I, and many of my siblings, were mentally and emotionally abandoned by our parents early in life. Speaking for myself, I was about three and a half when my father began to distance himself. I do not remember my mother's care at all. She bragged, in fact, when I was holding my five month old granddaughter with her bottle, "Why don't you put her down. Why, I never had to hold you after you were two weeks old. Your bottle was always propped on a pillow." And I am sure my sister- mama's did not hold me too often either due to the constant work to be done just to keep food on the table.
My point, of course being not to criticize my mother, but to see clearly where my abandonment issues came from. By the age of five the last of my little mama's had graduated and left the farm. That was the second great abandonment.
"The constant fear, however, is that the person you love will not be there for you tomorrow....Your safeguard against being abandoned is to try hard to be perfect, and serve all the other person's needs.
In my way, I tried to "win" my parents affection. It may sound trivial, but I always chose what, in my eyes, was the best plate and silver from our mix and match everyday ware. I thrilled to get an A+. I stepped carefully through mothers flower bed, showing interest as best I could.
I was good. I did not rock any boats, stayed to myself, did not disturb the silence more than necessary, never talked back, never spoke to them really.
When I married I did the same things only on a grown up level. I did my best to be Susy-Homemaker, but my husband left me over and over. The more he left and returned, the more determined I was to be perfect. I took the blame, even as he sat apologizing.
"It won't ever happen again." He would declare.
"It's OK, it will be different this time. I promise." Those were my words, not his.
And if I may quote Janet G. Woititz Struggle for Intimacy (Adult Children of Alcoholics series) speaking of abandonment issues left over from childhood, "Some children living in this situation continued trying to get their needs met, and others gave up entirely. Those children who gave up entirely are not as anxious to enter into adult relationships as are those that still hold onto the fantasy that made, just maybe, this time things will be different."
The latter was me. I held onto that hope that this time, just maybe; but with every relationship, I knew, as sure as the sun would rise that abandonment lay just around the next twist in the road.
That, and the fact that I was always sure in the deepest part of me that it was my shortcomings to blame, kept me in a viscous cycle of loss and hope. Would the bitter ache of aloneness never end?
I was 50 when I married my friend Peter to fulfill his dying wish. As he died twelve days later, I will never know what the outcome of that would have been. I do know what the outcome was
When he left he cried, "Have I abandoned you then?"
"No, Peter, you have set me free."
Pete left me, he died; I was angry at having let myself care for him, let myself in for heartache. The truth is, Peter is the only man who never abandoned me.
He never will.