Editor’s note: The following is adapted from the “post script” of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s newest book, “Bad Childhood – Good Life,” available from the WorldNetDaily Book Service.
Upon hitting the save prompt on my computer after finishing the last line of my newest book, “Bad Childhood – Good Life,” I became choked up. That’s never happened after completing any of my prior eight adult books. I believe I got so emotional because of three factors:
- I was deeply moved by the courage and character displayed by people who have:
a.) suffered significant pain at the hands of others they should have been able to trust and count on;
b.) realized and been willing to face and change the mess they may have created for themselves with counterproductive thoughts and actions that were a reaction to their bad childhood.
- I felt that this was probably the most important book I’ve ever written, based upon how much I believe it is going to help change peoples lives dramatically for the better.
- I realized that I could not have written this book any earlier in my life because I had to be way down the road of my own Good Journey – and I was pleased to be able to see myself in that context.
Both of my parents are now deceased. While I will share some of my personal issues with you, I am not – as are the other contributors to this book – anonymous, and I don’t wish to do damage to my parents even after their deaths. Therefore, this will be more philosophical than autobiographical.
About one year before my father’s stomach cancer rapidly took his life just weeks after it was diagnosed, I remember him commenting on the huge number of people who came to the funeral of the wife of one of his co-workers: “Gee, I wonder how many people would come to my funeral?” It was an unusually candid moment for my father, and I believe it was probably one of the few introspective moments of his life. Perhaps he had regrets at that time for not having nurtured relationships. He was a very difficult, compulsive, critical and argumentative guy – who could also be very charming.
The last day he was coherent, I asked him the question of my lifetime: “Do you love me and have you ever been proud of what I’ve done with my life?” I remember the moment, thinking that his answer would change a lifetime of anguish and transform me into a more peaceful and happy person.
He looked at me calmly, and simply said, “Yes.”
Obviously, that was the answer any daughter would want to hear. I waited, as one does for the thunder after the lightening strike, for something magical to happen to me. I should have been happy or satisfied or something.
Absolutely nothing happened. I excused myself and walked out the sliding door to his living room into the back yard and paced around his pool. I was trying to figure out why I was not moved and I was trying to come up with what might be my next question.
I realized quickly why I was not moved by what he said, and why there was no next question. My father had been so tough on me that, for example, one spring-break week in college, I actually stayed in the dorm and survived on a bag of Oreo cookies rather than come home to his brow-beatings. Nonetheless, it has been clear to me for a long while that my drive to excel is directly related to a desire to finally please my dad. I can look at his impact on me as positive (I worked extremely hard to do something of value) and negative (I found it extremely difficult to enjoy my successes).
By the time of this last conversation with him, I had pulled back the lens and looked at him with objectivity. I was not the little girl trying to get approval from her dad. I was a grown, competent woman looking at a man who had been petty, insensitive, mean, thoughtless, demeaning and downright unloving, all for the sake of his own ego. At that moment, I realized why I was not moved by what he said, and why there was no next question: He’d been a “jerk,” and what he had to say really didn’t, and shouldn’t, matter. Believe me when I tell you that was a stunner! To think that much of what was not healthy about my life was a reaction to him – wow! – what a waste!
Sadly, when my father finally died shortly after this conversation, I did not mourn. I realized that was because there was no emotional bond. To this day, I envy people who suffer over the death of a parent because it means there was so much love and attachment that the loss of it tears at their soul. I never had that with either parent.
My first memory from my childhood is one of my mother pulling me along the sidewalk on a rainy night, while my father was in the car, rolling along the curb, begging her to get in … “The kid’ll get sick!” This pretty much represented their marriage. For reasons I never knew, they never appeared happy with each other. My father would never do nice things for her, she was always annoyed with him.
My mother was a war-bride from Italy. My father, a second lieutenant in the Army, met her in Gorizia, after the American forces liberated northern Italy. My mother was an amazing beauty. When I was 21 and planning an anniversary gift for them, I asked my father what anniversary it was. Turns out they were married in Italy, outside under a beautiful tree when I was some 5 months into my fetal development. I actually liked hearing that I was a “love child,” because it meant there was at least one time they had been happy with each other.
