Saturday, May 31, 2014

Friendship. Tears and Tears

A lot has been going on in my life.  I'm building another garden, this one approximately 600 square feet.  Sorry, this picture is lousy, but you get the idea.

Gardening makes for introspection.  I'm doing a lot of both these days, inspired by the Friendship Coach I meet with once a week.  As I wrote last month, my Girlfriend Picker's broken.  Not totally.  I have made a true blue friend or two since my husband died.  But I tend to pick the "it's all about me" women, and that leaves me without the emotional support when I need it.  So last night, when I wasn't sleeping, I started thinking about why the words a fellow blogger used to forgive her abuser (her father) helped me so much.  Here's what they are.

#1. I forgive you [the abuser].  Well, I couldn't tell if this helped, so I went on to the second.

#2. God, please forgive Mom.   O.K.  Now this I could tell helped.  My heart just melted.  A weight just lifted from my shoulders.  I'm still saying this one, and my heart's still melting.

I commented in her blog about this helping, but I want to elaborate here.

I can point to the very incident when my Girlfriend Picker broke, when my feeling of safety with women tore apart.  It was the summer of 1972.  I was back home after my freshman  college year.  Unhappily, I had not made any friends that year, although before that, girlfriends had been part of my life.  But I was afraid to make overtures towards complete strangers.  I was painfully shy.  Why?  I got the bright idea that maybe my Mom's not ever hugging me or telling me she loved me were holding me back.  Maybe she just didn't know I needed these demonstrations of her love.

1972.  The three of us at the dinner table, Mom at one end, my father at the other.  I don't remember if a sister was there.

me: "Mom, you've never hugged me or told me you love me.  Why?"
She stiffens. - (well, I'll try asking more directly)

"Mom, I'd like to know if you love me."
She slowly puts down her fork. - (uh-oh).

"Mom, I'd like to hear you say, just once, that you love me."
The muscles around her eyes and mouth stiffen and she turns to me, mouth set in a straight line.

"Mom, is it really so hard to tell me?  I'm just asking if you've ever loved me."
She says - nothing -.

"Please, I need to know.  I need you to put your arms around me and tell me you love me.  I've never been held or heard this from you"  me, crying now
Her eyes lock on mine, chilling me.

"I'm begging you.  Please tell me you love me!  How can it be this hard?"  my voice rising to a shriek, tears flowing
She's a freaking statue.

"It's such a simple thing to say!"  now I'm down on my knees beside her, reaching my arms up to her to be held
She looks straight through me. 

Dad breaks the silence, saying in a strained voice: "Don't ask your mother that."

Well, I can't remember ever feeling so hurt.  I ran away.  I came back, eventually, because I needed their money to complete my college education.  Emotionally, though, I shut down, toward I guess both parents, though I forgave my Dad immediately.  But my Mom always said I was an accident, and now I understood why she never added with a smile "but a happy accident".

Several days later she took me aside.  She explained in all earnestness that she couldn't say she loved me because my father wouldn't let her.  This was baloney.  My Dad never stopped her from speaking her mind.  Nobody did.  She didn't say "I love you" then, or ever.  In fact she said some pretty nasty things to me as time went on.

Sometimes I wish life came with an instruction manual.  It would say, five terrible losses will inhabit your life, and you don't get to pick which ones and when.  They will come at you before you're strong enough to deal with them.  But God will be with you.  He/She will always be with you.  Now.  Go enjoy what life has to offer.

Back out to the garden.  Thanks for listening.


  1. Oh, my gosh! What a sad story and a terrible thing for you to go through. My first thoughts were that maybe your father isn't really your biological father and you were the product of a rape or an affair. But I'm sure that must have crossed your mind as well and been dismissed. No matter how old we get that little girl inside us needs to know she was loved. You can do that now as part of your quest. Forgiveness of a parent IS really important. They were from a generation that didn't share their feelings and personal histories and as sad as that is, sometimes there is nothing we can do but accept what is.

    Your garden is going to be beautiful!

