Saturday, April 28, 2007


A new adoptee-centered support forum is up and running and if you're not already a registered member, please link over to Advocating for Change

Of course, some cool a-parents have joined as well as other members of the Adoption Triad which, I learned from some posters who argued (in summary) it's actually more like a beast with four legs...the fourth leg being the INDUSTRY. Which is soooo right because, somehow, adoption has evolved in concept as an institution devoted to finding good homes for children who need them to finding (and creating supply) babies for people who want them.

The well designed forum captures the complexity and range of adoptee experiences. Transracial? Gotcha (okay, carried away). Transcultural? Got that covered, too. There's also a place for Late Discovery Adoptees (and for those who survived THAT shock, I SALUTE you and am in awe of your resilience). Was finally able to ask the question: Are there any other Beaners Out There? and got some great answers. (No. It appears I am a lone Bean).

And, of course, since Joy and Addie are involved in creating the forum and those two being (spank!) refreshingly naughty adoptees...for our LINKING PLEASURE...."As If Being Adopted Wasn't Bad Enough: Crazy A-Parents!" Yes! Yes! I'm not alone! I never was! Thank you, thank you, Joy and Addie!

Hope to read you there. Especially if you're a Beaner.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Matching Game

"During much of the twentieth century, matching was the philosophy that governed non-relative adoption. It's goal was to make families socially that would "match" families made naturally.... What this meant in practice was that physical resemblance, intellectual similarity, and racial and religious continuity between parents and children were preferred goals in adoptive families. Matching was the technique that could inject naturalness and realness into a family form stigmatized as artificial and less real than the "real thing." Matching stood for safety and security. Difference spelled trouble." (source: The Adoption History Project:

The irony? Measured by the standards of matching, called "optimistic, arrogant and historically novel" by the Adoption History Project, the social worker who matched me to my adoptive parents did a damn good job.

Amazing, really.

Not that matching is a good thing from the adoptee's perspective.

It all depends.

There's often this notion that adoptive couples have more education, more money, better parenting skills and, because they're usually older, will have more time and attention to give the child.

Not always. At least, not back in the heydey of Closed Adoption when there were as many or slightly more babies than couples wanting to adopt.

Also, if you were born to an undereducated, slightly troubled, low income Mexican-American woman, your chances of trading up to a better life was nixed from the beginning. You got as good as you were destined to get.

In other words, the social worker employed by the L.A. County Bureau of Adoptions who had my entire future in her hands picked at least one adoptive parent almost exactly like my first mother. Really, the similarities are shocking.

The more I learn about my still poor mother, the more I realize that in many ways, she's just a female version of my self-absorbed adoptive father, just not as bad. Both were abused and neglected as children. Both have narcissistic wounds big enough to swallow their children whole. Both have exactly the same level of education: half of tenth grade, and that's stretching it. Both like to talk. Nonstop. Indiscriminately. "Loquacious," is the term the social worker used to describe my mother in my non-identifying packet. Both a-father and mother have entered old age not much wiser than they were at thirty seven...the age of both at the time of my birth.

Well, there's nothing I can do about THAT.

But are there lessons to be learned from that nasty little experiment called Matching that we can apply to today's adoptions?

Money - and lots of it - seems to play such a big part of current practices, especially as it requires trips around the world looking for babies, that the concern of a highly desirable commodity such as a healthy infant being placed in a low income home with limited opportunities is pretty much eliminated. Hopefully.

With today's low supply and high demand, we can hope that any baby available for parental substitution can expect far, far better adoptive parent material. God, I hope so. I mean, the kind of parents you get is a really big deal. (Recently, I read about a Japanese-American adoptee from my old neighborhood and she adored her a-parents, still does, and still enjoys a loving relationship with them. Her questions about her background were always treated openly and with respect.)

But with so much money and, presumably, the education to go along with it, does it mean that these more highly qualified adoptive parent candidates are adequately screened? Will money and education mean they will be more empathetic, more psychologically healthy? Are they better able to understand the loss and issues the baby-child-teenager-young adult-adult will face over time? It seems that the information they want and receive is limited to the "positive" stories of happy adoptees who express their gratitude, not their ambivalence or misgivings.

Without little regulation, without controls, who's watching out for the best interests of today's adopted child, mostly likely flown in from another country?

