My autobiography (second posting)

 Here is the second posting from my autobiography (a.k.a. My dysfunctional family of origin). If you missed my posting of one week ago (June 20) I suggest you read it now. It will help you understand the context of the book.


Al Hoare’s lip service to the Bible probably caused Mother to reject the Bible. I think she associated the book with hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness (one of the words she used to describe Al Hoare’s religiosity) and cruelty. She certainly had no time for the book. I think she even went as far as to discourage, even forbid, Ernie to speak of the Bible. I am not certain about this because they never discussed in my presence why it was that Ernie never discussed the Bible with us. This was a great pity because Ernie believed in the Bible, knew it intimately, and would have done all of us a favor if he had shared his knowledge with us. We sorely needed it because our schools did not openly endorse the Bible and our peers were, for the most part, young pagans. Ernie would have done us a huge favor if he had discussed with us, for example, some key passages from the Book of Proverbs. It is an excellent guide as to what to avoid in life, such things as prideful arrogance and lust (my two worst sins, both deadly). It also describes the qualities that one should strive to acquire in life. Both arrogance and lust would cost me dearly in life. 

Mother made Don and me go to church (and summer church camps) together but she and Ernie stayed at home. They did not attend church with us. I don’t think we were thrilled with this situation but it was never discussed.  


Proverbs provide such a useful guide for how to conduct oneself in life. Here are some words of introduction from the book of Proverbs itself. I have put them in Italics.

“(It, i.e. the proverbs of Solomon, is useful) for attaining wisdom and discipline, for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.”

On arrogance, the worst kind of pride, that often leads to rash statements and ill-advised behavior:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace/But with humility comes wisdom. (Chapter eleven)

I (Wisdom is speaking) hate pride and arrogance,/evil behavior and perverse speech. (Chaptereight)

On lust:

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,/and her speech is smoother than oil;/but in the end she is bitter as gall,/ sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. (Chapter Five).

I wish Ernie had taught me some important truths from The Bible. It would have saved me a lot of grief throughout life. (For instance, I had no idea that people would take an instant dislike to me if I looked arrogant, talked arrogantly, and bragged.) The only time I remember Ernie quoting from the Bible was when I was around six and he recited the Beatitudes to Don and me. I remember very clearly his doing this although I didn’t understand much of Christ’s words. I think it’s a great pity that Ernie didn’t insist on teaching us the best parts of the Bible. It would have provided the guidance that we needed as we grew from boys into men.

                     8  MOTHER AS THE PERFECT HOUSEWIFE

Anyone observing our family would have said that Ernie ruled the roost, e.g. he didn’t want Mother to have any kind of job, not even a part-time one. At first glance this might seem to indicate that Ernie was strong and generous. I don’t see it that way. It seems to me that his real motive was to prove to the world that he was strong, a real man. (He showed a similar tendency when we were out for a drive and lost our way. He would never ask anyone for directions but insisted on figuring things out on his own. This often entailed a waste of time for everyone.)  In Ernie’s estimation Mother’s only job was to keep the house clean, look after their two boys (at least during their early years) and to cook meals for her family. This she did, and did well. (Probably the majority of women in those years organized their lives along similar lines.) As things were, Mother had lots of free time during the day and she used this time to talk for hours on the phone with her women friends. I found this very irritating because the discussion sounded so boring and anodyne. Mother smoked a great deal (at least a package of MacDonalds a day), and inhaled. There was probably a lot of second hand smoke in the air but back in the 1950s no one seemed be concerned about it. (Mother’s smoking would eventually lead to emphysema, and that would be the death of her.) While Mother talked on the phone she was in the habit of drawing on her packet of cigarettes a female face in profile. It was always the same young, pretty face. I didn’t know what to make of this. I still don’t. Much later, when I was in my twenties, Mother became obsessed with hot line radio shows. They contained a lot of anger and rabble-rousing talk. I used to hate being in ear-shot of them.

Looking back now, I think that Ernie would have been wiser to let Mother work. She would have been a natural in selling real estate: she had good looks, excellent taste in clothes, charm, and common sense. She was also cheerful and had excellent conversational skills. As things were, my parents had to live very frugally. Over the span of many years I can’t recall going out for dinner more than a few times. Ernie had a steady (underpaid) federal job but I never ever heard Mother complain about the amount of his pay check. As for Don and me, I think we are both grateful to Ernie tor being a steady, reliable provider. I wish now that I had thanked him personally for providing so well for us.


