A Conversation I Haven’t Yet Had

“Both Bud and I already feel depleted by the conversation we haven’t yet had.”

–Diana Abu-Jaber, The Language of Baklava

Tell me about a conversation you haven’t yet had, one that is pressing on you, one you wish you could have, but for some reason, can’t.

Comments

  1. Patti Hall says

    A Conversation I Haven’t Yet Had

    What I Would Tell You Now,
    (or Tall Tales About Death)

    Look, Paul, the reality is that I have no idea what you do or do not know about what’s been going on around here, and maybe just for me, I need to catch you up. For all I know you could simply be ashes buried deep; away from this well-lit world I walk in. For all I know you are “up there” bitchin’ about the fancy food and wondering when Earl’s gonna be on. So, that’s the place I’m going to imagine you while I write this little note. I mean, how can I think of you as just gone? Just buried ashes? At the same time, you know I haven’t let the bliss of religion take me over; we’ll just settle for “up there.”

    In the place I keep you in my mind, you have all the sweet company of lost pets, your parents, and your former wife, Janet. We talked about it before you left, and I know where the balance of your love lies; Janet was the love before ours, I was the love of your present and future (huh! Some future!). You guys can hang out until I get there and then we’ll all be friends. We’ll probably ditch you and go antiquing anyway.

    I’m sure my sis, Michaela, has found you by now. She’s the one cracking up, putting on fancy parties and trying to take care of everybody else. Our family friend Tommy is probably with her and you two are going to get along great—you both have that little sparkle in your eyes that I never did figure out. It does my heart good to think of the three of you having fun together, and you pulling them into your own family circle up there. You’ll probably sit around watching Johnny Carson with my grandma and ogling pretty women during the commercials with my Uncle Eddie.

    There’s a precious little 3-year-old blond boy up there too now. He’s Jon’s son, Tiven, born just a few months after you left. That birth was an amazing event, and one of the only things that could get me out of the house. You’ll probably find him snuggled up with my sis, since she’s always been an awesome mommy. He needs one. And Tiven actually knows you, his papa, from all the pictures he’s seen and from all the stories we tell about you. You were so good with Nola and Cora, and I know you’ll just love our Tiven as much.

    Anyway, honey, I miss you more than you can imagine, and I hope you are dealing with this better than me. I’m trying and I’m finally back to writing, so don’t nag about that. Just like we talked about, my hope is that our memoir will help others travel that rocky road of love, illness and death with better ease than we did. Well, I better get back to it.

    Love you always,
    Your Patti

    Oh, and I know it’s you sending Tiven to wake me with his little kisses. Send more.

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing the poignant story. Loved your last line: “Oh, and I know it’s you sending Tiven to wake me with his little kisses. Send more.” So often our animals are so sensitive to our modes we feel they must be reading our minds.

      • cissy says

        Patti, What a wonderful love that comes through along with the grief. It was wonderful to read. Thank you for sharing and writing. Cissy

    • Debbie says

      Patti – well done. I must admit to joining in on the tears – but only because your writing conveyed so much love. Thanks!

    • Ilana says

      Patti- This is so full of sweetness and joy. It’s shocking to think of the pain that it comes from. If i were to quote the lines that made me smile, lifted me a little out of my confused and rage filled funk, I would have to duplicate your entire piece here. Thank you for sharing it. Reading it this morning really was what I needed. Ilana

    • Terry Gibson says

      Patti, I read this with tears streaming down my face. Thank you! I laughed at bits that reveal your sense of humour, ‘We’ll probably ditch you and go antiquing anyway.” Your ‘up there’ references fit so well with me. My religious leanings at this point are very confused but I do think of a place like you mention, where the remnants or entities of all lives lost hangout–but only the special ones get an endless couch and infinity pool to refresh and relax themselves. Great post, Patti! Love your presence here.

    • Judy says

      Patti–what a lovingly written telling. Like others here, tears of grief and laughter rolled down my cheeks. This is one of the standout lines for me, ‘……we’ll probably go antiquing.’ Thank you for sharing. tribute.

      • Patti Hall says

        Sorry all, got sidetracked working on memoir in Camp NaNoWriMo.
        Wow, I am overwhelmed by all your comments. You ladies make me feel very welcome and I so appreciate your heartfelt comments.
        Better see what else I’ve missed…
        Thank you!

  2. Barbara Keller says

    Diana Abu Jabar is my favorite author so how can I resist taking a few minutes to write.

    There is a young man, 37 years old, who was in trouble when I met him 6 years ago. His wife was pregnant with twins, and he was a meth addict, with barely enough money to support his habit and none too much for food.

    He was my neighbor here in Baja, and I found, much to my surprise, that he was smart, though he had never been in the US he spoke good english, had some character strengths and seemed to want help.

    We talked a lot, I fed him and listened and after a few weeks he decided to go to rehab. I helped a little, not so much. Drove him to the facility, drove his wife and sons to stay with family in Tijuana, visited him with coffee and sugar, cookies and candy at the rehab center on Saturdays, and seven months later he graduated a new man.

