, probably, love her after she has died. Jane does not understand this; that she has been moulded by her mother, a mother who is, well, what? Scared? Lonely? Selfish?
Today, Jane has guilt; huge guilt, for something she doesn’t understand, the something that is missing, that is withheld from her relationship with her mother. It feels, too, as if Jane supplies the reverse to her daughters; she is at her mother’s beck and call, and her daughters’ beck and call.
If Jane’s mother has trained her to be subservient how is Jane training her daughters?
My Friend, Margarethe
Jane knows my third friend, Margarethe. She goes by Greta.
Greta had sisters (older, I think) and lived in Bavaria, a huge state in Germany, with their parents. Her father was a minister of the church. She is married and lives in England with her husband, Jeremy. They have a daughter, Adelina, their only child, and much loved.
I put ‘minister of the church’ in lower case, because I grant capital letters only to those who deserve them. Pretty obviously they were protestant as Catholics tend to be unmarried. There is, therefore, no background of deep dark Catholic dread and sin here – and yet there is some.
Greta’s sisters either were the favourites or were not caught by the evil training of the parents; they do not do as Greta does. Though she will never say so, Greta moved as far away as she could from her parents, and found a sweet man in England (Jeremy) and married him. The parents must have liked him, because he was welcome in their house.
Every summer Jeremy and Greta (and later with baby Adelina) visited them in Bavaria and fetched and carried for them, cleaned the house, decorated the house, did minor building works. In the winter they travelled over to rid the driveway and pavements of snow. It was expected of them.
Tearfully, Greta has told us over the years how her parents, especially her father, treated her. She yearns still for a kind word, though both died without taking the trouble. They knew, as they trained her, that she would do anything for a kind word, a sign of love, and so they withheld it from her.
“My father…” she said (angry about yet again needing, or wanting, to go to Germany) “My father once pointed at me, and spat out ‘One fuck, and out came shit!’”
We could not believe it. Obviously he said it in German. It seemed rude to ask for the translation. And yet it was so awful to hear that my mind wandered to the ‘I wonder how you say that in German?’ thoughts. No kind words there, just baleful hatred, and from a minister of the church to his own beautiful child. And yet in spite of, or perhaps because of this, Greta, their lovely daughter, spent her life striving to do better and better and to become the child that her parents would say was good, had done well, was loved.Greta is lovely. She is also very depressed, and has no idea she is. #CEN #parenting Click To Tweet
Recently she went through a period of being unable to venture out of doors. Don’t say “agoraphobia” in a voice of wisdom and dismiss it. Apart from anything else, the root is a fear of the marketplace, of crowds, though the meaning has been much shifted over time. Instead of being wise, think about Greta, and how her depression was caused, and over how long a period. She is older than I am and she became depressed in teenage years.
Greta was trained to do her parents’ bidding by their being harsh, by her father’s being vile to her. Even when each died in turn – she was (and is) still wanting that kind word; the word that has never, and will never, come.
Adelina (born and raised in England) has gone to live in Germany where she met and married her German husband. In her way, she has escaped her mother’s depression. That depression has trained her, too. There is no malice between them, and she receives kind words a-plenty, but she went as far away as she felt able to go.
A Story to Tell
Each of these three of my friends has a story to tell, except they can’t, and I don’t mean just because Radio Ron has died untimely early. None of them has achieved adulthood in a full way, and only by achieving it can they tell their story properly. I’m not sure I have either, but I know fine well that these three have not, had not grown up properly. Ron now cannot; Jane and Greta, they can, except they do not have the clarity that lets them choose to do so.
Ron never had children, nor would he. His beloved was a man with whom he shared trips to concerts, a man who, probably, loved him too, but each was unable to tell the other, trapped by a shared fear of rejection losing them the little they had. Jane and Greta have children. Each of them is training their children differently from the way they were trained, and yet not entirely wholesomely.
All through writing this, I have been thinking of Oscar Wilde’s line in The Picture of Dorian Grey, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
None of my three friends have even got, had even got, to judging them, let alone walking towards forgiving them. Where does this leave you? I ask:
- Are you a child, trained by parents into ways you would rather not have?
- Are you still waiting, hoping, to hear the kind word, the praise, the recognition you so deserve and that does not come?
- Are you a parent, recognising yourself suddenly, and wondering how to undo the very real harm you are doing to your children?
Do you seriously think I have any answers?
All I hope to achieve, by showing you three very real friends (two with names changed), is to help you to think. There’s a discussion to have with someone else, with a stranger, with a therapist, a counsellor, about this topic. It starts “I read this weird piece about parents and children. A bloke on the internet told me about his friends. I’m interested in some of the things he described. May I talk to you about it, please?”
See where it goes.
The comments, those things below here, they’re good. I have no actual answers, but I will answer anything you write there. That’s my promise to you.
To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying