Category Archives: divorced families

The Father Ghost of Jane Snitly by Matt Carlson

She had never really considered it. It was something that she’d just decided to do. One day Jane Snitly bought the auburn hair coloring treatment, went home, read the instructions on the box, locked herself up in the bathroom and one hour later it was done. She’d become a redhead at twenty.

On top of it all, she looked good as a redhead. It wasn’t the flashy bright red of some, but more classy, like Katherine Hepburn in the 50’s and 60’s. And so it was, she’d chosen this look seemingly out of the blue – thinking it gave her an aura of the beautiful actress. And yet, even while she looked at herself in the mirror, she couldn’t ignore the pressing images that assaulted her there…

It was a gorgeous Buick of light blue sitting outside on the street under the front yard maple tree  – to keep under the shade. It was a hot summer day in the valley. There’d been a woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was very pretty, quite well dressed and she’d come with her Dad who was now in the house. He was having a conversation with Jane and Jenny’s Mother. The two little blond girls were 9 and 12, Jane was the youngest; Jenny the oldest. The two little girls were intrigued with the woman but didn’t dare speak to her. They’d been playing jacks in the driveway.

Blue curling up smoke from the woman’s cigarette went into the tree itself – seemingly dancing with the leaves – and Jane wondered who she was: this silent friend of her Father’s. Jenny felt it too and the girls left long lingering looks in her direction while halfheartedly spinning and catching. Voices were suddenly raised within the house and Jane and Jenny knew what that meant: another argument between their Mother and Father. They’d known something was up as their Father had ordered them to ‘stay outside and play’ upon his arrival and that he’d ‘wanted to speak to their Mother alone.’ Hearing those words had created a stir in their young bellies, but they had no clue as to why.

The wailing coming from within was low at first: a kind of moaning. Was that human? They both wondered while looking simultaneously at the house where their Father was now exiting. He didn’t say anything to them except that he loved them and would talk to them soon.

Jenny being older asked,”Daddy, where are you going? Why is Mamma crying like that?” She asked while chewing on her fingernail. Her Father stopped and seemed to reconsider something. The woman in the car was watching intently.

“Honey, Daddy is going to go and live somewhere else for a while…. but I’ll come back soon and we’ll do something fun, okay?” This was a lie, of course yet he wanted to give them a warm fuzzy of some kind. A lie was better than nothing. And perhaps he’d made himself believe that his words were true. Jenny didn’t say anything and he got into the car and started up the engine.

The wailing from within the house went up a notch and Jane suddenly found herself standing in front of the running engine, standing in front of the car where her Father sat with a strange & beautiful woman. Jane knew what it all meant. He was leaving. Leaving their Mother; leaving them. Leaving with the woman with auburn hair. Her Father stepped out of the car and asked, “What is it Janie?” But a paralysis overtook the little girl and no words would come. “Honey?… Okay, I’ve gotta go now sweetie – move out of the way.” And just like that she did what was asked of her. Her Father drove away. The woman gave her a sad smile and a slight wave of a manicured hand.

“Don’t go Daddy,” she whispered as the car drove out of sight. She’d forgotten to breath for a moment and felt slightly dizzy. Jenny had run inside to see her Mother. Janie stood there for a long time. Watching, waiting, trying to figure out what had just happened. Her tears and the low moaning were suddenly hers. Her Father had left her. Had left her Mom and sister. Only a Father Ghost would remain now….

**** Explanatory Note:

Almost sixty years later, Jane Snitly (her name has been changed to protect her identity) would die of Emphysema at the age of 68. According to a certain psychiatrist, she chose this hair color because unconsciously she chose to be the woman that her Father left with. That means she wanted to be the woman he chose to be with. (To be the woman that her Father loved). At the same time, she also chose to be the Mother that her Father left. The woman scorned and angry. Probably too,  that both of these identities  co-existed subconsciously within.

