If you have a narcissistic parent, there will come a moment when you realize just how WEIRD he or she is and wonder....how the hell did you survive childhood?
So last night I was talking to my 81-year old father (okay, I didn't talk, I was listening), and he was telling me how the director of health services at the assisted living facility has it out for him.
This is not surprising because he tells her she has a fat ass and is getting as a big as a door. Just to be clear, this isn't dementia. He's always been like that. The man has no filters. He pretty much says whatever he's thinking - no matter how rude or crude - and says it's not his fault. He's just pointing out the truth and if people are offended, that's not his problem. I clearly remember my horror at a wedding when I was ten and my father, 45, told proud parents of a bald, chubby baby boy that their kid looked like Kruschev. No kidding. The parents were crushed. I spent the rest of the wedding carting around that giant baby, making a fuss over him, to make up for my dad's blunder.
Anyway...my dad has a long history of thinking people have it out for him. They do. They don't like him because he's rude, interrupts and can only talk about himself. But I couldn't resist.
"Why doesn't the nurse like you?" I asked.
"Because she doesn't like to hear nice things about me," he explained peevishly. "She ignores me when the other nurses give me compliments. She only pays attention to me when she's mad at me."
This isn't dementia. I wish it were. Sadly, this is an example my father's childlike behavior and view of the world. I can remember, with crystal clarity, wishing that I had a real man for a father and not someone so hopelessly juvenile. He'd go on tirades about the guys at work who had it in for him, who didn't like him...all said in the manner of a little boy excluded on the playground.
And it struck me...how did this pathetic, needy half-man ever take care of me?
I remember him complaining that when I was around a year old, I kept climbing out of my crib and how it drove him crazy. Then he'd explain how he'd have to stop whatever he was doing and stick me back in. Or how I drove him nuts because I kept asking to go to Disneyland and he finally took me, but got sick on a ride in the first hour. So for years I got to hear how my selfishness had cost him. Rides home from dances, the occasional trip to the mall, even back-to-school nights were all evidence of his selflessness.
I used to wonder if my dad wasn't sort of retarded. I even asked one of his doctors if they thought he had a super low IQ or had some sort of mental deficiency that would help explain why my daughter, then 13, seemed more mature than her grandfather had ever been. Nope. But one psychologist finally figured out that he had narcissistic personality disorder, probably because he'd been badly abused as a kid.
I spent a lot of my adult years feeling sorry for him. For making excuses that benefited my father, while dismissing the way I was neglected and treated.
When I imagine myself alone with him as a vulnerable child, I'm horrified.
How did I survive him?
How did we survive parents so incapable?