Family Twist Podcast Episode 8: Narcissism, Racism … and a Cult, Part 1
Michelle McIntosh slowly began to realize that she and her two sisters were being raised by a father as status symbol objects rather than as just children. Narcissism and racism played a part in her childhood, though not completely evident at the time. Michelle’s father made it known anything other than excellence would not be accepted. Michelle’s father was a local celebrity, mega popular in their Indiana community. But once she started to learn about his immoral and illegal behind-the-scenes actions, her family was in for the first of many twists.
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00:05 Welcome to Family Twist, a podcast about relatively unusual stories of long lost families, adoption, and lots of drama. I'm Corey. And I'm Kendall, and we've been partners for over 16 years. This is part one of two and just wanted to let you know that we recorded these stories at two different times, so the sound quality is going to be a little bit different, but we're just matching these tales together in chronological order.
00:30 This episode of The Family Twist isn't an adoption story or about finding family members via the magic of DNA technology. This is a different kind of twist, but we think many of you will relate to this story. So I'd like to welcome our guest this week. Hello, Michelle. Hi, everyone. My name is Michelle McIntosh. Nice to be here, Michelle. I'm going to let you be the star of this week's episode and just let you lay the groundwork, kind of share what your family dynamic was like when you were a child.
01:03 Sure. Yeah, I guess, like, background. I grew up in the 90s in north central Indiana in a College town. I have two younger sisters, and my mom is white and my dad is black. So I grew up in an interracial family. Was that something that sort of differentiated you from, like, kids you knew, or was it not a thing? Yeah. As a kid, you don't really fully grasp, like, racism like you do as an adult.
01:35 But, yeah, I was definitely aware that my family was different, and it started almost immediately as far as people pointing that out, maybe in a not the most PC or polite kind of way. Yeah, it was the 90s, so I think PC was a little bit more generalized back then, different than it is today, at least. But, yeah, it was very clear that my dad stood out as one of the only black doctors in the entire area, let alone the city.
02:06 And my mom stood out for being married to him. That just wasn't a common thing in Indiana yet. Was there a conversation that you remember your parents having with you and your sisters about this? No, we never had any explicit conversations about it. It was just like if something happened, like, it was brushed off or you just ignored that person.
02:32 But there were also, like, little micro aggressions and little occurrences, like, throughout our lives that looking back as an adult, you are just like, oh, my God, that would just not fly. Today, for example, there's a story my mom likes to tell me about. Like, when I was born, there was all this, like, hullabaloo in the delivery room because my mom delivered me.
02:58 And there were, like, nurses that had nothing to do with the birth that were coming in and just peeking in the room, like, wanting to see the baby. And my mom was like, oh, what the heck. It's my first kid, but who cares? Why are these people stopping here. And later she realized like it was because they didn't know what a mixed baby would look like. Wow. That was me being born. That was the start of my childhood as far as experiencing that.
03:30 And some were just curiosity driven and some other things were more malicious, but yeah, that's kind of my birth story. Wow. I guess it's usually like junior high and high school generally that clicks really start forming. But it was even in grade school where you like, were the black kids worry of being friends with you, the white kids where you're being friends with you, or was it a weird dynamic at all like that? So that was the thing. My parents insisted on having us in Catholic schools.
03:59 They wanted to raise us so that there would be no room for criticism of who we were. So we went to the best schools. We played sports, we did everything like played instruments and all that stuff. So the school I went to, I was the only multiracial kid. There weren't any black kids in my class until high school. And even then I'm white appearing because I have light skin and light Brown hair and I could blend in.
04:31 It was only if people knew who my parents were that it would be obvious. Got you for friends of yours? I didn't know. I would imagine once they hung out at your house, it was no longer a deal an issue. Yes, I acknowledge I grew up with privilege too, because my dad was a doctor. So the kids I was hanging out with, at least at the beginning, were at the private school and my dad was a doctor.
05:03 So there was that relationship already, like colleagues kids or something. So they were used to my dad and they were able to not have as much of a problem their kids may have not even noticed. I don't know. At least my closest friends you couldn't tell. Got you. So did your parents make it like a known thing? Like we're going to do what we can so there's no room for interpretation as far as the best schools and being involved in sports and things like that, or is that something you had to figure out on your own?
05:34 No, that was definitely their intention. I think from the get go when they decided to get married and moved to Central Indiana, I think they just decided our kids are going to be the best so that no one has anything to say about them being like multiracial. So yeah, they went out of their way to put us in every sport. Academic programs make us extremely well rounded, polite.