That being the case,  the two inner personalities or roles were at constant battle with one another; that the Mistress hated the Mother and that the Mother within hated the Mistress…The Father reassures and helps in developing a sense of identity to children in a family. When a Father abandons his children or is absent, the child will constantly search out that Father image – an image that he or she needs in order to construct their identity. The child (and later on adult) will do this subconsciously, of course and unknowingly will set up repetitive failures with people, people that the unconscious mind will perceive as a potential Father image. This is called the Father Ghost. Many of us have a Father Ghost, though we don’t realize it. He hoovers there constantly and is played out within the people around us, especially family members or other potential father-type images. Because it failed with their own father’s, and is an unconscious functioning, it will fail time and time again. No matter if you are a perfect Father figure, the scorned child will find fault with you somehow. Until the child becomes consciously aware of what is happening (and learns to make a conscious effort to change) he or she will continue to destroy potential Father figures. It is something imprinted within and a vicious circle…Some people will find other ways of creating identity with the pathology of the Father Ghost haunting them. Some will choose to work in psychology, health services and even religion…Anything that will give them a strong sense of belonging and reassurance…

*** ‘A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” he says. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”  Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children. It is important for professionals working with fathers— especially in the difficult, emotionally charged arena in which child protective services (CPS) caseworkers operate—to have a working understanding of the literature that addresses this impact.

Such knowledge will help make the case for why the most effective CPS case plans will involve fathers. This chapter lays out the connection between fathers and child outcomes, including cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior. The chapter also underscores the impact of the father and mother’s relationship on the well-being of their children….

THE IMPACT OF THE MOTHER-FATHER RELATIONSHIP ON CHILD OUTCOMES One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is indirect—fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children. A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children’s father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support. One of the most important benefits of a positive relationship between mother and father, and a benefit directly related to the objectives of the CPS caseworker, is the behavior it models for children.

Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females. Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships. In contrast, research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., “the silent treatment”) are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON COGNITIVE ABILITY AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQ’s, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers.

The influence of a father’s involvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents. For instance, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that highly involved biological fathers had children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.13 Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who The Link Between Marriage and Fatherhood Caring, involved fathers exist outside of marriage. They are more likely, however, to be found in the context of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which being the legal and social norms associated with marriage that connect a father to the family unit. That may also explain, in part, why research consistently shows that the married mother-and-father family is a better environment for raising children than the cohabitating (living together) mother-and-father family.

It is interesting to note that, contrary to stereotypes about low-income, unmarried parents, a significant majority—more than 8 in 10—of urban, low-income fathers and mothers are in a romantic relationship when their children are born.

Most of these couples expect that they will get married. One study found that more than 80 percent expected they would get married or live together. However, only 11 percent of these couples had actually married a year later.

Why they do not marry is an interesting question open to conjecture. However, as Dr. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has pointed out, it may be because these couples receive very little encouragement to marry from the health and social services professionals with whom they come in contact.

Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-being play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.

The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Roughhousing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.19 Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self control and pro-social behavior.

One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self esteem.

In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior. In short, fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. A caseworker who understands the important contributions fathers make to their children’s development and how to effectively involve fathers in the case planning process will find additional and valuable allies in the mission to create a permanent and safe environment for children.’


The Closet Door by Joanie


The Closet Door by Joanie

‘Oh no! God – not another test-haven’t I had enough already? Oh well, I take a deep breath, shoulders back, pull up my boots and march forward!!! Let’s get on with it and over with…

I remember so many things  but I’m always saying, ” I can’t remember that”, “When did that happen?”…”Who was there?”, “How old was I?” So I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but oh! What I can remember…

Mother: shiny blue long evening dress, that special sweet good smell, loving arms, her smile, her reassurance and her giving… Her unconditional love and patience… Her utter belief in me. I will miss you and take you with me all the rest of my life; my best friend.

She doesn’t hear me very often anymore, she doesn’t even see me… Not even when I sit right in front of her and call her, “Mom, it’s me your daughter, Joanie… I love you.” Sometimes a soft, “I love you too, honey” ; maybe a little smile will follow.

Sometimes I want to shake her and say, “Hear me! I need you! Be there for me again,” but I don’t….and she won’t be there for me again.

Just before she really went away, she did hear me and I didn’t even say anything. She she just started telling me that we had to accept the things life sent us and that she didn’t like it anymore than I did, but we had to keep going…

Even though I know she’ll never truly be herself ever again, every time I go to see her, there is a little hope that whispers to me, “maybe today…”

Aw, but she’s free from this veil of tears – I hope- sometimes a smile hovers on her face and I make myself believe wherever she is, she’s happy now.

