Sunday, September 7, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes or How to Make Amends

I snapped this photo of my husband and our Angel Daughter Number Four, last weekend at the beach.  I did so with a telephoto lens, because to intrude on the moment in any other way seemed, well, invasive.  When done correctly, there is something very special and personal about the relationship between a father and a daughter which can never be duplicated.  It is solid and natural and strong.

Tonight will be the first time that I have been allowed to see my nieces since the day my brother died six months ago.  They are so little.  Only five and nine years old.  They are fatherless.  I am brotherless.  Yet, when I spoke to my nine year old angel for over an hour, the other day, I felt such an undying connection between her heart and mine.  We talked a lot about her dad, my brother, because she wanted to.  We laughed, I made her promises which I will forever keep.  My family, me, my angels and Mark, will now be the conduit between these young daughters and their dad.  The only direct remaining bloodline between one generation and the next.  Angel Niece said to me in a very serious, beyond the maturity of a nine year old voice:

"You know Auntie Deb, I was the one who wanted my mother to make amens with you.  I told her that I couldn't take it anymore!  I want to see my Auntie Deb, I want to see my cousins, and I want to see my Uncle Mark!!!  I miss them!"  

I was absolutely dumbfounded by her resolute honesty.  After a moment, I quietly asked her what her mother said when she told her that.  And Angel Niece told me that her mom said she thought that was a good idea.

Nothing is ever exactly as it should be.  We lose people we love.  We move forward in spite of the gnawing pain.  We look for other ways, other people to help fill the void.  We spend time being grateful for what is, after the fall.  We move ahead.

May you find a way to fill the voids that rest heavy on your own heart and soul.  May you be comforted by the relationships that still are.  And may you take the advice of a nine year old girl and make amens while you still can, even if that only means doing so in your own heart.



Laura ~Peach~ said...

indeed those *amens* work miracles!
I am so happy for you that she instigated the move and you have gotten to spend this time with the girls. Hugs and prayers. Laura

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Making AMENS can be so very hard, harder than sometimes seems worth it. But making AMENS is ALWAYS worth it...if for no other reason than it makes your heart lighter. ALthough things make never be the way they were, that is a much better thing to deal with than not having the chance to be with those we love.

Time is short as your brothers loss showed but what we make of the time we have left is what matters.

I truly believe your brother will have peace knowing that you and your family will help nurture his 2beautiful daughters.


Lorrie Veasey said...

I can only think that the anger that kept you from each other was just a mass of hurt and fear attempting to appear brave. I am so glad that you will get a chance to have these two girls in your life: I know it will give you great comfort to see again the spirit of your brother in them , and I also know they will see the same in you. Much happiness.

Irene Latham said...

Love the "amens." How very precious! I am so happy about this turn of events. Yes, together you can keep your brother alive for them. Sounds like a blessing for all. Thanks for thinking of me and my father -- thinking of you and yours too! Feeling hopeful now after reading your post...xxoo

Blue said...

what a joyous resolution to the sadness of the past 6 months. and even sweeter because of the trial you've endured. here's a prayer that the connection will continue from here on. it made me so happy to hear your news tonight Deb! ♥

jojo said...

Amen to amen(d)s. I am so happy for you and your family.Love, peace and joy will fill your hearts. Your reunion will be amazing...

honeydo said...

hello deb,

this is "anonymous" you responded to so sweetly in your "life is beautiful" post. thanks for your time and kind words, needed them and haven't found the words to respond in kind since (a rarity!) just know they were appreciated so much.

as for the visit after so many years of separation, i am thrilled for your chance to extend your love limbs further outward, and show your love for your brother through the little ones. i have some personal info I want to share about this, since you seemed interested.

i have had a fractured family history as a result of a tragedy that took several of my siblings at once, leaving one sib and my parents to grieve. i came along as an afterthought, much after the tragedy, and never knew them.

exacerbating these sad facts for all was the underlying dysfunction long before the loss on all levels: financial, familial, and mental. the result has been my sib (sister) dropping in and out of the family after blow ups, and my being put in the middle to choose allegiances.

the fact that every remaining life is precious and to be cherished instead of pushed away out of fear doesn't seem to get through, after decades.

this dance to reunite all has been exhausting, and i am now at a point where decisions to choose myself despite our ages or lives is necessary... and it is tearing me up but i have to give up the fight.

while my sister and family had years and another life of a lot of extended family contact and history and memories... they "started over" far away from that, and as a result i only had the tearful, tiny holidays of 3 or the strained inclusion of my sister and her family at times later. they have yet to bore of this script; i suppose only to not feel the pain of grief. you notice i am nowhere in the play?

the saddest part (for me) has been the push and pull my sis has had with my nephew (now grown.) someone for whom, once and when i was allowed to see, was a brother, nephew, friend due to ages between us. she has used him as a pawn, as well as my folks, in the years since his birth, without fail.

