A Positive Test?

I have two kids, but it wasn’t always this way. Different as night and day and completely opposite of what the experts say: girls are chatty and boys grunt. My daughter is a thinker, a deep thinker. I’m amazed at her insight. I ask her opinion on most everything now because she knows me so well. My son is a talker, a constant talker. He cannot allow other people to have any conversation he is not part of – we’re working on that. He does not tolerate silence well, even in going to sleep he needs noise.

My kids are also almost 12 years apart. I thought for many years that we would be a family of three. I had what doctors termed “secondary infertility”. We had no trouble conceiving our daughter, but when we tried again about three years later our efforts were fruitless (pun intended). We waited in limbo like this for over a year and then they decided to try to figure out why. We went through the usual rounds of tests and treatments. Nothing worked. Eventually, after suffering panic attacks from being on Clomid (and yes, I do believe the Clomid was a causal factor despite my doctor’s denials) I came to the realization that I was missing the life I had been given by wishing for a life I didn’t have. I stopped all treatment, was told that my tubes were twisted and, along with endometriosis, the chances of conceiving on our own were minimal. So, we moved on. It was hard. I will not say otherwise.

Then, in 2006, right after my daughter turned 11 a strange thing happened – a pregnancy test came back positive. I was stunned…and angry. I had moved on and accepted the inevitable. Actually, I had done more than that, I began to embrace this life I’d been given. These moments in time spent with your child – one on one. I found the joy in parenting and homeschooling an only child. I had a hard time with this pregnancy. I blamed it on being over a decade older; but I do think my emotional state was so fragile that it affected my physical state. Most days, all I could pray was that God would protect my baby from me. I knew the affect a mom’s mental and emotional well-being can have on a child – even an unborn one.

I will also admit that even though I am more pro-life than ever, I have a deeper understanding of the emotional trauma an unplanned, unexpected pregnancy brings. I have compassion for women facing this – however they ended up in the situation. Moms are human just as much as the tiny life inside them. There must be a balance of compassion here – for Mommy and Baby. Our daughter also had a hard time with this. I honestly don’t believe it was because she was selfish. I just think she was mature enough to realize that our family life was going to be changing – in a BIG way from all she had ever known and change does not come easily for her (she’s part Hobbit). Siblings who are young when the next one comes along do not cognitively assess the impact a new person in the family will have.

I cannot say that the pregnancy brought out the best in me. There are still times (even six years later) where I struggle with guilt over my feelings at that time. The turmoil inside me was indescribable. I lashed out at God and my husband. They were both faithful, never judging and always allowing me feel my emotions very deeply. Another thing happened on the way to Baby #2, a separation from my Mom that also affected my emotional state.

During this time I put on as happy a face I could muster and moved through those months. I was ashamed of my visceral, raw feelings. I had some wonderful friends through that time but I don’t know how much they knew, or guessed, about the emotional roller coaster I was on. They encouraged me and loved me as best I would allow, but I had closed myself off. I questioned God… A LOT! As you can imagine I had prayed about more children daily. Cried to have more. Begged. Pleaded. I even had a dear friend come over one day and prophesy over me (on her own accord) that I would have a son. She felt it so strongly. I held onto her faith when my faltered and failed. Then I felt I came to the end of my asking. I asked The Question. The one I was so afraid to ask. I asked Him if I would have more children. The answer I thought I heard came very clearly – “No.” After I had accepted this answer was the point I was able to begin moving on. So, when the positive test came, I was knocked to my knees. Well, not even that. I couldn’t pray. I doubted everything I thought I knew about God and how he speaks to us. I did not trust any one, particularly God.

Looking back on that time in my life I do see the hand prints of God. He sustained me despite my rejection of him. He answered the only prayer I had during that time. He protected my Baby from me. My son is a gift. A reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of our pain, our questions, and our distrust. During that time I came face to face with who I am and I did not like me.

