And then there were none

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
I apologize for not taking the time to write up the background on my sad late husband's family. If anyone is curious, there are older posts about them. My former father in law died on Tuesday night. His brother, my late husband's uncle, has been checking on him every night since his wife died last May. The uncle and his wife have help father in law go to the doctor, get his affairs in order and get his house in order. They opened their house to him for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They've been very good to him.

I couldn't do those things as there has never been love between the two of us. He has never had a conversation with me (that is not an exaggeration). He took us to lunch once a month for the past 6 years and said "hello" and "good-bye" and nothing in between. Not one story. Not one memory. A vast ocean of silence.

When my husband was still alive, father in law was nasty to me. He said some terribly hurtful things. He treated me with disdain and contempt and resentment. He treated his two sons and his wife the same way, so I didn't really feel singled out.

Since he passed, I telephoned my late brother in law's friend whom I will call Tina. brother in law also died by suicide and Tina and I have had many conversations. She was very close to brother in law and terribly damaged by his death. father in law dumped all the paperwork and gruntwork of handling brother in law's estate onto Tina. I kept telling her to ask for payment for all those services. father in law was bossy and demanding and inconsiderate of the time and effort she had to expend.

This is the piece that I need the wise minds of the board to weigh in upon:

father in law told Tina every time he spoke to her that he loved her. Every time. He called her to have chats with her. CHATS. HE ANSWERED HER QUESTIONS. He treated her like a daughter. He had CONVERSATIONS with her.

Never once did he call to tell my children that he loved them. Never did he speak those words to me, the wife of his eldest son. I doubt he even said those words to his wife of 60 years or his own sons. How do I make sense of this? I don't understand. How can a man live his entire life behaving in a nasty way toward his family but show love, connection, and kindness to Tina.

It feels eerie that all of them are gone now. I dread the memorial on Saturday in the tiny town where my former inlaws lived out their long, empty lives. Maybe I will get lucky and the lady with the beehive hairdo will be the organist. She plays dirges out of tune. Then I will be struggling not to laugh at the intense irony.


Well-Known Member
How do I make sense of this? I don't understand. How can a man live his entire life behaving in a nasty way toward his family but show love, connection, and kindness to Tina.

You can't so don't even try. Maybe that's how he was raised, maybe something happened to make him want to remain so distant from everyone, and maybe he was just an a-hole. Trying to make sense of this will be no more productive that us trying to change our Difficult Child's by force of will. Good luck with the organist.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
I don't think you will ever be able to make sense of it. Perhaps Tina had some qualities that he found lacked in others. Perhaps she reminded him of someone from happier times.

You will never know the reasons that he built his wall of silence around himself. I can only venture a guess that he must have been hurt at some point in his life and keeping people out was a means of protection for his emotions.
Regardless, it's just so sad when this happens to people. How sad that he leaves a legacy of being unkind and demanding.

What speaks to me here is that you will going to honor his memory because you are the wife of his son. You are a good person.

The thought of a woman with a Beehive hairdo playing the organ made me chuckle.

Good luck to you.


Pigless I am sorry of all you have had to go through. Heres the thing though. In your post I am "hearing" that you are somewhat doubting yourself for some reason because he never told you he loved you. Firstly please don't doubt yourself and hold yourself ransom to someone's opinion, words or lack thereof. The fellow sounds like he was an a""" why would you want him to love you? Secondly it sounds like this man had many issues, and did build a wall around himself for whatever reason.

You sound like a wonderful strong person who is carrying on despite a lot of hardships. Hug yourself and yes have a chuckle in the church. The lady beehive organist represents serendipity! Smiles.


Well-Known Member
It's impossible to know what is in another person's heart. I agree with Tanya...I suspect Tina was somehow special, and maybe he didn't even know why. It's sad to think of someone so closed off they love no one.

I'll have you in my thoughts tomorrow as you deal with the service. :hugs:

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
Thank you, friends. It doesn't much matter anymore what my father in law thought of me. Tina also told me that he blamed me for my husband's death. I don't think he had a good grip on how hard I struggled to keep my husband alive.

wisernow, I had a hard time at my husband's memorial when the beehive organist was banging out those terrible dirges. I had to bite my lip because it would have been disastrous for the widow to bust out laughing in the middle of the service. All I could think was how much my husband would have hated that outrageous performance. I did laugh about it later, though.