When my mother, a nice Italian Catholic girl, came to America after having married my father, a nice American Jewish boy, all hell broke loose when my father’s mother went on a relentless attack against the “shicksah,” which means in Yiddish the non-Jewish wife of a Jewish man. My grandmother tried to do everything she could to get rid of my mother, and turned much of the family into rejecting her/us.
When I was 2-1/2, my mother took me back to Italy, probably to get a break from this cruelty. My mother’s mother and father were dead by this time. She was not close to her brother, and her older sister had been killed by the Nazis on the first day she joined the underground resistance (I like to think that I channel her courage).
There was always tension in our home, and I was always trying to smooth things over and try to make things better. My sister, 11 years my junior, and I really didn’t have much bonding time because I left for college at 17 (she was 6) and never came home to live again. She and I handled the negativity in our home in different ways – she was more free-spirited, and I was more serious; this brought conflict between us.
My parents finally divorced after my father was involved in some extracurricular activities, and he married a nice woman with whom he lived until his death. My mother never remarried, and constantly expressed disdain for men, sex and love. Neither one of them had ever developed any close friendships at all. I felt responsible for her, while my sister gravitated toward my dad – who was feeling some guilt for the whole family mess and would indulge her.
I financially supported my mother (who had significant financial resources from her divorce and investments) by having her be a receptionist in my counseling clinic. She had tried other jobs in clothing stores and such, but her poor people skills would soon end that. She was abrupt and nasty with the counselors and with people on the telephone, and she seemed to try to pit me against everyone else, I guess to have me all to herself. I put up with all of this out of a sense of obligation. I always took her on my vacations and bought her lovely gifts even when I had a modest income (mink jacket, diamond bracelet, for example). She would never be grateful and would always find something to criticize.
One day, I gently asked if she would take a typing course, on my dime, because I needed help with the growing amount of paperwork I had as a therapist, writer and college professor. She said, “No,” picked up her stuff from the office and refused to see or talk to me ever again. Once my mother scratched you off her list, you were off for life – even if you were her daughter. She had pathological pride.
She was not there for my son’s birth, my home burning to the ground, my husband’s near fatal heart-attack, nor the public attacks on me and my career by various special-interest groups. After that, I frankly didn’t care about her either. There had never been any mother-daughter bond with me or with my sister.
One day the Beverly Hills Police called me (she had a condo in Beverly Hills) to let me know my mother was dead, and had been dead on the floor of her apartment for about four months. (There were no friends and none of her neighbors were close – nobody noticed!) They said it was probably a homicide, but not a robbery. When the police came to my home to ask me questions, I told them it couldn’t be a homicide. I said that to murder someone “personal,” you had to be close enough to begin to hate, and that nobody got close to her. The final conclusion was unknown cause of death, but not homicide.
The horrendous part of all of this is how the media – because I am a “celebrity” – handled this event. I was accused by many of the network so-called news shows and radio talk-show hosts of abandoning my mother, contrary to what I espouse on my radio program. She alienated everyone from her life and I was being made to pay the price for that. One of the network morning-news anchors asked some psychiatrist they grabbed at the last moment to comment on whether I should be giving advice about family issues when I didn’t have a relationship with my mother. My mother, I anguished, was causing me pain even after death!
My mother had a condo worth over a half-million dollars, stocks, bonds, money in the bank, and insurance policies (which were made out to me as the beneficiary – I gave it all away to a children’s foundation charity). She took trips on luxury liners and flew the Concorde to Europe. She didn’t lack for anything she wanted.
Nonetheless, let me answer that question, although it should be obvious. That I did not have a loving, bonded family as a child disqualifies me from trying to help others create such in their homes? Huh? Of course not. If because I did not have a loving childhood I tried to undermine everyone else’s attempts to have one, then I should be disqualified, of course. Everyone knows I’m a “family values” kinda girl, and because my positions – on marriage before children, hands-on parenting before institutionalized day care, divorce as a last recourse when there are minor children, and adoption before abortion – are hot-button issues, the messenger (me) was attacked in this vulgar, inhumane manner by media types who somehow see these values as threatening America.
When my mother died, I didn’t mourn. As with my father, there just wasn’t any bonding. I did suffer, though. I was aware that both of my parents had an incredible impact on my life – my difficulties being happy, trusting friendships, being open, even relaxing. I didn’t want to end up like either one of my them, virtually alone and unloved.