Abuse, ACCEPTANCE, AMWRITING, family, fathers, mental health, psychiatry, relationships, SELF ACCEPTANCE, seniors, Uncategorized

The Bank Robbery

A 79-year-old man walks into a bank, bypasses the tellers and heads straight into the manager’s office.
“Can I help you sir?” the beleaguered bank manager, let’s call her Rachel, asks the old man as she shows him a seat.
The old man looks at the bank manager as he sits down. “I want to rob your bank.” He states as a matter of fact. To punctuate his point, he places a pistol on Rachel’s desk.
Rachel takes a deep breath, eyeing the pistol. ‘At least he’s not pointing it at me.’ She thinks to herself. Taking a chance, she looks into the old man’s weary, but distant eyes and asks, “Why, sir, do you want to rob our bank?”
The old man downcast his eyes as he chokes on his words. “Things aren’t going good at home.”
Rachel sensing that this is less about a robbery, and more about an emotionally distraught senior citizen, tries to coax him to leave.
The old man stands his ground.  “I’m not leaving until you call the police. I deserve to be in prison.”
Still nervous, she softens her demeanor and tries a few more times to convince him that this is a bad idea. It’s to no avail, nothing Rachel can do or say would change his mind.  Police soon arrive and take him into custody.
No one with a heart would doubt that this is a sad tale. The kind of story you hear and say to yourself, ‘there but for the grace of God, go I.’
Another thing you might say is ‘what the hell was going on for this old guy to be so desperate?’ and ‘shame on his family! where were they?’ because as a society, we love to make snap judgment of others.
  A year later from this news story, there is a ringing of my doorbell at 9:30 at night. What the hell? My husband Ray had just left for work and I’m in my pajama’s standing in an enclosed, but freezing cold porch warily looking at two middle-aged women who are asking to see him. It’s about Harry, his father.
We’ve been estranged from Harry for 23 years so naturally, my first thought is they were going to tell me that my father in law has passed away. I figured these women, his stepdaughters, whom we’ve only ever met a couple of times, have sought him out to deliver this grim news.
No, that is not the case. Harry is alive, but not so well. They are mentioning a hospital I’ve never heard of that he is currently at. They are pleading with me that the Harry we knew 23 years ago, the one who didn’t come to our wedding, was a different person now and wants to see his son. There was a tumor found and he possibly has cancer.
An atomic bomb of emotions explodes over me. This man was not nice to his own son nor to me. Clear memories of the last day we ever saw him wash over me in a tsunami of pain. It would’ve been better to hear he had passed. The women stand with big pleading eyes. I take their phone number and promise to talk with my husband.
I called him that night with the information and the next day we wade through the muck of emotions and memories. I set up a meeting with Rose, one of the step sisters and she eagerly comes the day after. We talk for 2 hours and the truth is revealed. My husband’s father is the old man who poorly attempted to rob a bank just so he could be arrested and put in jail.
Why? is the question. Removed from his life for 23 years, Harry’s mental state to us has been frozen in time. A distant, cold man. A man with a quick temper, and if he was able to have it his way, he would have gladly been a recluse. At the same time, this was a man who remarried and gained 4 step children in the process. He had to be aware that there would be holiday gatherings, birthdays, graduations, all sorts of situations where his presence would be required with his new family.
My husband and I were not to be a part of that equation, and it was made painfully clear when he refused to go to our wedding, even when we begged. He x’d us out of his life completely.  Not that I complained too much. The idea of having to spend any amount of time with the man was a painful thought. I’d actually praised God that we didn’t have to deal with his attitude and nasty temperament over the years.
Without his overbearing presence, I watched over the years my husband flourish and come into his own. His fortitude and strength gained and tested with his own serious health issues to overcome. Having lost his mother before we were married, our world consisted of him and me, my family, and our various pets, and that was more than enough for us to be happy.
As it often goes, the universe throws curve balls just to keep us on our toes. The reason we didn’t recognize the hospital’s name was that Harry’s new place of residence for the last year is of a  psychiatric nature. Given the tumor situation on top of age and mental health, we don’t have months to digest and talk about the effect of having him back in our lives would have on us. Our decision to forgive and heal the wounds of the last 23 years is time critical.
We sat in the booth at the local coffee shop listening to the robbery tale with mouths agape. More details spilled the longer we listened, and a startling truth comes to light. Harry had occasionally confided to the stepdaughter and his wife, of his own brutal abuse at the hands of his stepdad in his youth. Something Harry never disclosed to his son. The words of discouragement and physical beatings at the hands of his mothers husband, lead Harry to believe he was never worthy of love or happiness. His whole life, in his mind, he was nothing but a P.O.S. His mother’s failure to intercede on her son’s behalf I’m sure accentuated the point in Harry’s mind.
More than one study has shown what you say and do to a child matters. Tell a child long enough that he or she is worthless, they will grow up to believe it. Add the aspect of physical abuse to the mix and it’s a time bomb waiting to explode. The victim’s own self-talk will become a daily session of self-browbeating, and furthering their low self esteem. In Harry’s case, that internal dialogue also led him to self-punishment behavior. That was the whole reason he went to the bank that day. He wanted to be arrested and jailed to punish himself for all the wrongs he’d done in his life, to atone for all the hurt he caused people. He wanted to have his sorry, unlovable self, locked away where no one had to deal with him again. He was clearly not in his right mind.
Harry’s not alone, many people feel this way. There are far too many people who’ve had family, teachers or a spouse/significant other who should have been loving and nurturing. Unfortunately, sometimes the ones we rely on, love, and look up to, say and do harmful things that unconsciously shape our lives and can influence our lifelong decisions.
Thanks to modern understanding and  psychiatry, we now know how the actions and words of others can harm a child’s psyche and carryover into adulthood. It’s not easy to break the cycle of self-hatred, believing you’re the lowest common dominator. So many see themselves as unworthy of even the smallest iota of love. Obviously, Harry was depressed, and I’m guessing that depression had made its home in him for almost all of his 80 years on this earth. Without the knowledge or skills to break the cycle, Harry was bound to be doomed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for his behavior towards my Ray. As adults, it’s up to us to break the cycle of verbal and physical abuse. Help is out there. Unfortunately, like Harry, not everyone knows or wants to know how to find it. Confronting one’s issues is like growing roses, it’s a beautiful outcome, but you’re occasionally going to get painfully pricked in the process.
  Armed with this fresh information about Harry’s past, we now can see the root of his problems. I’m glad Harry’s finally getting the real help he’s needed for a very long time. Albeit he got it in a very desperate and federal crime type of way.
Yes, for those of you wondering, our decision is that we will go see him. We’re realists, we’re not expecting an Ebenezer Scrooge-like ending, where he wakes up from the night of 3 ghosts having learned his lesson and dances a jig. We are not expecting Harry to run to his son with open arms, tongue flowing with apologies. I imagine it will be low key, a ‘what’s up’ kind of moment.
I’ve warned my husband not to bring up the past to his father at this point. Given his current mental state, we’re  afraid it may cause a reaction that can’t be controlled. We’ll leave that door open for Harry to bring  up if he ever does. It’s upon us, his son and daughter in law, to put the hurt behind us and forgive. I’m hoping just our being there and our smiles may be enough to let Harry know we do care, that his past actions are not going to be held against him, and hopefully that with the time he has left, he finally allows himself to feel that he is worthy of love as we all are.
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