life as i know it

"...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath

Friday, November 25, 2005

i see it, and yet...

I just returned from spending the Thanksgiving holidays with my mom’s family. Nine people squeezed into a creaky, old farmhouse hidden in the depths of rural Georgia. The thick air breathed of a complicated mixture of animosity and excitement, sadness and relief, fear and love. And though I had promised myself to remain an observer to the dysfunctional dynamics that have always existed within this family, I rather found myself struggling with my inner urges to scream and cry, my desperate need to reconcile the battling polarities of love and hate that have lay dormant within me for so long now.

Though I was overcome with internal emotions, I did my best to hold them at bay, and continued to remind myself….observe. And so I did. But observation does not negate feelings. And so the results of my observations were more disheartening than I could have imagined.

My grandmamma, barely weighing in at 100 pounds, frail and weak, with no more energy left after 61 years of fighting with my grandfather. Her shriveled skin was covered with bruises from the hard linoleum where she has fallen and laid on too many occasions. Her skin so cold and sensitive to even the most loving of touches, left a sadness deep within me. As I blanketed her skin in lotion and rubbed her hands within mine, I could see the pain and desperation in her eyes. I could see the surrender; she has given up and she is ready to go. And yet we are not ready.

My mama, with a strength far greater than she knows and her nurturing spirit. I watched her as she dressed my grandmamma, my mama’s loving touch bringing moments of forgotten happiness to her own mama. Her generosity, her care, her concern for others pushing her own fears and sadness to a place of hiding, her primary focus on bringing peace to a family that has never known such serenity. As I talked with her about her life, I could feel her courage and was mesmerized with admiration and respect for this woman who has grown from the depths of hell and has risen to a pillar of strength and love. As she talked, I listened, and was overcome with love for my mama. I could see her strength. And yet we are not so strong.

My aunt, adorned in her eccentric ways, the foundation of my own creative spirit, bringing laughter and memories of times filled with excitement and happiness. She also, bound by an inner strength. She has always been my kindred spirit and laying in her arms again, I felt that same strength and comfort she has brought in some of my darkest hours. But in her eyes, I could see her pain, her fears, the grieving process already beginning for her. And I felt helpless with the realization that I could not provide such strength and comfort to her. I could see her pain. And yet we cannot ease the pain.

My grandfather, the origin of dysfunction and despair that has lived far too many years within these three women. His cruel and uncaring nature, his hatred of himself illuminating itself through his words of criticism and heartlessness. For so many years, I have made myself forget the cruelty and devastation he wreaked upon my grandmamma and mama and aunt. But this time, I could not forget. I looked at him and saw the reason for the pain that each of them feel. I saw a man who has no remorse for the internal and external bruises he has left, a man that is relieved by the fear he invokes in others, a man that I have tried to love, and yet cannot. I could see the brutality of his soul. And yet we cannot understand or overcome such brutality.

And so I arrived home today, brimming with emotions that have been deeply buried within me for the past few days. I arrived home with feelings of sadness and anger, feelings of admiration and love. I arrived home wishing I had more time to hold my grandmamma’s hands, more time to listen to my mama’s stories, and more time to lay in my aunt’s arms. I arrived home wishing that I would never have to see the ugly face of brutality again.

But despite it all, I arrived home.


At 9:14 PM, Blogger the twenty-something said...

I read through your blog a little bit tonight; thanks so much for the invite to do so. I particularly liked the "chosen paths" entry - I think it's something we all wonder about, making the right choices and such. I hope to read more! Annalise

At 5:55 AM, Blogger ami said...

Tara, thanks for the comment. It's encouragement like that that keeps me going.

I read through your blog a little, and I love your writing style. :)

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Natasjia said...

Thanks for the kind words. It's always nice to find someone else with a love for words. I'm sure I'll be back again to read more. =)

At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh honey, your family..... and your love for them is so evident.

Can I just give you a weird connection that your posts have drawn for me? I've read other ones where you mention a family member who wreaked severe unhappiness and dysfunction in your family.... until this post, you had not mentioned who this person was. I had a feeling that it was your grandfather, but didn't know until now.

My father's father was much the same as you say about your grandfather. The stories he has told me of his childhood BREAK my heart. The difference between OUR two stories is that I never knew my grandfather... he died of cancer shortly after my oldest brother was born. I've often wondered what it would have been like to have him in our lives.... to see him interact with my grandma and my daddy.... it probably would have made me very angry. I probably would have cried much more than I did. I never really had the desire to know him, but I've still always wondered. But then reading your posts, I realize that I don't want to know him... to know the person who hurt my daddy so much.... who caused such depression and self-hatred in he and his brother... who drove them to look for a way out of the despair of their lives... turning to drugs, which ultimately killed my uncle at the young age of 22. Only by the grace of God did my daddy's fate not end the same.... he came out from under his dad's hand much like your mother. He is a pillar of strength and faith in God... he stopped the cycle and loved us with gentility. I cannot imagine having to watch the stories of my dad's childhood come to life in front of my eyes. I am so sorry that you've had to continue to watch such cruelty bestowed on the women you care for the most in your life.... I truly cannot imagine it.

I am more thankful now than ever to have been spared of knowing him... more thankful now for the man I did call "Grandpa".... the man Grandma married when I was 2 years old. He got the love of four little grandchildren... and he gave it back to us. The man who gave us our last name? No, he is just a name to me... he gave me my daddy... and for that alone am I thankful at all for him.

I am sorry for the hurt you have had to watch over the years.

p.s. My dad became a mental health therapist as a result.


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