06:06 I wouldn't say it was like a normal kid because they went too far past that got you normal for you because you didn't know any different, correct? Yeah. Michelle, we're going to flash back to your childhood for a little while. You send me a timeline of things for us to discuss today. And you've got written down twice. First Communion. So I'm thinking there's a story there. Yes.
06:29 I was raised a Roman Catholic, and I'm the oldest child, so my first Communion was, like a big deal specifically for my Catholic side of the family. But my dad was raised Apostolic Christian, and his mom was Catholic. So my grandma's Catholic. My mom took me to go buy my first Communion dress, which, when you're eight years old, that seems cool because it's like a wedding dress. You get your veil and your white patent leather shoes and all that stuff. And my parents decided to make it a pretty big party.
06:58 So they invited all of our family, including extended family. And this was extended family of my dad's that I had no idea existed until this time. There were my grandparents. My great grandmother was still alive and came down from Chicago. And then a lot of my grandfather's, siblings and their children, it was a big party, and it was really the first time I had seen, like, all of my black family together in my white family and watching them interact as a kid.
07:32 So it was just kind of cool. Everyone was there. For me, it was a big party. It's one of my favorite memories about race as a kid because this is one of the first times that someone explicitly said to me, you need to be proud of who you are. So the story is my parents had this big deck out back, and so we were all eating outside. It was a nice day. And my great grandmother was just like, beautiful woman.
08:02 She had a long, like, white braid down her back, and she was like Creole. So I'm not really sure 100% of the ethic makeup, but I just remember her long white braid. And she pulled me up to her and she said, Come here, honey, and pull me close and said, I want you to remember something. And I said, okay. Not really sure what she was meaning. And she's like, you come from royalty. And I looked at her, I'm eight, so I'm like, I'm a Princess. How cool.
08:29 And she's like, I just want you to know and always remember, you come from royalty. You don't come from a ghetto, you don't come from slaves. You come from royalty. And I just kind of skipped off like, sweet, I'm a Princess or whatever. But that's always stuck with me because that was the only time someone in my family told me to be proud of who I was. And it's really interesting because here it is like Black History Month.
08:59 And I bought myself a resubscription to Ancestry.com and realized it's Black History Month. And I can't trace my black history. And I just remember the story about my grandma, because past the Emancipation Proclamation back in history, you can't find people's names or last names. So I just thought that was interesting to share because it was like the only person in my life who was just like, no, be who you are and be proud. That's really cool. Wow.
09:28 Are you able to go back and find out about more history, about your great grandmother, or where does it stop? Where do you get stuck? Yeah, it's been really difficult because I've traced my DNA through, like, 23. And me, I've done the ancestry, like, tree mapping and everything just comes to a screeching halt in, like, the 1850s, depending on which side specifically for the black side of my family.
09:59 I'm Creole, so the French side, I can trace a little bit further at different points, like last names become whatever the name you had from your slave owner or whatever name you picked when you were freed. It's really difficult to trace people. On top of that, I noticed that with census documents, people's names could just be spelled phonetically. Not everyone knew how to read and write, and not every census worker seemed to, like, either know how to spell or spelled consistently.
10:31 So there are certain people's names that have five or six different spellings every ten years on different census documents. So anyway, to make a long story short, it's extremely difficult. In addition to the lack of really just black history on platforms like Ancestry.com. So you and your two sisters, your parents had some very high expectations for you, and you were encouraged to take part in activities and sports and stuff like that. Did you feel like they were constantly pushing you, or was it just because you were raised that way that this was just what you do?
11:01 You study hard, you go to practice and play as hard as you can. A little bit of both. Like, there was a lot of pressure to be the best, not just because of the racial narrative I realized later with my parents wanting us to overcome stereotypes or whatever. But also, my dad does not like to lose anything. He coached all of our sports and so his teams didn't lose. His daughters didn't get bad grades. They're just not an option. How did he make that known?
11:31 That was not an option, pretty obviously. Like, we were definitely reprimanded or had to do all the extra math practice and all that stuff. The 90s was also the epitome of the professionalization of youth sports, as we all know. And I said earlier that my parents really wanted us to excel in everything we did. And one of those things for me was competitive swimming.
12:01 I swim a lot, and my parents eventually put me in like, an Olympic development training program and all this stuff. And I didn't make the cut because it wasn't that good. And it's also really bad for your developing joints to be in something like that. Now, your dad wasn't your swim coach? No, thank God, no. Swimming wasn't his strong point, but he was inactive. I could hear him underwater.
12:31 We'll put it that way. Cheering you on, right? Yeah. Cheering. Yes. He was always looking for opportunities to show his athletic prowess and make sure everyone remembers that he was there. So, yeah. Swimmers were no exception. In the summer, we had swim meets at night, and we swam at an outdoor pool. And one night the parents basically, like, drank during these swimmers because it's a bunch of screaming children running around and swimming and stuff, and they're loud.