    Being an insider in the process was gratifying. I loved the place, a Christian place that was free to residents and worked miracles right and left. When he left we stayed close, and I spoke of him as my adopted son. His mother had died when he was nine, and my only child was far away in a life that didn’t include me.

    He moved to Obregon City, in Sonora, and got a job as night auditor in a Quality Inn. I can call him for free, and we have talked on the phone almost nightly for years. Once a year he comes here, stays in my guest house for a week, and helps me with the newspaper. I send them some money to help as wages are low, low, low, in central Mexico.

    Now I think of him as my virtual son, and there is a conversation hanging over our heads that is making things tense.

    It is probably no secret to those readers of my posts that I am front and center a Christian. Those beliefs define me and are the woof and warp of my life. In the early years this young man and I had what we call fellowship, the sharing of common beliefs and the kinship of like minds and hearts.

    Over the years he has either “fallen away” or chosen to ignore God. I can’t say what’s in his heart, but we can’t talk anymore on any subject that isn’t superficial. I have cajoled and encouraged and waited silently and tried to explain why this is a mistake. Life is full of trouble and temptation. It seems to me that the risks for him and those who love him go up every day that he walks away from the God who saved him and brought him out of that terrible addiction. The statistics of recovery for meth addicts after a rehab stint are 20% are clean for 3 years.

    He has been clean and sober for 6 years, and I wouldn’t bet money on his survival now because he’s trying to do this on his own strength.

    Dear readers, if this doesn’t make sense to you, please be patient with me. This writing is not a philosophical soap box, but an explanation of why our unspoken conversation is so hard for us. In order to move forward in this somewhat contrived relationship, he and I have been talking about moving his family to the acre and a half that I have here, 1000 miles away from where he’s living now. I do need help, and I would be grateful for his help. But when it moves from virtual to real life, the relationship brings with it risks and costs that gradually I’ve come to see are not viable.

    He sees that I want something from him he can’t or isn’t willing to give – a commitment to God and the bible on which we can agree and from which joint platform we can grow.

    I see that without that I will never really trust him, and the idea of sharing land and finances with someone for whom I’m fearful is distressing. Will he be able to come back here and maintain his sobriety? I doubt it. And if we don’t go ahead, will we have any relationship left at all, or will it just fizzle out? Can it possibly transition from the virtual to the everyday?

    He’s scared because he likes having a mother and he really needs the money I send. I’m scared because he listens to me, and sometimes he is the only one who does. I’m used to caring about him and his absence will leave a big empty spot. But the conversation is coming. It’s moving in from the horizon like a tornado. I don’t see how to stop it.

    • Patti Hall says

      Yours too is heartfelt, that is, it obviously came straight from your heart. I keep trying to remind myself that Laura wants us to comment as close to the writing as we can.
      Great writing! You take us along step by step in your thought process. I don’t envy your task, but I know you will stand strong when you need to.
      Best Regards,
      Patti, who you could trust with your life, though I lost my bible :>)

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing how the relationship began and all it has been through. Your last three sentences really summed up the whole piece: ” the conversation is coming. It’s moving in from the horizon like a tornado. I don’t see how to stop it.” Wonderful analogy.

    • Debbie says

      Barbara – it is clear that this post is not a writing exercise for you even though you are able to clearly articulate the complexities that find their way into those who are closest to us. I wish for you the best possible outcome for you both.

      • Barbara Keller says

        Thank you ladies. I hoped for understanding and support and you gave it. I really appreciate it.

    • Ilana says

      Barbara- This is beautifully written. I love the way you tell the story and then share your feelings about it. I hope it all works out the best way it can. Ilana

    • Terry Gibson says

      Barbara, your writing is so eloquent and beautiful! I always love it, no matter what you write about. I had to tell you that I just loved this quote: ‘Those beliefs define me and are the woof and warp of my life.’ I never heard the expression ‘woof and warp’ before and absolutely love it! Best wishes toward a resolution with your friend.

      • Barbara Keller says

        did you look it up to see what it means? Those are the threads, one way and other way, that one weaves into, or onto, when working on a loom. It works as a picture of the underlying shape on which our life is woven. Thanks for your kind words or appreciation. Makes me smile.

          • Terry Gibson says

            I do find it interesting. I always love finding or being introduced to new words and their contexts. No disappointment here.

    • Judy says

      Barbara–what powerful writing. The entire piece is a great combination of vivid images, health stats, difficult life choices and is truly heartfelt. Your summary graph was a jaw dropper for me. I hope the outcome is as you wish it. You will be in my heart and mind.

