I finally saw him for who he was.
Most people have two very different personas. The one they cheerfully present to the world, and the one only revealed to a select few closest to them.
But my father’s private personality was so at odds with his public one, it was impossible to know who he really was. One thing I did know for sure, was that when the curtains were drawn, he was a narcissist.
To his friends, business colleagues and sporting acquaintances he was the quintessential nice guy, but behind closed doors, he was an egomaniac with deeply destructive tendencies. As a child growing up under his reign of self absorption, I interpreted parenthood as a kind of burden. It wasn’t until I raised my own family, who knew I would sacrifice anything for, that I learned my father had an issue that ran much deeper than simple selfishness.
Looking back, the burden my father’s narcissism inflicted upon my childhood is painfully clear. As toddlers we didn’t question being left home alone during a blackout, wandering across the road in the rain in an effort to seek refuge in a neighbor’s house. But as a parent, I couldn’t imagine leaving my toddlers home alone, let alone doing it night after night while my partner was out working. But my father’s insatiable desire to do what he wanted, when he wanted, routinely overrode any responsibility he had to his children’s wellbeing.
Irregular family vacations usually revolved around his sporting obsessions. Whether it was interstate bowling tournaments or to run half marathons, time spent away from our home was specifically to cater for his constant need to achieve. After several years tagging along, my mother opted to send him on sporting vacations alone. However having no money for the luxury of family holidays, this put an end to such outings. Instead, he comfortably spent the money to serve his own needs, and we sacrificed yet again.
For many years I ignored my father’s need for success and notoriety. But the day my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I finally saw him for who he was. Indifferent to her pain, he shrugged the diagnosis off and returned to his life, socializing and signing up for new sporting tournaments while my mother spent extended periods home alone in bed.
Even as things got progressively worse, and my mother lost her ability to eat and speak, he made excuses for his need to go out and indulge, claiming he wanted to give her incentive to get better.
Regretfully, I stayed silent, helped him run the family business in my mother’s absence and thought privately about how incredibly selfish he was being. His wife had supported him in every way conceivable for forty odd years, and in her only hour of need, he was completely incapable of compromise.
My experience having lived with a narcissist parent was a challenge. However it did teach me where my priorities should be. Instead of seeking external validation as an adult parent today, I glean mine come from within my family.
Image via creemmag.com Julia Comita/Natasha Zoe
Comment: Have you ever been in a relationship with a narcissist?