13:01 Like, swimmers are really loud. And so someone had the bright idea of, okay, once the swimmer is over, let's have a parents relay. My dad decided that this was going to be his big showcase to show how well he could swim, which I think had several meetings on the stereotype that not a lot of black people swim. And so I remember my favorite color was purple at the time.
13:29 So I had this really bright purple swim cap, and he asked me for my swim cap and put it on his head, and it was a relay. He strategically positioned himself to be the last and final leg of the relay so that he could clinch the wind. Right. I just have this memory of him with my purple swim cap doing this flying leap off the side of a pool into the water. My dad was a big guy.
13:59 He was a big splash. He knew how to swim, but he wasn't like this amazing swimmer. So luckily they had a lead and he still clinched the victory or whatever of the drunk parents. But, yeah, there's a lot to prove for some reason with that swimbeat. Wow. I imagine there's probably, like, dozens of other stories if we said the right thing. That definitely conjures an image.
14:28 Talk a little bit about what it was like being on teams and having your dad be the coach. My dad was hyper competitive, and he was, like, always our soccer coach my whole childhood and teenage years. But I didn't really think much of it at the time because we won a lot. The motto was like, play to win. And we were really good. We had some really good players on our team. And so it was fun. Sports are fun when you win. Yeah. He used to play rugby in College, in grad school.
14:59 And so I think because he had no sons and soccer was the closest thing to rugby that he could get his daughters involved in. I think he took it that far. So there was a lot of you get slide tackled, you better get back up and there's no crying and that kind of stuff. And so you had no excuse. And the other part is, he's an orthopedic surgeon, so you can't claim your foot hurts. Right. He could fix it for you.
15:30 Yeah. We'll deal with it after get back in the game. Yeah. But behind that was like, we don't lose. There's just no room for that. So lots of soccer practice stories. Yeah. He was my coach for probably like five to high school. Yeah. And my sisters. So, yeah, he coached a couple of teams and we won a lot.
16:00 I admire a lot of children who have their parents as coaches in general. I think that's what I've witnessed is that's difficult in general. I feel like it's just that undue pressure to. Yeah, it's a rare, unique kind of parent that has the maturity not to over coach their kids when they're in that position.
16:28 That wasn't the case. Looking back, there are some things that I did notice later after talking to people that were not necessarily normal. So, for example, every once in a while in September, people will talk to each other like, where were you on 911? And for me, that's the first time I realized that this is a really messed up story on 911. After we were pulled out of school, my dad insisted on having soccer practice.
16:57 At the time, I told myself, oh, it's because we're not going to be intimidated by a terrorist attack or anything. But he made it a mandatory practice. It was just odd because we were at this huge soccer complex and the only team practicing, people were really uneasy. And it was just like my dad demanded that we have soccer practice.
17:21 And yeah, like I said at the time, it felt like we're not giving in, but then it felt weird and defiant and insensitive to the fact that our nation had just been attacked in multiple places. And it was kind of a time of be with your family and watch the news and figure out what's going on and next steps and stuff. Not like ignore that that's happening and have a two hour soccer practice or whatever. Yeah. I would think some parents would be weirded out.
17:51 Yeah. And they were ashamed. Like if the kids didn't come to the practice, they're called out later. It was just a really strange reaction to the only attack in our lifetime after Pearl Harbor. Right. Let's go practice next game. Yeah. So that's one example of just lack of sensitivity, I guess, to like other people's needs. I'm not describing this well, but it's just kind of like ignorant of what's going on in the world.
18:22 And soccer is not the center of the universe. And missing one practice was not going to affect our team's winning streak or anything. Right. Well, again, we're not psychologists, but from your research, is that sort of like a symptom of a narcissist, that kind of behavior? Yeah. The world exists for them. Planes crashing into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. That's not part of my reality. So I'm just going to carry on with my normal day.
18:50 And my normal day consists of coaching girls soccer. And it's almost like defiant, like, you're not going to change anything about my life. But yeah, as far as the narcissism, another interesting fact about my father and soccer coach was he really liked sports cars. It was a treat for him, like, he had a sports car in addition to his normal car. He leased his car, so there's a new car every few years or whatever.
19:18 And he started coordinating the car color to our soccer team. We were blue most of the time. The other part of that was like, my dad always liked to appear really cool, and I just have this vivid memory of him pulling up to soccer practice late. He was always late in a powder blue Corvette with the top down blaring Shaky Tail Feather by Murphy Lee.