  3. Fran Stekoll says

    The conversation I haven’t had yet is with my x-husband. I recently sent him
    an e-mail asking if he and our three grown siblings could meet somewhere to talk about our 46 years as a family.
    I have heard from each of them individually about their frustrations growing up with a manipulative un communicative Father who spent most of his time as a workaholic. Never seemed to have time for the family. Went to night school and played in a band on weekends. They also lived silently through his many affairs until one ended up with a love child.
    That was the breaking point for me to end my marriage.
    Until recently. I’ve been forgiving, showing up at all family gatherings, putting up with the mistress and the love child who just turned 18. But this Father’s
    Day, I opted not to attend and stayed home alone to take a walk, nap and write.
    I would like to get a straight answer from him as to why he chose to stray?
    Why wasn’t he attentive to our three children?
    Why he had such a low self esteem?
    Why he favored one over the others?
    Why did he fall out of love with marriage and family?
    I have my suspicions; but these are not shared.
    I realized that when his Mother lost 7 siblings with a small pox epidemic she
    turned all of her love and attention to him as the only surviving child. I became totally supportive of their unusual closeness after I had my children.
    That, coupled with his abusive Father, who raped our oldest daughter, made me stay in this dis functional marriage hoping and praying things would change.
    I was in denial like an ostrich with its head in the sand far too long.
    I hope that before he dies, we can sit together and speak from our hearts
    any unresolved feelings and questions we have. I did this with my Mother before she passed away and it was the most healing process I’ve ever had.
    Everyone seems willing to meet; but finding the time and place still remains
    unresolved.

    • Patti Hall says

      Thanks for sharing this, Fran. You wrote a clear picture of what you want, and even that much can help. I hope it does. I hope you’ll get what you want in this.
      Patti

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing the background for the conversation you haven’t yet had. It was well laid out and I think your summary statements, “I hope that before he dies, we can sit together and speak from our hearts any unresolved feelings and questions we have.” , work well.

    • Debbie says

      Fran – your list of questions resonates with me. There was a time when I had a long list of questions I wanted to ask my ex-husband to try to understand the “whys” of what he did. Thank you for sharing writing that highlights that cutting edge where some of us sit, hoping for answers.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Wow, perfect example of the conversation not had yet. I hope with you that it does open doors and clear the air. I’m sorry it was so hard, and I hope that when it happens, it helps.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Fran, this is intense. It clearly took a lot of courage to face this, much less put it on our site. What strength you have. I wish you luck in the endeavor and draw strength from your saying that it worked for you and your mother. I don’t know if I’ve got the strength and courage to have that sit down but I’m working on it. Nice piece of writing. Ilana

    • Tony del Zompo says

      fran…

      i recently sat with my daughter’s mother face to face. vanessa and i hadn’t had civil words since our separation in 1999. it got ugly for a few moments. and then it got wonderful.

      we shared five hours one afternoon in a coffee shop in pennsylvania. i had flown out for my daughter’s graduation, and vanessa and i were going to discuss jessica’s college expenses. we ended up discussing everything. all of it…

      i had no expectation before our visit. but i did pray, mediate, and invite god to join us. and i was willing. and to vanessa’s credit, so was she.

      i can’t exactly tell you what particular set of circumstances allowed us to sit together for five hours, but i can tell you that as overused as the word “miracle” may be, it is a most appropriate word to describe what passed between us.

      i hope you are able to receive what you seek.

    • Judy says

      Fran–thank you for your honest telling and bravery in a ‘call for family gathering.’ Your compassion comes shining through in this well developed and open piece. May you be surrounded by much love, hugs and admiration at the upcoming gathering and always in this community.

  4. Missy says

    I’m not even sure I WANT to have this conversation or that I ever will. But what had been transpiring for some time has been bothering me.

    I had been befriending my neighbor for the past couple of years. We are both single and live alone, so we have both supported each other in that regard as we both “get it” and totally understand the loneliness.

    Our houses were both flooded in Storm Sandy. She has decided to lift her house up. During her decision-making process, it became obvious that things she was telling me were outright lies. I am gathering it is to garner some sort of sympathy for herself.

    I feel hurt and betrayed and want to distance myself now. I feel I can’t talk to her. She knows I am upset and asked me the other day what exactly is wrong. I couldn’t or didn’t say it was her lies. Maybe some day I will tell her. I don’t know. I don’t want to lose the friendship. But does a friend like like this?

    • Patti Hall says

      Missy,
      Wow, your house damaged. Now your friendship. I hope you keep writing about it to maybe be able to make a decision. Keep writing!
      Patti

    • Hazel says

      You have explained your feelings very well however, I was left wondering what kind of lies these were. Some lies really don’t hurt anyone very much but others we can’t live with. So your last question “does a friend lie like that?” to me is unanswerable.

    • Debbie says

      Missy – you are able to clearly name some strong feelings. Bravo for you! There has to be so much grief and loss surrounding that damage from that storm. All of us process grief in different ways. I agree with the advice to keep writing, reviewing and refining all that you are feeling. More than once that has helped me find the way.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Succinctly written, and clearly explained. To find that a person you have supported lied to you does feel like a betrayal. Maybe it would be worth the risk to try to talk about it. Sometimes that’s all you need to straighten out the situation. Good luck.