while we bonded over the years, and i know i made a contribution (of which i'm so proud) to his maturation... again i am still not quite allowed to get closer to him than my sister permits, even now. it is an unspoken agreement between us, when i do get to see him, to keep it at this, and i don't push because i have compassion but mostly pity for my sister and her need to hold on to old ways. it seems he is all she has...

so basically, the family contact is this:

parental call: how's sis? (they've had no contact for a decade now with her) gripe and complain about sis, use of family allegiances, life complaints when are you going to call/visit/live here? end.

sis call: how are mom and dad? gripe and complain or subtle digs, use of family allegiances, life complaints. (doesn't care if when i see her there unless she needs a favor) deflections about facts about nephew & his life. end.

this is fun, yes? questions about me? nope. what if i assert myself (and i DO, i am the youngest!) listen, silence, no probing or understanding and... back to them ASAP.

please note that i have been through therapy, worked on spiritual forgiveness and self-growth, and have had training for boundary setting for professional reasons. i have a large emotional toolbox to work from, but with limited effect.

SO WHY THE HECK have i outlined all this? for openly selfish reasons i will share after this:

you see, i don't tell many people about my family history (it's too depressing even in the briefest of highlights) and few relate so it is pointless to try to bond this way (not many "normal" facts to share even on the surface.) those who have been close to me have all suggested i am nuts for keeping any contact, but...

the survivor thing is strong in me. these are the few people who share a bond with me over something so painful. they are the only family I’ve ever known. and i was raised not to trust (or risk caring) for many else (i work on this daily.) and ultimately, i feel too much pity to cut them off completely despite all our failings. i'm just not that person, it would hurt me more. so i try to keep it together on my terms.

i am at point in my life where i feel safe enough to say to everyone, "THIS" is who i am, "THIS" is what i want, and "THIS" is what i DESERVE, with or without your approval. THIS being choices about a quality of life and facts pleasing to ME (location, jobs, pursuits, and feeling safe enough to make my own family.) seems obvious to some, but i always was that late bloomer.


my spirituality seems to dictate that i honor my father and mother, and they are getting on in years. i already live 7 hours away from them, but i am extremely motivated to move to an area (incidentally) much further from them, for lifestyle/outdoors reasons. my sister will never care for them, and i feel i have nothing more to give them, the first 25 years were all about them and i have delayed making my own family in the remaining decade plus. and I am a woman of a certain age! ; )

i am at a pivotal point where, for economic, logistical and emotional reasons, i must decide to push ahead to what would make me happiest... or languor back with them in their small area (not my hometown/state) and care for them for unknown years. my gut tells me NO WAY, but my conscience struggles greatly over this, something those around me don't seem to understand about this internal conflict. frankly, choosing to move closer to them feels like giving up on myself, but this is so lonely and hard to choose so obviously and thoughtfully and not by default.

i have no church home or spiritual leader i can confide in about this, and decisions must be made, and i am caught somewhere geographically and emotionally between two places and families i am not tied to, yet i am.


so... deb and gentle readers, i ask you for any thoughts or experiences or opinions on this matter, if you have them. hard, cold truths or judgments ARE welcome. this is an unexpected request and venue, and i am grateful for the chance to expose myself this way. thank you for your patience enduring my unintended pity party! ; p

i am ever grateful.

UPDATE UPON EDITING: it looks like i am trying to make the case for myself, but that is not my intention--i really need some outside perspective folks!!!


NOW DEB: make the most of every moment with the kidlings, who knows how many you will have, or which one will make the difference, but THEY DO. blessings and smiles tonight!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Amen, dear Deb, Amen.


Debra W said...

Dearest Honeydo,

I had to read your letter several times because as different as our experiences are, they are also quite similar and your words really resonated with me. My most recent post included a call for any insight or advice that people might offer, so please read through the comments there. I noticed that Blue left you a note and she is a very kind and compassionate individual who has been through a lot in her life as well. I am hoping that some others will lend their support, too.

First and foremost, I have to say that I am very sorry for your losses. It sounds like most of your life has occurred living in the shadow of what was before, and that is an unfair position for any child to have to endure. I cannot pretend to understand what it was like to lose three siblings before even having the chance to meet them, and so I will just say that I am sorry. I hope that in some way, you have felt their presence guiding you throughout your life.

I do understand the torment that you feel between separating from your parents and remaining available to take care of the. Like you, I try to live my life "honoring' my Mother and Father, but I have come to look at it in a different way. Honoring them, does not mean giving up my own life for them. It means making sure that they have food on the table and a roof over their heads. It means speaking to them when I need to, and doing what I am able to to make their lives a little bit more meaningful. Most of this pertains to my Mother, but there have been times in my life when the best that I could do was just "honor" my Dad, too. They have been divorced for many years, so that adds a whole other set of circumstances to the mix. My Dad and I get along very well now, but my Mother is still the same person she was when she was 15 years old, so coping with her can be very stressful. She lives only 15 minutes from me, so I have had to set different boundaries with her. She does her best to try to cross them, but I try to keep her at bay.

