Tales from the Foothills of Mt. Narcissist — The Strange Case of my Fathers Ashes

I used to have my own business, a little shop. For many years I lived above it and my employees and I earned our modest living from the shop, which is on a busy shopping avenue. Naturally from time to time friends would drop things in if I was away or busy, or leave a message and my staff would put it by my flat door for when I got back.

Since 2011 the shop has been rented out to some lovely guys who transformed it into a thriving, vibrant and very fashionable hairdressing salon where they employ around 12 people, mostly young women.

After my father was cremated in 2013 my elder sister, Diane, got all his ashes, so after about 6 weeks and she hadn’t contacted me about them I rang her to ask if I could have some. Bereavement being as it is, a process. She simply said “no, I haven’t finished grieving yet”. I didn’t waste my breathe to mention my own identical situation, I just said OK. Because I know this game dear reader.

In fact I never mentioned it again. Which no doubt annoyed her because I had ducked the time honoured game of her torturing me about something for as long as possible and enjoying my distress. So imagine my surprise when my husband rang me one day some seven months later (I was away in my caravan in some field somewhere) and told me to sit down and try not to get upset. Cue large lump in throat. He said:

“your sister has delivered your fathers ashes to the shop down stairs. The young receptionist who she handed the box to nearly fainted when she then told her what was in them. Simon (the owner of the business) just brought them up here, he was quite upset too”.

Bearing in mind these tenants of mine did my hair before I went to Dads funeral, and knew how upset I was, but other than that I have a purely professional landlord/tenant relationship with them. We are not buddies and I don’t normally go there to get my hair cut. If they have a problem, they ring me and I try and sort it out ASAP. They pay their rent. End of.

Stunned I packed my caravan up and got back home to my flat as quickly as I could. The next day I went and bought a very pretty, very expensive bouquet from the local florist and put a “Thank you and I’m sorry” note on it after enquiring as to the young receptionists name. It was her first week on the job, she was a 17 year old trainee, she had never handled the ashen remains of an old man before. She had had to be given the rest of the day off, such was her shock. And I can completely understand that. Poor lass.

Why hadn’t Diane just rang me, told me she would be in the neighbourhood and arrange to give the ashes to me? She rarely came to the city I lived in then, only to visit her dentist. A phone call would have done it. Or even if she hadn’t been coming to the city I would have happily gone to her house to collect whatever portion of his remains she was allowing me. Anytime to suit herself.

But no. Having not distressed me enough with her waiting game (or so she thought), she had to have another hit. This time in a “sabotage my relationship with my tenants game”. Brilliantly imaginative you have to admit.

There is a twist to this tale though……..

About a year later I saw my mother. And she asked me why Diane and I were on frosty terms. I told her what she had done with Dads ashes and she said:

“oh that wasn’t Diane, that was me. Diane was driving the car though”.

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Footnote: my sister used to have a shop on the same avenue, but sold it years ago, blew all the money and now lives in rented accommodation. Diane is not her real name.

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Narcissists are nothing if not predictable.

It was my birthday yesterday and there has been a knot in my stomach for days before, just in case this was the excuse mother would use to get in touch. I get the knot before Xmas too, and also in March before her birthday. Once that is over I brighten up for nine months until it all starts again.

I haven’t spoken to mother for almost two years, choosing (as it is known) nc: no contact. For the background to this see my article https://medium.com/@samyorks/narcissistic-mothers-and-flying-monkeys-b5ec026bbcbd#.xedglmkle

My husband went to the shop to get a bottle of wine early evening and as soon as he got back I knew it. I knew it. He had indeed had a phone call from my mother. She has had his phone number for about seven years, he has never changed the number. She has had my number since 2001 when I first got a mobile phone, and I have never changed my number either. But no, she didnt ring me, she rang him. Why?