To get back to my earlier points on Don’s and my identification with Al Hoare: Don’s life wasprofoundly marked by it. As early as his teens he fixed his goal on becoming a Navy officer. I remember a telling incident from 1952 when Don was sixteen:  Mother scolded him (this happened rarely) and lashed out at him with the most terrible accusation she could think of: “You’re just like that man Hoare!” Even sixty years later I clearly remember Don’s smirk when she said these words.  In spite of all her father-bashing Al Hoare had made some very good impressions on Don. Many years later, around 1990, I had become good friends of Al Hoare’s younger brother, Syd. One day he looked at me and started laughing. I asked him what was so funny. His reply, “You look so much like your Dad!” That remark felt good, it felt right.



In support of my analyses above, here are a few commentaries written by specialists in the field of parental alienation. I believe they all cast light on Mother as an alienator. See p. 47c ? for a chart showing the wide-reaching effects of Mother’s efforts to alienate.

(1) “A woman betrayed by her husband is deeply opposed to the fact that her children must visit him every other weekend. (…) She cannot stop the visit, but she can plant seeds of doubt – ‘Do not trust your father’ – in the children’s minds and thus punish her ex-husband via the children. She does this consciously or unconsciously, casting the seeds of doubt by the way she acts and the questions she asks.” (Wallerstein and Blakeslee, 1989)

(2) “The other parent is seen as irrelevant, irresponsible or even dangerous, whereas the self is seen as the essential, responsible, and safe caretaker. These parents tend to selectively perceive and distort the child’s concerns regarding the other parent.” (Roseby and Johnston, 1998)

(3)”Many researchers explain that alienator parents tend to be rigidly defended and moralistic. These alienators perceive themselves to be flawless, virtuous, and externalize responsibility onto others. They lack insight into their own behavior and the impact their behavior has on other.” (Bagby, Nicholson, Buis, Radvanovic, & Fidler, 1999)

(4) “Alienating parents have a narcissistic or paranoid orientation to interactions and relationships with others, usually as the result of a personality disorder wherein relationships are maintained by identification, rather than mutual appreciation and enjoyment of differences and when others disagree they feel abandoned, betrayed, and often rageful.” (Kopetski, 1998)

(5) Children who are the victims of parental alienation have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships in adulthood and are at risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, antisocial behavior, enmeshment, and low self-esteem. (Chief Justice Martinson, 2010)


Although it might sound like Mother completely detested Al Hoare, I think that the reality is not so simple. I believe that deep down in her subconscious (those swirling waters of strange feelings and desires) Mother never totally got over the spell of the good times (especially the sexuality) that she had enjoyed with Al. If not, why did she keep throughout her life the handsome leather handbag with the Aztec calendar that he brought her back from Mexico when he traveled there (by train, of course) with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band in 1940? Why did she keep a classic set of “Lady Hamilton” cutlery in a beautiful light blue art deco case? I think it must have been a wedding present from May, 1935. Why did she phone Margaret (Al’s brother Syd’s wife) regularly to update herself on Al and his family. She did this for many years. Margaret probably was her chief spy.

 I think Al and she had a very hot erotic connection and that that is one of the main things that lured them into marriage in the first place. It is also something that might well have blinded them to things about each other that they were not going to like once they were married. Several psychological studies have shown that couples who have had intense, satisfying sex very often find it hard not to keep thinking, even after their divorce, about the sex they had with their former spouse. (Bob: find a reference for this.) One of Mother’s favorite arias was My Heart bowed down from Saint-Saens opera, Samson and Delilah. Another was Un bel dì from Madame Butterfly. Both arias depict the male as in charge, the woman as a supplicant, longing for him to return to her. The psychiatrist William Downe contended that the songs that pop inexplicably into our head often reveal the deepest yearnings of our subconscious mind.





Now back to Don and me in the war years. I remember other details of our visits with Al. We went to movies quite often. I can still remember some of them: Bambi, Sinbad the Sailor, Drums along the Mohawk, Unconquered, Night at the Opera. I also recall Al picking me up and dangling me from a perilous height: over the railing of the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and over the edge of the roof of the Old Hotel Vancouver. It was terrifying. He also dangled me from the edge of the roof of the Hotel Vancouver. What could have possessed him? Was he trying to show that he had power over me? Was he saying, in effect “I created you and I can destroy you. Stop squabbling with Don!  Stop misbehaving when you come here to visit me!” I think he revelled in having control, scaring and intimidating. These are the traits of a sadistic personality. One thing is certain: these experiences marked the beginning of my lifelong fear of heights.