You say that you feel it is time to give up the fight, and I have to agree with you. You will never be able to reunite your family because it has been their choice to remain estranged, and so it will have to be their decision to reunite. I have tried doing what you have tried by getting between my brother and my father and that got me into a lot of hot water. I learned, after that, that I could not be the go-between. Whenever one talked about the other, I would listen politely and then try to move on to another subject. My biggest fear was that my dad would pass away before my brother and him could make peace. Funny, I never considered that my brother might be the one to die first. I don't know why I never considered that. I don't think my dad did either, because he took my brother's death very hard, even though they hadn't spoken in over 10 years. I now see it as a pain that they must endure, because it was their responsibility to treat each other with respect and compassion. I am sure that wherever my brother is now, he is getting lectures from my grandmother(she died two years ago on my birthday) about the fact that he never made amends with my dad! But that is another story!

Okay, so let me see if I can stay on track here. I just feel so angry that you have been put in such a difficult position by people who are supposed to love you.

-You have already made some progress by living seven hours away from your parents. From my perspective, it would be a bad move for you to move closer to them just so that you could become their nursemaid. There are other ways to deal with their physical needs. My dad put my grandma in a home that was close to my home, and two hours away from him. In the end, I was more of a daughter to her than a granddaughter, but that was because she was geographically close to me. My brother who was only ten minutes away felt no obligation to take care of her, yet I did. If she had been further away, I don't think I would have been able to take on that role. If you move yourself geographically further away, you will be less likely to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Depending on their financial situation and yours, you could hire someone to go grocery shopping for them, take them to doc appts. etc. without having to live closer to them. There is a business called Visiting Angels, and I am sure that you could find something similar. I think it would be worth the expense if you could somehow afford it, just to keep your own sanity. If money is the issue, there are many free services that utilize volunteers. Meals on Wheels is one that comes to mind.

-As far as your nephew goes, I can guarantee that you have made more of an impact on him than you even realize. Depending on his age, maybe you could speak to him and voice your concerns. Talk to him about his feeling "in between" you and your sister. Maybe he could relate to you more knowing that you have been placed between your sister, your deceased siblings and your parents for all of these years. Maybe that is part of the connection that he feels with you. If your nephew is all your sister has, then I am sure that he feels the same pressure that you do when it comes to your own parents. Maybe it is time to have an honest talk with him.

-I want, so badly, to encourage you to move forward with your own life. I understand your struggle, I really do, but it sounds like you have had enough of the life that they have created for you, and that it is time to move forward towards a life that suits you! You have honored your parents and you can continue to do so from a more distant place as long as you know that all of their physical needs are being taken care of. You can see to that from far away.

-As far as the phone calls go, my recommendation is that you start to shorten them, especially when your parents or your sister start using you as a pawn or a sounding board. You can cut them off quickly, if they cross the line. I am sure that you have learned to screen your calls. Call them back when you "are on your way out" so that you only have a few minutes to talk.

-Your conscience WILL always struggle over this, but that does not mean that moving further away is the wrong choice. It only means that you are a caring, compassionate human being. Give yourself a chance to be compassionate with yourself, for once.

-It sounds like you have reached a point where you know what you want and what you need to be a more contented individual. Allow yourself to utilize that strength, before you talk yourself out of it. We do that very easily.

Honeydo(and I do see the irony in the name you chose), please start living a life that looks closer to the one that you have planned for yourself. You and I both know how precious and fragile life is. If you don't start doing these things for yourself, then when? You were not put on this earth to serve your parents, so please, gather up the courage you need to move forward. Be honest, and tell them that this is what is going to make you happy. If they can't allow you that much, then are they honoring you as a separate individual? They made their own life choices, now it is time for you to make yours. YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THEY HAVE GIVEN YOU. It is going to be tough, but start planning your own life. You have lived enough of theirs.

I hope that something I said might help. I am glad that you reached out to me and the others here. Remember, YOU ARE WORTH IT.

Big healing hugs,

JenX67 said...

What a strong girl. As if it wasn't bad enough to lose her father - it becomes almost unbearable to lose her aunt, uncle and cousins.

JenX67 said...

For Honeydo -
The loss of several children at once is an unspeakable tragedy. God have mercy on any and all of those still mired in the sorrow. Still, your comment reminds me of something the American novelist, Willa Cather, said: "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." Take heart in the fact that many people can relate to the prime elements of your story. It seems in every family of origin there is a sibling who is estranged from his or her parents. This creates untold stress on the other siblings(s) who are constantly trying to make up for the loss, bridge the looming gap and facilitate communication. I have to go for now, but will write more later.

Bogart in P Towne said...

Very few things can be harder than unconditionally loving the family that God gifts us with.

Glad to see that the words of the child is what will bring your family back together.

Alison said...

out of the mouths of babes!!! just precious, and again, I am so happy for you!!

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