What's changed - it strikes me - is that many adopted babies are no longer "placed," they are "got" and the babies being obtained are just as subject to the Ultimate Crapshoot except, this time, the all-powerful social worker is played by a lawyer, a "facilitator" and sometimes, those involved with charity/church maternity homes. The adoption "middleman" may be a different sort of beast, but he/she still exists and their power over the lives of the current batch of adoptees is still as huge and powerful as it ever was.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

That Was Then...

....this is now. And what an improvement!

One year ago, experienced a freak-out triggered by an insensitive, clueless relative of the in-law variety.

One year ago, I had no idea I had major abandonment issues.

One year ago, I had no idea Isuffered anxiety, low self-esteem, writer's block due to feelings of unworthiness, identity confusion and repressed grief and rage that my mother had given me away to strangers.

One year ago, I had no idea my adoptive parents weren't so nice. That, in fact, they were ignorant and cruel and needy.

One year ago, I hauled my quivering ass into a therapist's office and began the search for my mother.

Last year, I found blogs written by fellow adoptees Joy and Elizabeth and saw the possibility, that there was a different way to live as an adoptee: conscious and mindful. Elizabeth, at first, seemed so SCANDALOUS. She actually wrote, "I hate adoption." This simple declaration made me shiver and laugh. It got me thinking, Well, what do I feel about it?

One year ago, I took control of my life.

For the last month, I've worked on character analysis and plot outline in preparation for what I hope will one day be a published novel. This time, I'm allowing myself to enjoy the process. I am taking myself seriously. I have something to say. It's about, of course, adoption. It begins during the last gasp of the Closed Era. It's about loss and Latino culture and narcissism and the myth of matriarchy. Yesterday, I wrote 1000 words. I think I found my voice.

Last year's crisis was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

Was rearranging all my adoption books and noticed something. The covers are ripped off or the faded titles are obscured with marker. Then I remembered. Whenever I bought one, I'd try to hide what it was just in case an adoptive family member saw it lying around. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. Or, more likely, I was afraid that they would be angry. A grown woman. Ripping the covers off her books. HOW PATHETIC! WHAT A SCARED LITTLE TOAD!

Bijou posted about finding her adoption story books that were read to her as a child and when I looked at the picture, I flipped out. They were mine, too. So now I'm anxiously awaiting them and when I get them, hopefully today, I'm not gonna rip off the cover because......everything is so wonderfully different and better and positive in more ways than I can even begin to list!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The False Self Challenge

[[BB Church offered an excellent analysis of , "the unethical (and quite possibly criminal) conspiracy of the "A Child is Waiting Adoption Agency" to deprive Stephanie Bennett of her daughter Evelyn. You can find it at ]]

What, exactly, is the False Self?

Sure, I understood it in a theorectical way, but I couldn't quite figure out what kind of False Self I'd created in response to being adopted and raised by a controlling adoptive mother and a narcissistic a-father. This bothered me. Until I could identify the contours of my False Self, I couldn't discover the Real Me trapped inside.

Until last night. I was rereading Alice Miller's, "The Drama of the Gifted Child."

This is the quote:

"With two exceptions, the mothers of all my patients had a narcissistic disturbance, were extremely insecure, and often suffered from depression. The child, an only one or often the first-born, was the narcissistically cathected object. What these mothers had once failed to find in their own mothers they were able to find in their children: someone at their disposal who can be used as an echo, who can be controlled, is completely centered on them, will never desert them, and offers full attention and admiration."


In that one neat paragraph, Alice Miller summed up my adoptive mother. When I was a young child, she was happy. I was compliant and cuddly. At the advanced age of 13, no doubt terrified at the looming prospect of my independence, she bought us matching outfits. Later, when I expressed more of a preference for hanging out with friends and boyfriend, she reacted with fury. This became a period of bitter recrimination: "After all I've done for you," and "You are so ungrateful," and finally, when I announced I was leaving for college, "Good luck. Don't bother asking for a single dime because you're not going to get it."

But what of The False Self?

It isn't exactly what I imagined. It's more of what I hold back. What I couldn't or dared not express to my adoptive parents. So much was taboo. Opinions. Feelings. Expression was extremely limited. So much was threatening. Strange things. Even my preference in cars.

