In the previous entry, I briefly touched on the theory of family triangles. In this section, I will relate what I witnessed of those triangles.
Abuse and Misuse
To understand anything of my paternal family, you must first realize the players labeled X and Y (my grandmother and grandfather) each had issues. My grandfather was prone to verbal abuse, and unpredictable physical outbursts of rage. My grandmother was, in retrospect, a good candidate for a personality disorder and evidence also points to her exhibiting Munchausen-by-proxy symptoms as well.
That fact warped the family around her. To gain attention, X behaved in ways that I will politely call “disturbing”. Examples I personally witnessed included: walking topless in company; screaming at high volume over minor disappointments such as a broken nail; calling seven people in twenty minutes to complain of not having received the “right” television for Christmas; and deliberately tearing clothing to receive newer clothing.
This use, abuse and misuse of family ties for gain inevitably involved one or the other of her two daughters. For convenience, let’s call her offspring by letters, as we do the points on a triangle in geometry. The children are letters A, B, C, D, G, H and J. D and H were her daughters, and at least one of those would ally with her to pressure Y (my grandfather) into providing money for whatever it was she wanted. However, the DHX triangle often shifted to a DH alliance that “ganged up” on the rest of the children to raise the money. This led to myriad shifting alliances of two children and the mother against the father, where the father was berated and rejected for his miserly behavior.
Any alliance involving X included one of her youngest three children. Yet G would not remain in the triangle if H was in it, unless criticism of H resulted, and vice versa. This left X and child J, who was mentally handicapped, to unite against G or H for “leaving them all alone”. That drew in child D, her older daughter, and displaced J. Once her daughters chastised her with some variation on “Oh for God’s sake, Mother (fill in blank)”, the DHX triangle dissolved. Most often, X and J would again shift into their typical dynamic of “we two against any given third”.
As a general rule, the four oldest children (A-D) allied with Y (their father), against others in the family and amongst themselves. The three youngest (G-J) typically had X as a point in any given triangle. However, the seven siblings created endless shifting triangles amongst themselves.
For example, no one seemed to like A, but liked C even less, until or unless G was involved. At that point, an ACG triangle could form, where A and C insulted G, and a fistfight would occur, as at a family picnic in 1982. No further triangles involving A and C resulted in any sense, positive or negative, unless B (my father) entered the group. Then it was AB against C.
Several “permanent” pairs formed within sibling triangles. B (my father) and D firmly allied and remained so with A and C as their favored third point, the one upon whom they would offload a great deal of discontent. It was sometimes quite direct (“C, you’re why I hated being in this family”). If B and H allied, stress resulted for G, since B and G were another permanent twosome, and G and H despised one another. (G’s death was greeted by H with the exact words, “It’s about time”.)
In fact, B (my father) was the only of the seven to ever engage each of the other six. G and H never did, nor did A and D, A and G, or C and H. My father, in short, was a master triangulator.
That leads us into the next entry, where I will elaborate further on the dynamic between my father and his family.
Images Courtesy of NASA and original artwork by CE Miller