    • Ilana says

      Missy- This is so succinct and beautifully put. Good writing but it also sounds like you are asking for advice. My thought is, yes, some friends lie about little things and I’ve learned to let it go. Let them say what they feel the need to say, as long as I’m not hurt by it. But that’s the key. You need to decide how you are affected by the lies. If they are harmful to you in any way then you’ve got to honor your feelings. Good luck. Ilana

    • Judy says

      Missy–Yes, succinctly written telling of two of life’s tragedies: your home damage and a budding friendship, both of which are at the top of the stress scale. As others have suggested, please keep writing and sharing with this community. :)

  5. Ilana says

    Ugh! This one’s going to be rough on me, guys. I AM going to do it but please be understanding if it’s not my best work. Thanks for being a community I can trust and be honest with, Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Ilana,
      I am right there with you on this one. Taking a long time to percolate to the top with the exact words I want to use to say it.

    • Judy says

      Yes, a very difficult topic for me as well, Ilana & Hazel. I’ve started it three times on three different conversations and I’m totally blocked. Actually, been blocked for several weeks with several pieces unfinished. Thanks for this wonderful, safe community. Hope to jump back in soon.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you both. It’s so nice to hear I’m not alone and that my feelings are acceptable. And Judy, welcome back. I’ve missed you! Ilana

      • Judy says

        Thank you Ilana. I’ve missed all of you. The feed back, validation and support is greatly appreciated.

    • Polly says

      You and me both. I actually don’t know if I can pull this one off yet. I know my best work hasn’t been coming out lately and that’s why I’ve been on the quieter side. Too much coming up perhaps … Anyway of course we’re all here. I’ll just “second” your comment on this community.

      • Judy says

        Sometimes it feels like walking and chewing gum at the same time (getting the feelings on paper and improving the writing). With you all on this one.

    • Terry Gibson says

      That’s me too, Ilana. Lots percolating in the brain but getting all stopped up with feelings. I want mine to be so many things but still don’t know where it’s going. Trying to free write and see what happens. If I can’t respond right away, please know I will. Just processing.

  6. Bobbie Anne says

    The only conversation I wish and want to have, I can’t. There is so much I want to say to my unborn child. I didn’t find out if the baby was a boy or girl, but that doesn’t matter. I want my child to know things happened for a reason. I blamed myself but it truly wasn’t my fault. I want my baby to know that she or he was and is loved. Always.

    I had night terrors about having to wash babies heads under water, like they were cabbage. Not just my baby, but all the babies in heaven. I, the responsible one, was the one responsible for all those babies. Still the caregiver. Still the one taken advantage of and abused by members of my family and a married man. Too young and naïve and fearful. Unable to cope. Unable to stop what happened. Not understanding the consequences. In the wrong place at the wrong time. Lack of funds and support. Needing help and guidance from above. Yes, I believe in God and I believe that God saw what happened and decided to take you home to heaven. That is where you are now. I will see you later and let you know how much I love you. How much I care. You are special to me. Yes, you are loved. Yes, I miss you. Yes. I send and give you all my love.

    I miss you little one
    I miss you little
    I miss you
    I miss
    I

    Be at peace.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thanks Deb. My baby is so special to me. Sometimes I feel his or her presence and I am grateful. I love my baby!

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – exquisite portrayal of unrequited love and regret. I was deeply touched by the depth of honesty you showed by choosing to share this unspoken conversation with us.

    • Ilana says

      Stunning, Bobbie Anne. Your words come together in an intricate portrait. I love how you drew me in with the words and the story and then in the end you even used the visual shape of the paragraph to communicate your message. This one’s going to haunt me for a long time. Well done! Ilana

    • Judy says

      Bobbi Anne, what a beautifully written tribute to your baby. You pulled me with your opening line and held me through to the beauty of the conclusion. Well done and thank you for sharing.

  7. Debbie says

    After 1700 miles, two days of intense driving and endless conversations in my head, I have to finally face it – I am still a coward when it comes to you. Words and emotions that flow freely most everywhere else in my life stick in my throat, trapped by the volumes of guilt, remorse and unmet expectations.

    When faced with the opportunity to actually share a deeper layer of the truth about what went wrong with us, I took the familiar path of least resistance, along with most of the blame. I didn’t challenge that it was the abuse from my past which caused our insurmountable problems. Instead, I took your face in my hands, wiping away tears to reassure you that no one can be “fixed” until they are ready. I sought to ease your pain and sense of failure, hoping to avoid being the source of even more sadness for you. That is the pattern of our past; ease your pain while I choke on unspoken words.

    It is not that there wasn’t truth in parts of what was said. What haunts me, though, are the errors of omission. Those parts of my feelings that might be hurtful, yet bring some of the clarity you say you are seeking.

    I did not tell you:

    How much it hurt when your apathy about life finally engulfed and included me
    How often I wished you would join me in some activity other than drinking or watching TV
    How desperately I tried to break through our superficial conversations to something more real
    That your negativity and judgmental nature about everything finally pushed me away
    That I could no longer live in a world without beauty, music, words or laughter
    That even though you could still win back my heart, you never will because you can’t tolerate risk
    That I could never have lived apart from you for so long unless something was dead inside of me
    That I grew tired of living on the leftovers of your affection and attention
    I am at peace now, sometimes lonely, but without the derogatory self-talk that always shadowed me
    Regardless of what might or might not happen, I am moving on without you
    I am making a life for myself alone, yet full of beauty, music, movement and words.

