Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Family, ugh.

There is precious little shade and sweetwater about this post, just so you know.

My mum e-mailed me that my grandmother is in the States. Mimi (my gran) lives in France, having moved there as soon as my grandfather was dead and scattered. Not that she didn't love him, but I guess the rest of us weren't all that interesting, because as soon as he was gone, so was she. She was married to him for over 30 years, but I guess she missed home.

Anyway, she's in the states. She's been here a month. I had no idea.

For a long while after she'd gone, I tried to keep in touch. That just about involved the use of a PI and a skip-tracer; the woman moved around a lot and never thought to leave a forwarding address with those of us (OK, so probably only me) in the States who wanted to keep up with her. I have no idea why she doesn't want anything to do with us. I used to be hurt over it. Devastated, truth be told.

I spent the first two-thirds of my life trying to win her approval, her love. I wanted nothing more than a word or two of approbation...I struggled to be what she wanted me to be in every way, sublimating myself in the process. Her voice still rings in my head, chanting the old familiar refrain of "You're too fat, too ugly, too stupid, never good enough..."

So when she moved and never wrote back, even to tell me to piss off and let her be, well...that hurt. I had a hole in my heart, my psyche, and my life where she had always loomed. It didn't know what to do with the resulting freedom, and neither did I.

I wrote to her. I sent updates on my family, on myself, on what we were doing. Sometimes I got my letters back - she wasn't at that address any more. Fine. I contacted the lawyers handling the trust my grandfather left for her, got her new address (she might not want to be in touch with US, but she would NEVER miss a payment, so I can always find her that way) and try again. I wrote her about my engagement, and subsequent marriage. Nothing. I sent her a birth announcement when my son was born, and for several years sent her an Xmas card with photos in it. Two years ago, I didn't bother. Why should I? It's like screaming into the void and expecting an answer. I had to make myself put down the pen a number of times...I kept thinking I should send something. I hate to say it, but she probably didn't even notice. Ouch.

Years ago, my father and stepmother told me I was stupid for trying. They actually said "stupid". They didn't understand why I would be hurt that "that bitch" didn't answer. Well, I don't expect anyone else to get it...it's as complicatedly simple as I loved her then and I still do, despite the many effortless ways she hurt me. My variety plate? You know, the collection of bugaboos, mental illnesses, whatevers that I write about? She helped load that sucker up. Things she said and did were directly related to these annoying behaviors and fears I have today. Be careful how you speak to a child...even when you mean well, thoughtlessness will damage them. You would think her absence, her silence would be a relief. Nope. Who said the human heart was sensible? I just learned to suck it up, tuck it away, and pretend it didn't hurt any more...I was really tired of hearing how stupid the rest of my family thought I was for trying. Not that they complained when I used the same dogged determination to keep up with them. Having a family shouldn't take this much work.

So she's in Florida. I have no idea why. And she decided to get back in touch with someone from the family. Not me, oh no. Why would she try to contact the one person who ever made a damn effort? No, she called my aunt. I shouldn't be surprised. My aunt lived closer, hung out with her, all that, when Mimi lived in Florida. My mum found out...my family may not get together much, express affection freely, or function normally, but our grapevine is top of the line...hell, governments wish they had spy networks this extensive and communicative. Nothing stops us from keeping up with the latest, even internal strife...not that we're together enough to have that. She called my aunt, and since my aunt will be down there anyway for other reasons, they are getting together. Mimi doesn't want the rest of us to know. What, she thinks we're going to go down there en masse and accost her? Does she believe that she figures large enough in our collective lives that we'll drop everything and go confront her about...whatever? Puhleeze.

I am trying to muster up a feeling about this. After reading back over what I've written, I can see some anger and bitterness there...but it's not in the NOW. It's remembered anger, remembered hurt, but...it isn't current. I can't even care. I wish I did. I'd like to say I decided to load up Bird and head south, but...nope. I cut him an apple, made dinner...and thought about what she meant, and if she meant it any more. Nothing. This woman who so shaped me, who meant so much to me...nothing. That would be sad, if I cared.

I wanted to ask mum why she was telling me about it. I tried longer than she did to keep in touch. Didn't she know that I was cut to the bone over it? Does Mimi know, or care? Doubtful...just like she'll never know or care that I was the only one to think of asking the trustees where she was, of keeping track of her well-being that way. And now mum's calling to tell me that Mimi is back in the states and made a special effort to be in touch with my aunt, but didn't want the rest of us to even know she was there? Not even one of the kids she took in and raised? So what?

Last year, while I struggled NOT to send that woman an Xmas card, struggled not to see it as another rejection from someone who never wanted me in the first place, I came to a decision of sorts. I can't stop the old hurts...I can muffle them but I can't stop them. But I can stop throwing good love after bad. I decided that if Mimi wanted to speak to me, she could bloody well make the effort herself. She has to write, call, or show up on my doorstep if she wants something from me. I don't care about inheritances, or legacies, or gifts, or approval, or whatever else anyone thinks there is to gain from her. All I ever wanted was something she seems incapable of giving. She has to make the effort, now. She has to earn what I once gave so freely. It won't be all that hard. All she has to do is make the effort.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be hearing from her, either.

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