To understand why one has to know a thing or two about narcs (see previous article) but the main reason is she is trying to use my husband as her latest, and I must say rather desperate attempt at recruiting another Flying Monkey. Fortunately, he is wise to this and other than informing me, he isn’t signing up to the role. She will know that her chances of recruiting him are slim, but she has nothing to lose right? She is bored of this no contact now — though she instigated it herself of course — using her arch Monkey, her partner Susan, who said “your mother doesn’t want to speak to you, I would suggest you don’t get in contact with us again until we contact you”.
So I didn’t. For about 15 months this worked fine. Then she started to want contact again.

For three months I have been ducking and diving avoiding her encroaching but unwanted attention. It gets very boring being centre stage of your own drama but with no other cast members to play off. Even narcissists get bored of their own voice eventually. Monologues aren’t their style, oh no.

Setting aside the fascinating reasons why she doesn’t just ring me herself, which by the way annoys the hell out of me to begin with. I want to instead examine the reasons why I am not rushing to ring her new number which she passed onto my husband. Which he wrote on a Post-it note and stuck onto a box of Ibuprofen. Which made me smile…..

So what will happen if I allow contact? Exactly what has happened the dozen or so other times that I have softened to her manipulations.
The longest time I avoided contact with her was almost three years. Back then my Dad was still alive. They divorced when I was 7, but he still wanted a “happy family” [sic] so would plead with me to “make it up” with her. Make it up. Which literally means Invent It. And for a quiet life, eventually I would. But it never was quiet, just more drama and pain.

Any reconciliation will follow the same format as previous reconciliations, as predictable as the symptoms of influenza. How swiftly she gets into self pity and thus tries to press my compassion buttons — and I am covered in them being an empath — depends on whether she tries the “poor old me” approach or the “chip off the old block” approach. With the former the melodrama begins instantly, the jaws of the trap are sprung in the first sentence. The tactic she used after the three year respite was “(name of dog) has died!” Sob, sob sob.
With the latter approach she is the brave survivor and so am I, we are best buddies, she resists injecting any poison into the conversation for at least 3 minutes. It is never critical of me, no, it will probably be about my sister, or possibly one of my sisters children who has “wronged” her. But whoever it is, whoever she is assassinating this time and trying to get my sympathy (thus side with her against them) I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be part of this drama anymore.

I will just sit here and imagine how many times she has dissed me over the last two years of non contact. Eventually her friends and hopefully more remote family members realise that she is unlucky enough to have two Bad Daughters, poor woman, but rarely at the same time. No, she cant stand it when we are both “bad” at the same time. By “bad” I mean when both of us stop giving her attention. My sister and I used to call it “worshipping at the alter of the mother”. We used to joke about it. It was a way of coping. We also used to have cosy little chats about how she loves nothing more than to try and play one of us off against the other. Or how if she is being nice to one of us she never is to the other. How she bitches endlessly about the other daughter to the one who is currently in favour, and how we are both so sick and tired of it.

And it worked. All the poison worked.

After our father died my sister and I fell out of contact completely. So tired, so tired of the game, the damage, the poison, the relentless criticism. The broken record.

I think of my sister every single day. I miss what she was, once, before Lithium and booze numbed her empathy and all she had left as emotion was a fierce defence of her own children. No defence of me.

And when I miss her very much, I remind myself of her disloyalty to me, her only sister. I recall how many times in the last decade she has thrown me under the bus, and how painful getting run over feels, and how much recovery it takes. And I realise I am still recovering, and not ready to put myself in that situation again. With either of them.

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Notes:
my sister is/has Bi-polar. No wonder with a mother (and father) like we had. I got off lightly in comparison with “just” BPD, depression, anxiety, etc.

I’ve tried really hard to find the name of the artist to credit her/him for the brilliant picture (which was used in an article in Huffington Post) but I cant find it. If anyone knows please let me know. If its your artwork, I hope you dont mind me using it for this piece, it perfectly illustrates how I am feeling right now, thank you for illustrating this feeling so beautifully.