In toxic families narcissism can run deep and far reaching. I heard a preacher once say that all sin stems from selfishness and that statement is so true.
It equals selfishness and it negatively affects every single family member. Selfishness can take many forms but one form that isn't always talked about is financial.
Growing up my family moved in the middle of my fourth grade school year. It was not a move for the better and it's affects on our family would be long-lasting. My father promised my mother that the home they bought that had belonged to his grandfather, my great grandfather would be remodeled. Up and down he swore to my mother he would deliver on that promise. But again… like so many times his lies prevailed and nothing came of the promises he'd made.
The home merely continued to decline… a lack of care, motivation and priorities on his part led to a continual decline over the course of decades… wood rotting, paint chipping, leaky drafty windows that left us freezing in the winter, a garage that was barely standing and not useable, a kitchen with a broken tile floor, a kitchen so outdated it had no dishwasher and essentially no countertop space because the microwave took up all that existed… alongside the washer and dryer. He would fill up five dollars of gas at a time for my mother to use the car to go to the grocery store. He expected a family of five to survive on seventy five dollars or less a week for food while he treated himself to bear claws for breakfast and lunch out while at work. The only two restaurants we frequented during our childhood ran specials for enchiladas on Wednesday nights. He'd order endless glasses of iced tea and then leave a measly tip; especially if it was a waitress versus a waiter. His parents, my grandparents weren't much better. They paid him two hundred dollars a week; the paltry pay a teenager makes doing retail. When my mother voiced her outrage and exasperation over his low pay and how he needed to get more, he ignored. Instead he figured out how to screw us more and the system itself. He figured out how to make money under the table and squirreled it away for himself in drawers, bank lock boxes, where he could hide cash that didn't have a paper trail; if anyone ever needed an audit or eagle eye from the IRS it was them. The irony of the situation is that his behavior wasn't due to a lack of funds… as there was plenty of money readily available for antique art, frames, statues, fine pottery, antique furniture, war memorabilia, etc. Whatever he wanted he bought. Whatever he coveted he purchased. Whatever he desired he got. It was a fierce sickness that stemmed from his parents and before that. It was a deep need to feed the high that only lasted fleetingly. And then it had to be fed again. And yet again.
But it had consequences. It left us with little to no money for food, for clothes, for shoes, haircuts, the very basics. It left us with zero money for braces, for swim lessons, tutoring, dance lessons, soccer, etc. It left us with being home much of the time left to find something to do while he worked. It left us without friends because even if he'd allowed us to have them there wouldn't have been any money given for social activities. It was a bizarre world we lived in. The things my mother did for us like new sheets for our bedrooms, cute accessories and surprises at Valentine's came from scrimping on groceries where she could. We lived in a coveted high end neighborhood but while every home around us shined from the outward, gleaming and happy ours reflected the dismal and dark life we lived behind it's crumbling exterior. The consequences were neighbors shied away from us, didn't speak and my mother wanting to shrink from sheer and utter embarrassment… because bless her heart she tried. Mama tried. She clipped coupons to save money. She took us to museums on "free day" so we'd have outings out. She planted seeds to grow perennials in the flower beds to beautify the exterior. Her flower beds were magazine worthy, a brilliant carpet of color that drew the eye in. The flowers didn't hide the fact the house was dying a little each day yet showed someone still had a little light left in them behind it's walls. There was still a glimmer of hope for change or escape. And she tried. She tried to escape many times. But the threats always came that it would be bad for her if she did.
It's such a painful example of how a narcissist's selfishness takes over and makes their family suffer… such an example of how each affected family members world becomes ugly instead of beautiful. It's one thing if you truly can't afford the basics or luxuries despite working your hardest… but what about those who can but abuse their families financially? It happens. Unfortunately. There is money. It's just that it only benefits certain people.
names have been omitted in this post
Since my divorce had been finalized I had lived in my grandparents home. The home I'd purchased because I'd had no where else to go on such short notice. My father had offered to sell it to me. But it became very clear very quickly that I was making a deal with the devil. The night before I was to sign the papers at the title company he called me. The price suddenly rising ten grand… because he claimed he could get more from an acquaintance who wanted to purchase it. So there I stood the night before I had to vacate the home I'd shared with my husband and children (because he'd decided to keep our home)… there I stood in a sea of boxes and seeing red. I had to agree with paying my father ten more grand. I had no other choice. It was that or the street. Later when I would call him out on his behavior he would shrug and reply: "Don't do business with relatives."
So I bought my grandparents home… the home I had baked pies in as a child with my grandmother and little sisters. The house where I had played dominoes with my grandmother. The house where my sisters and I had scampered in dresses at Easter hunting for eggs out back. The house where my grandfather rustled his newspaper and grunted he needed more iced tea to my grandmother. The house where he had yelled I was a whore after returning home at seventeen from living with gangsters. In the two years I lived in my grandparents home post my divorce being final I realized I was coming full circle. I wrestled with emotions both good and bad daily. I slept in the room my grandfather's historically significant collection was once squirreled away from view. As children we weren't allowed to go in there but occasionally he'd catch us taking a peek inside the door. I cussed and cleaned the bathroom he had left in shambles before passing years ago… that my father had left for me to clean up. I wore a bandanna over my face as I tried to avoid fumes of who knew what human grossness was spattered on the floors and walls trying to eradicate it with bleach. It was like an animal had lived there based on the conditions. Basic cleanliness had been absent for years. Upkeep had been neglected since they had purchased it in the fifties and never been a priority. Several feet of leaves surrounded the property, another sign of no upkeep. I noticed the missing light fixture in the living room my father had swiped, leaving me in the dark. I ripped carpet way past it's prime out due to the cats they'd had, I painted walls and trim into the wee hours of morning after morning and hired a contractor to do what I couldn't. It was yet another example of how selfishness… collecting, the "me" mentality overshadows doing what is best for your family.
This was the home where my father had grown up… where the spoon had fed him selfish bite after selfish bite. It was sick and I was so happy to finally be saying goodbye not just to that house but everything it represented. I had done what I could while living there and yet reality was no matter how many changes I'd made or hypothetically could, nothing changed it's history. That last chilly thirty degree night as I stood in the empty house wearing my coat and scarf I slowly took my time walking from room to room… recalling memories that spanned decades… thinking of my two sisters, the loss of my youngest one. The consequences are so great in a narcissistic family… the consequences are grief and devastation. The consequences are the loss of which money can't buy but yet was not shared either. With the moon shining in through the still drafty windows and leaving shadows along the gray painted walls and floors from the trees blowing in the wind outside… I took one last glance before I walked out the heavy steel door for the last time… that steel door with the glaringly giant slide lock that they always said "protected all their stuff"… all that stuff they valued so darn much.
With one last look I uttered:
"Good riddance. Peace out."
I shut the door behind me.
A flipper had it now.
The irony wasn't lost on me.
It was for the best. I was happy. If I hadn't needed the money I would have gladly paid to have it torn down. But the second best choice was having it flipped, having the walls opened up and a new floor plan created. It would be someone else's now. Someone who didn't know it's history. Someone who didn't know the selfishness that had lived there. Bred there. Maybe now it could have a new story. A happier story.
And I'm writing to tell you that you can too.
But don't ever forget what's happened.
Because your story matters.
Because despite the ugly, the selfish, the darkness, light can shine.
A whole new life.
It's your story.
You have the pen.
What will you write?
What will you share?
What will you tell?
Thrive on, strong one… thrive on.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2016