She shared her first loss with me and my sister, when Daddy went away. There was a redhead (strange that I used to color my hair auburn) he became enameled with and I remember my sister and I watching him the day he left – packing his clothes. We begged and begged him not to go. But still, there he was driving out the driveway…. And suddenly I dashed out in front of the car. He stopped and said, “What’s the matter Joan?” All I could do was cover my eyes and run back in the house.

Could I have ever done that to one of my children? No! No! Afterward I blamed myself for not asking him to stay with us.

Mom cried for months it seemed, then went to work selling yardage or dresses or something like that. We had become ‘latch key kids’. Nothing worse than a silent, dark house when you came home from school. When Mom was a bit sick and stayed home from work – oh the joy of coming home finding her there! Even the house smelled better.

I never forgave my Father, I know. Although, when I was going to get married I tried to find him through my aunt. He finally contacted my sister – not me….my sister.

But I got even when I was pregnant. Once he called from the bus station- but I didn’t want to see him so my husband went down and talked to him. So who got even with who? He did spend some time with my sister and her family but I just couldn’t or wouldn’t go there then.

Then came the time when he drank so much even my sister wouldn’t let him come into her house….and then he punishes us all and took his own life. In a dingy little apartment he hung himself on the closet door. He left an inheritance for my sister and I: 800 dollars partly hidden in some dirty clothes and partly in a pair of bedroom slippers on a closet shelf. The rest of his legacy is a feeling of horror for what he did, partly for an old drunk, regret and a loss that can never be found ever again.


Paris Times n°13 ” Jie Jie Goes Shopping” By Matthew Carlson

Jie Jie Solla Bina was angry. So angry that she couldn’t see straight. She couldn’t remember ever being so mad, but the day that Gelledge had come to her house and stolen away her darling Yorkshires was too much! And right in front of her on her own porch too! How dare he speak to her that way – and then run off with her little puffy spoodles, one under each arm. All she could do from her then “floored” position (she had been expertly blocked away and down when she had jumped on the bastard) was to scream for her eldest son to come and help. “O” had arrived very quickly upon the scene but wasn’t gonna catch Gelledge with those damn tennis legs of his!

Terrible feelings of abandonement flew upon her like a flurry of angry vultures on that recently grey bobbed head of hair. “Alone, unloved, being abandoned, no one likes me, loves me…” The terrible thoughts were unrelenting mixed with anger too, drowning out the fears that came first. She pulled herself up and revenge swole within. She would get those dogs back and make Gelledge suffer. She hated, hated him! But she had to remind herself that revenge was a dish best served on a cold plate…

Later on,  at the Gendarmerie, she couldn’t help but lie, it was if she was possessed. She told the female officer that Gelledge had gone into her home (a lie) that he had hit her (another lie), & that he had given her several kicks in the leg while she lay on the ground (another lie) and then to top it off, (another lie, of course) that Gelledge had stolen cash from her purse! All lies, but it had felt so good at the time when she was saying it. Exactly like when she was a girl and those emotions were at their peak and so she would cut herself just a little bit; just enough. The searing pain would take her away from her emotional pain, giving her some breathing space. It was exactly like that. She hoped O would support her story.

The next day, alone at the grocery store, she fingered the fruits and vegetables in the produce department. She eyed particularly the armenian cucumbers and the botoxed carrots that were unaturally large. She sighed  as she stared at the squash and the other oblong fruits & vegetables, tracing their special silouttes with her own large manly fingers. Jie Jie was on a mission, a secret one: one of ‘a joining’ of sorts. It was a necessity in her life, a religious ceremony though she had no religious beliefs, in spite of the forced upon her private catholique schools. Far from her Mother, far from her Father….She had learned to only listen to herself and the bad advice that she gave herself. She would & could never share her true thoughts to anyone, had never done it. Her life was nothing but secrets. No one had a clue of who she was really.