I don’t pretend to have learned all the lessons I was supposed to during that season of my life, but I did learn a very important one, the most important, God knew exactly who I needed and when I needed him. I treasure the gift of that little boy. His smiles, kisses, hugs are a delight. He stretches me and challenges me to embrace more of life right here and right now.

I’m struggling now to find a reason for this post. It seems clunky and out of sorts and I apologize for that.

Could the reason be to just allow you to get a better glimpse of this girl behind the computer?

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Bookshelf – Sarah’s Key

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I bought this book last fall on vacation in the Outerbanks. It was recommended by the girl working at the shop. I love crammed little bookshops – have I mentioned that?

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up a book lover. Growing up we had a set of encyclopedias and lots of biblical commentary books that never got opened as far as I could tell. My parents didn’t read and we didn’t make trips to the library and they didn’t purchase me books very often. Actually, a few of the books I did have growing up, I stole from the local library or my school (ie I never returned them after I borrowed them.) I may not have had access to many books, but the books I did **ahem** acquire got read and re-read and re-read until bindings fell off and spines broke.

Anyhow, one of those books was called The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig. I still remember exactly what the cover looked like. I still remember the dedication page. I still remember the name of the poem she recited: Eugene Onegin. If you pressed my memory really hard, I might be able to recall verbatim the opening sentence. This story was autobiographical about the Jewish round up by the Russians in Poland. The author and her family were sent to Siberia and the story details her life in Siberia. They were the lucky ones.

In Sarah’s Key, I found myself comparing the round up of Polish Jews with the round up of French Jews. This story is heartbreaking if you allow yourself to ponder the horror of what happened to these families (men, women and children – 10,000 souls) during the Paris round up of 1942. It is known as the Vel d’Hiv. For years, the French did not admit their culpability in this even though it was French Gendarme who did the rounding up and imprisonment of these families in camps until they were separated: men in one camp, women another and children another. Once separated, the groups were loaded onto the trains and sent to Auschwitz. These French Jews, when they were sent to Auschwitz in August of ’42 were not even housed in the camp, they were immediately sent to the gas chambers. They served no useful purpose because the French had already removed their clothing, possessions and had even shaved them in preparation for their date with the death chambers. Polish Jews were rounded up by the Russians when they were in alliance with Hitler early in the war. In comparing the two books, it seems that the Russians were more compassionate than the French.

Sarah is 10 years old the night of July 16, 1942, when the round up took place. Ms. Hautzig was also 10 years old when her family was put on cattle cars. Sarah locks her toddler brother, Michel, into a hidden cupboard in their apartment promising to come back for him. She does this because her parents tried to protect her from the true horror they knew they were facing. There had been rumors of a round up, but the Jewish community thought it would be like others – a round up of the men. The men had begun to hide at night when raids occurred leaving their families in the home. Well, the French & Nazis caught on and decided to round up whole families. Sarah did not know the danger and therefore naturally thought everything would get sorted (these were French police after all, not Nazis) and she would soon be home to let Michel out of the cupboard. The anguish she feels when she realizes the truth is palpable. You feel her rage against her parents for not being honest with her. However, I don’t know if I blame them. They were protecting their children just like you and I would do.

This story is riveting. It takes place in the past and in the present and the author intertwines the lives of her characters so completely and compassionately. It is both sad and hopeful. Excruciatingly sad for the circumstances of Sarah’s life. Hopeful because as we learn about the ugliness of our past we will become better people now. I’m not optimistic about not repeating the past because that is all we seem to be capable of – repeating the past. We just get more high tech at it. But even a little hope is hope nonetheless.

I grieve for the families of the Holocaust. More than a few tears fell as I read Sarah’s story (and Julia’s story and especially Edoard’s).

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Zakhor. Al Tichkach

Remember. Never forget.

