Growing up, my family told lots of stories about our family. For most of my life, I believed and clung on to these stories, and retold them myself. However, when I began to have repressed memories of my Step-Grandfather, Grandpa C., sexually abusing me, I began to question the many stories that my parents have told over the years.
The stories that surround Grandpa C. paint him out to be a great man. He built a clubhouse for his small community in Sula, Montana, and also helped to build a resort. The stories go, though, that he was never fully payed for these projects. Thus, in our family he was made out to be a martyr.
Throughout my childhood I always heard stories about how well Grandpa C. treated me and my sister. I know now that he was likely grooming us and putting on a show for my family in order to gain access to the children in our family. But, my family glorified him to an extreme because of how much he doted on me and my sister.
Still, my mom also told some stories that indicated that he was a troubled man. He was ex-communicated from the Catholic church apparently for marrying my Grandma, who is protestant. However, today I wonder if that’s really why he was ex-communicated. This is because at the end of his life he went back to the church, confessed his sins and repented, and was allowed back in, even though he was still married to a protestant.
Also, my mom told stories of how Grandpa C. forced my Grandma to gain weight after they were married because he liked “big women”. Yet despite this and other stories that hinted that he was a very abusive man, my family still loved him.
And the truth is that this is how many stories in our family go. They will hint on the truth of members of our family but evade the whole truth, which is that many people in our family are incredibly abuse. But, these stories are told in a certain way that basically glorifies, enables, and encourages the abusive and dysfunctional behavior that occurs in our family. What I’ve found, though, is that these stories do paint a web about what was actually going on in our family if you listen hard enough.
It seems as every time I hang around a member of my family I end up hearing these stories repeated again and again. It is extremely annoying to me, as my family expects me to laugh and be interested as they tell these stories that show the obvious terrible behavior in our families, yet my family members just act like they are funny or are gossip and will show elitism while telling these horrific stories.
In addition, when I met David’s mother and grandmother, I also was met with a bunch of “family stories” that were eerily similar to the ones in my family. It was extremely unnerving to me, and I remember thinking, “Boy, they really remind me of my family, especially my mom”, who’s a narcissist and tells all of these stories to bend people’s reality.
The other issue that I have with family stories in my family and David’s too is that they contain a lot of elitism about our families. The stories make it clear that our families consider themselves to be better than other people, even if they don’t say so outright. There’s also a hint of “anything goes in our family” and “you must put up with abuse and hurtful behavior” hidden within these stories.
Yesterday I heard a “treasured family story” from David’s mom about how when David was in kindergarten, he came home and told his family that teachers are really stupid. Apparently the context behind this is that the teachers were on strike and David didn’t understand what that meant (he couldn’t figure out why they weren’t working in order to get paid). He told me this last night. However, when the mom tells the story this part is left out, and it just is that David thought that teachers were stupid in kindergarten, and isn’t that funny?
So I hear this story and am just going- ??? Like, that’s not a funny story to me. It’s so very insulting to teachers and elitist, in that it hints that David is some extremely smart guy in order to make this “determination”. But, for me it was even more offensive because my mom was actually a teacher herself and has many friends who are teachers, so I grew up a teacher’s kid who was surrounded by teachers and other teacher’s kids. Because of this I know how hard a teacher’s job is and am also aware that some people have elitism and ego when it comes to how a teacher should act and can really say insulting things to and about them and feel justified in doing so. And, this story about David definitely contained those elements.
I tried to bring up my concerns to David about this, but he got very defensive about the whole thing. It was pretty much a lost cause. Still, though, I realize that the fault in this case is on his mom, and that he simply isn’t ready to see that story for what it is. I’m glad that in my case I have been pulling apart my family’s stories for almost four years in an attempt to understand the truth about my family and can usually see through the stories in my family today.
Even so, the whole situation was and still is triggering for me because it is so similar to what my family does. It has brought back so many memories of my family just insulting people and thinking that it is funny, including myself, and acting like we are all so smart. Since I’m the scapegoat in the family, there are many stories about me that my family touts as cute when really they are extremely undermining to my character. I kind of felt like this story was quite undermining to David, as it immediately made me think, “Boy, that’s rude” on his part and to question him as a human being even though this happened when he was maybe five years old. I’ve actually heard other stories from his family that scapegoat him as well. Whether or not they know that this is happening I don’t know– I actually think that to them these are compliments to David. I can’t be 100& sure about this though as I do know that my family purposefully scapegoats me while feigning the “isn’t she cute/smart” motives as well.
So now I’m dealing with remembering all of the stories that people told that shaped my perception of myself, other people, and the world for so many years. Anecdotal stories like this one really can have a huge impact on one’s understanding of themselves and the world around them, especially if the stories were told to the person as a child. Luckily for me, I’ve already began dissecting the stories that so impacted me and am finally finding my own truths about my life.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.