Ivan And Tara: Part III

We’ve met Tara and Ivan Donaldson. This sister and brother were seeking a solution to alleviate individual, family and marital distress. Their father, Topel, was the CEO of a financially successful family business. All were employed, including spouses. We learned that Topel’s behaviors, most including outbursts, was the source of shame. They resided in New York City and took summer family vacations in our region. A matter of Topel’s emotional and mental state brought to light an immediate matter of great concern for Tara and Ivan. Topel and his wife, Isabel, planned to spend a week of the three the family gets together. A history of irrational sounding diatribes towards family and others shed light on whether to keep to the three weeks or not. Both Ivan and Tara were emotionally charged. Tara was left to make a decision for her family. Ivan was backed up against a wall. His wife refused to come if Topel came. She would not subject her children to Topel’s behaviors. Ivan’s marriage was in jeopardy. What to do?

Once Tara and Ivan calmed a bit, I had a question about an unknown factor as far as I’d been told. What was their respective relationship with Margo, their stepmother? I asked each to describe his/her link to her. How did each view Margo’s place in the family system? How did each describe Margo’s marriage to their dad? What did each understand her role to be in the family business? Lastly, I inquired about how each viewed Margo’s relationship to their children, her step-grandchildren? Tara and Ivan froze for a moment. Each glanced at the other. Tara finally spoke. “They’ve been married for six years. Dad had an affair with her, which drove our mother away. The divorce was messy and expensive. Dad ticked me off.” Ivan then gathered himself. “She’s right. Dad had an affair with Margo. Mom was devastated. She set out to hurt dad. The lawyers did their job well. Dad became an angry man seemingly overnight. I can say with confidence that dad wasn’t always the mean, volatile man we descrbed. He ran the business successfully — not only in monetary value, but he was a caring man who treated his employees, his customers and certainly us, his family, with love and dignity.”

“Yeah,” Tara added. “He was good to us.”

This information opened up new lines of thinking. They agreed that Topel’s worldly outlook, mood and perspective changed with the divorce. I asked if Margo might have influenced Topel’s change. Ivan looked at Tara, then back to me. “I was mad at her for dad’s affair and divorce from mom. She soon entered the business. I have to say, she’s intelligent and sharp. Dad counts on her for input, which has solidified the business. It’s prosperous.”

Then Tara chimed in, “I agree. Immediately, she was on my list, pardon my French. Then she joined the business and has been a genuine asset. I’ve not gotten close to her. She doesn’t comment to dad when he blows up. Now I wonder if she holds back in an act of respect. Maybe she says something in private, or maybe not. She remembers the children’s birthdays with gifts.”

“Yes,” Ivan added, “she’s good to the kids. She even remembers our birthdays and anniversaries.”

Tara and Ivan were still searching for a solution to an immediate problem. Neither, I found out, ever spoke privately about their concerns to Margo. Initially, normal under the circumstances, each viewed Margo unfavorably due to her affair with their dad and subsequent divorce from their mother. No other solution stood out. I never saw Tara and Ivan again. They left somewhat satisfied, certainly hopeful. Perhaps Margo held an answer to their problem. Communication lines needed to be open. Forgiveness was a possibility lending an avenue toward dealing with the problem. As for Topel, speculation ran rampant.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.