    I am still working on the laughter….

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- This piece would have been beautiful and voluminous if I had no known the story behind it. As it is, there is an added element of hope and sheer joy at your triumph. You have shared so much of this journey and as someone who has learned to value and care about you, it brings me such peace to hear all you have achieved. Thank you, thank you for sharing this journey with us. Truly, Ilana

      • Debbie says

        Ilana – I thank you for the kind comments. I don’t feel triumphant, though, mostly ashamed of my cowardice in the face of an opportunity to speak my truth. The emotional maelstrom that engulfed me last week was exhausting, confusing and unsettling. I found myself considering the backslide into the “known” even with all of its flaws. Fortunately for me, the short timetable worked in my favor forcing me to leave before I lost all resolve. I am so thankful for the unconscious wisdom of my soul that somehow knew, long before I was conscious of it, that I needed at least 3000 miles between my new life and the temptation of the old one.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, as you have so tenderly cared for us in Laura’s absence, so I want to nurture you. But, dear friend, you already know that. (Think crocs, grog and all night dancing in open air pubs with entire families joining in. Oh yeah, and yacking up a storm). Enough said. I admire your writing always but this piece is even more special to me–as if that’s possible! You share the stuff that gets caught in your throat, trapped, to take care of someone else, blame yourself for stuff you couldn’t control, and just become so entrenched in that way, it’s hell to break free of it. (I lived this way much of my life so I relate well.). You are clearly so caring, you give your heart and soul. Aren’t we always taught to aspire to that highest form of love? Even if the tax on it is complete loss of ourselves? Skip forward to now. You are reclaiming your life and self! I feel so blessed to know you, share laughs, dreams, writing, and all the sweet stuff out there that we can milk for every last ounce of joy and pleasure. And now, I must choose between two clichés. I reject the first because I got nauseated on the song ‘Feelings’ eons ago. The second? Must use it–it’s just all I’ve got right now. ‘Rock on,’ woman! :)

      • Debbie says

        Terry – you are so kind, thank you. I work every day to challenge the adage that we must sacrifice ourselves to meet the expectations and win the love of those in our lives. Some days I stay centered in the truth that if we give away our lives, then we have nothing left for ourselves or others. Other days I fall into the hole of self-deprecation, forget about self-care and find myself trying to win approval by providing whatever is needed, no matter the personal cost. And while I fervently wish for this constant battle to end, I am still so grateful each day that I now realize there is a choice.

        • Terry Gibson says

          For me too. A choice. I thank my mother for life so I am here to experience what it means for me and everyone I love. So happy for you!

    • Judy says

      Debbie–WOW what power in your words. I’d single out various lines but then I’d have to cut & paste it all and it’s all great writing. Tears came and my heart raced as I read of familiar feelings. Years ago, a therapist told me of WICCA, Woman in Crisis Can Act and you are doing just that. Thanks for sharing. Blessed be.

    • Polly says

      Debbie, as someone who at various points spent far too much time living for others and pushing myself aside, this resonated. Thank you for writing about that experience. I could feel your strength and self-assurance when I read it. Very well done.

    • Patti Hall says

      Debbie, I don’t know the back story here either, but even without it, I feel…proud? of you. It seems strange because I don’t even know you. I just sense your moving forward despite deep pain. That takes so much courage.
      Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Hazel says

    Wow! I am in awe. This almost sounds like what I was going to say, especially your “I did not say” list. I have been trying to figure out how to say these very same things. But I am still here. Still hoping for a solution; still scheduling counseling appointments. I don’t want to move on without him, not without figuring out whether it is just the drinking I am dealing with or whether it is the real disease of Alzheimer’s, which runs in his family. I need help physically in order to live my own life so it is a catch 22. At 77 years of age I am scared, not of physical abuse but of what happens if he leaves me to live in his own world of make believe!

    I sincerely thank you for sharing this very well written, provocative piece.

    • Debbie says

      Thank you Hazel. I am touched, and empathetic, that my words so resonated with you. I wish for you care and respect as you travel this difficult road.

  9. Bobbie Anne says

    Yes, I regret that my baby is not here with me. I’m so sad that my baby didn’t get to be with me, his mom, where he or she could be loved on earth. I have so much love to give and I know that my baby loves me too.

    I used to think differently. I thought that my baby couldn’t possibly love me, but its not like that. I can feel the love emanating from him or her, and I am grateful that God gave me this child. I do regret not being able to hold and cherish my child, but that is the way it is.

  10. Ilana says

    I Think We’ll Never Speak Again

    How can we have a conversation when the mental image of a mere photograph of you makes me physically ill? How can we have a conversation when the thought of you makes my insides hurt so badly that I want to throw up all my vital organs?