I never realized, until the other day, the stilted pattern of conversation that took place between us. If I said anything they didn't like, they resorted to either ignoring me or, worst, mocking.

For example, I had a chat recently with my a-Dad, which is a repeat of of talks we've had over the years, just swap out the car models. It goes like this:

Dad: "Did you know your big car (Ford Explorer) is a gas guzzler?"

Me: "Oh yeah. It's a guzzler all right. But I don't drive it much. We just use it for camping and hauling stuff to the dump."

Dad: "You should sell it."

Me: "No. We still need it."

Dad: "You should trade it in for a Focus."

Me: "No, I don't think so."

Dad: (Bristling w/indignation). Hey. I had a Focus and it was a great little car. (Mocking tone now). Oh, that's not good enough for me. I'm so special."

Me: "I didn't say that. We just don't need a new car. That's all."

Dad: "How about a Suburu?"

Me: "No. I don't want one of those either."

Dad: "Then what the hell do you want? Oh, I know. A Mersaydeeeze. --mocking in girly voice--Oh, look everybody, I'm driving a Mercedes. Oh brother, you women are all alike."

That pretty much sums up every conversation I've ever had with my parents, whether it be cars, politics or my feelings. Say something they don't like or are uncomfortable with and one is likely to get the roll of the eyes, the mocking tone, the long, cold silences and, in the case of my mother, refusal to talk to me for weeks and once, several years.

So this False Self? It's not what I thought. I became a Yes Girl. Sometime long ago, I learned that all I could do was to be there, smile, listen, nod and ocassionally say, "Huh Huh." I basically stopped talking. Oddly, they didn't seem to notice much. I became a Living Ghost of Myself. Luckily, I was free to talk at the law firm where I found my first job out of high school and later, at college. But this Not Talking set me back. It takes much, much longer to find your True Voice/Self and when you finally do, you feel Guilty. Major delayed development.

So that's my False Self, a sort of negation. Would love to hear what yours is like.

And to those of you who've been so supportive in what seems my never-ending struggle w/my narcissistic a-father, your advice has finally given me the courage to take a break from him. I didn't talk to him all of Monday and I feel calmer and much more myself today. The experts are right. The only way to survive such a self-absorbed parent is with distance.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Churning

Once again, the topic is my narcissistic adoptive father.

(One of these days, I'm going to get back to the subject of my first mother, post reunion. By the way, I'm liking the term "first mom" more and more because I ended up with a second mother picked out by a social worker who spent all of twenty minutes with my a-parents, more concerned about proper ventilation of the house rather than the psychological health of its occupants.)

Specifically, my reaction to my a-father.

Try as I might to set boundaries, they are hard to enforce. Mostly because I feel GUILTY. Then I seethe with resentment. Finally recognizing the pattern, I set out to change it. A simple phone call with him makes me feel invisible and bad in ways too numerous to list. I decide I can't talk to him every day, even if we do keep our chats short. All day I dread the phone call, then afterward feel upset and churned up despite my best efforts to emotionally detach.

My husband and therapist (two separate people) strongly suggested to talk to my a-father every other day or several times a week to give myself time to recharge. (He's 80, has frontal lobe dementia which doesn't really impact his memory and my husband says he not much stranger or self-centered than before he became demented).

So I try it. I manage a (wonderful!) one day break and then, sure enough, he thinks he's having a heart attack and the phone starts ringing. I let the assisted living facility handle it, as the head nurse suggested. He's had these anxiety/fake medical emergencies for as long as I remember...mostly for attention or because things haven't gone his way. The next day, he catches me offguard by calling in the morning. He says, "I just wanted to hear your voice. I'm so lonely. I miss you soooo much. I love you soooo much."

"I just talked to you last night," I say lightly.

"But I love you and I just wanted to hear your voice."

My stomach turns. I feel nauseauted. Claustrophobic. The whole thing smacks of manipulation, mostly because he's never been expressive in that way. There's also something wrong about it. He's using a lover's voice. Or something. I can't get off the phone fast enough. And then the GUILT sets in. He's all alone in the world. I'm his only child. He doesn't know a single other person. Then I think, wait. I didn't ask to be an only child. He's alienated every person he's ever met, including family members. He refuses to take part in any of the assisted living facility (which is very nice; private room w/a garden view) activities because he can't be the center of attention, which makes him furious.