19:47 And who else is in that song? Nelly Diddy, I think, wow. And I was like, eleven or twelve or whatever the hell that song came out. And I was like, this is awkward. But, yeah, he wanted that attention. Practice started not on time, but when he got there. And when he got there, he knew about it. And of course, later, after I found out about why he was late, that it made even more sense. Oh, yeah. What kind of, like sports cars, too? Should I be worried?
20:16 I mean, what color are they? What are you playing? He doesn't currently have one. No, I would rock the powder blue. All right, I'm frightened now. I am a little too. And how about your mom? What was her attitude towards academics and extracurriculars? I think the average mum. You just want your kids to do well, and if you know that they can do better, like pushing them to that. My parents were both athletic and therefore competitive.
20:45 They pushed us to do well in sports and then pushed us to do well in school. My mom was more on the need to be extremely conscientious and polite. She grew up in the south, like, she's from St. Louis, and that was pretty important to her. How do you feel your relationship was with them at this time? When you were grade school? Junior high, grade school. I felt like I had a good childhood, nothing to worry about. It shifted in junior high because I essentially caught my dad cheating on my mom.
21:15 I basically helped trigger their divorce. That shifted everything pretty quickly. How did you catch him? I played a lot of soccer, like I said, and my dad had pushed that I'd be on a state team. And so my mom was taking me down to Indianapolis, which is the capital, to play, and we were leaving to go down to Indianapolis, and we were on, like, a state road, and we saw my dad pass on the highway, but it was close enough, like the opposite direction.
21:52 It was close enough where you could see, like, oh, hey, I think that's dad. And, oh, there's somebody in the car. And so we'd just gotten cell phones at this point. And so my mom called him and said, hey, we just passed you taking Michelle down to Andy, and who's in the car with you? And my dad played it off. It's one of my nurses. Like, we just went out to lunch and goes, oh, okay, let me talk to her. Let me say Hi past the phone over.
22:22 It wasn't this nurse. Yeah, that was interesting. That was a long and silent car ride. Have you had any kind of inkling that something was amiss before that? No. I grew up with my dad being a very magnetic personality. He's a very good doctor. He has, like, impeccable bedside manner. And I'm not just saying this to brag on him. It's just true.
22:54 That's what makes him stand out Besides his skill. And he had this following of patience. Like, every year at Christmas, we would be bombarded with cookies and gifts, and people made us clothes and people made us all these things. And he was this local celebrity in a way.
23:18 So when we would go out to dinner, for example, I can't remember a dinner where it wasn't interrupted by somebody coming up to our table and saying, thanks for my surgery, I feel great, or blah, blah, blah, or just saying Hi. In addition, he was very flirtatious, so it was considered normal to see him flirt with a waitress. Like, even at family dinner. It wasn't anything over the top at that time, but it was enough to make me uncomfortable as a kid.
23:49 And I'm just like, okay, are you being nice to this woman? I have no idea who she is. He was always just like that. He likes to joke a lot with people, so he'd like to joke with my teammates. He'd joke with my teammates, parents. He was just always the center of attention. So, no, it wasn't that surprising, I guess. You said your dad was always late arriving in practice. Was he late? In general, doctors typically have to be on time, right?
24:19 Yeah. You think? Okay, they've got to get everything on time, especially during surgery or something, so the patient doesn't stay under for too long or whatever. But no time started and stopped when he decided it did. So being a doctor is absolutely no exception to that. For example, I've mentioned this before, but my dad had really good bedside manner. It's something that really set him apart and helped develop this almost fan base of patience for him.
24:50 And one way he did that was actually to bring my sisters and I when we were little kids with him on hospital rounds. So we'd go in the room, and he was orthopedic surgeon. So it's a variety of people, some sports injuries or just older people with, like, hip replacements or knee replacements or whatever, and he'd bring us in. We would talk to the patient and hold their hand and visit with them and tell them about school or whatever.
25:17 And my dad would take out their staples or change their dressing or whatever he was checking up on after surgery. I didn't think of it as that weird as a kid, though. And I actually find it a strength now because I'm really comfortable in hospitals like the doctor. I know a lot of people are afraid of the doctor, and for me, it's just whatever surgery does not scare me. I'm weirdly comfortable in almost every part of the hospital.
25:45 So, yeah, we would go on rounds with my dad, and then I'm not sure if this is still a thing just because I've been not creeping around hospitals over the last decade and a half or so. But in the 90s, they used to have pretty nice doctors lounges, which, like, a doctor's lounge is basically where all of the surgeons or the doctors on call. They could stay the night in there. There was, like, a buffet TV, essentially just lounge in the hospital that only doctors had access to.
