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After all, you do have parents, right?


Someone said that on one of the boards I read. It wasn't addressed to me, and it was in a completely different context, but it has been running around in my brain.

I saw a photograph of my mother today.

She looks older than I remember. I still see her as being about forty in my mind. Like she was in the photo I found recently lying on the basement floor. I snapped that photo when I was around fifteen. She was young, sitting in her bathrobe on a Christmas morning. She looked happy. I picked it up.

I'm forty now, and I see her when I look in the mirror.

She has my grandmother's face and my great grandmother's. Heavier, but the same severe Hispanic look, black hair swept back off her forehead, with a slightly darker complexion than mine. Still in my eyes, she is beautiful.

So now I know what I'll look like when I'm sixty four.

She was wearing black. Her eyes are closed, and the photo was in profile. She looked depressed. Definitely not her best photo.

Still, I knew her.

I hadn't expected to run into her today. I haven't seen her in nearly fourteen years. When she heard I would been at my sister's in-law's home for the big Fourth of July barbecue, she decided not to attend.

I had just clicked a link into an online photo album of my nephew's Boy Scout Eagle ceremony. I didn't expect to see a photo of her. I don't know why. I just didn't expect it.


I saw a photo of my father today.

He looks old. Old and withered. His face was skull-like.

When I was back home this summer, there was a day when I was out driving with my sister and my daughter, and my sister said, "oh my gosh, don't look left". Of course I did, but I didn't know what I was looking at right at first. My father had driven up beside my truck at the stoplight. He didn't realize it, because he has never seen my truck. I couldn't see him from the angle I was sitting, but my daughter looked with great curiosity at the man she has heard about but never met. It was then that my sister told me that he had a stroke back in January. The light changed and he drove away but I never really saw him. He was still driving a white van. Just like he had driven all those years ago.

He looks old. I didn't even recognize him at first. Then I saw a second photo of him, more close up, and I could see a little of the man I used to know. He was leaning forward the way he does. I recognised that first. He doesn't look anything like my grandfather.

His hair is mostly grey now, and his hairline has receded long past his forehead. I remember him, with his black hair and cheesy comb-over trying to hide the beginning signs of his bald pate. How I hated him.

I hated him. I hated his white van. I hated being in the same house with him. I hated him for the things he did to me. I hated him for the things he made me do. I planned his death, then prayed to God that I wouldn't have to kill him. My prayers were answered. Thank you, God.

He looks like death. Somehow it seemed appropriate.

My mother never forgave me for telling the truth. She never forgave me for making her give up her life of denial. She never forgave me for refusing to pretend everything was just fine and it had never happened. It did happen. It happened to a little twelve year old girl who had no idea why. It happened to a thirteen year old girl who had grown old far beyond her years. It happened on a Christmas morning trapped in a hotel room, while my family was up at my Godmother's house a hundred yards away. It continued to happen until I was seventeen and finally said those words.

I saw photos of my parents today.

Still they are dead to me. Or more to the point, I am dead to them. It's not a bad thing. I really don't want to be sucked into that whirling pool of dysfunction, but I grieve for them still. And today I wept.

Yes, I have parents.

I saved the photos.

Always,
Hunzi
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No. of Recommendations: 1
I'm sorry to hear what happended but thank you for feeling that you could share this with us, Hunzi. I'm sure it's difficult, if not impossible, to understand why this happended... :-( Remember, though, you will always have friends that understand, that you can talk to and that are willing to help.

-_- Alex -_-
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No. of Recommendations: 9
{{{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

You are a perfect example to show that we are not who or what we came from, but who we choose to be. You have my empathy for what you have suffered in the past, and my admiration for not letting it destroy your present or rob your future.

I wish you peace.
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No. of Recommendations: 12
I sometimes think denial is the absolute most important human trait. It will never cease to amaze me, the lengths that people will sometimes go to avoid truth, and the pain they willingly inflict on others just to secure their own comfort.

6
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{{{{{{{{{{Hunzi}}}}}}}}}}

I have great respect for those who have found the inner strength to face the ugliness head on, reject it, and build a new clean life. Of course you grieve. Our past, even the bad parts, is still a major part of who we are. And we grieve for the "history" we think we should have had. For the "normal" childhood we deserved, but that was denied to us. It would be just as wrong to deny the grief, as to deny the cause of it.

I grieve for the childhood you were denied.

I am impressed by the adult you have become.

Frydaze1
</delurk>
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(((((((((((((Hunzi))))))))))))))))))))

Thank you for sharing, my heart goes out to you. I admire the strong, couragious person that you are today...

Hugs,
Allison
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Hunzi, my brave friend:

To have endured such pain, and then to have your pain denied, by the very two people who were supposed to be your protectors, is a betrayal beyond comprehension.

But to face it the way you have, and be able to share it with others, is a triumph of the human spirit.

I salute your strength and admire your committment to refuse a life of denial. You have chosen the path of sanity and survival.

And yet... and yet... the grief lingers in your observation that:

Yes, I have parents.

