Feb 26 2012

Family

Published by at 3:08 am under An Ongoing Conversation . . .

For the most part I am realistic about my connections to people. I don’t call acquaintances friends and I don’t mistake friends for family, however close we might be or how precious I count them.

For many years I was bereft of family. My mother shrank from relationships, shriveling emotionally until she reduced herself to a voluntary shut-in, even pinning cloth to the bottom of her curtains as if to ensure privacy. My heart ached for her and for the years of loss of family she engineered –not just for herself but for me.

The truncation of family intensified after my parents divorced when I was twelve. Not only did my mother retreat even further into her personal isolation, any lingering connection to my father’s family in Switzerland was denounced. Tight lipped and cynical, my mother’s words were consistent and final: They do not exist.

I understood her hatred of my father. Although I didn’t hate him, I feared him –but Switzerland I loved! So began my recurring dreams of me flying like Peter Pan’s Wendy. Except I flew high above alpine meadows over a land that to me was far more alluring than where pirates, Indians, little boys and a crocodile held sway. It would be fifty years before I was able to fly there in reality to reclaim a connection to the one remaining member of my father’s immediate family.

An artist and poet, somewhere in her youth my mother became wounded and fragile, then defensive and bitter. Wearing her pain like a garland of resentments, she inadvertently crafted a yoke of sorrow and rancor from which she never recovered. I was paralyzed by her negativity and could not find it in myself to try to connect to family while she remained alive. By the time she passed just before her 84th birthday, the trail was cold and even though I scolded myself, I remained inert.

A lovely peacefulness now resides inside me. I am surrounded by a vibrant and growing family in the persons of my children and their spouses and their children –my grandchildren. And at least one side of my roots is intact. I am in possession of a marvelous family tree upon which are written the ten generations of my Swiss heritage going back to the mid 1500’s. Only my mother’s side of the family remains unexplored. Though I have begun to try to trace them tentatively through Ancestry.com, it still feels like I’m reaching into an empty cookie jar –without permission.

I enjoy and value interactions with my neighbors, workmates, colleagues, and most especially my friends. Each person holds a unique place in my life. However, I do not splash them with colors not their own. Meaning that though I will forever miss not having a relationship with my mother that I so desperately wanted and needed, I am not looking for a mother figure to fill in for her. So I treasure my relationship with a lovely woman in her early 90’s as positively one of my dearest friends.

The only father I ever needed turned out to have many names, some of the most familiar being Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Supreme Being –and my favorite as a battered and abandoned young woman: Abba, which literally means “Daddy”.

Though my sister died tragically before I could enjoy an adult relationship with her, I do not seek her replacement. Rather, I luxuriate in the present closeness shared with local women –who to a person acknowledges our global sisterhood with all women, many of whom remain shackled by unenlightened creeds and customs.

Lastly, my brother who is basically nonfunctional emotionally and physically, does not create a “brother space available” placard on the lawn of my heart. One of the online definitions of brother by Merriam-Webster is “one related to another by common ties or interests” –so I am adequately covered there!

Having said all this, at the end of the day as I think about family and friends I am reminded of a lovely quote by Ram Dass:

We’re all just walking each other home. 

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Family”

  1. kjerstion 16 Mar 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I find myself returning to cici’s garden more often than i can understand. in search of the something i must think you have. i see you a ways ahead, just a bit up the road i’m traveling. i raise a hand to your retreating form, then hesitate, and do not call out… “wait, turn back! I want to ask you, is that really where it leads? What if i can’t make it? What if i don’t like it? what if you’re wrong and there have been no trails blazed after all? what if this really is just another damn circle?!” I have thrown away everything i believed more than once. and with each fresh start i find myself tireder. today i feel old. you don’t deserve these words that take your time, although one could argue you asked for them… You owe me nothing and yet i want EVERYTHING from you! and you! and you! for walking this path first, for scattering seed, for adding to the next generation. What were you thinking?!? What was I thinking…

    does the world really deserve another chance?

    a year ago i would have argued with your post. but then my family moved on. and i realized what i had always known. …THEY didn’t need family. perhaps you’re right. perhaps what does not exist can’t be created… after all.
    but if i’m to do without i must grieve what was lost in the first place… and i’m not sure they deserve it

    i’m 27, by the way.

  2. Patriciaon 19 Mar 2012 at 1:49 am

    Hello Kjersti,

    Thank you for your honesty, and for writing.

    Remembering myself at age 27 . . . my son was just a year old. Little could I have imagined that just before his 3rd birthday he would be kidnapped by his father and I wouldn’t see him again until just after he turned four –a year and 24 days to be exact. I lived a literal nightmare that year+ –which eventually became the basis for my book, Darkness Overturned.

    So I can only hold out to others my own story –that after years of heartache and what at times seemed like going in circles, here I am: family intact, ME intact. My children are loving, responsible, nice people and the delight of my life! We are strong together.

    My website and blog are called “One Woman’s Way” –because that is all I can offer to anyone looking for a reason to hope that life can be better, can turn out okay. It is just the path of one woman –my journey. And I did not accomplish my travels alone. Several times I sought out and benefited from working with a professionally trained counselor. I don’t think I would be where I am today had I not done so. And though I had one tell me that, based on my history and experience I shouldn’t be okay, I am. Very much so.

    Yes, you can make it. Stay focused on what is beautiful, trust your intuition, love with abandon. You are your best friend. And even when you feel tired (I often said I felt 100 years old), know there is strength all around you. Nature is extravagant in its supply, and your children will fill you with their unconditional love –an amazing source of energy for both you and them!

    As I travel a little ahead of you, I am dropping flower petals on the pathway as it were –the most fragrant I can find! They are meant to encourage you to continue on your own journey. And to remember that no matter what your day holds, there is beauty if you look for it.

    Lovingly,
    Patricia

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