I also remember watching Al stash postage stamps in his wallet, and steaming open a letter by holding it over a boiling kettle. I mention this partly to substantiate what I wrote earlier on Don’s and my identification with him. I can also recall him taking us to see the recently retired from service CPR steam locomotive.  I remember going with Don and Al to Kitsilano Beach. I (at four years of age?) entered the women’s changing room and Don and All got a big laugh out of that.

All these activities that we shared with Al doubtless helped us to identify with him and strengthen our sense of self; at the same time this sharing and identification were being undermined by Mother’s order to spy for her. I can remember lying in bed one night in the Vancouver Hotel and discussing with Don how we would escape from Al and scurry back to Mom. We never did bolt in the night but it was certainly on our minds. We had been taught to be suspicious and even to hate.


Many years later, around 1980, I remember visiting Al at his apartment in the West End of Vancouver. On this occasion he tried to explain to me why he had just dropped out of our lives in 1946 without even saying goodbye. He said that his nerves were so bad at that time (I think Don’s and my guarded, suspicious behavior had a lot to do with this.) that he went to see his doctor (a Welsh-Canadian) and the doctor said to him, “Mr. Hoare, if you want my advice you will stop seeing these boys entirely. Those visits are making you a nervous wreck.” Al (foolishly, I think) obeyed. I find this explanation unconvincing. I think his main reason for stopping his visits lies elsewhere: he had been living with a lady he had met in Halifax around 1942, Isobel McRae (“Sandy” to us).  He wanted to marry her and start a new family. This he did. They had three children: Linda, David and Nancy. I eventually got to meet all three in the summer of 1968. When I got to know them, one thing was obvious: they all disliked Al (although they thought he was amusing at times) and were embittered about his neglect of them during their childhood. In a way I was glad to hear this: it helped me to stop thinking foolish thoughts such as “What a glorious thing it would have been if I had been able to see my father regularly throughout my childhood!” It was good to see Sandy again, after twenty-three years. She said she had never been physically abused by Alan Hoare. He threatened her once but she told him that she would smash him on the head with a heavy frying pan if he ever tried to harm her. “Good for you!” I told her.


Don and I didn’t establish contact with our biological father until 1967. We met for coffee in the West End of Vancouver. His first comment was “I’m so pleased to see you boys smoking cigars!” “Hmn,” I thought, that’s a weird thing to say. What did I think of Alan Hoare as I got to know him? Here are some encounters that will give you a pretty good idea:

(1) In 1969 Al and I drove to Campbell River on Vancouver Island.. We took my new Volvo and I did the driving. Al did not offer to pay his share of the gas. Much worse than that, he criticized my driving in a sarcastic way. What a nasty person this man was!  

(2) I was playing trombone in the band of HMCS Discovery and we were playing a concert in Vancouver’s Gastown. Al was in the audience and when the concert was over I saw him rushing towards me. “Oh, Boy!” I thought. “How exciting it is to impress my father and to hear his congratulations.” Ugly surprise: he wasn’t even looking at me, he was looking over my shoulder

at one of the saxophone players with whom he proceeded to have a long conversation. I

experienced a sharp pang. I think that was the reaction of the four year old boy in me. After a few minutes the adult in me took over and analyzed things differently: “There goes a man who has a poor set of priorities, a man who is very insensitive to people’s feelings.” 

(3) On another occasion when I war reading something in his apartment he said to me in sarcastic tones: “What? You’ve got a PhD and you don’t even know how to turn a light on?” “What a nasty way to talk to people!” I thought.

(4) David Hoare is the son of Al and Isobel (‘Sandy’). I noticed that Al’s birthday gift for David one year was a print of Napoleon’s Coronation in Notre Dame Cathedral by the French painter, David. I thought this effort of Al’s to connect with his son David through the name of a famous French painter strange and pathetic. Doesn’t it show that Al had no idea how to choose gifts that the receiver would find meaningful?  It looks to me like a sign of poor connectivity between father and son, maybe a sign that Al was not capable of love.

