A butterfly in the house

Kind of like that one.
Kind of like that one.

In the morning, when I was first getting up, a butterfly flew through the hall. Was this a good omen?

I can’t say. I’ve had a cold for the last three days, and on top of that some stomach problems that don’t seem to be any kind of waterborne illness, but just one of those things. (The doc prescribed some tablets. They’re helping.)

These things are difficult for me. They’re probably difficult for a lot of us who were badly mistreated as children. Sickness, first of all, doesn’t always bring out the best in abusive parents. Sickness in a child is something out of the parent’s control. It’s an inconvenience, and it’s also solid evidence that the world does not always operate according to the parent’s wishes.

So abusive parents often abuse their children for being sick. I say that not because I’ve read extensive studies on this or have come across hard evidence, but just because it’s something people seem to keep telling me. Being sick when your parent doesn’t parent is awful.

Even when this kind of parent isn’t actively abusive, she is often neglectful, leaving the child to deal with discomfort and fear and the physical issues involved with being unwell on his own. I’ve seen both ends of this, as well as a third factor that is also connected: abuse tends to make you sick. So body aches and nausea are reminders to me of horrifying maltreatment. Being sick can sometimes feel like one long flashback.

It felt that way this time. Sometimes, when the full detail of the memories surfaces for me, it feels impossible to grasp the inhumanity and the cruelty of how I was treated as a child. Knowing even that my father was a psychopath, that my mother was only sort of living in the real world, it’s just difficult.

And yet I do know.

Psychopathy has four dimensions: grandiosity and lack of empathy are two of them, and they work together. Because of the extreme degree of my father’s sense of his own importance, he believed that the normal rules of society didn’t apply to him. Yes, it’s wrong to torture and rape your own children. He knew that. But not for him. He was special and he had his reasons. He knew things about life (or so he thought) that ordinary people don’t know, and he was entitled to privileges they don’t have.

I’ve also come to see that his belief in his own importance was a part of the attraction the women in his life—his wife (my mother) and his girlfriends. There’s something about spending your life in the company of genius, and of course my father isn’t really a genius—not in the slightest, although he’s no slouch either. He’s a smart enough man. But he has yet to determine what really causes gravity or why light behaves as both energy and matter–or anything else useful, really. But if you can’t have a genius, you might be able to find someone who’s simply convinced he is. And that’s what my mother had done. All that importance provides a kind of reflected glow. My life was the collateral damage.

So I do know. But I also can’t grasp it. The extent of the wrongness is just so great.