Having chosen the largest egg plant she could find, she garthered a few other ‘organic’ food stuffs to go along wth her prized vegetable, which had an extra-ordinary length and width to it. Also, she appreciated the dark coloring of it; it was more purple than black, so much like the one time lover from Senegal she had had way back when. Before getting married, before beings someones’ wife, before she became someones’ Mother  and now someones’ grandmother for Pete’s sake and all that other crap. Though she was a lesbien in her heart & soul, she could still appreciate a well endowed member on a man. It hit the spot that a small penis could never reach, no matter how perky it was – or enduring!

She raised her upper lip in a dull attempt of a smile at the young woman behind the cash register, who responded with enormous white teeth, surely brightened by some ridiculous toxic product. She hoped that no one could read the anticipation on her face (which was practically impossible) ; she didn’t realize that her face had long ago been etched in stone. She paid for her things and walked away, eager to get back home. Driving back, those awful emotions came again to visit and she did her best to not listen, to not feel. Years of practise had given her the ability of at least not showing her terrible suffering to others. She thought of her Mother and all those moments of invalidating: what she felt, who she was, what she might some day want…All of it, stomped on and then again and again, until there was no trace of that little girl; her hopes, any dreams of a prince (or a princess) or anything magical had been crushed and then buried. She smirked for a moment thinking of how she had had the last word finally; for her Mother was not buried, was not anything after her death. There was no ceremony at the cremation. Jie Jie had just gone and picked up the enclosed vase (they called it an urn) the next day as if it hadn’t mattered at all, placed it on the floor in an unnoticed corner of her illegally built wooden house, next to her dead husbands’ cremated contents from a few years earlier.

Going into the bedroom, she placed the freshly washed monster egg plant on her bed. Everyone was gone, this was her time and she needed that egg plant badly! Laying a large towel on the bed, she then grasped the discret tube of jilly-jelly in a drawer of the night stand. She took off her clothes and laid down. There were no emotions yet, this was a ritual for her. And this time, she had surpassed herself by buying the largest vegetable penis ever. She had to have it inside and had to have it now! It would be a true joining!

The longing that she felt started far off in her being somewhere, as she closed her eyes: as if it was calling to her. Was it a voice? Some ancient ancestor or past moment reaching out to her each time? She slowly greased her egg plant with her fat man hands, spreading her legs in order to put the thing inside. It was immense, yet she knew she could put it in there. She had stuffed so many things up there before: bottles, vacuum cleaner tubes, the handle of the vacuum cleaner, her brooms (two at at a time), a sledge hammer (her sons’), her favorite bread rolling pin, a 1963 champagne bottle (still unopened),  a tennis racquet, her sons’ swimming pool net handle which was really long, but not very thick….anything that might fill her up. Her infrequent dinner guests would have been surprised to know what and how certain objects for food preparation had been used in order to satisfy the enormous void that was in Jie Jie.

Following a minor accident with a large wooden ball (it had splinters), she had moved on to vegetables as they were more pliable, flexible. She had to fill up the void, the emptiness. That was her goal. The black hole of her existence had brought her to this strange moment: a moment between her and an enormous egg plant. But as she slowly inserted the tip between her vaginal lips, the futility of it suddenly all came crashing down; the reality of what she was doing, of who she was. The reality of who she had never been; the reality of who she would never be either.The void was real. It could never be filled up. She ws nothing. Had nothing. Counted for nothing.

Her desire left her as quickly as it had arrived. Like an unwanted salesman that comes to you when all you really want is just to be left alone.

She suddenly pushed the now rejected gigantic egg plant lover away from her stretched out woman parts and began to cry. Her baby Yorkshires had been stolen from her! It was all Gelledge’s fault. She hated him; she’d get them back. He would suffer…..She hated her Mother, hated her Father too – selffish violent son of a bitch…Her Bordeline Personality Disorder filipped. And then it flopped. And then it flipped….and then it flopped. Like an automatic stuck washing machine dial, it just kept turning by itself. No one controlled it. Jie Jie lay there, suffering on her bed, going back & forth with the ticking; the black & white ticking of her mental illness.Tick, tick, tick went the washing machine dial. Her broken brain could do nothing else. There was nothing else.

Later on in the kitchen, her son asked, “What’s for dinner Mom?”

“Stuffed egg plant,” she replied.