My Father: Portrait of the Narcissist as an Old Man

It's that time of year again. The time of year that I want to tell the media to shut up already. I don't want to hear about celebrating dad and I don't want to see all of the loving photos my friends post of their wonderful fathers. Truthfully, I am jealous. I don't have a father in the real sense of the word. After all that I have learned in my fifty-two years on this planet- I have a sperm donor, a tormenter, an ugly and evil competitor who only cares about himself. This is not someone you fete with a barbecue and gifts of bathrobes and slippers. This is someone you spend thousands of dollars on psychotherapy to rid your nervous system of the anxiety and nightmares that he has caused over the course of your lifetime.

If you have read some of my old blog posts, like this one, and this one, you will know that my father is bipolar with psychotic episodes of mania that last for years. You will also have read that I saved his life when he was in his last depression, moving him out his crumbling home in Mahopac Falls, NY, and into my home- nursing him back to health only to have him turn on my husband and me in a violent way. We caught him and we released him. He loves his mania. He even tattooed it on his arms.
 The devil on one side....
...and a laughing Buddha on the other.

My brother took those photos- this was right around the time my father was sending toxic mail and throwing things that looked like bombs in my yard.

I have not seen my father "officially" since he crashed my book launch for my book "Once Upon A Memory" on December 3, 2013. He came to make the event about him, but we were prepared and we used a secret weapon- my beautiful friend Teresa- to defuse him. Teresa used her wile and wit and she caught the nasty fly and held him captive, away from my reading until the very end. Then I had to face the enemy- and he was full of himself and full of smoke and weed- his t-shirt had burn holes, and an image of Frida Kahlo that he had written on- to add my mother's name, which was Frieda Savitz, and her birthday, which was the very day of my book launch. It was a disgusting display of vulgarity. He hurt my mother so badly that he destroyed her. She died 28 years ago this past January.

My father did not come to have me sign a copy of "Once Upon A Memory" to him. No. He had bought a copy himself, in advance of the signing, and HE had signed it. He drew a picture of the Oscar® that he had been nominated for- and told me to "remember that Oscar® had visited him twice..." (he didn't win either time) and he wrote other gibberish that was all about how great he is. I tried not to let him ruin my book launch, but he definitely left a horrid metallic taste in my psyche after it was over.

After that December day, my husband and I would spot him occasionally. He lives in our neighborhood in Seattle, about a mile away and we walk our errands all of the time. One day this spring he walked right past us, but didn't see us there. I drew this in my journal after that:

Then about three weeks ago on a Friday evening- the same day that I had given a live interview on CNN International about the Hachette-Amazon battle, Booth and I were walking home from a lovely dinner in Ballard. It was a gorgeous late spring evening and people were out and enjoying the weather. There was a crowd in front of the bar Hazelwood, which is next to the the Anchor Tattoo parlor. As I walked right next to the bar crowd, I looked up and there was my father- looking very clean-shaven, wearing hipster glasses, hitting on a 30-something woman, talking to her non-stop. I stared at him- and then watched as he quickly glanced at me and Booth walking by, and then went right back to chewing the woman's ear off, wishing he was chewing on the rest of her. He had no idea who we were. Booth turned around to see if he did a double-take, but he did not. We both laughed. I felt a sense of relief that I didn't have any anxiety. Sure, it was sad and pitiful, but it had not hurt like in the past.

I have spent my entire life trying to please this man- wishing for his love, for him to be proud of me, but over and over I have been screwed- not only by him, but by others in his new family circle after he left my mother. I have worked on the puzzle that caused so much hardship in my life and when I was 35 and had fallen into major clinical depression I figured out that he was bipolar, which shed light on why he was the way he was. He has refused treatment, fighting it vehemently. But even the bipolar diagnosis did not explain his lack of love and empathy. My mother was also bipolar, but she loved my brother and me and even though she was broke and dying, she loved us and said we were her "greatest achievements." Last week I stumbled on a website that dealt with "Toxic People," and my eyes were opened - it was like discovering another planet- not one that supported life, though- I read a description that fit my father so aptly; it was as plain as the enormous nose on his face: My father  has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

This doesn't absolve him of his sins. However, now I have context and I understand what I have been dealing with. A long time ago I had a Jungian Astrological reading done and the report said that my parents were "Beauty and the Beast." I didn't understand that then, but it has come true in so many ways, except I do not love the Beast. I will not celebrate him on Father's Day. Do not cry for him, though, he has built yet another world of adoring fans and as long as they agree with him and do his bidding, he will shower them with his incredible presence. Or if they are a pretty young woman, he will try to get them into the shower with his tattooed 82 year old body.

I will celebrate Father's Day with my husband, who is a great father. I will also remember both of my grandfathers, Sam and Ralph, who were great fathers. I will also work on healing myself from my painful past. I still thank my father for so many lessons that he has taught me- most of them on how "not to be..." But as a narcissist, he will claim credit for how I've turned out and what I've done.

What I've done is let him go.

With Love,


  1. I wish you a happy weekend, Nina. Yes, celebrate your husband and your grandfathers!

    1. Thank you, Dawn! I hope you had a great weekend, too.

  2. This is a brutally honest post, Nina, and I thank you for it! Not everyone is lucky enough to be born into a life with a great father. Actually, so many people are not in that situation. Better to face the truth and try to live your life with honesty and grace rather than staying in denial. I applaud you for letting your dad go. It's the most healthy thing you can do.

    1. So much truth, Peg. I'm doing the best I can- learning as I go. My favorite Zen quote is: "In the end all that matters is: How well did you live? How well did you love? How well did you learn to let go?" xo

  3. That's beautiful, Nina. So glad you've come through this. I had a mom like that, and a stepdad who didn't care that I was alive. It's awful, and it hurts. You've grown gracefully. Look into Asperger's, and he also sounds like he may be on drugs.

    1. Thanks Savvy- I'm sorry that you have been through this, too. He's not on drugs in the "narcotic" sense, but he does smoke a lot of weed... but it's "no" to Asperger's. He's bipolar with psychotic long-lasting episodes of mania (they can go on for years) and he definitely has Narcissistic Personality Disorder to the max.

  4. Christine AchilleJune 17, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Love you Nina <3 I know how painful your relationship with him has been. You are one of the strongest and bravest women I know :)

    1. Thanks dear Christine- I love you, too, my friend. I so appreciate you saying this.


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