My mind has been tortured as of late. Trying to unpack my past and place memories carefully in the drawers, closets and boxes of my mind is quite an undertaking.
When I went back to my Grandfather’s farm recently, it seemed mystical in a way. When I grew up, my Grandfather and my Grandmother were very loving to each other. I had presumed they were always that way and I assumed that my mother had had a wonderful childhood.
The reality that she revealed about my Grandfather was that he was very mean. He was a self righteous Christian who was concerned primarily about appearances. By the time I was born, Christ had broken that icy cage around his heart and I remember him as being a loving and fun grandfather.
I considered my mother’s tendency to play the victim role a contributing factor to her failed memory. She got along just fine with my grandfather when I was at home. She had said she had been bitter and unforgiving towards her father but my own Dad had said something to her once that broke that stronghold. Unfortunately, I believe my Dad is now the victim of her bitterness instead of her father.
When I looked at the barn I could only imagine my Grandfather being a very hard-working and devoted father and husband. I knew that my mother cried “Wolf” a lot and could not imagine him beating her as she said he had.
After the family reunion I had blown up balloons of self-delusion and had let them wander through the clouds of my mind. I had allowed myself to believe that my mother had a charmed childhood. I began to suspect that somewhere in that little town I grew up in, there was a treasure chest of happiness. I just hadn’t been given the key.
Thank God I got to stay at my Aunt’s house on the way to and from the family reunion. She is a ball of energy and a wonderful lady to talk with. We both understand the idiosyncrasies of our extended family unit. I can talk to her about anything and feel safe. On the way back to Texas I spent the night at her house.
My aunt sensed my delusion. When I told her how wonderful it was that the cows were brought in the barn when it was cold outside, she said it didn’t happen that often. She also said she had been scared as a young lady due to the violent outbursts that occurred between my grandparents.
The knife of truth slashed through the delusional balloon of my grandparents fairy tale life, with the reality that their relationship had been fraught with conflict. Some of that conflict would be considered child abuse in this day and age. Not something I would ever consider a legendary trait to pass on to my children.
I quickly distracted the conversation to engage my Aunt in discussing one of my cousins. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren and looked so peaceful at the reunion. The coziness of cousins and family that this man had embracing him was surely a fairy tale. I was certain that that delusional balloon could waft in and out of my thoughts with no danger of reality popping it.
My aunt said with a firmness in her tone. “He is an alcoholic, he has been in rehab. Your uncle has counseled him. My cousin admitted that every day was a struggle for him, in his battle with alcohol.”
I could hear the whooshing of the delusional balloon as it disintegrated into nothingness.
In short, my childhood home was not a fairy tale. Neither was the years that I had stayed in that little town. My mother was temperamental and unstable in her emotions. My grandfather had been abusive. The pretense that we put on every time we went to church or out in public was just that… a pretense.
Yet I am determined to block bitterness from my heart. I know it is a keen and close companion to disappointment. I realize that as a little girl I never felt at peace in that town or in my childhood home. I did not sleep well at all and I always felt on edge. It is different in the home I have in Texas. I don’t have people judging me nor condemning me. I have been able to live my life in a free and easy manner because I do not have family constantly around. I also don’t live in a small town where everyone is gossiping about everyone else.
I love my mother and my grandfather, even though they both were filled with conflict. I have learned the delicate art of forgiveness. I realize that my life has not been a fairy tale but those are few and far between in the land of reality and truth. I imagine that living with truth may be harsh, but it is not the trickery road of deceit that fairy tales so carefully spin to catch you in their web.