Goodbye, Jim.

Having successfully fought the urge to make the title of this post, “He’s dead, Jim” I still could not let that phrase go.  Now, I should warn you right now that this post is not going to do anything for anyone’s opinion of me.  I am pretty sure if you like me, you may reconsider after reading this.  If you already think I am a bitch, well, this is the post to prove that theory.

My mother‘s husband, Jim Cassin, died earlier today.  He had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis for at least the past few years, though it only got really bad since February or so.  I went to visit my mother last Christmas and he was doing ok then.  He was biking five miles a day so I assumed he was ok.  Of course, I didn’t really care one way or the other so I didn’t give his health a whole lot of thought.

So now, I am writing up my feelings about his life (and death) and I am not really sure what they are.  Let me explain.

My mother met and married Jim when I was a teenager.  An incredibly angry and surly teenager (I am sure there are dictionaries with a photo of me at 14 next to “surly” or “evil”).  I was particularly angry with my mother who left me to be raised by a violent sociopath.  She didn’t help her case by coming back to Long Island once or twice a year and trying to give me rules to follow.  Right, like that was going to work.

It was pretty clear that she had fallen pretty hard for this guy.  I never saw what she saw but hell, the heart wants what it wants, right?  So they were married.  I would like to tell you when they were married but I didn’t find out about it for some months after the event so I am not really sure.  I was pretty pissed off about that, too but when it hit me that she had just written herself out of ever complaining about my marital status, ever, I found a way to get over it.

Meanwhile, Jim was never really nice to me.  My mother would tell me that “he never signed up to be a parent.”  I wanted to say, “Yeah, well, I was here before him.”  I might have actually said that once or twice but nothing came of it.  It was pretty clear that if the choice ever had to be made between him and me, she would pick him.  You may be thinking that sounds extreme or like an overreaction but it really isn’t.  A few years before they moved to Florida, he and I had a disagreement over his reaction to her cancer.  I said, “When are you going to take this more seriously?”  As a follow up, I asked her what the marriage was doing for her.  After spending the day in the hospital with her, she asked me to hide so he wouldn’t see me when he came to pick her up.

It was the last time I was allowed in their house for at least four years.  During that time, I got really sick and spent the better part of a year in the hospital.  She was barely able to visit me and it was a hard time for me.

Eventually, Jim relented and let me visit them in Florida.  I think he saw that he was hurting her and at the end of the day, as sadistic as he was, he didn’t like doing that.

Over the years, I never got the point where I liked him.  My first impressions from San Francisco where he actually hit on me (at 16 and 17) never really left me totally.  The combination of that and his self-centered nature made me never feel connected at  all to him.  Moreover, he was actively mean to a lot of people, me included.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Goodbye, Jim.

  1. Laurel Ryan says:

    Hi Alyson-

    I had a destructive “step-father” for just a few years, nothing compared to your winner. He, and circumstance, stole critical elements from your life. Doesn’t matter what his perspective is/was, when a child goes through something, it remains the reality for life, or at least till we can find a really good, trustworthy therapist. I’m in my 4th year with my shrink, and there is some progress, but I still have “issues” to work through that arose from a screwed up childhood being raised by people who may have been doing the best they could at the time.

    My Dad died this spring, and it’s been a hard time of grieving for me, as he and I had established a fairly good relationship over the last 30 years. It’s brought some of my issues with my Mom to the fore, and I was talking with a high school friend about these recently, briefly, in context of grief re: Dad. She went right to defending my Mom because she was “in law school” when I was in high school. I spent some time thinking about why my friend’s redirection felt like a betrayal.

    What I’m dealing with isn’t about the kind of person my mother ( and Dad) was or wasn’t when I was a child. It’s about the experience I had during critical formative years, and the critical elements that were not provided to me which seriously damaged my development, self esteem and ability to establish healthy relationships with the opposite sex.

    Your words here are part of dealing with this incredibly negative experience over many years. Necessary- important- confusing, I’ll bet, too.

    There’s nothing bitchy or inhuman about your post. If reading this moves someone who likes you to not like you, then that person isn’t being a friend at this moment in time. Like my high school friend.

    I didn’t start “dealing with” my upbringing issues until I got into my 40’s. It tough stuff, at any time. You’ve been generous to share of yourself with this story, in the sense of letting some people know that we’re not alone. Some will be incredibly uncomfortable. Lucky them- they may have had the nurturing childhood we all deserve.

    You deserve to figure out the way you feel about Jim’s death in the way that helps you best. For all kinds of reasons.

    Thanks for letting me share some of mine, here to.

    You’re still okay in my book.

  2. Aunt Bonnie says:


    The two men your mother fell for and married had a strong physical resemblance, and from your comments they behaved the same also. I am glad we have you in the world, but I must say your biological mother was not wired to be a parent, and she did not make an effort to learn it either. My only concern with Jim’s death is whether there will be financial loss to his wife. I think you have done a lot of good in your life already and that you should feel no obligation to take responsibility for a woman who never made you her primary responsibility. I think you understand this. She has a pattern of neglect which will not change. Minimal contact advised for your mental well being. Deal with your health issues, friendships, finance, and rely on cousins, aunts, uncles as your family.

    Bonnie in Colorado

  3. Thanks Bonnie and Laurel. It’s really therapeutic to write about this stuff. I tried to do therapy a few times but it never worked out. The support I get here goes a long way.

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