Dysfunction ?

As each spring approached, Jalene pleaded with Chuck for a summer vacation for the family. His reply never changed, “no, we don’t have the money”. However, there was always money for expensive private lessons for the children’s sports and music lessons, summer camps and retreats for the children. Why then, couldn’t they make some memories as a family with a vacation?

Jalene’s counselors enabled her to understand some of Chuck’s rationale. When they traveled, they would be in more confined spaces, with the family unit participating in events together. For the same justification Chuck refused to go on a honeymoon or even stay overnight in a nice hotel following their wedding, so too was his rationale for avoiding a family vacation. Counselors and Jalene knew it was never a matter of the lack of money. Chuck always had the financial means to purchase luxury cars, expensive clothes and any personal desire of his.

Being on a family vacation meant he would have to spend time with his wife and children daily. He would be expected to be viewed as a man whom loved this family. His love was not one of display. His love for his children was always what he would give them monetarily. He had no love for Jalene. Thus, he resented the expectations of a husband and father during a family vacation.

There had been two previous vacations which Chuck reminded Jalene of when she pleaded for such. The first was when the children were young and they flew to Disney Land in CA.  The second was with his parents when they visited Ben’s relatives. Chuck believed nothing was expected of him then, since his focus was on satisfying the desires of Ben and Lorraine.  Even though it was a mode of “getting away”, it was not truly a family vacation.

Jalene frequently reflected upon the conversation she and Chuck had prior to marriage; that of a family and children. Jalene longed to be a mother. However, when she noticed Chuck’s indifference toward all of them, his words echoed in her ears, heart and mind. He didn’t care if he had children, but if she wanted them, that was okay. After they had two, he mandated there would be no more. According to Chuck two children was enough for any family.

They dysfunction of the family became overtly apparent one summer day in 1986. Marie was 12, Christian 10. Jalene doesn’t recall the exact conversation which prompted Marie’s actions against her, but now 32 years later Jalene still recalls the outcome. While standing in the kitchen conversing with Marie, before she realized it, Marie had doubled up her fist and punched Jalene in the chest, knocking her backward. Jalene caught herself by grabbing the kitchen island and counter. Otherwise, she would have landed on the floor.

Not only was Jalene flabbergasted, but she was dumfounded as to the rationale of her daughter to assault her in such a manner.  Jalene’s loud pleas for Chuck to come into the house were repeated countless times over the roar of the lawnmower. His frustration was apparent that he must leave his chore to oblige Jalene. She showed him the large red whelp on her chest. There was no discipline of Marie. His words were, “I don’t know why the two of you can’t get along.” He returned to the lawnmowing, never again speaking of the incident. For Jalene, it was far more than a punch in the chest. It was flagrant disrespect from her daughter. Jalene had tried earnestly to have a close relationship with Marie, but she remained unsuccessful. This action further validated this effort.

Jalene realized Marie had the need to talk to someone about her feelings and perhaps the influence on her of the family dynamics. Because Marie refused all interaction with Jalene, she sought a psychologist specializing in adolescent behavior. The counselor was highly recommended, but after 6 -1 hour sessions, the counselor noted, she was unable to assist Marie and therefore the family.   Due to Marie’s rigid body and crossed arms duing each session, she made it very clear, she had nothing to say. The counselor noted it was a vain effort for all involved.

During the next weeks and months , Jalene continued to provide additional time and effort with Marie. She wanted Marie to know how deeply she loved her, but also of the great concern she had for her mental wellbeing. Jalene realized you can’t make anyone accept a gift; no matter what it may be. Jalene’s gift was to provide Marie with the opportunity to converse with a non-judgmental, neutral party.  Jalene had reiterated to Marie countless times during the counseling, “it’s okay to tell the counselor you are angry at me or even if you don’t like me, but please, please let her know what is bothering you.” It was not to be. Marie remained silent, while her anger intensified.

Jalene pleaded with Chuck for weekly family meetings, so that some of the concerns could be voiced and amended where necessary. Chuck believed this to be ridiculous as he shouted to her countless times.  The family dysfunction remained status quo.

Please follow Jalene as she continues her journey. This blog began in April 2016 from her childhood.