Dear Dad

(This is part two of three letters I’ve written.  Two to my parents and one to myself.  The first was to my mother and you can read it here Dear Mom.  Just for the record, these letters were written as part of a therapy assignment for me to explore whether I was ready to try to meet with them this summer.  Through these letters, I came to the conclusion that I was not yet ready.  I may never be.  My intent is not to try to justify myself or somehow make someone accept my perspective.  My intent has purely been to explore the real story underneath all the feelings.  For me, writing out the actual events in last week’s post was very cathartic and I will write about that in the future.  For now, take these letters as they are: raw and uncensored – well, except for grammatical editing)

For years you assumed it was only between Mom and I.  For years you stayed your distance as best you could.  Only when pushed, by Mom, would you enter the fray and do her bidding.  For a long time I vacillated between being angry with you and feeling sorry for you.

I felt sorry for you because I saw you as a victim for so many years.  I was angry with you because you left me alone to be the recipient of her rage.  I felt sorry for you because she manipulated you.  I was angry with you because when given the chance to get us out, you chose to stay with her.

For years I vacillated, but now I have come to a decision.  I am  was angry with you.

You made sure you were not at home much. If you weren’t at work, you were at a ball game – basketball, softball, golf. You knew that as long as you weren’t home, she couldn’t make you the focal point of her raging.  She couldn’t throw things at you or bring you to your knees.  She couldn’t make you feel inadequate because you weren’t the great husband her Daddy was.  You knew she had rage leftover from her past, even if you didn’t understand it.  You forgot to realize that she still needed to take that rage out on someone and I was the easiest target.

You never challenged her.  I’ve searched my memory and I cannot once remember you standing up to her for me.  In your defense, I know you were just as afraid of her as I was. But…you were the only other adult and a man and a father.  It was your children she was scarring with her anger and her rage.  It was your family she was destroying in the process.

You betrayed me.  Even up until four years ago, I trusted you (In fact, Mom knew this and has used you to manipulate me on many occasions including just a few weeks ago).  You came here and we had a long discussion without Mom. You seemed to understand my point of view.  You said all the right things to make me believe that you saw things clearly and I thought you were being honest with me.  I asked you to not share what I said with her and you promised me you wouldn’t, that it was just between you and I.  But a few days after I had allowed myself to be vulnerable with you in an unprecedented way,  I got a letter from Mom addressing the things that I had privately shared with you.  I knew you had betrayed me.

I told you how for many nights, especially from the time I was about 10 years old until my mid-teens, I would beg God to allow you to just leave her.  Just leave her so that I could live with you and end this nightmare of her angry and volatile mood swings.  If nothing else, you can at least say you honored your vows.  I wonder often if she realizes how fortunate she is.

Now you wonder what you did to make me not want to see you anymore… to not want to be a “family”.  Really?  You have to wonder at this?  You say you don’t know what you did.  You say you asked my youngest brother if you were bad parents and what you and mom could have possibly done to me.  He said he couldn’t remember anything.  That was your proof that it was all me; that it was all stories I conjured in my head? Proof that I was as mentally ill as Mom claimed I was?  That my brother, who was born when I was 9 years old and wasn’t even out of middle school when I got married, couldn’t remember what you did anything to deserve my “treatment” of you and Mom.  No disrespect to my brother, but he was way too young to remember these things.  But if you need to claim his memory in order to prove that I am the problem, then so be it.

I remember the night about four weeks after my son was born and you called me and yelled so loudly and so viciously that I had to hold the phone away from my head.  Your granddaughter heard you yelling.  I could read on her face that she was so astonished that you could sound so mean, so cruel.  Even if she didn’t clearly make out the words, she understood their meanings. Unfortunately, she didn’t miss much of what both you and Mom said to me during those tumultuous days.

You’ve yelled at me that I must honor my parents and that I must forgive.  What about your anger towards me?  Is it a righteous anger?  How have you justified your anger and judged my actions?  Apparently I don’t see honoring my parents in the same light as you do.  I see honoring you, in the situation I find myself in (by my choice), as me not spreading rumors about you to others.  I see honoring as not talking disrespectfully about you to others.  I see honoring as not airing the dirty laundry.  But, you require an answer, so I’m giving it and you can call it airing dirty laundry if you must.