    Then there’s the bigger question. If I were to get through all that pain, that rage and hatred; to the point where I could talk to you, what the hell would I say? I have absolutely no idea. I might tell you that you destroyed me, that you abandoned and abused me, took me for granted. You did. You took for granted that I could survive anything you put me through. Either that or my survival was inconsequential. A lot of the time, that’s what I really believed. You never protected me because I wasn’t worth protecting. I wasn’t worth respecting; a burden whose body you owned. It was your right to invade my space and your right to ignore my needs. I wasn’t actually entitled to those needs anyway. I was horrible ugly and easy to cast aside.

    Okay, say we got through all of that. Suppose I did know what to say. How would you respond? I quake with fear when I try to imagine what you might say; how your words would assault me. You’re not capable of doing anything but defending yourself, coming up with excuses, denying it or magically just not hearing me. You would tell me how awful your own life was. How badly he treated you. That’s what you’ve done in the past anyway and for so many years I just took it in. I believed there was nothing more you could have done, nothing more you should have done.

    I don’t do that anymore. I don’t believe you. I don’t take it in. I have no idea how my new response has affected you, what you might say now. I can’t know what you’re saying now because I stopped listening.

    I stopped listening and I started living. Two years ago today I gave you a letter. I put in writing, all of the physical and sexual abuse you’d been denying. I told you that you were not to contact me. I stopped listening and I started living.

    I stopped believing I was horrible, ugly and unworthy of protection. I started protecting myself. I started nurturing myself, I started healing and I started growing.

    In those two years I have faced down all of my phobias. I have learned to do things that, before, scared me just to think about. I am even beginning to love myself. It’s a slow process but it’s coming and the main tool I am using is your absence, your silence.

    Ah, so now we’ve reached the heart of the matter. Why is this a conversation I haven’t yet had? Because it’s not safe for me to have it. Because if I had this conversation you could take it all away from me. You could leave me back where I started and that is somewhere I never want to be again.

    Now I have power. Now I have strength. Now I have value.
    You could take it all away.

    I cannot allow that. Whatever it cost me, I must protect all I have worked so hard for.

    So it may be costing me you. It’s a high price but one I am willing to pay. To not have family is to be a person bereft. To not have self is to be not be a person at all.

    I respect that others can do it. I respect that others can make the statement past tense. “I thought we’d never speak again.” Perhaps one day I will be among them but for now I cannot. For now it is not safe, even to hope.

    And so for now I must protect myself with those harsh and painful words. They are clean and healthy. They hurt like hell but it is the pain of a necessary life saving treatment. As heartless as it sounds I must stand by these words. “I think we’ll never speak again.”

    • Ilana says

      Laura- I was uncomfortable using your words, “I thought we’d never speak again.” It felt like plagiarism to me. However, they were the perfect words. They fit and made my point. So I decided that if I were ever to share this piece elsewhere I would ask your permission and find some way to credit you. But here, in the very community that you created, everyone knows these are your words and that I borrowed them. Hopefully, with your permission. Thank you. Ilana

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – My heart was so happy as I read these words:
      “I stopped believing I was horrible, ugly and unworthy of protection. I started protecting myself. I started nurturing myself, I started healing and I started growing.

      In those two years I have faced down all of my phobias. I have learned to do things that, before, scared me just to think about. I am even beginning to love myself”

      I have seen this reflected in your writing. And you did communicate with him, via a letter, all that you wanted to be sure was said. In my humble opinion, someone who has demonstrated the inner strength and personal growth that you have over the many months we have been members of this community, would not crumble should you ever decide to meet face to face. Please don’t misconstrue this comment as any advice on how you should or should not handle this conversation. Please accept it as the compliment I mean it to be – sent to you as someone for whom I have deep admiration.

      • Ilana says

        Debbie- I took everything the way you meant it. You have faith in me that I am still striving for and I am grateful for it. This piece is written to the plural ‘you’ both parents. I appreciate your saying that I am strong enough not to crumble and you are probably right but I do not trust myself yet, to be able to hold firm. For 37 years I did crumble and the temptation would be strong. Thank you for your faith in me. I am working very hard to take it in. Ilana

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, you shared with incredible depth here. I feel as if I am holding your tender, strong heart in my right hand. When I feel sadness in your words, I don’t get stuck there because it thumps again, burgeoning forward with a befitting rage. Although very different, the push-pull I see here stirs up a similar painful struggle I have with my only surviving sibling. Ultimately, it all comes down to protecting and putting back intact my sometimes-fragile, but always resilient self. As I re-read, the very same words Debbie quoted back to you, jumped out at me. I am triumphant that you’re choosing care of yourself. But, please, don’t think that I don’t feel the weight of every syllable of the energy it takes to choose your position and stick to it. It wears me down so much but there is no other choice, even with two gorgeous great nephews involved; I want so much to be a part of their lives, a joyous and positive influence on them as they grow, but couldn’t bear if they got hurt because of me. I admire and respect who you are, Ilana, with every ounce of energy in me . If only words could somehow lighten the burdens you feel, the struggling, rid you of all lingering grist for self-flogging in a dark moment. Please keep writing and sharing and know, again, that I am always available to you, even if it takes me a bit of time to get back. Through writing this, and remembering words you said to me, I am comforted by knowing that I am a loving, nurturing sister–unfortunately, I just can’t be that to my own. She grinds me down, as your mother (parents) do you and I came too far to slip back. Much like you, only you have four or five times more responsibilities than I do right now. To me, you’re the marble released from soapstone. Please don’t give up. Sending hugs and love.

