I’ll apologize up front if a lot of this is too vague to really follow. I hope that it isn’t, but I also don’t want to speak in specifics too much, out of respect for some of my other family members, and also because telling this entire story would take a novel. I just needed to get this out.
I have been dwelling for a long time now on my history. Or my family’s really. A lot of it is painful, and ugly, and in some cases not what I will divulge here, or at least not now. Some parts are not mine to share. I wasn’t directly subjected to most of the dysfunction of my extended family. So I don’t write this to share my own experiences for the most part. But I do wonder a lot about the impact of events that happened before my life began. Maybe getting another year older has made me wonder more about my past. Maybe it’s being a mother. Maybe losing my own mother has made me think about the legacy left to me, and the one I will leave for my daughters. Maybe it’s all of those things.
I have said before in another post that losing your mother feels like floating alone in the middle of the ocean, far from where you started, unable to get back there, scared, and desperately lonely. I am surrounded by and blessed with loving family, and loyal friends. But I still feel lonely a lot of the time. It runs deeper than just feeling “alone.” I think some of that feeling gets more complicated when you exist in a broken family. I’ll only speak of my mother’s lineage here, though my father’s isn’t anything to brag about.
My mother was amazing at the job of being a parent, despite the emptiness she grew up in. She was natural at it. But she also struggled with what her own childhood did to her. She was always sad about it (under the surface at least), and at times very depressed. I have known all of my life that my mother was abused as a child. Physically (severely) by her mother for most of her childhood, and sexually by her uncle when she was only four. When she told her parents it had happened, they made her apologize to him. She was always open about these things with my brother and me. The knowledge of it shaped who I was as a child, who I became as an adult, and who I am as a mother. I had a very good childhood. It wasn’t perfect, nothing is, but it was very good. Sometimes the dysfunction found it’s way into my youth even though my parents worked very hard to protect my brother and me from it. I was eleven when an extended family member was arrested for stalking us. In front of our house. The arrest was the first part of the conclusion to something that had been going on for years. That’s a challenging thing to wrap your head around as a little kid. Other things I watched from a distance, wishing I could fix them, or that I could somehow heal the hurt caused by other people. I understand now that I couldn’t have.
So what I have ended up doing for a lot of the time my brain is mulling over all of this reality and all of this past, is dwelling on what could, or really should, have been. What would life be like now if my mom wasn’t abused? I wonder what went wrong, and at what point, in the history of the generations before her and her siblings. I wonder why a huge collection of adults couldn’t just grow up and act like adults. Why they couldn’t do better by their children, their nieces, their nephews, and their grandchildren. Sometimes it makes me sad, and usually it just makes me angry. I don’t really carry it around all of the time, probably because I have had most of my life to adjust to the idea of this broken mess. The extended family I do have in my life is priceless. They are people I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I am grateful for them.
So I don’t mean to imply that I am some damaged person because of what I come from. I actually feel saved from it in many ways. But I do feel impacted by it, and shaped by it. And for whatever reason, that feels very significant in dealing with this grief of mine.