Boring, boring, boring. That’s what her life had become. Boring.
She tried to invent things for herself to do…she baked bread on Mondays, for example…that took up most of the day. She sewed things…curtains, clothes for Annie, robes and pajamas for the boys… She read books, and the newspaper from beginning to end every day, kept a vegetable garden, sewed and embroidered, and studiously ignored the soaps, for to succumb to them would be the complete and utter end of her sanity.
She was stunningly, mind-numbingly bored. From the time the kids left for school in the morning until they began straggling back in the afternoon, her life was nothing more than a quest to keep her consciousness from going AWOL.
A whuff…whuff noise from the front door announced the delivery of the morning mail…the dog was so used to the postman there was no barking to announce his arrival...that excess of canine energy was reserved for announcing potentially dangerous strangers, like meter readers and neighbours. She dried her hands on her apron, made her way to the mail box on the front porch and fished out the usual assortment of bills, circulars, flyers and junk, discarding most of it in the bin as she passed it en route back to the kitchen sink. She stopped, however, at the magazine-sized booklet from the local junior college…a catalogue of next session’s classes. Maybe this was the answer to the tedium of her daily life?
She finished the morning dishes and prepared the roast for dinner. After piercing the slab of meat all over with a sharp knife, she carefully filled each hole with slivers of freshly cut garlic, put the roast into a deep pan of wine vinegar, sliced lemon, and herbs and placed it in the refrigerator to marinate. The vegetable garden was next, checking to see what was ready for picking for tonight’s supper. The corn, maybe? Certainly some tomatoes, lettuce and a cucumber…were there any radishes ready? She pulled out the hose and laid it at the top of the irrigation ditch system James had worked out for her, turned the water on to a trickle, and walked back into the house.
Inside, she looked at the basket of ironing, then decided against it. Best to wait until the two o’clock movie so her brain could focus on something as her hands mindlessly worked over the clothes. Now she could sit down and review that catalogue…she had some time. She sat down at the dining room table with a slice of fresh bread and butter and a cold soda, and eagerly opened the cover.
Twenty minutes later she was frustrated and confused. Every class she thought looked interesting had a prerequisite, and every prerequisite had a prerequisite as well. She had thought to brush up her French…why should she take first year French…or even second year, for that matter, when she had been the third highest scorer in her state on a nation-wide test of second year students on third year material? She would be bored stupid, not to mention the monumental waste of money she would have to pay in order to “study” material she had already mastered!
She continued to study the catalogue, becoming more confused as each minute passed. There didn’t seem to be any classes that didn’t have, once tracked back, absolutely puerile prerequisites! For crying out loud, why did she even bother to go to high school if she was going to have to repeat her high school classes in college? What was the point of taking college preparatory classes and excelling in them, only to be hurled back to high school material upon entry into college? That made no kind of sense at all…she must be reading this thing wrong.
She circled half a dozen classes that interested her…a creative writing class, a French literature class, some classes in psychology, European history, a beginning Latin class…all things that had not been available to her in high school and which piqued her interest as she discovered them. She was shocked, when she looked up at the clock, to see that nearly two hours had passed and if she didn’t get a move on and start that ironing, she’d be behind schedule with her work.
Creamy homemade mashed potatoes, succulent roast beef and au jus gravy, freshly picked corn and an equally fresh salad graced the dinner table along with slices of home made bread. The house was redolent with the rich scents of the meal, a meal that had taken hours of preparation, and which was placed lovingly on the table for her family’s delight. So why were she sitting there alone, watching the gravy congeal?
James. Annie had come to the conclusion that until James came to the table, she did not need to, her brothers following suit. And James was unlikely to leave his TV until the end of whatever it was he was watching. That’s assuming James was even home at all. How many times had he called her to say “I’m leaving the office now,”…so she could have the food ready shortly after his arrival…only to have it sit on the stove waiting for him? How many nights had she seen the perfect pink slices of veal go gray, the crisp vegetables grow limp, the salad wilt? She sighed, looking at the repast spread before her, growing cold. He was going to yell at her again tonight…if the food was cold, he would yell…if she reheated it, he would yell “I do not eat warmed-up fucking leftovers!” Why couldn’t he just get off his butt and come to the table?