I see forgiveness differently too.  I know that forgiveness is imperative for me.  Some days it’s harder than others and for me it is a process to lay down the burden of the memories and the betrayal and to forgive again.  But, I do not see forgiveness as walking open arms and vulnerable into a bad relationship again.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that I allow things to continue and the only way I see for things to not continue in that way is to cut off any relationship.  All conversations turn into arguments.  Five years ago, Mom wanted to get family counseling with her therapist at the time and I agreed, with the prerequisite that I sit down and speak with him privately before a family session.  She wanted no part of that.  I suspect that she had told him all sorts of horrible things about me and didn’t want me to upset the image of me she had created in her mind.

Am I really that horrible of a person that you can’t see the truth that’s been in front of you all these years?

Why did she cut you off from your family?  Why did we never see your family for holidays, birthdays, or just because, at anytime after I was about 10 years old?  Why did you allow her to poison your mind about your family, about me? You knew she had anger issues stemming from her childhood, why didn’t you help her get real help?  I believe she suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and they’ve been treating it since the mid-60’s.  Back then it was known as Hysterical Woman’s Syndrome.  Ironic isn’t it. Wouldn’t you have truthfully called her hysterical?  Especially when she was throwing all sorts of tantrums and having what she termed a ‘nervous breakdown’ every weekend?

I know you’re angry with me.  I know you don’t understand.  That’s the point.  You don’t want to understand.  You don’t want to see clearly.  You don’t want to rock the boat.  But sometimes when the boat gets buffeted and blown around, the junk get thrown out and you’re left with what’s really important.

Frankly, I’m not sorry about what I felt I had to do six years ago.  I’m sorry that it had to happen, but I’m not sorry I stood up to her, then you, and made the decisions that I did.  I felt I had no choice if I was going to have any chance at trying to get healthy and breaking the cycle.  Mom’s family’s dysfunction is very deep and strong.  You allowed it to grab hold of your family.  I’m not claiming that I made all the right decisions.  I still examine myself and how I ended up here.  I’m not claiming any kind of self righteousness.

I spoke with your sister about the situation a few years, when Grandmother died.  I didn’t come to the funeral.  I’m sure that made you angry.  The truth is that I knew that Mom would waste no opportunity for a public showdown and argument.  I also knew that you would try to “control” my mother.  I did not want you to have to worry about that on the day you buried your own mother.  Your sister understood why I did what I did.  She understood the choice that I made and agreed with it.  You see, I don’t think your family is blind.  They knew what Mom was like but they also respected your wishes and your marriage despite the destruction they witnessed. We talked about the significance of Proverbs 14:1:

“A wise woman builds her home,
but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.”

There are no winners here.  There are no sides here.  All that remains are ruins.  What remains is distrust, resentment and pain.

Dear Mom

This post was originally written in 2013.

It’s been five years since I last spoke to you and that was quite a spectator event.  The night of my brother’s going away party to the Middle East and war.  Your sister decided to take it upon herself to confront me in front of several people about how awful I had been to you the previous year.  I can only imagine (wait, I don’t have to imagine because I’d heard) what you said about me to others.  The lies you spread about me.  All because you were angry.  Since when does anger allow you to slander another person?  Oh, I forgot, you’ve always had anger issues and I was chosen at a fairly early age to be the recipient of all that anger.  Lucky me.  And, lest I forget, it was everyone else’s fault that you were angry so you were justified.  You couldn’t help it, everyone else made you do it.  But, you don’t remember any of that.  Now, after five years, you admit you had anger issues when I was growing up and you recently apologized for being angry.  I appreciate the admission and the apology, but it’s not quite that simple.