26:15 Yes. My dad would take us on rounds or say he was taking us on rounds. And then inevitably, we would end up in the doctor's lounge, and he would just leave us in there and disappear for an hour or half an hour and say he was making rounds or checking on something, which we later learned was not exactly what was going on, which is how I figured out that there were nurses and other hospital staff involved in some of these affairs that my dad was having. So he wasn't leaving the hospital? Oh, no. I think he was in the same building.
26:45 Yeah. Okay, got you. I had cartoons. I had a tray of cookies sitting there. I was cool. Or I'd bring my homework, like, my sisters and I would just sit there and do homework. There's nothing to complain about because we had full control over the TV and a bunch of foods. There was a lot of that growing up, like, especially if it was my dad's turn to watch us, and my mom was hanging out with friends or running errands or something. There's a lot of doctor's lounge time. I guess he just didn't think that your brain would ever go there, that he was doing something inappropriate.
27:18 Yeah. I mean, there's that side of the inappropriate, like hooking up with a nurse in a broom closet or whatever was going on. But then there's another side of inappropriate, which is, as I got older, I was pressured, really, by both of my parents to go into premed. My mom is a nurse, and my dad is obviously a doctor, so that was the world they knew. And as I started thinking about College and stuff, that was the obvious, hey, you should consider this.
27:45 And so when I expressed interest in becoming a doctor someday, my dad started letting me come and watch surgeries, which I'm not sure if you're allowed to have a teenager in the operating room with you. But I scrubbed up and I was there and watched orthopedic surgeries are not cute. There are bones being broken or realigned. There's a lot of sounds, like crunching and grading. It's a hard thing to watch.
28:15 It's not like a precise, clean thing. So that was interesting. And eventually I decided not to go into premed. But I do have a memory of being in an operating room with my dad once, and this really disturbed me because at this point, I was a teenager. Not only was it like a person lying cut open on the table, but my dad, you're supposed to leave your cell phone and all that stuff outside of the operating room.
28:44 The point is to make sure the opportunities for contamination are as low as possible, right? And he didn't abide by that because he was too important. So his cell phone was in his pocket, and it went off during the operation. And he turns to the nurse next to him and says, can you get my cell phone for me? And it's like, in his pocket. Without hesitation, she reaches into his scrubs pocket, like, front pocket, and grabs the cell phone.
29:13 And I'm just like, what the hell? Gross. And opens the phone and holds it up to his face so he can have this full out conversation as he's, like, slicing into this person. And I'm just looking at him like, I didn't go to medical school, but, like, what? But that was normal. It was his world, his rules. But also he had that much control over people. I have no idea if this nurse was one of the millions that he had affairs with, but she didn't hesitate. And that was an order.
29:42 Get my cellphone out of my pocket, open it, hold it up to my face, and stand there while I have this conversation. That's when I started realizing that he had a pretty big manipulative power over people. Everything revolved around my dad. Where we ate what we ate, time we ate everything, whether or not we were late for school. I made my dad's coffee in the morning. He requested it to be a certain color quote, the color of his skin. Oh, my God.
30:11 I thought this was a really cool task as a kid. So my mom would make the coffee, but I would run back and forth with the coffee cup and, like, Creamer and try and add just enough to make it the color of his skin, which is like a caramel color. That's how he likes his coffee. I had to start the car in the morning for him, so it was, like, warmed up, like Indiana. It was pretty cold in the winter. Yes. Just everything. Everyone catered to him.
30:39 So, yeah, when you grow up around that, it feels normal until you leave it. And there are still parts of that stay with you. How soon after that trip to Indy did your mom decide that they were going to split up. Actually, it was a while. My mom's really Catholic. Her first reaction was to go to see a priest and get, like, counseling through the Catholic Church.
31:06 When that didn't work, she asked my dad to go on men's retreats within the Catholic Church. When that didn't work, I think they went to couples therapy with a normal psychologist. But my dad doesn't really apologize. You can imagine hard to repair a relationship if no one did anything wrong. He didn't think he did anything wrong by having an affair? No, I don't think he did. How did you learn about what was said between them?
31:37 That was like, ultimately, this is it. Yeah. I was about 13 when this happened. My parents had decided to move to Indiana because it was halfway between Chicago, where my dad's from, in St. Louis, where my mom is from. So they moved somewhere where they basically started fresh and made friends there. My dad's personality is one such that he had built up this celebrity following. He's the man.
32:08 He's everybody's favorite doctor, so he can't be portrayed in his world. He can't be portrayed in a negative light. As my mom is trying to get counseling and pointing out that they need to fix their relationship, this whole facade of this perfect hip, interracial family starts to dissolve. The blame started to shift to my mom.
