Family Dynamics & Family History

I’m under the weather. I think it’s a sinus infection. I swam so often when I should have stayed out of the water. Was in my nightgown all day yesterday, but will force myself to go to the kids center this afternoon for a few hours of volunteering. Day three of no swimming.

Making that family video (that I posted on the blog yesterday) has been an amazing experience but what’s more amazing is the effect it’s having on my family.

My mom cried, of course. My dad was obviously moved. My brother wrote that he “teared up” several times while watching it. So did my sister and one niece. The niece also wrote on her Facebook wall,

This is is a video my aunt made for my Gampy’s 80th birthday and my Gammie and Gampy’s anniversary I love my family!!

The video is reminding my family that we were a family that met often and loved one another.

But the most amazing reaction has come from my mom. I knew she’d be emotional about it because that is her nature. But something much deeper has taken place. She stood in the doorway to my room and said through tears, “It’s made me think of our family and your dad differently.” She could hardly speak, and I hugged her genuinely, not resentfully as I often do.

If my video has an impact on how my mom treats my dad, then that is all I can ask for.

She’s carried around so much anger, bitterness, and resentment over his cheating, and punished him over and over for decades for it. Now that I’ve been cheated on I certainly understand the pain it must have caused. There’s no excuse for it, and I’m not letting him off the hook, but if she decided to take him back, doesn’t she owe it to herself and everyone else to give it her best shot?

I don’t know. As her daughter and as a person who loves my father second only to my daughter in this world, I cannot waste a minute hating him, but of course, he didn’t cheat on me. But in a way, he did. Cheaters cheat on their families.

But I look at those early photos and I know that in the year or two before my sister came along my mom and dad had separated and were on their way to divorce. In 1959 or so, when I was 2-ish, he had impregnated a woman he worked with at the bank who came knocking on the door to ask what the family planned to do about it. I gather they gave her as much money as they could scrape up (about $150), and she went away and had her baby. She met a nice man who adopted her son and they lived a great life. Mom kicked dad out and started divorce proceedings.

But that is when my own hell began. My mother, who loved dad more than anything was destroyed and she took all her anger out on me. I don’t remember any of it, not a bit of it, but one day when I was in my early 2os, she took me to lunch and told me all about it. It was horrible. I tried to brush it off. I didn’t want to hear it. She was apparently telling me because she wanted to apologize and ease her guilt. I could not process it, and I still can’t.

It was the darkest period of our lives. Then my mother became pregnant by a married man she worked with. So I’ll never know if my dad came back because he missed my brother and I, or because he knew how it would look for my mom to become pregnant while separated from him, or if he missed and loved her, or any combination of the above. But he came back.

Throughout my life (even before I heard this family lore) I had a fear that my father would leave us and the idea of it was overwhelming to me. Part of it was fear that my mother would marry some awful person and I’d have a stepfather that I hated. My dad (when he wasn’t pissed off) was fun and loving and I feared the type of man my mom might end up with. I feared he’d be religious and/or creepy. I hated him even though he didn’t even exist. I did not trust my mother’s taste in men.

But that insecurity of worrying about if dad would leave us was rooted in the fact that we endured a year or two where he was not with us. And as a younger person, when this story started surfacing, I convinced myself that he came back because he didn’t want my brother and I to have a stepdad. I guess I really didn’t see love between my parents so I figured it must have been love for us that brought him back. But I don’t know the truth. And I don’t dare ask. I hate opening cans of worms like that.

Writing this I can see that my own taste in men has been greatly influenced by my father. He had a temper. He and mom would have traumatic fights. More than once I remember being in the backseat of the car when they fought because they were lost and thinking we were going to have an accident and die. But what is it with these volatile and quick tempered men that makes us want them or hold tighter to them? Is it an addiction? Would we all have been better off without him?

But throughout my life my mom has been the bitter one and my dad the loving one. I had a healthy fear of both my parents, but I especially hated disappointing my father. Even now, my mom embarrasses me when she so obviously favors her grandsons over some of her granddaughters. She sneers and puts some of them down, and not subtlety. That kind of behavior from her makes me cringe. My mom has always very obviously favored males. Always. The only girl she pretty much loves unconditionally is my daughter, who was the first grandchild and they bonded deeply.

I like to think if I had grandkids that I’d have a wide open heart for them, but who knows. My daughter is 38 now, and I don’t think I’ll become a grandmother!

Last night and this morning I’m feeling lower than I should about my husband. I think watching family stuff brought him front and center to my mind. Leaving him out of the video was the right thing to do, but his absence from it seems glaring to me.

I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know who he’s involved with, if anyone. His short texts seem to imply he’s alone, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. I’m really angry with myself for missing him and still finding him interesting and also for feeling pity for him and his situation. I’m angry with how fucking loyal I am to him. There have been dozens of times where I’ve almost called him or emailed him and then I force myself to stop.

I’d have a problem with iMovie or with Photoshop and I’d begin to write him a text or email and then I’d stop myself and erase it. I am trying to break myself of the habit of relying on him. He would like me to keep that up, but it’s wrong. It makes him feel good about himself when I need him. Like we’ve come through this unscathed and we’re pals now.

And now that I barely communicate with him he seems bothered by that. “You don’t check in anymore” he writes. And I think to myself, ‘Yes, that’s true. Because you hurt me to my core. You are not a good person.’ When I don’t contact him, I think he almost realizes he’s not a good person. I think he almost realizes that he lost something of value. I think he almost realizes that he still loves me.

He’s quick to judge me, still. He complains that he is always fearful to look at his email for fear there will be some long scathing or threatening or demanding email from me. He never stops to think he might deserve those kinds of emails, of course. And it’s been a long time since I’ve sent him anything longer than three sentences. He can see I’m letting go, I know that. And I’m sure that hurts his ego a bit.

He really did not expect me to get to this point. And I’m not as far along as I’d like to be, but he doesn’t need to know that.

I guess today is one of those days where I’ll need to remind myself of how horribly emotionally abusive he was to me for years. I’ll need to remind myself that I have an unhealthy attraction and addiction to him. And I’ll need to remember my goal which is to rise to the head of my family and pull us all together.

Meh. I’m quite blue today. Perhaps the result of not exercising this week, or being sick, or the anticlimax of working on that video for a month. But I’ll keep trudging along.






2 responses to “Family Dynamics & Family History

  1. Hope you’re feeling better soon 😀 What a deep set of thoughts and experiences you have shared here and I’m feeling a huge empathy with you on so much of this but I love that your video made a difference. It’s brought a lump to my throat.

  2. Thanks very much, fightingfatblogger, I have to admit I was not expecting my family to react to the video the way they have. It’s been really unifying. Thanks so much for your comment and your empathy.

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