    • Judy says

      Ilana–when I read this beautiful writing, with such clarity and insight, I shook my head yes in honor of you. This line alone captured my heart…”Now I have power. Now I have strength. Now I have value.”
      I find that line a guidepost to the healing power of the heart through the written word. And, I think each of us (and only we alone) knows deep within ourselves when the time is right to trust again. Blessed be, dear friend.

    • Polly says

      Ilana, this is powerful. What I really got from this – even with all of the pain and hurt and betrayal – was empowerment. I’m so glad that you started to nurture, protect, and love yourself. With deep admiration, Polly.

    • Patti Hall says

      Ilana, I mainly have to add my support and trust in your strength. The others have said as much in their own words, but I agree with all of them. Keep writing and I will keep reading and cheering you on.

    • Ilana says

      To all of you,

      Your comments and support mean so much to me. This piece was so incredibly painful to write. I am so fortunate to have a safe place to hurt. Not only that but to get support. I am awed by the power of our little community and I am awed by the grace with which each one of you contributes to it.

      Thank you.
      Thank you.
      Thank you.

      Ilana

  11. Tony del Zompo says

    Dad is a much better listener than I remember. Of course, he’s dead and buried now, but that doesn’t prevent me from visiting him once a year and placing my my sobriety anniversary coin on his gravesite.

    I was sober two and a half years when Dad died. I’m very grateful for this. Dad was an alcoholic, too, and he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous when I was a freshman in high school. By the time I graduated college, I was sitting next to him in meetings.
    Sadly, I didn’t remain sober.

    After my divorce in 1999, I started drinking and using again, and took a flamethrower to everything that mattered to me. I destroyed my marriage, career, and relationship with my daughter. By the time I was forty, in 2006, I had nothing left. But I’ve learned a few things in the last seven years.

    I’ve learned that love and vulnerability, combined with faith, can take me places I never imagined. My daughter is back in my life. My career is slowly showing up as well. Three weeks ago I sat with Vanessa, my daughter’s mother, for five hours and shared an afternoon of healing and possibility.

    I’ve learned that I co create my experience with God, a Higher Power, a Universal Intelligence, or whatever you wish to call the spirit that binds us, the force that keeps all the molecules in all the water, rocks, plants, trees, and life forms on planet earth in a miraculous state of homeostasis.

    And it’s all a mystery. One glorious, inexplicable trip.

    Dad was furious with me when I left the Church. He couldn’t understand or accept that my questions had gotten to big for the box of my childhood faith, and that I had to turn elsewhere. But I understand his distress. In my wandering, I nearly destroyed myself. Well, perhaps I did destroy the self that I was. I’m not the same man that pulled himself out of the homeless shelter, not by his bootstraps, but by the Grace of God a little over seven years ago.

    Every year, I visit my father and speak out loud to him. I don’t get to hear him tell me how proud he is of me. I don’t get to look him in the face and tell him that the only way I could ever come to understand and respect him was by wandering from the path he had prescribed for me, and that the only way to find myself and my way back to God was by turning my back on It in the first place.

    I defied my father, and broke his heart. But shortly before his death, he and I had made peace with each other, and a new respect between father and son had developed. He knew I had found happiness, and that I was okay. Although I can’t see the pride on his face, there’s a part of me that knows my father would be proud, that he would respect the man that I have become.

    I can’t hug my father anymore. I can’t tell him that I’m grateful for the ways in which he fathered me, that even in the darkest moments he was developing my character. I can’t laugh, cry, or rage at my father today. Well, I can, but it’s not the same. I never really thought I’d miss him. Today, it is him that I miss, however. Not some idealized image of a father, not the father I wish I’d had, but the father he was.

    • Ilana says

      Tony- This is beautiful and beautifully written. I am touched by your connection to your father. There was one line that had me responding verbally. When I read this part. “I defied my father, and broke his heart. But shortly before his death, he and I had made peace with each other, and a new respect between father and son had developed.” I said, “How beautiful.” I find that line comforting and encouraging in a very personal way. So I thank you for that. I also felt welcomed into your writing by this line “God, a Higher Power, a Universal Intelligence, or whatever you wish to call the spirit that binds us, the force that keeps all the molecules in all the water, rocks, plants, trees, and life forms on planet earth in a miraculous state of homeostasis.” As a person who has had my own spiritual beliefs questioned repeatedly and feel very sensitive about the issue of God, this gave me space to appreciate your writing without feeling the need to protect my belief system. In addition the line is so beautifully written that I had to read it a couple more times. Thank you for this piece. I feel that I am enriched for having read it. Ilana

      • Tony del Zompo says

        thank you, liana. that line about “god” just sort of flowed. i’ve wrestled far too long with my childhood faith, and finally came to a place that i’m very comfortable with, namely, NOT knowing…

    • Debbie says

      Tony – You write with a clarity of self and honest evaluation of your journey that drew me completely in to your story. I can empathize with many aspects of your relationship with your father. But when I came to these lines, that’s when the tears started to burn my eyes:

      “I can’t hug my father anymore. I can’t tell him that I’m grateful for the ways in which he fathered me, that even in the darkest moments he was developing my character.”