32:33 Like, my dad blaming my mom because she was destroying that image and she was the one trying to break up the marriage despite my dad cheating. Additionally, during this time, I was pretty aware after that first sighting what my dad was capable of, and so started noticing that there's some unexplained women that are just around.
33:01 So, for example, at the University that was in the town I grew up in, my dad was a huge football fan, best friends with some football alumni, like all these things. So we were always at games, and there would just be women that would meet up with him at tailgates. If my mom wasn't there, my mom was at a different tailgate with, like, some of her friends. Or we had a woman show up at our house completely unexplained looking for my dad.
33:31 Everything started to unravel, and my mom confided in me during that time. So I remember at the grocery store, I think my mom suspected that there was a woman there that my dad was possibly having an affair with. And pointing that out to me and that was the thing. It wasn't just this one woman in a car one day. It was double digits at least.
33:57 And we don't actually have accounts or it was just there were a lot of them. That's definitely a lot for a 13 year old to have to hang on. How was it explained to your younger sisters why they were splitting up? It wasn't. I called shelter them from that. They eventually found out when the divorce was final. Why?
34:21 But my parents were giving them conflicting reasons, too, because my dad was trying to defend himself. And then my mom didn't want to completely ruin their childhoods and say, your dad was having an affair with multiple women. It's hard to say without asking them directly, but I think they found out that he had an affair.
34:50 Not like multiple affairs, and it was just left at that. What does the divorce do to his status as the man? It elevated it. Believe it or not, it elevated it. When all else fails, throw a tantrum is how his mantra works. Like, I told you, he had this huge patient base and this, like, celebrity status, and he just told people, like, my mom was just this heartless B word that was leaving him, and he turned people against my mom.
35:23 It sounds stupid now, but with all the context that I've given you about what they were trying to build and it being a relatively small town and them being one of the few interracial couples there, this was a big deal because my mom was, like, marked at that point. Wow. So, yeah, that was hard because I was, like, sheltering my sisters from it as much as I could and same with my mom.
35:50 But also, like, my mom lost so many friends over that it went from a huge social circle down to, like, maybe five people that were, like, supporting her and helping out. So, yeah, that sucked. What was the visitation like when your sisters would see your dad? At first, there was this huge fight over the house I grew up in because it was similar to my dad's personality and over the top.
36:25 And so eventually my mom won and was able to keep the house under the condition of selling it. And my dad moved out and purposely moved into, like, a shitty apartment complex could have definitely afforded something nicer, but wanted to, one, create, like, a pity party. And two, he thought it was temporary. Like, he thought my mom was just going to change her mind.
36:55 So I remember visitation being awful because we'd go to this shitty apartment complex and be miserable because he just didn't bother to furnish it completely or buy groceries. It was just not home. It was just kind of this weird Bachelor pad. And so it's, like, hard to do your homework there. And so it was very disruptive to go back and forth between houses.
37:23 And I guess we had that, like, standard Wednesday and every other weekend visitation set up. So we lived primarily with my mom, thank God. But then also visited my dad. Now that your parents are split up, and I guess if once your dad realizes that it's not temporary, that they're not getting back together, does he start dating right away? I don't think he ever stopped. How did he open? Was he open about? Yeah, that was interesting.
37:52 I know he was still dating, but we weren't introduced to anyone until later because he thought he was, like, really sneaky keeping up this victim facade for me. And my mom is such a horrible person for leaving him and know there are definitely people who are dating. It's just we weren't going to meet them or see them. You knew the situation, even if your sisters weren't privy to, like, everything that was going on.
38:21 So when he would say these things about your mom, what would you say to him? We got in a lot of fights because he knew I knew. And his favorite kid. I mean, this is getting into, like, narcissistic personality theory, but all narcissists have a favorite kid and then they have a kid that they make the black sheep of the family. And it's like a power dynamic. And I'm not a psychologist. I can explain what I know about that.
38:47 But essentially my point is his favorite daughter was one of my younger sisters, and he didn't want her to know because it would ruin their relationship, of course. And he and I would fight without them around or he would try and intimidate me into being quiet or something eventually. Like, he just stopped bad mouthing my mom because, like, it would just always cause a fight.
39:14 And my mom tried to not badmouth him around my sisters. It was this mutual thing eventually. But in the first few years, I mean, it just got ugly. So I don't know how deep you want to get or whatever, but you hinted, adding conversations that he was involved in some darker stuff. I don't know if you want to open the door to that or not. Oh, yeah.
39:39 The one story I'd like to share just because I don't know who will be listening to this, but if you can relate to this story, then I want to let you know that there's like, a way out of this. But one day I walked into high school, there are a couple of guys that I was friends with, and I got to school early usually, and they were there and they were like, giggling and talking. So I walked up like normal and just said Hi.