See? Off to the races. The debate plays in my head, an endless loop.

I don't want to deal with him, but it's my (legal) duty and responsibility to do so.

The question? Is that reaction within the realm of dealing w/a narcissistic parent? My therapist has suggested it may indicate something more...that the body sometimes remembers when the mind can't. Or won't. Of course, she's talking about sexual abuse. I can't remember any such thing. But I'm wondering about that nauseated, claustrophic feeling I get when he becomes clingy. Have I mentioned that I hate him to kiss my cheek or hold my hand? I've attributed this to the fact that I don't like him or feel comfortable around him.

Open to any ideas.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Unintentionally Cruel

For this adoptee with the bad luck of being placed in an extremely dysfunctional family during the evil closed Era, the writings of psychoanalyst Alice Miller are a revelation.

My adoptive parents were unintentionally cruel and abusive.

I spent most of a year blogging, getting it all down, writing about my a-parents behaviors before recently discovering Alice Miller, thanks to an adoptee on the Chosen Baby forum. It has been an enormous relief to chronicle the bits and pieces of my childhood and adolscence that I can remember. There it is, in black and white, for me to reread and for others to comment on, providing the witnesses or neutral third parties that failed to step forward when I was a child. Not one blogger who has so kindly taken the time to comment has ever said, "Oh, but they loved you." Thank God. It is this response that makes me crazy with frustration. "Weren't you listening?" I want to cry. But I don't. It's better not to talk about the past with certain people because of the unquestioned belief that parents always act in the best interests of their children, even when they do not.

So brainwashed was I that I never thought of my adoptive parents as cruel, unintentionally or not. But according to Miller, they were. But what's even more important, my body and all my behaviors and reactions tell me that they were.

My a-mom was only capable of conditional love, as that is the only kind she received by her cold and domineering and deeply unhappy mother. When I did something to make my a-mom unhappy, she would refuse to look at or speak to me for days on end, pretending I wasn't there. Any expressions besides happy and grateful seemed to threaten her very existence. I was once slapped and sent to my room for "scaring" my mother because I cried when my boyfriend broke-up with me. I was not allowed to ask questions about my adoption or my first mother because my a-mom liked to pretend I was biologically hers. I was forced to play this pretend game, too.

My adoptive father is also incapable of empathy. He is a narcissist. I am in my mid-forties and he's never allowed me to talk or express my opinion without mocking me. He is not capable of anything else because he was horribly abused by an alcoholic father and is still tortured by the knowledge that his beloved mother did nothing to prevent the beatings. My a-father could not parent because he was still a child in desperate need of attention. He is still that child. He is 80-years old.

Of course, they were not all bad. They did not beat me or starve me. They laughed, took me to Disneyland, drove me to high school functions, let me choose my favorite take-out. And then reminded me of it all later, as if I owed them for parental duties performed. As if to say, we didn't enjoy any of these things, we just did them because we had to.

I am no longer confused by all this. It's all out in the open now. My adoptive parents were unintentionally cruel. They were ignorant. I no longer wonder why I'm not a better daughter, why I didn't love them more. There is nothing wrong with me. I did the best I could. Under the circumstances. I don't have to feel guilt or shame. I forgive myself. I am working my way toward figuring out to do with all the anger and resentment that has built up over the years. But it is beginning to seep out, to be released. I am not in any rush to do this. It is, I believe, important to experience all those feelings that had to be bottled up.

Alice Miller, your work is a gift.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Official Confirmation: I'm Not Crazy

For those in the Adoption Triad who read my blog, apologies. This IS off topic, but I feel I need to get this down in order to understand my relationship with my a-father and, more importantly, help me figure out what to DO to deal with him a way that's healthier for ME.

Here's the thing about having a narcissistic parent: You're never quite sure because at the end of a chat you're so twisted around it seems YOU might be the one who's crazy.

A psychologist confirmed that my father is narcissistic, incapable of anything more than shallow feelings. Yet, he really, honestly and truly? If a scale for narcissism existed, would he be a five? A ten? Just how bad is he? Could there be something else wrong with him that could account for his strange behavior? After four decades of confusion, frustration and denial, these questions are suddenly important.

Thanks to Elizabeth, fellow adoptee and daughter of a narcissist, I FINALLY have the confirmation I've been looking for. And not only that, I now have insight into some of his perplexing behaviors...and what role I've played...and how I've managed to survive his wrath.