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
We made it through . . . somehow. father in law wanted to be buried, so there was an internment service at the graveside. The other family members had been cremated, so this was the first time we experienced an actual burial. I found it somewhat disturbing that they had covered all the other grave markers with astroturf so that we were sitting over top of everyone else. We had brought flowers to lay on the other markers and had to roll with the change and just place all of them on the casket instead.

father in law also had a giant crypt thing which the casket was perched upon. It seemed like total overkill to me, but whatever made the man most comfortable. He also had spent a ton of money on having photographs permanently added to all the markers to last forever. It's hard to explain but they're made of stone somehow. His sons wouldn't have liked that, especially my husband.

I keep bursting into tears at random times. SO thinks that I am blaming myself for all of their deaths; I'm not. I know I did my best by my husband. I know that he loved me and his children. If anyone could have kept him alive, I could. I understand how mental illness stepped in and twisted his thoughts. He was unreachable even though I kept trying even in the last phone call he made to me. I was unaware at the time how his suicide would set off a family chain reaction of events. I wish they had been stronger, but I've always known they weren't. I simply feel extremely sad to have known and loved this small family who were all so terribly miserable.


Well-Known Member
Below you will find some passages I selected from the Wikipedia description of psychological splitting that I thought related to the family circumstances you describe.

Pigless. From the little I know you I see a very strong, intelligent, responsible, unflinchingly honest and upright woman who does not shrink from reality or give up herself and her self-regard to accommodate somebody else's will. I am not talking about compromising here. I am talking about gaslighting.

Your father in law by everything you have written has been an abusive, withholding and self-serving man. He tolerated and he contributed to the suffering of his loved ones; by what you describe he failed every single one of them. These actions, if viewed head on, and their repercussions felt directly, would burn a soul. He shielded himself from this pain through the use of defense mechanisms.

He always knew who you were, Pigless, your integrity and your strength, and he shrunk smaller before you. Oh I know you did not mean it, but how could you be anyone other than you are? This he could not bear. Your goodness and your strength.

Look at this, Pigless: (the narcissist sees) others who do not conform to their will or values as purely wicked or contemptible.

Tina may have had qualities that enabled him to hide out. Not necessarily weaknesses, but something that allowed him, in relation to her, to feel not quite so broken.

To maintain his own self esteem, the narcissist will split the bad in him from the good, by idealizing one daughter in law and demonizing the other.

My mother loved without limit my sister. Who was sneaky, lying, plotting, cruel, small, avaricious and using. She betrayed and abandoned my mother at the end of her life. I could ask, why did my mother not love me as much? But why? My mother loved me as good as she could. The mysteries have died with her.

Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) is the failure in a person's thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism used by many people.[1] The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

Splitting creates instability in relationships because one person can be viewed as either personified virtue or personified vice at different times, depending on whether they gratify the subject's needs or frustrate them.

Narcissistic personality disorder
Main article: Narcissistic personality disorder
People matching the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder also use splitting as a central defense mechanism. Most often the narcissist does this as an attempt to stabilize their sense of self positivity in order to preserve their self-esteem, by perceiving themselves as purely upright or admirable and others who do not conform to their will or values as purely wicked or contemptible.
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pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
Thanks, Copa. Oddly enough I had never thought of father in law as a narcissist. He was, though. And you are correct in that he despised me. He actually despised everyone - all family members. The only person he did not despise was Tina who was actually only brother in law's friend. She said brother in law was like a brother to her. Tina bent to his will. She did everything that he asked her to do because she was devastated by my brother in law's suicide. She acted as his executor, she found homes for all his animals, she cleaned out his townhouse and sold it, and she even, bless her, cleaned up the mess he made through his death. Were I walking in her shoes, I never would have taken all that on.

I had a conversation with father in law's brother about Tina. He didn't understand the love that father in law had for Tina either. It totally makes sense in this context. She did everything he asked her to do no matter what. I have never done that.

I never mentioned the plaque either. Two years ago, father in law commissioned his church to hang a gigantic plaque on their wall commemorating his two sons. We had to trek down to the church for a whole ceremony involving the donation of this plaque. My father in law had to pay big bucks for this. I gave thought to speaking to him against it as I knew that both my late husband AND my late brother in law would have absolutely hated the idea of this damn plaque hanging in the church. Neither of them was religious. Luckily, I understood that to ask him not to do it was pointless, so there it hangs in perpetuity. A sad monument from a man to his sons whom he did not truly know.

Copa, the passages you quoted actually helped me with the ongoing situation I am in with the Cactus Queen, my step-mother.


Well-Known Member
I found it somewhat disturbing that they had covered all the other grave markers with astroturf so that we were sitting over top of everyone else.

This is a fairly common practice if there isn't much room in the grave yard. Then did the same thing when we buried my uncle last summer although the did attempt to leave as much uncovered as possible.