40:06 And they're just kind of being weird and avoiding eye contact and like, oh, it's up. Finally one of them goes, oh, we saw your dad last night. And I already was just like, oh, shit. I'm like, what do you mean? And they're like, It's okay, don't worry about it. I was like, no, what do you mean? Like you saw my dad? And I should provide context. One boy's father was my dad's accountant, and the other boy's father was my dad's divorce attorney. Oh, gosh, small town.
40:36 Yeah. Finally I get the story out of them, and the one guy turns to me and he goes, yeah, I saw your dad doing cocaine. I'm like, what do you mean you're just doing cocaine off of a hooker. And I'm like, how did you possibly see that? We're in high school, my dad had a party, and everybody was there, and I walked down to say Hi to everybody, and your dad was snoring cocaine. And what do you say to that?
41:07 I was like 16 or something, and I grew up. Aside from what was going on in my household, I didn't know anything about drugs. Like, we just had the Dare program, and so you just hear, like, crazy people do cocaine or something. Like, just people outside of what I considered my world, you don't see a lot of TV shows or movies with 90s Coke parties in Indiana. Exactly. Yeah.
41:33 We know who would have started that had they been eventually, like, I learned that my dad's attorney and my dad were frequently doing drugs and things like cocaine or I don't really know the whole extent, but they paid off police. It was just this big party that they would have. And now people that I went to school with knew about that. So that was a hard bill to swallow because obviously I didn't want people to know that my dad did stuff like that.
42:05 That was also playing into a stereotype about black people that I didn't want to help facilitate, too, with the drugs. And I was an older teenager, so at this point, like, the stereotypes are starting to appear and things like that. I had a history teacher who was white ask me in the middle of class in a classroom full of white children what my perspective on slavery in the American South was.
42:32 Like, me specifically didn't know how to respond to that one. He had this fan group of patients, basically, or just admirers, but he also had a pretty tight group of friends, but they were, like, shady as fuck. There are, like, two in particular, and I'm just going to use their names because who knows if they're actually going by these names or if they're real names. He had these two guys in Chicago. One was named Chicago Mike, and the other one's name was Dwight. Okay.
43:01 So I already sketched just Chicago Mike. Chicago Mike. Right. So Chicago was my dad's proof that he was, like, cosmopolitan, I guess, in the same way as if you said you lived in Manhattan or something. It was like pride. And I'm from Chicago, and depending on the context, it was like, I grew up at the South Side, which is like the rough part of Chicago, I think still is.
43:28 But it definitely was in the impress people or I'm from Chicago because that was the biggest city near where we live. Like, definitely surpasses the size of Memphis or St. Louis. Yeah. So Chicago Mike and Dwight were like these weird. I just want to call them cronies. That would appear whenever there was some sort of, like, cool dad event that he wanted to take us to up in Chicago. Or somewhere nearby.
43:56 One piece of the story is that my dad had this apartment in Chicago that he eventually bought when he got a divorce, and it was essentially a pimp apartment, and he split it with Dwight, I believe. And so they co owned it, and that was where they took women on the weekends. It's, like, really gross. Anyway, I have a couple of memories with these two. One of my cool dad events that I was taken to as a teenager was a Black Eyed Peas concert at the United Center.
44:29 And Black Eyed Peas, they're really good, but it's like a harmless concert. I still grew up fairly sheltered, despite what was going on in my family. And I'm telling you this for a reason, so just hold on a second. Anyway, we get up to the United Center. We don't have tickets. And I'm like, all right, dad, how are we going to get tickets? I got to hook up.
44:53 Okay, so we walk up to, like, we'll call or something, and my sisters are with me, too, and there's, like, a line of ticket windows, and there's one open for we'll just say it's for legitimate ticket owners. And then the rest of them are like, lights off, shade down. No one's there.
45:18 So my dad makes this weird phone call to Chicago Mike, who then comes out of line somewhere and just appears, and I'm just kind of, what the hell? And with that, he walks down to the furthest, darkened window in this line of ticket windows and, like, knocks on it, and then the shade is pulled up, and someone like, slides and tickets like, what the I was alert by this point because my parents were divorced.
45:54 My dad was doing these cool events to basically appear to be the better parent. And so I was just like, don't we need to pay for those? Like, what is this? And he's like, no, just shut up and get in line. And we eventually went into the concert. Okay. I also did not know that Chicago Mike and eventually Dwight were accompanying us to this concert, so that's already strange.