I saved the photos.

You deserved better. I think you understand that. And that fact should be the only source of your grief. This long estrangement, while sad, is not your fault.

You deserved better.


Jeanie
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Hunzi,

I salute your strengh - at times it is tough to disconnect, but I know what it's like to remain distant from a similar situation in my own past.

Your choice of words is perfect - refusal "to be sucked into that whirling pool of dysfunction." Many of us do the same and for our sanity, we must.

Thanks for your post, there are many of us that truly understand.

(((hugs)))

donna
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No. of Recommendations: 16
Thanks to everyone for the kind words, both the ones who posted here and the ones who wrote me privately.

Jeanie: you are right, this musing was all about the grief, not the abuse. I did deserve better, and this time of year I do miss having that idealized family.

I shared this with a dear friend who wrote to me privately, and I think it sums things up nicely.


Don't weep for me. I grew up. I lived. I healed.

It's just that sometimes I get taken by surprise.

I had been complementing myself on how put together I was this Christmas. No nightmares. No mood swings. I told myself that I had finally moved on.

Then just seeing a couple of photographs leaves me sobbing and writing into the night. How ironic.

I miss them. Not really them, because I'm sure I don't miss the chaos, and dysfunction. I miss that idealized version of them that 12 year old girl has never let go.

I think it's become a little more poignant over the last year or so, as LilMiss has approached twelve, and I've really been able to see what a little girl she is, and what a little girl I was. It makes the betrayal of trust even harder.

I'm angry with my father for the abuse, but I've mostly moved on.

I'm hurt by the rejection of my mother. That's the unforgivable sin. Because I know I would die to protect my children. I would kill to protect my children. I can't understand why.

Mostly, now I just pity them. Their choices lost them a loving daughter. They lost two grandchildren. They lost their souls. You can see it in their eyes.

That's why I weep.


Always,
Hunzi

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I'm hurt by the rejection of my mother. That's the unforgivable sin. Because I know I would die to protect my children. I would kill to protect my children. I can't understand why.

This sounds callous until I explain. I envy you.

I have toyed with the idea of totally severing ties with my mom and just can't do it. She has sort of apologized for letting the abuse happen to me. But really, she doesn't understand that it affects me every day. She doesn't understand that he wasn't the only one responsible for my loss of innocence. Every person I meet, I somewhere wonder - how do I have to protect myself.

Surviving the abuse is also why I'm a strong person (and I resent that she feels my strength is somehow attributed to her mothering.)

We barely talk, and when we do, I usually have to have such a wide boundary to feel safe that we talk of nothing.

She knew what he was doing. He11, he was beating her up, too. "She did the best she could," right? Wrong. Like Hunzi said - you should want to kill for your kids. Why didn't she walk out? How can she look me in the eye today and not just fall apart with grief over what she allowed her husband to do to me?

Denial. How powerful is it? She wanted me to testify in my brother's wrongful death case that we didn't grow up in an abusive household.
I told her I couldn't do it. Why, what other abuse was there besides, well, what he did to me? Ugh. It's like she wasn't there - and that's what hurts. She lives for herself. Then and now. She denied it at the time, and now she has reconstructed a life that never was.

I don't think about her very often. When I do it's really only a feeling of obligation.

The other one - well - he had his next wife contact me once to see if I knew anything about my grandma's will. He's totally out of my life. But her, I don't know. Cutting her off totally sounds so tempting, but I wonder if the grass is ever really greener on the other side.

jak
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Hi jak,

She knew what he was doing. He11, he was beating her up, too. "She did the best she could," right? Wrong. Like Hunzi said - you should want to kill for your kids. Why didn't she walk out? How can she look me in the eye today and not just fall apart with grief over what she allowed her husband to do to me?

I do believe we all do the best we can. As someone said, when we know better, we do better. Your mother must have had (and most likely still does) her own demons which I would bet haunt her still, whether she admits to it or not.

Don't forgive your mother for her sake, jak, do it for yours.

I let my mother die without forgiving her. I will regret that always.

Andrea

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jak,

This sounds callous until I explain. I envy you.

I have toyed with the idea of totally severing ties with my mom and just can't do it. She has sort of apologized for letting the abuse happen to me. But really, she doesn't understand that it affects me every day. She doesn't understand that he wasn't the only one responsible for my loss of innocence. Every person I meet, I somewhere wonder - how do I have to protect myself.

Surviving the abuse is also why I'm a strong person (and I resent that she feels my strength is somehow attributed to her mothering.)

We barely talk, and when we do, I usually have to have such a wide boundary to feel safe that we talk of nothing.


I don't think it sounds callous at all. Severing ties with my parents was hard. I really didn't want to. I still want to have parents. However, I realized that no amount of wanting was going to get me the parents I wanted. If you haven't read it, I recommend a book called Toxic Parents. It really helped me to see how unhealthy it was to let my parents stick around. I was constantly having to keep up those walls; being careful what I said, having my personal sense of safety violated by being in the same room with the person who sexually assaulted and raped me. I had no interest in being a martyr, or playing into my mother's need to be one. I knew I deserved better. I've known from the first time he laid hands on me that I wasn't at fault and I refused to accept any blame. I think I survived because I was strong to begin with, but having to live my own home with a predator for 5 years did make my survival skills stronger.