You say that you don’t remember how you took your anger out on me.  There is much about my growing up years that you don’t remember because you were in the grip of anger, resentment and bitterness over who knows what because we never talked about your home life.  The life that shaped you.  The life that made you into who you are.  The parents who were so caught up in an unhealthy church environment that they neglected healthy relationships with each other and their children.  The father who seemed meek and mild to everyone but whom I suspect was a frightfully hateful, jealous man in a passive/aggressive sort of way.  The kind of man who didn’t let his wife leave the house alone very much.  The kind of man who, when she was allowed to go to church for a sewing circle in the middle of the week, would follow her to make sure she wasn’t stepping out on him.  Was that because she had an affair with him while married to her first husband?  Was that the reason he suspected she would cheat again or was it just an unfounded evil jealousy?  I can only speculate.  Then there is your mother, my grandmother.  A sweet woman, but a weak one.  She was so burdened down with her guilt over having been divorced that this guilt informed all her decisions into her elder years.  This guilt allowed her eldest daughter to take advantage and manipulate her over and over and over again.  Now, how about that oldest daughter?  Your half-sister?  She was most likely a bully towards you and you suffered much growing up in her shadow.

And your little brother?  The apple of your parents’ eye because he was a son and a son actually meant more than daughters back then.  A son to carry on that family name that is so important.   A little brother whom I suspect was allowed to get into quite a bit of trouble without consequence just as the oldest half-sister.  They never had to face the consequences of their actions or bad choices, did they?  Did you take the punishment for them?  Not willingly, but simply because your parents didn’t want to punish “poor Dolly, she comes from a broken home” (I heard my grandmother say this on several occasions to me when my aunt was a completely grown woman in and after her fourth marriage) or to punish the baby of the family.  So it fell to you, the middle child.  You were the one who did the ‘right’ things.  You waited to have children after you got married.  You haven’t gotten divorced.  You went to church regularly.

I do feel sorry for you.  I do understand that yours was not an easy life, whether you can bring yourself to admit it or not.  We both seem to suffer from memory loss.  You struggle to remember the bad times of your growing up and I struggle to remember the good times in my growing up.  It’s like if you admit that there were deep, dark, ugly secrets you will somehow defame your family line.  Can’t you see that by denying and avoiding it, you caused deep, dark, ugly hurts in your own family?  We have two chances to get our family relationships right.  First, our relationship with our parents.  Next, with our relationships with our kids.  You couldn’t break the cycle and I paid the price.

Because you didn’t know any better, you treated your husband’s family with contempt.   Mostly his mom and sisters because you are intimidated by strong women.  By the time I was an adolescent, we barely saw any of his family at all.

Because you didn’t know any better, you pitted your own children against each other by playing favorites when it suited your intentions.  We were too young to know we were being manipulated until many years later when it is too late to have anything other than a “can you believe the weather we’ve been having?” kind of relationship.  We don’t really have anything in common and I believe that since I have kept silent in order to allow you to maintain a relationship with them; they believe your side of the story so it’s not worth it to me to even try to have a relationship with them.

Because you didn’t know better, you took your resentment and anger against your sister out on me.  This is the beginning.  I believe there was some unwritten family law that kept you from ever standing up to her…that pity over the circumstances of her life made you into someone who enabled her.  Because you followed this law, you couldn’t ever assert yourself.  So, you took it out on the next person most convenient to you.  A young girl.  Me.  I was branded with all those words you would have used to describe your sister if you’d allowed yourself to do it.  Why didn’t you allow yourself?

You say you don’t remember how you took your anger out on me.  Unfortunately, I do.  There are moments that are crystallized so clearly that I can see, hear, smell and feel them as if they are continuing to happen.

