15 November 2009


After much angst and mental hand-wringing, I finally got in touch with my father last week. According to him, neither he nor my mother had the faintest clue as to why DH and I left their home in high dudgeon during our "vacation." Truth be told, with his poor hearing (he wears hearing aids in both ears), I don't think my dad heard much of what went on. When I explained it to him, he was devastated.

Then he asked what he and my mother could do to make things right, and I told him: a complete and unconditional apology from my mother for insulting me, and for insulting my husband.

Now, for an apology to mean anything, it must meet the following criteria:

definition of apology / definition of apologize
by J. E. Brown

To make an apology: In interpersonal manners, an acceptance of responsibility for a wrong, plus a pledge to change one's ways. The wrong may be either intentional or accidental; an apology is fitting in either case. The apology is usually made to the person or persons wronged, but may also be made to any third party to whom the wrongful act was evidence of untrustworthiness. The purpose of an apology is to put the listener at ease regarding the trustworthiness of the apologizing party.

An apology is not complete if it does not reflect all four of these:
• regret,
• understanding of the problem,
• acceptance of responsibility, and
• willingness to do better.

These are the necessary ingredients of a strong and reliable behavioral curb, a self-imposed restriction which the offender agrees to live by. It's your best guarantee and assurance that the behavior will not happen again (in fact, that's the whole purpose of an apology). If you don't hear all of the above elements in the apology, ask for them. If the offender resists, be skeptical.

Fast forward to yesterday. My father calls me. My mother gets on the phone, and says, "I'm sorry for anything I've done to cause you pain." Then, in a very snarky tone, says, "Well, I'll get off the phone now. I'm sure you'll be more comfortable that way."


What she said had none of the above qualities, making it a non-apology. To tell you the truth, I expected nothing less from her.

In other words, nothing has changed. My father is still desperately trying to get me to play happy families and sweep what happened under the rug, while my mother is still too busy being right to care that she's alienated her child.

Whatever. I'm glad Dad and I are still able to talk. Salvaging a relationship with him is the best I had hoped for. My mother, however, is a lost cause. There will be no more weekly phone calls, no more visits. And standing up to a narcissist (my mother) means that I will be vilified by her to the rest of the family, her friends, and everyone else they know so she can pay the poor, long-suffering victim and get everyone's sympathy.

I'm feeling strangely detached about the whole mess. I suppose that's a good thing?


Scientistbill said...

My brother said something awful to me and then later said,"I'm sorry you misunderstood me." Huh?! That is not an apology either.
Hang in there.