Recently, I purchased the book written by Mary Trump, which is a first hand account about growing up in the Trump family. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of Donald Trump, yet I did not buy the book looking for slams against the American President. My opinion of him wasn’t going to change by reading a book about his shortcomings.
I wanted this book just because of what I read in some short reviews before it was released. As an alcoholic and an adult child who grew up in a dysfunctional alcoholic home, I wanted to read the story of this family written by a clinical psychologist who is part of that family.
Through my 25 years of sobriety I have seen five different therapists for different issues on my path of recovery. Straight out, on my first visit, I would ask the counsellor if they were an alcoholic or an addict. I wanted someone who knew what I was talking about through experience, not what they knew through books. Out of the five, only one wasn’t an alcoholic/addict. Instead she was a child of an alcoholic. That counsellor taught me more about life than the other four did all together. It was this reason as to why I wanted to read Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man.
Mary, is the daughter of the eldest son of Frederick Trump. The son who died at the age of 42 from heart disease and alcoholism. Fred, jr. spent his own life trying to please his father and have his father acknowledge his passion and creativity for the things that brought him joy. For his short time in this realm of existence Junior was a failure in his dad’s eyes because he didn’t chase money. He didn’t value material or financial wealth, instead he put that behind his children and his wife, as well as the joy he found deep sea fishing with friends and being an airplane pilot.
My father wasn’t so deeply invested in money. To be honest, besides his worship of one son and his love of gardening I’m not sure what he was all about. Fred Trump’s joy of a son came in the form of Donald. He belittle his eldest son in front of others just to make Donald seem larger than life. And Donald joined in the “fun” of making his older brother feel like dirt. The favourite son in my family, never put down his brothers to build himself up, but we all seemed to try to impress dad by doing things that Number 1 son hadn’t done or maybe we did it a bit better. It didn’t matter though, dad’s favourite was a god and nothing anybody did could change that status.
When Mary Trump’s dad passed away, her grandparents were cold not only to their grandchildren but also to their departed son. In their eyes he was a worthless penniless bum. His name wasn’t spoken or really recognized at all after his death. In my family, my mom despised one of my brothers. She shamed him in front of me and others. In her eyes, he was a useless bum.
In the book, Donald created a world where he was the center of it and his word was gospel. He looked down on the rest of his family because his dad didn’t stand up to him or never said that his other children were as valuable. My dad never stood up to one and that one went to war with another. Like Donald and Junior, these two spent their adult life not wanting to be near the other. A war that has lasted since 1976. How do I remember the year? Because it was the year that I graduated high school.
As war drug on, those two tried to get the other two brothers and their dad to join their side in the fight. Just like Donald has done throughout his life. When push comes to shove, he always gets someone else to do the dirty work, that way he can’t lose. When Donald’s dad passed away and his last will was being contested Donald had his baby brother, Bob, go about the dirty work of telling Mary that their inheritance was very little, mainly because her dad had died.
Bob spent his whole life seeking the approval of first his father, then after his death, his approval of Donald. Bob is so much like me. I so much craved the approval of my father, then my brothers, and never received it. In the book, Mary describes Bob as an after thought. That statement hit home. I don’t know if I was an accident, but an after thought is certainly true. I never felt accepted for just being me. I was never acknowledged as an equal to my parents or my brothers.
There were times I was made to feel like shit because I was being blamed for my drunk father beating my mother – who usually was drunk herself. I was blamed if my dad went into a diabetic shock and I didn’t do anything to try and prevent it. Didn’t matter that I was 12 years old. It was time to grow up! I was blamed first with words, then with violence. I once had a glass table thrown at me, that put me in the emergency room needing stitches for my knee.
Everything that happened in the Harm home, like the Trump home, was considered normal. A “normal” that meant we keep it behind closed doors. We keep it a secret. When the secrets are exposed and the truth is told, then and only then, can the healing begin.
Sadly for the Harm family and I believe the Trump family as well, the full healing of the family will never take place. Why? Because some of the people involved will continue to live the lie. I do not ever see Donald admitting to any failure in his life. When he fails, a word that wasn’t accepted in the Trump home, he finds someone else to blame. He didn’t fail with Covid-19. Obama was the one who failed. And while the economy was making a strong recovery at the end of Obama’s presidency, it was all because of Trumps wizardry that it became so strong.
My mother sat back quietly and watched me be abused, physically, emotionally, mentally, and yes sexually to an evil drunk. Brothers will say he was a good man and add when he was sober. The sad part is that as an “after thought” I saw a lot less sober times than they did. They were anywhere from 8-12 years older than me. They were raised by different parents.
It is known that alcoholism is a progressive disease. While my brothers maybe saw the beginnings of it, I got to see all of it. From a drunk mom at 8 AM, drinking scotch straight out of the bottle. The shame I felt believing it was my fault that they drank nearly killed me. The guilt and shame killed Mary’s dad.
It wasn’t till I was ten years sober that I began letting go of the secrets. Sadly, I couldn’t confront my parents and tell them that what they did didn’t magically disappear. I remember their fights. I remember the screams from their bedroom when they were making love. I remember as a young adolescent waking up in my bed – nude – with a naked parent sleeping next to me, stinking of booze.
While I couldn’t confront them with what happened, my book Damaged Merchandise did let my brothers know that I would no longer accept the responsibility of others. By all of our secrets we kept evil alive. My brothers were all old enough to go to child protective services and got me out of that hell, but instead they tried to ignore it and act like everything was OK.
In 2015, I had my last conversations with my oldest brother. It took place through e-mails. I got tired of where our conversation was going, knowing it would end up with me being shamed once again, so I never opened up that last e-mail. It sat in my inbox for over four months and I only opened it after I found out he had died. The e-mail was brief and said that it probably didn’t matter much but he wanted me to know that I did have a childhood that was evil, that was filled with terror, and he apologized that nothing was done to protect me.
That’s all I ever wanted. Just an acknowledgement that my childhood was not normal, nor healthy. That dad wasn’t a great man, he had some good points, but in the end he was a sadistic drunk. My mom was no angel and did the worst thing any mother could do – hate one of her sons.
I believe this is why Mary Trump wrote her book. That her childhood wasn’t normal and that her family was dysfunctional. By her sharing her story, she was letting go of her secrets and begin her process of healing. I also believe that you are reading this because you are dealing with your own shame and your own secrets and trying to make sense of it all.
I could relate to so much in Too Much And Never Enough. The one thing that is true with dysfunctional families is that we can all relate to the experiences of others. No one has a truly unique story. We’ve all walked the road of shame and sadness, wondering how we could have changed things, instead of realizing and believing that it wasn’t our fault how things turned out.
In a dysfunctional family, we give the abuser power by keeping the secret. Ironically, it was a step-daughter who wanted me dead that actually saved my life. It was her hatred for me that made me seek help and get sober. She still hates me, even after 25 years of sobriety, but that’s OK. It was her hatred that gave me life. It was by her letting go of the secrets that gave me a chance at healing and a new life, not only for me but for her as well. For that I’ll be forever grateful.