“When I Turn Fifty…” Changing a Life Scarred by a Scapegoating Family.

Why everything changes when I turn fifty years of age, I don’t know.  But it’s what I decided, or what something deep inside me decided and I agreed with it.  Fifty seemed to me to be the age a woman’s comportment can be of quiet confidence, when she and everyone else knows it’s below her to have to apologize for how she expresses herself and for the choices she makes.  I wanted to be that woman.

This decision was made this year when I turned forty-nine and realized that I was on the far side of middle-age and I still had less than the second half of my life to live.  My life felt so long already and so full of heartache and desolation that, if I had to live another 30 to 40 years, I knew I had better make some intentional changes and begin practicing them.

I need to make changes to my story that so far has been a sad one.  It would be annoyingly sad, I suppose, to some who can’t relate at all to someone saying they were not loved by any family member as a child.  It’s so out of their experience that they either assume the person is exaggerating or, if they accept the person is telling the truth, it’s so on the fringe that they don’t care to have the concept in their head space.

The earliest part of my biography is given to me, as with most people, partly from personal memory and partly from the memory of the parent giving it.  I was an unwanted child born to a young single schoolteacher on a military base who, by my mother’s account given to me as a child, would have been aborted but for my mother’s desire to spite her always-angry alcoholic father.  Apparently fulfilling my infant role as a spite-giver didn’t endear me to her and I remained unwanted. I was then assigned the role of the family scapegoat and any stigma of my untimely conception and birth my mother was sure to pin on me, the child.  She was the poor young mother who had the struggles of being an unmarried pregnant teacher dealing with a child who had the audacity to be a “bastard”, “illegitimate”, and “not exactly a celebration”.

Who’s my father?  “None of your business, ” was the reply  Really, she said that, although it makes me kind of laugh now that this was deemed an acceptable answer to a child inquiring about her own flesh and blood.  It was only told to me that he had killed himself in a car accident when he found out she was pregnant with me.  The tone was that I was to take this as my fault.  It was a strange interpretation of such an event, made even stranger for the fact that there never was a death nor a car accident, as I found out many decades later.

When I was one-years-old she met and, soon after, married a divorced man with three slightly older children of his own.  They went on to have two more children together and adopted each other’s children.  What this meant for my childhood story is that there were six children in the family, five all being the biological children of the father, I alone having a different man for a father.  I had three adoptive older siblings and two younger half-siblings, they all forming their own cliques that I didn’t belong to. I looked a little different from them and had a slightly different temperament, being more thoughtful and emotional while they were a little more staid.  I was artistic, they were happily mainstream.  They had a father smiling fondly and proudly at them, I had the same one look at me like I was a little foreign to him.  Combine all this with a mother who needed to have a child absorb all the negative attributes off from her and it’s no wonder I was the one who was chosen as the scapegoat by her and that it was agreed to by all the others.

My mother had no accountability when it came to how she treated me.  The others had their father and they were old enough when they married to be able to inform him if they were being mistreated while he was at work.  I had no one to tell, even if I could have as a toddler, and never did my whole childhood.  My mother had a rage problem,  flying off the handle over the smallest of issues, and she needed the control of looking good so she was diligent to unload her rage mostly on me.  Everyone decided that the narrative that I deserved it was the most convenient narrative of all and it also kept the heat off of them and continually on me.  Besides, no one in the family had any sense of responsibility or loyalty to me anyway as I was the odd one out, the stranger in their midst.

So, that was the set-up from day one, the dynamics of a raging narcissistic mother who must look good at all costs with the handy scapegoat child that she was free to use for that purpose.  No one would or could stop her.  Even though I had a biological mother and an adoptive father, I was essentially an orphan in terms of lack of protection and affection.  I was easy pickings and my life has been an unfortunate reflection of my role in the family.  I never had a chance.

Well, I never had a chance until now.  Things are changing now.  It began around a two years ago when I finally recovered enough from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to begin the task of adjusting to the energy limitation I now have, along with the myriad of other symptoms, and create a new acceptable normal for myself.  I was also finished with looking over my shoulder for being who I am and knew inside that the lifetime of doing so was part of my eventual physical breakdown and exhaustion.  My body just couldn’t do it anymore.  Then, later, I came across descriptions of narcissists online and then on scapegoats.  For the first time in my life I came to know that particulars of my life story were actually shared by others, that the feeling  of having no place in the world because you showed up to a life you weren’t invited to, for example, was a feeling others who went through ongoing childhood trauma could relate to.

Another effect of childhood trauma is self-isolation, and self-isolation is something I’ve challenged myself to slowly change, hence this blog.  It’s my little way of connecting finally with those who get where I’ve been as I give them the same understanding in return.  I’m grateful for you joining me as I begin to see the world and my place in it differently and I try new things in interacting with it.  I’m going to be fifty soon, the age I’m determined to live and interact in ways true to myself, so I better start practicing!

Let’s turn this thing around.








4 thoughts on ““When I Turn Fifty…” Changing a Life Scarred by a Scapegoating Family.

  1. Why so many of us didn’t “wake up” to what was done to us until our 40s, 50s, even 60s, I’m not sure. I have so many regrets of never having lived life and only beginning to live it now, in my 50’s. I think maybe it’s because this is the age at which wisdom finally kicks in.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You know, I thought about it too and came to the same conclusion. I think this accumulated wisdom of a lifetime finally has us acknowledge that we’re kinda here for the long haul now and so we’re now willing to just go ahead and live it, even if it looks messy. If I have to step through mess like I have been my whole life, I want it to at least have come from me learning to be who I am. I’m done with the mess imposed on me from others. 🙂


  3. Wow. Your mother actually told you that who your biological father was is none of your business. Wow…

    Fifty was my best year, so far. So you are on the brink of a terrific decade. I am 63 now and I am mostly happy, most of the time. But still, fifty for me was the best.

    Although my mother never actually said the words that my biological father is none of my business, she has never been honest about who my biological father is. I believe I may have met him once, for all of two minutes, when I was five. After a big fight with the man she was married to at the time, the man I called “daddy,” my mother took me to see her old boyfriend and she told him that I looked just like him. That was what she said when we first got there, when he told her hello and then he said that she had a cute little girl and that I looked like her. She said, very dramatically: “No, Richard, she looks just like you.”

    I was too little to understand what that meant, but it was strange enough that I never forgot it.

    Anyway, whoever that man was, he very quickly sent us packing. My mother never spoke of him to me again — prior to that, she had told me many charming stories about her wonderful old boyfriend. But still, I assumed all my life that my “dad” was my dad… until one year ago, when for fun I took an ancestry dot com DNA test to find out what my racial percentages are, and my late father’s German and African DNA were entirely missing from my genetic profile. If he were my real dad, according to family names and history, I should be about 1/8 black — his dad was half black — and at least 1/8 German, as his mother’s maiden name was German.

    When I was 25 I worked up the courage one day to ask my momster why she had taken me to see her old boyfriend when I was five, and why she told him that I looked just like him. She freaked out and told me I dreamed that. Yeah, right. And then, a moment later, she said “Your memory scares me!” Very crazy making.

    When I got my genetic profile last year and saw that I am Britsh and Irish, not German and African, it occurred to me that maybe my mysterious parentage is why I have been the family scapegoat my whole life.

    Sick, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It IS sick. It’s galling that these kind of mothers not only see their children as things to be used for their own benefit but will also treat their child’s history as an “idea” to be manipulated. A child’s history gives him or her a sense of where they fit in the world and has a serious impact on how they perceive themselves. The mothers often had the benefit of family history themselves but don’t care that their own child isn’t provided the same benefit.

      Liked by 1 person

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