Elizabeth ( suggested the following website: from which I linked to "How to Recognize a Narcissist" written by Joanna Ashmun who says she writes from personal experience. Her observations were astounding and shockingly familiar. I hope she doesn't mind being quoted:

It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of narcissists' lack of empathy. It colors everything about them. I have observed very closely some narcissists I've loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning

EXACTLY! BINGO! This describes my father PERFECTLY. In fact, over the years, when medical professionals have met my father for the first time they later asked, when we were alone, if he always behaved that way, disturbed but unsure what to make of it. It's like he talking AT someone but not connecting .

From my personal experience, and from what I've seen in the clinical literature, narcissists don't talk about their inner life -- memories, dreams, reflections -- much at all. They rarely recount dreams. They seem not to make typical memory associations -- i.e., in the way one thing leads to another, "That reminds me of something that happened when I was...of something I read...of something somebody said...." They don't tell how they learned something about themselves or the world. They don't share their thoughts or feelings or dreams. They don't say, "I have an idea and need some help," or "There's something I've always wanted to do...did you ever want to do that?" They do not discuss how they've overcome difficulties they've encountered or continuing problems that they're trying to solve (beyond trying to get someone else to do what they want).

Several times, in an attempt to understand what bothered me about my a-dad's communication style, I transcribed our phone conversations. I showed it to my therapist. She said it was very strange, that he seemed to lack to the ability to think abstractly. These chats took place before he had dementia. When I read the above quote, the lights went off. My father has never made typical memory associations. Every bit of what he says begins with the word "I...." and it is all very concrete and limited to a one yard radius with him as Ground Zero. I like this. I don't like that. I have a doctor's appointment. That woman drives me crazy. I don't like this TV show because there's too much blah, blah, blah and no action...a sort of unfiltered, stream of consciousness that is hard to follow.

A striking thing about narcissists that you'll notice if you know them for a long time is that their ideas of themselves and the world don't change with experience; the ones I've known have been stalled at a vision that came to them by the age of sixteen.

Yep. My a-father is the same man he was when I was a child. It's as if he's frozen in time. He did not have a mid-life crisis, never suffered from existential angst. Saddest of all, he failed to gain any new insights or wisdom that comes with age. My sixteen year old daughter is wiser and much more reflective than her grandfather. It is like she is a different species. Or HE is.

It is also essential that you keep emotional distance from narcissists. They're pretty good at maintaining a conventional persona in superficial associations with people who mean absolutely nothing to them, and they'll flatter the hell out of you if you have something they can use or if, for some reason, they perceive you as an authority figure. That is, as long as they think you don't count or they're afraid of you, they'll treat you well enough that you may mistake it for love.

This is the quote that blew me away. I'd always wondered how my father, who alienated everybody he ever met, managed to have a 36-year marriage and never reject me. I think I finally get it. My a-mother was cold and domineering and no doubt an authority figure. Even my a-mom's friends have said he was afraid of her. He was an only child and his mother probably gave him the kind of attention he needed. That is, until I was old enough to become his narcissistic supply. My a-mother would quickly tire of him and order him to talk to me instead. And while all these years I've listened to him and have been compliant and complicit, I've always kept my emotional distance. I suspect he's never rejected me because he knows I'm all he's got and I'm a damn good problem solver and financial planner. He's manipulative. VERY manipulative.

But, as soon as you try to get close to them, they'll say that you are too demanding -- and, if you ever say "I love you," they'll presume that you belong to them as a possession or an appendage, and treat you very very badly right away.

After my mother died, my Dad dated like crazy. He got Viagra and tried to tell me about his sexual exploits and conquests, which I refused to hear. I had to forcefully remind him that I was his daughter and that his behavior was unfatherlike and inappropriate. He'd date intensely, for a bit, then he'd turn against the woman de'jour. One day lovey dovey, the next he loathed and despised her and had to "get rid of her."

If you should be so uppity as to express a mind and heart of your own, then they will cut you off -- just like that, sometimes trashing you and all your friends on the way out the door

I'd seen him turn against his only counsin, someone he'd grown up with, then a succession of "friends." Something always happened, relatively quickly, that ended with my father saying, "He thought he was hot shit," or "She's always talking about how sick she is, blah, blah, blah. What the hell do I care?" I suspect what happened is that the accused tried to talk about themselves for a change and my father could simply not tolerate this.

