All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

The fire I’ve kindled burns less brightly.

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While chatting with my sister recently, she and I had a heart-to-heart conversation about family. Family is a complex topic for me. In the middle of confiding in her my “issues” with certain extended family members, I recalled a cause I vowed to undertake about forgiveness. This is a measurement of how far I’ve come.

To understand the scope of my undertaking, one must get a little background in some of the most intimate details of my life. I’ll try to keep it as short, simple, and civil as I can.

I’ve written in the past about becoming a motherless child. To be more precise, I was one of four motherless children. Our mother passed when I was a mere eight years of age. I have two older “half” brothers and a “half” sister, although I deem that they are “whole” to me. My brothers are 10 and nine years my senior and my sister is just under three years my senior.  She and I are closest in our relationship.

Because we all shared a common mother, I “lost” them when their father came to reclaim them after our mother’s death. My family of six tragically transformed into a family of two within five months. It took  me many years and therapy sessions to get over fears of abandonment. . . and I still have some residual fears from time to time.

My father and I were extremely close. He raised me the best way he knew how and I think I turned out very well (thus far).

That’s the short version of my immediate family make-up. My issues with extended family result from their ignorance and/or lack of action whilst all these events took place.

When my mother passed, the first proposition came from aunts on my mother’s side: “If you want, you can come live with us.”

Originally, I gave no thought to what this meant. But in reality, this is a detrimental statement.  It’s either an ignorant or extremely cruel proposition to an eight-year-old. The problem that arises is: What is so wrong with my own father that you would feel the need to propose that I shouldn’t live with him?

The second problem is that after her death, I heard no more from them voluntarily. Most of them did not call, they did not visit.  My grandmother sent me money in a birthday card. That isn’t to say that I didn’t see them—my father dragged me to visit them at least twice a year. They live just a couple of hours away.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to understand why I was so angry with them. After my father’s death, I began to understand that the crux of the situation lies both with my father and a prejudgement of who he was and with the imperfections of my mother.

It’s difficult to admit to most people, but mother’s just aren’t perfect. Mine was particularly friendly, extravagant money-wise, and exaggerative. When she and my father fought, her family heard only one side of the story. So her family believed that he wasn’t a good husband and concluded that he wasn’t a good father. I don’t know if he was a good husband and that’s not for me to judge. But it’s hard to admit that my father never bothered to clear his good name, he was passive.

What angered and hurt me most was that their prejudgment of my father excluded their involvement with my own life, or the lives of my siblings.

Only one of my mother’s sisters is the only exception in this matter. I feel it necessary to point out that I appreciate her efforts and her genuine concern and involvement in my life. She and I have a good relationship to this day.

Last December, I received a call from one of these long-absent aunts inviting me to their annual Christmas party. The call came unexpectantly while I was at work. Although I was civil, I was angry. Hearing her voice rehashed all sorts of memories of their snubbing. I politely declined. I cried after I hung up. And I prayed.

A day later, I re-thought the invitation, but unfortunately, plans had already been made by then to reneg on the invite. I reconsidered the invite because I came to the epiphany that this aunt had no idea about the hurt that side of the family had caused myself and my siblings. Although they have judged us, they have not walked in our shoes. Essentially, this is a fire I’ve been kindling by myself. And, believe me, it has burned me for many years.

The only way, I believe, to extinguish this flame is to forgive them. It will be hard and probably take me down a long road. I began last Christmas by reconsidering the invitation. I have been tempted to tell them of my pain, but, now, I understand that will only add fuel to the fire for me and possibly for them.

I can’t really say that I know how to forgive them. But I think it starts by accepting the next invitation.

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Written by Written Straw

August 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

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