(5) Sandy (Isobel), Al Hoare’s second wife, told me a telling anecdote. She had formed a relationship with him (around 1943?) when they were both stationed in Halifax. They returned to West Coast  by train and when they approached Vancouver Al pointed out “The Lions” (twin peaks in the North Shore mountains) to Sandy. He asked Sandy if she was impressed.  Sandy said she didn’t know what he was talking about, she couldn’t see any “Lions.”  Al retorted something insulting like “Are you blind!?” This was very unreasonable of him. Those two peaks might be called lions but they look nothing like lions at all. 

I had other disappointing encounters with Al Hoare but there is no need to belabor the point. Suffice it to say that in the following years I noticed that he was a heavy drinker, maybe even an alcoholic (He drank at least half a bottle of rye whiskey every day.) I also noticed that he seemed to be chained to his apartment and spent most of his time watching television. He never initiated a topic of conversation; I was the one who had to ask questions. Hoare kept silent, maybe hoping that I wouldn’t press him for information about things that he would have felt uncomfortable discussing. Overall I concluded that he was a self-absorbed escapist with very little capacity for loving and poor communication skills. I got the feeling that Mother’s complaints about his violence were very probably true (not that I had ever really doubted them). Still, I felt no guilt about looking him up. I still think that Don and I were entirely justified to find out for ourselves what Alan Hoare was really like. It was our birthright. When I look back on things now I often fantasize that Don and I had tethered Hoare right there in his apartment and given him a savage beating with a belt or a stick.

To add (possibly) Photo of Al and me at Yale or wherever

Maybe a photo of Al, Don and me.


I also learned some things about Al from his younger brother Sid who told me of the terrible ordeal Al put him through when they were boys: It was a hot summer day at the Hoare farm near Lacombe, Alberta and Al and Sid were on the front porch of their house. Al managed to overpower Sid and trap him under a wash basin. Al sat on that wash basin all afternoon and Sid could hardly breathe. Sid thought he would go crazy. I had to wonder: “What kind of man would subject a fellow human being to that ordeal? This certainly looks like sadism.”

              16 THE DIVORCE TRIAL OF AL AND MOTHER (1945)

In 1945 Don and I were present at Mother’s divorce trial. At the end of the session the judge called Don and me to talk with him and tell him how we felt. I can’t remember clearly what we said but I am pretty sure that I said I would like to keep seeing my father. What I remember to this day is the kind manner and concern of that judge. It was so nice of him to ask!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


1946: Mother must have been overjoyed that Al renounced all further visits with my brother and me. I can’t remember well his dropping out of our lives but it stands to reason that it was a huge loss for us and quite possibly dealt a terrible blow to Don’s and my self-worth. (“What kind of people are we if our own father disowns us? Talk about alienation!). Mother did her best to help us forget our biological father by getting rid of all of his gifts. She never warned us about her

intention or attempted to explain her reasons for doing this, she just did it. Eventually, to our bewilderment and anger, we discovered that several of our prized possessions had disappeared: a complete Mexican Mariachi outfit, a red Mexican sombrero, a complete cowboy outfit with real leather chaps, and a beautiful hardcover book about birds. When we asked her why she had done this, we thought her answer lame (“I thought you’d outgrown them.” “I thought Norma’s son would like them.”) These gifts were expensive and chosen with care. They suggested to Don and me that we were loved.


Let me add in passing that both Don and I became workaholics. There is a plus to that, of course, when it comes to accomplishing things in life: (1) achieving academically; (2) growing intellectually; (3) feeling good about ourselves when our academic achievements were officially recognized. Don earned a degree in Electrical Engineering at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario and became a high-ranking salesman with Hewlett-Packard. He wrote a Canadian best seller on how to sell computers to corporate executives: Keeping the Funnel Full.  My own record includes being named top of my class in grades eleven and twelve, getting first class honors in my B.A. (in French and Italian literature), being awarded  a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and earning a PhD in French and Italian from Yale University.

However, there is a negative to all of these pluses: work becomes an escape and the escape brings with it a tendency to avoid painful things such as getting psychiatric help and finding out why we both had an anger problem and a mistrust of women. The root cause of these was Mother and Al. 

I believe that for most men one’s mother becomes the prototype of Woman. To one degree or another all the women encountered on life’s journey will be seen through the prism of one’s mother.   

I plan to post the rest of this book in weekly installments.

My website is    

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