Which leads me to....whenever I've tried to test the waters and talk a little about one of my experiences say, like the time I was nervous about going in for a scary medical test, he got hostile and aggressive and demanded to know what would happen to him if I died. I asked wouldn't he be worried about his poor granddaughters and he got angry and said, "Forget them. They've got their father. I've only got you."

After a lifetime of neglect, my a-father has become even more emotionally needy and clingy as he ages with dementia. For the first time, he ends every phone conversation with, "I love you so much," (in the way lovers talk-gross) when he's never said it before. It nauseates me. It really does. It's pathetic and transparent, this final attempt at manipulation. Maybe there is a part of him that finally appreciates me - he says he does (also for the first time), but I suspect it's because he knows I'm the one in charge of his care. Just the other day, I once again tested the waters and tried to talk a bit about myself and he immediately got hostile. No wonder I never dared.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Social worker Leroy Dissing (and unofficial-therapist&supporter-to-the-Triad) left this comment yesterday that couldn't be more timely or more accurate:

"One thing I have noticed with children of narcissistic parents is that their children, even into adulthood, stay attached to their parents (albeit unhealthfully) as part of a gigantic, impossible effort to please them. I think it is part of a child abuse syndrome because in reality the parents have emotionally neglected/damaged the child into thinking their entire self-worth exists soley on meeting the needs of the parents. This makes creating their own individual identity extremely difficult because they very themselves as so enmeshed with their parents that normal, healthy separation rarely, if ever, occurs. A very sad legacy to leave your children but one they are totally oblivious to and thus, never feel accountable for."

Vowing to emotionally detach from a self-absorbed, using "charent" (child/parent) is easier than actually achieving emotional detachment.

My adoptive father takes up such a big place in my head that I'm sure if an autopsy is ever done the doctor will find that my brain has a special lobe bearing my father's name.

It doesn't matter that I can't STAND the man and have done my best to put as much distance as possible between us. It doesn't matter that I've read piles of self-help books on the subject. It doesn't matter that I've talked to my therapist ad nauseum about the subject. It doesn't matter that I see my a-father with open eyes: an 80-year old man who was physically abused and neglected as a child so that he grew up with an insatiable need for attention that drives away everyone who meets him. Except me. As the only child and as the ONLY person in his life, I am his caretaker now that he has dementia.

Knowing all his faults and how he's negatively impacted my life, every day I call him. If I'm running five minutes late, I begin to fret. He's going to be upset. If I don't call he's going to have one of his retaliatory hypochondrical attacks and the assisted living facility is going to call me every ten minutes until I pick up.

Today, I'm feeling defensive that I haven't rushed out and bought him a razor and chocolate covered raisins that he asked for Sunday night and it's Tuesday morning. The fact that I didn't rush out first thing Monday is a big improvement. Since his request is not an emergency, I'm forcing myself to wait until Wednesday to go the special store some distance away when it's more convenient. The delay makes me nervous. Guilty.

Such is the brainwashing at the hands of narcissistic parents. Them first. Them, them, them. Resisting takes an emormous effort, even when you know you need to do this for yourself. They are always present in your mind, looming. What will it be like when he's dead? Will I feel relieved? My fear is that he's commandeered such a big chunk of ME that I may feel like an amputee. A horrible thought.

Leroy brought up an interesting point.

Separating - individuating - from a narcissistic parent is impossible in the way that healthy young adults separate from healthy parents.

So true!

You escape at the first chance, running for the door, amid accusations that you are abandoning them and predictions that you will fail miserably in your selfish quest for independence. There are no tears of farewell at the dorm room and cautions to be careful, instead there is clinging and high drama. Once, in my college years, I landed an internship that brought me back to L.A. where my-parents lived. I didn't tell them. I pretended I was still up North. Living with or near them meant one thing: I would be at their beck and call or there would be hell to pay: refusal to see them on their terms meant the inevitable, "Don't you see what you're putting us through" Big Scene which usually ended with my a-father having some mysterious ailment that required a trip to the emergency room.

Being the child of a narcissist is like living with a chronic illness. You try to live with the problem, on your terms, and not for it, but it's a daily challenge.