Like the time you were pregnant with your third child.  We were on our way to Eyerly’s. Remember Eyerly’s?  It was out Route 30 West where the Walmart is now.  I loved going shopping at Eyerly’s.  I loved the mannequins.  This particular evening, it was mid-autumn and you had come to terms with the fact that you were having a third child.  One you didn’t want because it would make your second child a middle child and you felt that middle children (because that’s what you were) would get lost in the mix.  You didn’t realized you had the power to change that outcome without continuing to turn me into a monster in your head.  Anyhow, you told me something that night on the ride.  We were just about to turn into the shopping center.  I can still see the traffic lights and smell the autumn air coming in the windows.  It was still warm for that time of year.  You told me that you had chosen names for the baby.  You told me that if it was a girl, you would name her Tara.  You were hoping she would be a “…real girl”.  This was the criteria of a real girl you laid out for me that night:

  • she would have beautiful, long hair that you could make all curly or could put braids in.  To me, I knew what this meant.  This meant not having a “girl” that you had to tape bows to her head just to make her look like a girl.  I knew beautiful hair was important to you because you were a hairstylist and you needed the right kind of daughter with the right kind of hair you could advertise with.  How awful you had a girl who didn’t have much hair when she was a toddler and then had straight short hair growing up.  Scandalous.
  • she would like to dress up in pretty things…aka she would wear patent leather shoes.  She would like wearing patent leather.  Instead you had a daughter who hated dresses and patent leather shoes (they hurt).
  • she would not be a tomboy and only play with boys.   I never actually understood this accusation, even at a young age.  I never quite got how this was a “bad” thing and so distasteful to you.  The only neighbor kids we had were boys.  The only sibling I had was a brother.  I would have gladly played with girls had any been around.
  • she would have a cool and hip and popular name.  This I also didn’t understand because you were the one who named me in the first place.  How could I be responsible for my name that you didn’t like anymore?

Now, I made inferences in what you said that night.  You trained me well in reading between the lines of what you say.  You are a master of letting things unsaid but you know that I understand perfectly the jabs you are sending my way.

This is how you appear so innocent in all this.  No one really sees, no one really hears what you do and say to me.  Not really.  On the surface it’s just normal conversation.  But to me, I understand it as it is meant to be.  Those arrows have stuck in my heart.  I can write about it now in a weird detached way.  The feelings are distant.  They are hidden just out of my reach to really feel them anymore.

Maybe I’ve hid them in my hopeless chest.  You know.  The chest you gave me as a teenager.  A traditional chest that was supposed to collect all the things that would prepare me for a suitable marriage.  The linens, the flatware, the pots and pans, etc.  You laughingly and tauntingly called it my “hopeless” chest because you said I would never find a good man who would love me.  But, God had different plans for me.  I found a good man who has loved me well.  So well that most days I feel I don’t deserve it – now that makes the tears come.  Those are emotions I feel.

Here’s a sampling of other things I remember which you don’t:

