Parents are a Treasure to Some and a Treasury to Others is available now from the Order Page, Lulu.com and Amazon
So, what prompted you to write this book?
Gopaul: I wrote this book because I wanted to take back my power.
Could you elaborate?
Gopaul: Not being able to help my mother and being threatened and bad-mouthed by my sister left me feeling weak and scared. I was afraid to tell my truth. I was afraid that Sharon-Ann might do something to me or to the people I care about; I was afraid that no one would believe me. Sharon-Ann put a lot of energy into telling me and everyone else that I was crazy and evil, and it made me feel powerless to help my mother, or to stand up and defend myself. By telling my side of the story, I am attempting to stick-up for myself and for my mother.
In this book, you don’t seem to pull any punches. You accuse your sister outright of financial elder abuse and neglect. Are you worried about the consequences?
Gopaul: No. Well, a little. I doubt that this book will make my sister find Jesus and repent or anything like that. She’ll be angry, and I’ve no doubt that she’ll have lots to say about me in response. But I knew that going in to this project that she would probably do that. The point of this book was to defend myself against the lies that had been told about me, and to get some small measure of justice for my mother. I already know that Sharon-Ann Gopaul feels no remorse for what she did.
And what did she do?
Gopaul: My sister put herself in a position to take control of my mother’s finances and health decisions. She refinanced our mother’s house and put herself and her husband, Ulric, on the deed; she controlled who Mom would see or what kind of medical assistance Mom could get. She knew that Mom was falling into dementia, and exploited that, telling Mom all kinds of unsubstantiated lies about me and others, to convince our Mother that Sharon-Ann alone was there to protect and guide Mom against us evil, conspiring relatives. She sold Mom’s belongings and pocketed the money. She arranged for the cheapest assistance possible for Mom, and picked an unqualified home health aide, which lead to Mom being neglected and living in squalor. Then, after I tried to get Mom out of the house, she illegally obtained power of attorney. Once she did that, it was only a matter of months before she sold Mom’s house and stuffed my mother in the cheapest nursing home she could find.
In your book, you claim that Sharon-Ann targeted you specifically in her attempt to exclude you from your mother, how did you come to that conclusion?
Gopaul: Well, for starters, her smear campaign was almost exclusively against me. She threatened anyone who sided with me, but I was the one kicking up the biggest fuss over Mom. I was the one who kept demanding transparency and accountability. Eventually, I was the one making the most direct accusations, so I was the enemy that needed to be eliminated or discredited. Don’t listen to Crazy Gail, she was trying to tell everyone.
How would you describe yourself?
Gopaul: Direct. Blunt. Reactionary. But also, fiercely protective. I tend to see issues in black and white, and when I see someone do something wrong, I tend to get angry and come up fighting. Man beats a wife? He’s a manipulative psychopath that needs to be in jail, and his wife needs to get herself and her kids to safety. Period. I’ve never been good at sticking to a script, or artful flattery. If someone is acting like a bitch, I’m going to call them a bitch. You understand what I’m saying? That’s why I was such an easy target for Sharon-Ann.
So your sister is different from you?
Gopaul: Completely. She is a psychologist, and a very good one. She flatters, she pays attention, she knows how to control a conversation so that she gets people to do what [she wants] while making them think that it was their idea. And if they see through that, then she threatens. Subtle threats, clear threats, indirect threats…and she carries through on them too. She has an agenda, and heaven help whoever gets in the way of that agenda…She’s ambitious, and that’s a not a bad thing. The problem is that the ends always justify the means for her, which means there is little value for people who she deems useless or troublesome.
In your book, you use a couple of metaphors. You compare her to Iago, from Shakespeare’s Othello, and at another point you talk about queen bees, could you elaborate?
Gopaul: Well, in Othello, Iago is an ambitious solider who is angry at Othello for giving a promotion to someone else, and so sets out on a careful plan to destroy Othello by turning him against all the people that are loyal to him. Iago was a clever manipulator, and would put doubt and suspicion into Othello’s head in just such a way that never directly implicated himself—and Sharon-Ann certainly possesses Iago’s talent and ruthlessness! As for the metaphor about bees, I think it speaks to what happens when two people with strong personalities clash—there can only be one queen bee per nest, and the one who moves quicker and without mercy is the one who survives. From Sharon-Ann’s perspective, since I wasn’t going to be a good worker bee (or at least a complicit drone), I needed to be eliminated, or I would threaten everything that she worked to accomplish. There was a lot of money at stake, but more than that, there was her reputation to consider. Her power as a master manipulator and politician is rooted in being able to control her public image, and a wild bee like myself is a huge liability.
Shifting topics, a bit, what do you hope to accomplish with this book?
Gopaul: Well first off, I hope that my parents, as they look down upon me from heaven, will in some way forgive me for not being able to protect my mother. On a temporal, practical level, I hope that this book will let people know my side of the story. A lot of people are afraid to stand up to Sharon-Ann, and with good reason, but I hope that by being the first one to call her out on her behaviour…others will do the same. The only way to stop a bully is if everyone stands up against her.
This book is a departure from your last book, which was not just about your abusive marriage, but also an instructional guidebook for people thinking about leaving an abusive partner. Why the shift?
Gopaul: there was talk, at first, of following the same format, but ultimately, I felt like I didn’t want to dilute the impact of this book by trying to accomplish two different goals at once—though there is a glossary and resource pages in the back of the book. I felt that if I stopped every couple of chapters to offer anecdotal examples or definitions of what abuse is, then the implications of how dangerous Sharon-Ann Gopaul is to the people of Trinidad would get lost. It’s about priorities. I want to end all forms of abuse on the island, but Sharon-Ann has accused me of being an abusive criminal, all the while acting like an abusive criminal to our mother. I had to address this first before trying to get into the problems with how abuse is handled in Trinidad.
Would you say then, that elder abuse is rampant in Trinidad?
Gopaul: Absolutely. Part of it is because of the weak laws that we have; part of it is a lack of follow through and enforcement of what few laws we have; a large part is a severe lack of oversight or resources for abused elders and elders in care facilities, and part of it is a sort-of weary acceptance on the part of many, many people, that this sort of thing is normal.
When does you book come out? How much will it cost and where can people get copies?
Gopaul: the release date is the 15th of September. I will be doing a book tour at that time. The books will sell for $237 for hardcover and $54 for e-copy from Amazon and Barnes and Nobel, but anyone who orders the book directly from the website, www.NoMoreDV.org, or from me when I’m on tour will only be charged $121 [before shipping] and $27 respectively.
Why the steep discount?
Gopaul: I’m not out to make a profit with these books. I just need to charge enough to pay for the publication, shipping, and marketing of the book, and when people order it through Amazon, I need to be able to cover Amazon’s mark-up. I’m not doing this to make money, I just want people to know the truth.