46:26 I'm a teenager. My sisters are preteens. We're there at a concert with our dad, and then these two grown men that we, like, barely know are also there, and it's Black Eyed Peas. I'm not sure if that's something that just random adults would go to by themselves or what. Well, I don't know. Kendall and I didn't go see a Kesha. Okay, all right, fair. But together and probably got your tickets through a legitimate means. Okay, so we go to our seats, and I really wasn't told much about the concert other than it was the Black Eyed Peas, so I wasn't told who the opener was.
46:58 It turns out the opener was Ludicrous, and it was for his Battle of the sexes album. And that is the first time I saw grown women twerking, which kind of blew my mind because I just didn't think it was very appropriate. Like, grew up fairly sheltered, so I was like, what is going on? People are having sex on the stage. Like, trying to shield my sisters from that. Where were the seats? Were they good seats? They were decent. Honestly. They weren't, like, amazing.
47:29 It wasn't, like, on the floor or anything. We were mid range and looking right at the stage. So they're okay seats? Yeah. Just weird stuff like that where these two guys would just appear out of nowhere. Dwight appeared on our doorstep one day and, like, a Morpheus, like, long black leather jacket that he had recently acquired and was just like, hey, I'm here to go to whatever he and my dad were doing, which was just, like, creepy as hell or just there's just these two guys that would just appear.
48:04 And I later learned they were probably giving my dad drugs or something. I don't know. Yes. Lots of strange friends, strange habits, like weird, shady things going on. So when did you start having that realization of what you've explained to us, that he had to be the main guy in the room, that he had these narcissistic tendencies. Like, when did that kind of dawn on you? And when did you start researching that type of? Yeah.
48:31 I mean, the thing about narcissism is it's a term that's just thrown around pretty commonly. I definitely knew my dad was selfish. Like, I knew what that meant at that age. And my mom put us in counseling. It was through my first therapist who explained what narcissism was, and he had me read this book, which was called The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissist, which I recommend for anyone who wants to investigate that further.
49:00 It basically explained that it's a pathological condition. It's not like a personality trait. Like, it is a DSM defined personality disorder, which was just really interesting and shocking. To find out like that your parent has a personality disorder, so that's how I learned about it. The thing about narcissism is a narcissist goes all the way to make sure that they, at all costs, are protected.
49:32 Any amount of manipulation is on the table, any amount of lying or whatever it takes to keep them in the image that they want to be seen in. So I didn't learn how to deal with it for, like, a decade because it's really difficult to deal with. You have to realize what they're trying to protect about themselves. You have to realize their behavioral patterns and how it's damaging you, because nurses are kind of like a vampire.
50:03 They will suck your blood and kill you if they can, if they benefit. Realizing that and then realizing that about someone who thought loved you is pretty hard. Yeah. Neither one of us are psychologists, but I would imagine that it's difficult to diagnose a narcissist because they probably don't think they're a narcissist. And wouldn't see that kind of thing. Exactly. They might know, but by definition, they're never going to go submit to therapy.
50:33 They're too perfect. I think he knows that there's something up with him, but he's never going to condescend to go to a therapist, Especially as a doctor. As you said, it took you about ten years to figure this out. What were those Shears like being around him? Yeah, that's an interesting question. So the best way to put it is that I learned how to survive him.
50:59 Once he got over the pity party stage of the early years of the divorce, It turned into I'm the cooler parent stage. So then it was I'm going to buy you nicer things. I didn't get my first cell phone until high school, which was actually earlier than a lot of my classmates Because my dad was so cool and gave me a cell phone early, that kind of thing. He would take us on trips and things like my mom couldn't afford basically to do. Yeah. Wow. Crazy. We really appreciate you sharing the story.
51:30 Oh, yeah. Anytime there's a plethora of stories that can be shared back for sure. Right. I do find it interesting, a similarity that I never thought about until you were talking about it. Between your story and my story, being an adopted child from a really small town, I feel like my parents had kind of a similar approach, the way that your parents wanted to prove that an interracial couple could have really successful children.
52:05 I think my adoptive parents felt very much like that too. Almost like they were so much older than the parents of kids my age that it's almost like they needed to prove that as older parents, they could be as involved as the younger parents and have a successful child. So it's interesting, the parallel between that part of your story in mind that there was a lot of and I won't even call it pressure, but just emphasis on perfection and success and prove everybody else wrong.
52:42 I think there weren't that many adopted children in my small town And I feel like my parents wanted to prove that having an adopted child Was just as good as having birth children. So it's so interesting. I'm glad that came up. I'd never thought about it in that light before. Well, again, thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you.
53:15 This is the family twists podcast Hosted by Kendall and Cory stalks with original music by cosmic afterthoughts and produced by outpost productions and presented by savvy a fair marketing communications. Have a story you want to share? Visit familytwistpodcast.com. All our social media links are there as well.