Trish told me what your response was to my letter. I am sorry you reacted
that way, but it was how I expected you to react. I wanted you to accept
it in the spirit in which it was given. Quite frankly, I wrote that
letter for you, not for me. I know that you probably won’t be
here for too much longer, and I wanted you to have a chance of leaving
this life without anger and resentment.
You told Trish that you were still angry from when I called you “a
crazy old woman”. during an argument we had. If you believe that
I called you that, you have me mixed up with someone else. As an adult,
I have never resorted to calling people names, and I have never called
you names of any kind. In fact, I have never directly expressed any
anger to you that I may have had towards you in any meaningful way.
I have also never directly told you how I felt about how you treated
us as children. I have only alluded to your anger, and my reaction to
it. You called me many names when I was a child, but as an adult, I
do not do that to anyone, even to you. I also live by a code of honesty
that demands that I do not pussy foot around the truth. When you say
something that is untrue, I am not afraid to challenge your version.
I don’t resort to name calling.
I told you a long time ago that it was your anger which pushed us apart.
I told you that for most of my life I was afraid of your anger. I have
chosen those in my life who do not choose anger, and resentment, and
negativity as a state of being in their lives. I have done that, because
that is what healthy, people do. Healthy people stay away from folks
who nurture their resentments, or spend an inordinate amount of time
complaining. You have a problem with both. You even chose your anger
and resentment and negativity over having a relationship with 2 of your
grandchildren, Shawn and Fran. For almost 20 years, I raised my sons
by myself. You complained to Karen and Kathy and Trish about how awful
it was the way we lived. Yet you chose to take very little interest
in your own grandchildren, nor did you offer to help make things better
for them. Instead you just chose to complain, and to paint me as the
bad guy, who couldn’t do it right, just like when I was a child.
You got to feel powerful and righteous, but you missed the lives of
your grandchildren. You have no idea what wonderful men they have become,
nor have you shown any interest in even finding out! Other folks. who
were around all through Shawn and Fran’s childhood could look
past the lack of money, and see the fine job I did all through that
time, even though we were dirt poor. You choose to see what you want
to see despite the facts. I always wished that you wouldn’t do
Since I am telling you the truth here, you should know that you have
a more negative attitude towards life than anyone I have ever met. I
always wished that you weren’t that way. It is such a waste. You
just about drive Karen, and Kathy, and Trish crazy with all of your
negativity, complaining about other people, almost to the exclusion
of other conversation, but they put up with it. I don’t. I chose
to stay away, praying that you would change, so that I could have a
normal relationship with you. I will also not pretend that all your
violence was OK. It wasn’t. What kind of parent beats her children
with her fists, screams at the top of her lungs while doing that, obscenities
coming out of her mouth with not the slightest bit of shame or guilt?
What kind of parent beats their child with a metal vacuum cleaner pipe?
What kind of mother threatens then chases her kids with a butcher knife?
Much of what you did to us would put you in jail nowadays and you did
more of it, more often to me. Karen and Trish know that to be true.
I know that to be true also, yet I have forgiven you. I know you weren’t
all bad. You did many things for us when we were kids, don’t get
me wrong. I see how hard it was for you and Daddy, and I see that you
took time for cub scouts and brownies and girl scouts. But the hurt
that you inflicted on all of us changed us forever. It crippled us emotionally
to one degree or another. Just like the hurt that your mother and father
and brother inflicted on you, changed you forever. But as adults, we
have the power to shape our lives. With God’s help, and only with
God’s help, we get to steer our lives, and to make choices that
are different than our childhood injuries would dictate, and different
than those who hurt us in the past. That is our sacred responsibility
in this life. That profound truth has been embraced by all of your children
to one degree or another, including myself. You allow your childhood
injuries to dictate how you act in this life, and you continue to hold
onto anger and resentment at me and at Daddy, which really belongs to
your mother, your father, and your brother. And you have so little time
left. I know that you do not understand any of this. I pray that God’s
grace can allow you to. I am sure that Karen and Trish pray that same
When I was a child, you blamed your rage on our behavior. Did we misbehave?
Of course! But no one has that kind of reaction to a child’s misbehavior.
Your rage was always there, and was always just below the surface ready
to pounce. It was not about any of your children’s behaviors.
It kept growing all the years that I was a child. It was so large, and
so unrestrained, and unfettered, that it could only have come from your
past. Many people understand issues like this. It is self evident to
them. They either come from families without the violence that was in
ours, or they have recovered from that kind of violence.
Beating your children is violence. It keeps them from reaching their
potential. It keeps them from becoming the person that God wants them
to be, because it can permanently damage them! It takes most of an adult’s
time and energy to overcome that kind of damage. It takes enormous energy
to keep from inflicting the same kind of damage to our own children.
It takes the kind of honesty that allows criticism, and demands that
we own our own anger, and do not blame it on our children.
When you beat us with your fists, and you did that often, and hard,
you told us how we were terrible, ugly, disgusting, evil, bad, rotten,
and all the other adjectives you used that I won’t repeat here.
You taught us to believe those terrible things about ourselves. When
a child is taught that they are “bad”, then they act “bad”!
When you are taught that you are ugly, and disgusting, that there is
something wrong with you, you go through life even as an adult, believing
that and reacting to it. You did that to me, to Karen and Trish. Mostly,
you did not do that to Kathy.
I have been fortunate in my adult life. I have received the help I needed
to get past what you did to me. I was able to replace all those terrible,
unrepeatable adjectives that you put inside me while you beat me with
more truthful adjectives. It has taken me most of my adult life. It
has also taken most of my adult life to rid myself of the rage that
you put inside me when you beat me like you did. Rage that I had to
resist my whole life, the same rage that you never resisted when you
beat us. I knew it was wrong to beat my kids, and I resisted all the
anger that I carried from your beatings, and didn’t beat my children.
You never resisted your rage.
The many counselors and therapists who helped me all the years it took
to heal were in every case astounded by the level of violence and mistreatment
in our family. No one calls their children what you called us every
time you beat us. It is no wonder that we misbehaved. On one hand we
were terrified of your beatings. On the other hand we were left with
so much fear and anger, and “nervous energy” from your previous
beatings, and all the terrible things you called us, that we were bound
to misbehave in some form or another.
You may believe that I am still angry at you, and that is why I am telling
you this. That is not true. The fact is that none of your children have
ever really stood up to you, to tell you how your behavior affected
them. We were children, you were the adult. It was your responsibility
to protect and nurture us. It was your responsibility to resist the
rage that you carried inside yourself since childhood. It is also your
responsibility now, before you cross over, to realize your mistakes,
to feel bad for all the hurt you have caused others, and to ask God
to forgive you. Forgiveness only comes through remorse, and we are forgiven
to the degree that we forgive others. The first step is to be able to
take criticism, and to use absolute honesty to see if there is any truth
to the criticism we receive. If I can embrace this simple principle,
you can too. But it is your choice. I pray that you make that choice.
Anger and resentment are poor fuel for one’s life. If you embraced
a life where the glass was not half empty, not even half full, but mostly
full, you would have so many loving people around you, that you would
wonder why you had lived over 80 years seeing the glass so empty.