dad / letters / memory / mom / neurotic thinking

no apologies necessary

my mother--the photo used by the newspaper to announce her engagement to my father

When I was 18 years old, my mother wrote me this.

Something you said really struck me, and I wanted to reply to that. It was when you said you knew you’d been a lot of trouble. Well, yes, you’ve been a lot of trouble…a lot of pain and sorrow and just plain ain-in-the-ass. Point being, my dear, that that is what children are. No apologies necessary or expected. When one takes on the responsibility of children, then one takes on all kinds of pain. It’s ahrd to learn; hard to teach [life]. And, let’s face it, parents become all kinds of pain too. Isn’t that so? Are you really going to tell me that your parents aren’t sometimes the biggest pains of all?

Love calls for sacrifices of all kinds including (or especially) peace of mind. You can’t love without being concerned, even if it doesn’t always show. Indeed, I spend a lot of time trying not to be or show as much concern as I feel.

You were and are everything a child is supposed to be. Please don’t ever apologize for being what you are. If you did some things that made me disappointed or dislike you, well, can’t you reverse that and say the same thing of me (or your dad)?

I like you as a person, as much as I can ever know of you, that is. And you’re right, something you said once long ago (as far away as last summer?), that your dad and I trusted you and you didn’t want to abrogate that trust. You’re right, we do trust you. Not in the sense that we think you’re never going to make mistakes or do something we dislike, but in the sense that you’re ok as a person and we can let you go.

The gods know, life can sometimes be a terrible struggle, and sometimes you’re going to think you’re not going to make it. Sometimes you might even get irriatated when someone tells you how strong you are and how you’re going to be OK. As if the strong don’t suffer as much as the weak! Come 40, when you’ve got to look back and reconsider, I hope you can look back with less regret than I. But human beings being what we are, I doubt it. Your regrest will not be mine, but uniquely yours, and I can tell you now, no one will ever really understand the losses you feel. That isn’t what’s important–that someone else understand. It’s only important that you try to understand yourself. It’s then that you’ll come closest to understanding your parents, I think.

Do you understand your parents yet?

9 thoughts on “no apologies necessary

  1. I don’t know if one set of people can ever truly “understand” another. Things are always varied between humans. Always, and forever will. But I have children of my own now, and I understand them far more than I did when I was a child in their care. And the change of perspective was not their friend.

    • Your comment reminds me how irritated I get when I hear people say how becoming a parent makes you a better person. Sure. If you’re open to it, it might improve your perspective on a few things, might change your opinions or whatnot, but a jerk who has children is still a jerk.

      My father’s wife took care of her father for years and it was more than he ever deserved. I could never decide if she was a better person than me or a doormat.

      Sorry your parents weren’t the parents you should’ve had. At least you’ve got a great family of your own now.

  2. Not sure I’ll ever understand them, to be honest — not in any unqualified way.

    Some years ago, while The Missus and I were going through an extremely difficult time, my mother and stepdad came down here for a visit. GPop (as I call The Stepfather) can become very impatient when we talk too much in his presence about Dad, and because I tend to avoid conflict I try to keep it to a minimum. But because of the special circumstances of the time, I pressed Mom for much more information than I ever had before. I needed to understand some things — was not merely curious. And Mom, a little surprisingly, went right along with it. An eye-opening conversation, and one of the best gifts I’ve ever shared with someone else. A little annoyingly, we finally reached a point where we both stopped for breath and to consider what we’d talked about, in both directions, whereupon GPop changed the subject abruptly, with no transition, to something (whatever it was) he felt comfortable with. By then, though, Mom and I had been talking for hours, and he and The Missus had just been listening. Mom and I, I think, both understood that continuing our conversation might provide some nuances… but that it was time to move on, to honor the present after giving so much time and focus to the past. And so we moved on.

    She’ll turn 79 in a couple weeks, and they live 800+ miles away, and, and, and… We’ll probably never get to those nuances. But we got the hard stuff out of the way, and I’m resigned to being satisfied with that.

    • People who get annoyed when a child (grown or not) wants/needs to talk about a parent are a mystery to me. My dad’s second wife went crazy if we talked about my mother. Well, we never talked about her because the topic of his first marriage is too painful for my dad, but even a suggestion that I might have any question at all was seen as some sort of high crime.

      No matter how many questions you ask, you’ll never know all you want–as I’m sure you know. At least you had that one conversation. That’s a lot.

  3. Your mom was a wise woman. How blessed you are to have this bit of writing to confirm her love and acceptance of you AS YOU ARE and AS YOU WERE.

    Did I ever understand my parents? Well, the Egg Donor (biological mother with whom I lived for 17 years) was a living nightmare. The abuse she instigated and tolerated from others for years baffles me. She was the anti-mother. I’m glad to say that I’ve removed her from my life and have not had contact with her in over 20 years. I think if she ever found me and showed up on my doorstep hoping to see my children, I’d punch her out and throw her down the 2 flights of cement stairs that lead up to my home. Never again.

    My biological father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 4. After I ran away from home at 17, I learned from his family that he had been planning the “kidnapping” of my brother and I because he was terrified for our safety when we were in her clutches while he was at work. (When I was 2 she duct-taped my mouth and body to the high chair because my incessant chattering was driving her insane. Luckily, he came home early and got me the heck out of there.) His planning was meticulous and had taken 3 months. He was two weeks away from carrying out his plan. We would have moved to Florida where I have a lingering hope that you and I would have met somehow and become Childhood Besties.

    Once I knew about his plan, all of my feelings of abandonment left me for I knew that someone once loved me and wanted the very best for me. I felt his spirit with me until about a year and a half ago and think that he was unable to leave this plain until he knew that I was well and truly safe. I believe that his plan, his advocacy for his children has become a part of me for I am a fierce advocate for my kids and anyone who threatens them only does so once. The principals at my sons’ schools love me for my volunteering and fear me when I darken their doorsteps to point out that their Zero Tolerance policies are sorely lacking. I like the balance of that. 😉 A bit of admiration and a healthy respect for my devotion to my kids. I think my dad would be proud. I wish I would have known him, but I know he lives on in me. That’s the best I can ask for.

    • To know that about your father is a blessing. I think kids can survive a great deal just knowing how fiercely someone loves them. Children should have more than that, but it does provide a light in dark.

      Now, you’ve given me another idea for a story–two girls who meet and become best friends escaping what could-have-been.

      Glad you’re here.

      • OMG! That’s a great story idea. Imagining and writing out the Could-Have-Beens that chase them is simply brain candy to suck on – like those Werther’s Butterscotch candies. They go on and on and on.

        Let’s hold hands and run like hell.

        SMOOCH!!!

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