  • I remember how you so often would make fun of my ears and how they stuck out.  You and your sister thought this was great sport and brought much fun to you both to ridicule me in private and at family gatherings.  My ears were such an embarrassment to you that you actually called the insurance company one time to see if they would pay for me to get my ears “tucked” – a process which would stitch my ears to my head to make them more attractive.  My ears because such an embarrassment to me that it was many, many years before I would tuck my hair behind them and allow them to be seen.  By the way, they stick out just enough to tuck hair back perfectly.
  • I remember how you allowed my brother to break all the furniture in the dollhouse that Dad had made for me one year.  You didn’t stop him because “I needed to learn to share”.  You think I bring this up because I’m jealous of him.  I’m not.  I bring it up because it shows how much you despised who I was.  I do believe the root of this behavior was the acting out of feelings towards your own sister.
  • I remember one of the nights you walked out – there were several but this had a particular impact on me.  I remember Dad down on his hands and knees begging you not to go.  I remember you just opened the door and walked away…out into the darkness without a coat, a bag or the car.  I didn’t know it was all for show.  I was only about 6 and was scared out of my wits.  We watched you walk down to the end of the road, hang a right and start up the hill until you were out of sight.  You came back, though, and you were perfectly clear about why.  You see, Dad carried my brother out onto the front poor.  He was about 18 months old at the time.  He was in his fuzzy, footed Carter’s pajamas.  He was out of his head with screeching because he knew he was watching his mommy walk away.  Apparently you couldn’t get those screams out of your ears.  You came back, took him into your arms, looked at my Dad and told him you were coming back for my brother not for him.  Then, you leveled your gaze at me and said, “..and I most certainly am not coming back for you.”  I remember your eyes that night.  All burning fire through their brilliant blue.  No kindness, no compassion and no love in them.
  • I remember the frequent taunting about me being a “Christian”.  How all Christians were hypocrites and that included me.  You called me a hypocrite on several occasions.  I know you don’t remember.  I know you felt yourself superior once you let go of the church.  You told me that you felt more comfortable in a bar than at church.  Good for you; I’m glad you’ve made your peace with faith or no faith.
  • I remember my sister-in-law’s baby shower.  I remember how you decided to take it upon yourself to plan and orchestrate the whole party, then you promptly dumped it all in my lap.  You had your non-negotiable’s about the party.  The party was to serve breakfast food and you insisted on serving quiche even though you knew that your daughter-in-law is a picky eater and did not like quiche.  Who was I to disagree?  This was your party.  So, you drafted my cousin to make some quiche.  I planned everything and I did enjoy it.  It is something I’m pretty good at.  I purchased and made decorations.  I made the cake.  I planned the games and purchased all the supplies.  I made the food, except the quiche and the vegetable soup that you decided needed to be part of the menu at the last minute.  The day of the party I arrived early laden with the decorations, food, game materials, etc.  I proceeded to set up.  You were annoyed that I wasn’t including you enough in “helping”.  I suppose that’s why you did what you did.  During the shower, you were laughing it up with all the guests and my sister-in-law was complaining about the quiche.  I heard you say, “Well, you know (me), she always needs to try to impress with fancy food that nobody would like to eat.”  Then you laughed quite loudly with the others at my idiocy.  My grandmother and cousin (aka your mother and your niece) both heard you and both looked at me with such compassion in their eyes.  They both hugged me and told me they were sorry that you had been so insensitive and cruel.  Both had tears in their eyes.
  • I remember the jealousy in your eyes when I got engaged.  I remember how you would say mean things to me in a flippant way.  I remember how I eventually got fed up and told you that if you didn’t want to help me find a dress, I’m sure I could find someone else who was interested in helping me.  That got your attention.  Maybe you were waiting for me to stand up to you all these years.  I didn’t get the memo until I was 36.

Thirty-six years.  That’s how long it took before I finally stood up to you.  Over an innocent “remark”.  Or so you say.  You don’t remember the message you left on my machine.  The vicious name you called me and my husband when you thought you had hung up but the machine caught it.  Your granddaughter heard what you said.  But, you don’t remember because to you it was just one comment in a long string of comments over the years meant to embarrass, wound, hurt or manipulate me.

And that’s the point…you don’t remember.

If you can’t remember then how can you keep yourself from repeating the cycle?  From falling into the same pattern all over again.  After five years, I know I will have a lot to make reparations for.  I know that the punishment will be subtle and ongoing.

The last conversation we had you hissed at me, “Don’t you ever come to see your Daddy and I again.  Don’t you dare call us or email us or make any contact whatsoever. Don’t you dare come to our funerals.”  

Yes, Ma’am.  I will honor your requests because even if you don’t remember…I do.

I can forgive you for making mistakes and being angry and not knowing how to deal with all your anger over so many things back in the 70’s and 80’s.  However, forgiveness doesn’t mean that I must allow you back into my life or my family.  It is precisely because you are my mother that I cannot allow you back in, you continue to be toxic to me.  I have grieved the loss of that relationship and moved on. I do not need to revisit it.  It is my hope that with this “letter” you can let go of your idea that I’m somehow the black sheep of the family who has lost her way and just needs to find the path back home where “you are waiting”.  That’s not going to happen…sorry.