“Why don’t you serve when the program is over?” he would shout at her during their “discussions” on the subject. “Why do you always have to serve in the middle of a show?”
“Because that is when the food is done,” never seemed to make any sense to him. Despite the fact that he could not boil water without burning it, he was convinced that she need only take into account the length of time it took something to cook, put it on the stove at the proper time, and everything would be done and ready during a commercial break. Even showing him recipes that stated “cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until done” did nothing to bring about any kind of enlightenment. His precise engineering nature left no room for such sloppy instructions as “or until done.” Put it on the stove at the proper time and it will be ready at the proper time…during a commercial break…and anything less was incompetence or insubordination on her part.
James was rather odd that way…ever willing to sacrifice the reality of experience for the specious logic of his imaginings. She had had to take the keys to her car away from him, he was killing her clutch…the shift point of his car was fully half the rpms necessary for shifting her high-rev sports job, but he refused to adapt to the needs of the vehicle. After the fourth or fifth time he stalled it at the bottom of the drive way and brought it home with complaints that there was something wrong with the clutch because the car bucked and simply would not shift smoothly…after checking out his complaints and finding the car in good working order…she took back the extra set of keys and found ways to keep him out of it lest he truly damage the clutch her meagre household budget simply did not have the funds to repair. They had had many other disagreements on many other topics, but most of them had that one thread in common…reality simply did not dent James’ head when it was contrary to how he had worked out how something should be. Cars shifted at 2000 rpm, and that was all there was to it…any car that did not shift smoothly at 2000 rpm was, therefore, defective. And a wife who could not determine the cooking time of several ingredients and have them all on the table, cooked but not overcooked, at an exact, preset time, was either incompetent or insubordinate. End of story.
The family drifted to the table and James yelled at her for correcting the children’s table manners…her voice interfered with his hearing the program that had resumed after he took his place at the table. The roast was cold, the gravy congealed, the vegetables limp, the salad room temperature, the bread gone stiff on the cut edges. Another meal ruined, food money wasted, he opined as he made a sandwich of the lukewarm meat, drying bread and now-spreadable gravy, and went back to the living room where he could hear his program without the distractions at the table. Who knew Louis Ruykeyser, with the strange white finger wave, half-lisp, and peculiar tan, could be so riveting?
She caught him after dinner, as the kids washed up. It was the long commercial break at the top of the hour…she had time to get her question asked and, if he was in a cooperative mood, get an answer. She stood beside his recliner, catalogue in hand, and as the commercial break began, asked “Can you help me with something?”
He looked up suspiciously. “What?”
She held out the catalogue. “I’d like to take a class or two while the kids are in school during the day. I’ve identified some things that I’d like to do, but everything seems to have prerequisites. I can’t even find classes that don’t have prerequisites, except ones that look like the same stuff I took in high school.” He rose from his chair and walked towards the bathroom. She stopped talking until he returned.
She held out the catalogue to him as he re-entered the living room and he took it…snatched it, actually…and opened to a page she had marked.
“Since you’ve been to college and are familiar with how these things work, I was wondering if you could look at this catalogue and help me figure out a couple of things to take…not stuff I already took in high school, but…”
“Jesus Christ, woman!” he suddenly bellowed, rolling up the catalogue and striking the side of his leg with it. “Will you just shut the fuck up?”
She was suddenly both silent and afraid.
“What in the name of God makes you think you can go to college?” he sneered, shaking the rolled catalogue in front of her. “What makes you think you have the brains for it? For the love of God, hasn’t it occurred to you that if you are too fucking stupid to read the goddamned catalogue, you are too fucking stupid to go to college?” He hurled the rolled catalogue across the fifteen foot length of the living room where it slammed into the mahogany-panelled wall and fell to the floor like something dead.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.