Spoiled Children of Divorce


Fresh Air Interview: The Memory Palace

Writer and Artist Mira Bartok is interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air about a memoir she has written called The Memory Palace.

I’m assuming that Mira Bartok is a Child of Divorce but the Big D is never mentioned in the interview.  Mira’s relationship with her Father is briefly mentioned to say that he left the family when she was 4 years old and Mira moved with her Sister and her Mother into their Grandparents’ house.  Her Mother, an accompalished pianist, suffered from schizophrenia and her Grandfather seems to also have some sort of mental illness.  Both Mother and Grandfather were violent.  Mira and her Sister have both achieved success in life working in the humanities.

The blurb which drew me to the interview said that Mira began to understand her Mother’s illness better after suffering traumatic brain injury when a Truck hit her when she was 40.  She suffers from memory problems, both short and long term.

The interview with Terry Gross mostly discusses what it must be like to have a mentally ill family member who ends up homeless because their behavior is impossible to treat.  I wish there had been discussion about how it might be different to be the child of a mentally ill parent as I feel that sets up a different relationship dynamic than for a parent to deal with a mentally ill child.  It’s much easier to get a child into treatment than it is for a child because the parent is used to giving the commands rather than receiving them.

At one point Bartok says something like (not an exact quote most likely):

“We (she and her sister) needed to be safe and we needed for someone to keep her safe.”

I think that this is what parenting is all about and I think it is a huge problem for Children of Divorce, whether we want to say it or not.  The parents think that if they assure the child that he’s loved that this is enough.  But, then, the child marries a new partner and does nothing to protect the child from entering into the new relationship at his own emotional speed.  Since Bartok is probably around the same age that I am I know that girls of our generation were rarely considered “safe” when left alone.  Probably this is less so now but I don’t have a clue.

Bartok’s Grandfather died at some point, not sure what age she was at that point.  She placed her Grandmother into an eldercare program in 1989 and her Mother’s situation deteriorated very quickly after that.  By 1990 she was homeless.  There is great discussion here about how and why Bartok couldn’t take care of her Mother and didn’t talk to her for 17 years.  Her Mother lived to be more than 80 years old and the homeless shelter where she had lived for a few years before her death is named after her.

Am really interested to read this book.  Guess I’m jumping the gun by writing about it right now.  Wonder what it must be like to have memory problems and to be trying patch up such a difficult upbringing at the same time.

 


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