Charlie has many memories of his father, Matt Gordon, trying to protect him from his mother Rose. When Charlie was in early elementary school and was struggling, Rose refused to give up on the idea that her son was normal, and ignored the recommendations of teachers who wanted to put him in a special class. Instead, she mercilessly pushed him to do things he could not do. Matt tried to stick up for young Charlie, asking Rose, "Why can't you let yourself see the truth?", but to no avail (April 28). After Norma was born, Rose changed her attitude, focusing all her hopes on her daughter and wanting Charlie out of her life. As she grew up, Norma picked up on her mother's manipulative ways and, like Rose, treated Charlie; Matt continued to try to defend his son, as illustrated when Norma demanded a dog for getting good grades (June 5), but he was ineffectual in the face of his wife's and daughter's histrionics.
Although Matt was the one person in Charlie's family who "had been willing to take (him) as he (was)" (June 20), he was just not strong enough to stand up effectively to his wife. Charlie remembers Rose as "always fluttering like a big, white bird...around my father, and he too heavy and tired to escape her pecking...Dan massive and slumped, Mom thin and quick" (April 28).Rose's power over Matt extended beyond issues involving Charlie; because she had told him "she would never have a barber for a husband", Matt gave up his dream of owning his own business while he was married to her and stayed in a job he absolutely despised (June 20). Rose was "used to having her way through hysteria" (June 15). On the day that Matt finally caved in and took Charlie away to be placed in an institution, he did so because she was threatening to kill the child with a kitchen knife (June 20).