  2. The only thing good that has come out of my personal catharsis and perhaps yours too is seems a lot of women our age went through the same "with holding" by our parents. Some of it IS generational--they weren't shown a lot of demonstrative love when they grew up. So hurtful of your Mother to act that way--she should have jumped up, gathered you into her arms, hugged you, kissed you and reassured you that you were her most wonderful child, coming after the others so she could spend the most time with you. BUT--that didn't happen, isn't going to happen. Of course, how she treated you influences the way your "Girlfriend Picker" works--just as my Daddy's treatment influenced the way I related to every man in my life--not in a good way. What can we do about it? Not one damn thing. I am not overly demonstrative to my own children, but getting much better. I hug them, kiss them, tell them I love them every time I see them and we always hang up a phone call with, "I love you." I hope when I'm laying in that Hospice room they don't ever have to wonder "if Mom loved us."

    1. Judy, you sound very demonstrative. And you may be teaching your children the valuable lesson that people can change. Inside, we all need hugs and smiles and feedback of our value. So helpful for you to write what my Mom SHOULD have done. She was certainly demonstrating SOMETHING and it wasn't helpful. I have to ask myself - What am I demonstrating? It's always something if we're around others. I'd hate to think mine is a cold shoulder like hers was. I mean, that's going to make it really hard to make friends.

  3. Judy, that's really great that you have evolved in the department of showing affection to your kids and grand-kids. Keep the misguided and cruel stuff that was done by our parents and grandparents' generation generational where it belongs.

  4. Jean, I suspect the reason was something like that, though I look like my Dad! I was nervous about sharing this but took a chance, because I need a sounding board out here in blogging land. Thanks for sounding me out on this! Very helpful. I can only imagine what rejection my Mom suffered at the hands of her mother, and her mother before that. Very sad.

    1. Do you have uncles or older cousins on your father's side that could have given you half your genes? I ask because I do know someone who was the product of a rape by another family member and she was always treated differently. It was a deep, dark secret for over 50 years. So I can see how a married couple could make a bargain of silence. If it was an affair even more reason why a man would say he didn't want to see that child treated any better than their other kids. Fast forward a few years of being shut down emotionally a mother could actually grow to resent the child for changing her live. Whatever your mother's reasons, she had something dark happen. Mothers don't treat one child different than her others without a dark reason. If she treated you and your siblings all with the same coldness then she was/is messed up inside. Again for a reason. As hard as it is, sometimes we just have to accept that we will never know the truth but we CAN know with perfect clarity that it was all about her short comings, NOT yours.

    2. Jean, this makes sense. I'd never looked at it from this perspective. My father was an only child, with no male relations, so one theory is out. However, I got to thinking. My older sister said our mother referred to marital intercourse as rape. My mother also told me she was finished having children; then I accidently came along. Could be she decided to be celibate after the other three, and my father would have none of it. She didn't even try to hide her resentment for my father spoiling her life. What you noted about her shutting down emotionally and growing to resent the child (me) for changing her life explains her behavior. Resentment is exactly what I experienced. I know this is 'just' a theory, but your perspective reframes my interpretation, which was that I didn't (don't?) qualify for love and consideration from her/women. You've helped me understand it was about her difficulties, not about my shortcomings. Very very freeing! Thank you

    3. Your new theory sure seems to fit all the known facts and I'm glad re-framing things in your mind is helping. Now the trick is to not backside! It WAS all about her unhappy life and nothing about you in any way. She obviously had an unhappy life, not that that it makes it right to treat a child the way you were treated BUT they didn't have Doctor Phil back in those days or an Oprah to help them figure things out. LOL

    4. Or friends like you to help figure things out. : -)) This is nothing short of a sunrise moment. Tomorrow I'm going up to look after Dad for a few days, to give my brother and his wife a break from caregiving. Since I'll be back in my childhood home, I'll address some tough memories - that memory - from this new perspective. Wish me well !

  5. Walk softly and best wishes for your time spent with your father.