A song playing in my car today, Dwight Yoakam’s “It Only Hurts When I Cry”:
Got something on my mind right now. A male relative called and we discussed some matters that are pretty sad to contemplate. Had to do with other relatives and aging and family divisions and in-fighting, plus what may become of my Grandma if she ever gets injured and requires care. This is a conversation that’s been going on from time to time for a few years now, though I live across the country and am not often brought into what all is going on down there.
I promised to protect what he had to say to me, and I intend to, but I’ll speak vaguely about a part that troubles me because this is my space to work through problems and ideas. At one point in our conversation he referred to Papa as a liar, and I can understand where he’s coming from there. Papa did lie to him and then took the coward’s way out by not confronting him in person before his death. We also discussed the fate of my Grandma, and there too he felt like she’d dug her own ditch over the course of her life. Had anyone else spoken like that I’d very likely take issue, but he has as much right to speak his piece on this as I do seeing as how he was directly and intimately affected by these people also. And I can understand what he’s saying there, sad as it is. I even agree to a large extent, though it’s been flooding me with guilt in acknowledging it over the years.
My family is a bit of a guilt factory, or at least that’s how I experience them. It’s tough because several of us have branched off and moved away in order to pursue better lives, yet we’re reminded regularly that there are matters to tend to where we come from and that we’re supposed to be a part of that. But how? Should I throw in the towel and give up my business and move away from my friends so as to care for an elderly relative when needed, even though I’ve been willingly sending money home for years? Everyone says it’s not their problem and they won’t budge, so then I feel especially bad about holding the same stance, especially considering how my hands are tied by other vindictive relatives even if I did move back down South. It’s a no-win situation so far as I can tell, and it’s unfortunate that my loved ones didn’t do more to set aside for the future and instead chose to waste money recklessly. To what extent must this be my problem? I don’t know. But I know I love them, so it’s hard.
But then again, I come from a family embroiled in bitterness, selfishness, lies and accusations running in all directions. Makes it tough to want to subject oneself to that up-close and personal more than once or twice a year during vacations. There are things about my Grandma that I am still learning over time, things that don’t help her case and claims, things that cause me to feel a bit used and misled by the one woman I really trust. Papa’s faults were more obvious and open for anyone to see, so perhaps I’ve done a better job of handling the cognitive dissonance that comes with loving him, whereas with her I wear rose-colored glasses and make excuses. I love them both with all my heart and soul, even though I realize how fallible they are/were and it is impossible to deny how much harm their union did to all of their children, which trickled down to us grandchildren. Some people should have never married or have stayed together, though we as a society like to romanticize the notion of partners sticking together through thick and thin. Some people would have been better off without one another, because together all they did was fight, bicker, bitch, abuse, and turn deceptive. Now everybody carries those scars forward in our own ways, and it appears a lifetime isn’t long enough to heal some wounds.
For a long time I’ve seen my mother as weak for walking away from her entire family beginning in 1990, but nowadays I must pause and wonder if her decisions truly wasn’t the best for her. Because sometimes we’re better off cutting ties with toxic people and situations, as I discovered and carried out with the step-side of my family. But because I didn’t have another side of the family to retreat to beyond those on the step-side, I pulled that much more toward my maternal grandparents and have for a long time excused their ways of being so that I could hold on to them. And the longer I live far away, the more precarious that bond has become, much as it breaks my heart to admit it.
Over time another female relative has shown herself to be an evil, controlling bitch, and she now is threatening to do more harm going forward, and we’re powerless to stop her since she’s been handed legal rights. She hates me and has since I was very young, as other relatives are aware, so they’re telling me to talk to my Grandma next time I’m down and take from the home whatever it is I may someday want since that female will eventually be in charge and will block me. There’s not really much I want though in terms of material belongings, only photos, many of which were already mailed to me. Sad to think though that eventually it will all be sold or thrown away because of someone—a so-called Christian on her high-fucking-horse, mind you—has an ax to grind with everyone and everything. And it’s that sort of vitriolic way of being that causes me to wonder if the accusations of old were true, because how else does someone become so cruel and spiteful toward her own family? I asked her once, over a decade ago, and she immediately began screaming and instructed me to never bring up those lies again, so I haven’t — but I do wonder, and if they are true then everything I have left to believe in will be shattered. Perhaps that is where I’m forced to stick my head in the sand and close my eyes and ears, because a part of me doesn’t want to know, though another part of me already cynically assumes.
How do we heal this? I don’t think we can. Some things once broken can never be repaired, and that’s the troubling thing about life and living. We like to think we can travel down the wrong road and then come back someday and make amends, but that’s not always possible. We may like to think that an isolated incident will remain as such, but they might not because pain pays forward and the future generation winds up carrying that heavy load as well.
This is a very painful topic and not one I wish to be any less vague about since this is intensely personal and involves people who don’t deserve to be outed. But goddamn…I’ve lived for so long under this guilt and frustration in dealing with all of these people and their problems with one another that I am very much wanting to segregate off and leave them to it. Because I don’t know what else to do. But I am bound by the love I have been shown, so I stay, but at a safe (15 hour) distance. Everyone tells me to keep their secrets, to not share with the others what they have told me, and so I carry it inside while they continue to play games and to avoid really hashing out what they’ve done to one another. It’s enough to make a person sick, and it has, and not only for me. But because my mother went away and shut off all contact, they say that I am to stand in her place, and so I do. They are the only family I will ever know, aside from what I’ve managed to construct with my friends over time, so that brings with it a sense of loyalty, even when you know people are wrong. I’m not yet sure how to reconcile this inside myself.