She knew what he was doing. He11, he was beating her up, too. "She did the best she could," right? Wrong. Like Hunzi said - you should want to kill for your kids. Why didn't she walk out? How can she look me in the eye today and not just fall apart with grief over what she allowed her husband to do to me?


I am fortunate that I really believe my mother didn't know. She was living in terrible denial that something was wrong, but what that something was exactly, no, she didn't know. My father didn't drink, he didn't beat her or us kids, with only two exceptions, once when I was seven and he lost his temper and cut a switch off a tree and took it too me, leaving me with welts, and the time he severely beat me with his belt after the first time he sexually assaulted me, which left me solidly black and blue from my waist to my knees. It was bad, and honestly, I would have thrown his things on the lawn and changed the locks, called the cops and gotten a restraining order immediately if my husband had beaten one of my kids like that. Other than that, none of us had ever experienced more than the rare swat on the backside for misbehaving. Do I blame her for not knowing? In some ways. She should have asked more questions when my attitude towards my father swung 180 degrees. She should have been strong enough to leave him years earlier when he cheated on her. She should have never allowed him to come back after learning he had raped and abused me under her nose for years. Honestly, I know she sat there that first night after I told her with a gun. He packed his clothes and left. In the same situation I might have killed him, and I would have definitely had him arrested. She taught me in many ways how to be the strong person I am today, but she wasn't strong in all ways. I'll never understand why she valued herself so poorly as to put up with a man who would cheat on her, beat and sexually abuse their own child, a man who never really supported the family financially, how does a woman love a man like that? How does she believe that she can't do better? If you knew my mother, you would think she was confident, she was beautiful, she was strong and can capable, she basically supported our family all our lives and still supports them. It boggles the mind.

Denial. How powerful is it? She wanted me to testify in my brother's wrongful death case that we didn't grow up in an abusive household.
I told her I couldn't do it. Why, what other abuse was there besides, well, what he did to me? Ugh. It's like she wasn't there - and that's what hurts. She lives for herself. Then and now. She denied it at the time, and now she has reconstructed a life that never was.

I don't think about her very often. When I do it's really only a feeling of obligation.

The other one - well - he had his next wife contact me once to see if I knew anything about my grandma's will. He's totally out of my life. But her, I don't know. Cutting her off totally sounds so tempting, but I wonder if the grass is ever really greener on the other side.


Denial is powerful. My mother wanted me to just pretend it never happened and we were the Ozzy and Harriet/Cleaver family she wanted to present to the world. She wanted to show me off, I was pretty, smart and achieved some fairly good things at a young age. She wanted everyone to think that she and my dad were the reasons for those things. She was right, but in the wrong way. I was smart and pretty because of winning the genetic lottery, and I was confident and ambitious because of the way I was raised and the examples both my mother and grandmother provided me, but I was driven to excel by more than that. I was focused on doing as well as possible in school and using college as my way out of my personal hell. For a short time, after my father moved out, and while I was away at college, I played along. I was civil to my father. We politely avoided the elephant in the room. But I was uncomfortable and left each time having to deal with the post traumatic stress all over again. Fortunately, I married at 19, and put an ocean between me and my parents. When we returned to the US, the Air Force put us 1400 miles away. Physical distance was a good start. We only saw each other a few times over the years, but each time it ended in me knowing I had to end things for my own personal sanity. When I was 23, and expecting our first child, I had a discussion with my mother, telling her I simply would not pretend any longer, and I had no intentions of ever talking to my father again if I could help it, but I still wanted to maintain a relationship with her. She told me they were a package deal, take it or leave it. I left it. Thank God she made me choose. I'm sure if I had tried to juggle a relationship with her only I would have merely been continuing the self abuse.

It is hard. I can't tell you that making the break is the right choice for you. I still deal with the grief of the abuse and their abandonment. It hurts. It hurts a lot. But making the break was like amputating a gangrenous limb. It's hard to lose your arm or leg, but the alternative was going to painfully kill you. You still feel the ghost pain however.

jak, you deserve better.

Always ;-)
Hunzi

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Hunzi, jak, and anyone else who has any history of abuse,

There are so many wonderful books out there that can help people heal, and "Toxic Parents" is certainly one of them.

I would also like to offer you some others that are remarkable.

Anything by John Bradshaw, in particular "Healing the Shame that Binds You" and "Family Secrets".

The book "Anger" by Thich Nhat Hanh is remarkable.

Anything by the Dalai Lama.

And, if you're ready for it, "Radical Forgiveness" by Colin Tipping.

These have helped me heal much of my own abusive past (that my mother would deny ever happened).

May they also heal you.

Blessings,
Cassandra
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