      Thank you so much for sharing this poignant portrait of your relationship.

      • Tony del Zompo says

        you’re welcome debbie. and thank you for letting me know you were moved by what i wrote…

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Tony, thanks for sharing such a moving piece about your father. Congratulations on your sobriety! It’s wonderful that you have made peace with him and accept him as the person he was.

      My dad and I were estranged because he was abusive and an enabler since my mom was an alcoholic. However, we both reunited and I talked with him yesterday.

      Time is precious. Like a song written by Mike of Mike and the Mechanics when his dad died. “Say it loud. Say it clear. You can listen as well as you hear. It’s too late when we die” to see we don’t “see eye to eye.” and he wished he told him this “in the living years.”

      I forgive my father and it is up to God to judge him, not me. Obviously, if he hurts me again, I will stay away from him. So far, that hasn’t happened and I am glad we are speaking to one another.

    • Judy says

      Tony–these lines are so uplifting…….”I’ve learned that I co create my experience with God, a Higher Power, a Universal Intelligence, or whatever you wish to call the spirit that binds us, the force that keeps all the molecules in all the water, rocks, plants, trees, and life forms on planet earth in a miraculous state of homeostasis.

      And it’s all a mystery. One glorious, inexplicable trip.”

      Thank you for sharing your journey so opening and with such poetry.

    • Patti Hall says

      Tony, thank you for sharing such a touching real story of the humaness of a father and son. I was so relieved that you came together before he died. Congrats on your sobriety.

  12. Terry Gibson says

    Tony, this piece of yours brought me to tears. It is written with eloquence yet a distinctly human veneer. All the growth with your father over the decades, anger, peace, etc. The cycle of most relationships. My Dad and I never had the luxury of a disagreement; we never saw or spoke to each other for three-quarters of my life and now I have outsurvived four men in my family (three brothers who died at 26, 35 ,51 and Dad, who died at 53.). I wanted him to be proud of me but that was non-negotiable. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. It is very moving and inspiring to me. Take care.

    • Tony del Zompo says

      thank you terry. i feel very fortunate, but it took a lot of mentoring from men that i trusted before my father and i could communicate in a way that healed us…

  13. Judy says

    Working on a piece but came upon this in the meantime:

    I have read that Robert Benchley would go to his office, roll a piece of paper in his Underwood, sit staring at it, type ‘The’ and stare some and then get up to go to the Algonquin Hotel where he would join his tribe for drinks, laughs, play, and lunch. Benchley would return to his office and his Underwood and type…..’hell with it.’ Then, go home.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Judy, Thanks for this story! I relate to that blank page or the blank space or when the words don’t flow. Once in awhile, its okay to say or write ‘The hell with it,’ Now I’m going to bed. :-)

  14. Judy says

    It is said, never awaken someone abruptly,
    Lest the soul, on its nightly walkabout,
    Cannot return smoothly to the body…..the results can be horrid.

    There is magic in the twilight of sleep, nearing the dream state; the cooing of a night bird; the gentle rain drops on the tin rim of the chimney outside my window; a Mozart piano sonata wafting through the house as slumber approached.

    And, then, the booming, angry voice of my drunken father broke the spell.

    Awakened abruptly, I sit up, listened and whispered to myself, “What the hell is this time?”

    I look at my little sister–sound asleep (or pretending to be?). I get out of bed, go to our younger brother’s room and see him in slumber. I walk to the doorway of our parent’s room, stand there a moment and with sweaty palms, pick up the 3’ foot Segrums-7 bottle–his drink of choice. It has a screw cap with a slit to drop loose change and is nearly empty. It has heft from the weight of the glass. I sling it over my shoulder and descend the stairs case. At the landing, I stop for a moment to catch my breath, my heart racing, my mouth dry and my hair rollers slipping. I let one drop and continue down the stairs. I am barefoot.

    I can hear the violent words and sense the danger as I turned the corner to the dining room. They are standing near the china cabinet—his back is to me, his hand lifted, as I approach and gently say, “Daddy, turn around.” The room went silent. It seems in slow motion. He turns, and without thinking I plunge the Segrums-7 bottle to the top of his head.

    Coins fly everywhere. Glass shatters. My mother’s face is contorted. My father reels, blood gushing down his forehead and over his eyes.

    What happened next is a blur: I hear Mother say, “Get out of here fast, darling.”

    I ran to the door and only outside did I realize I was in shortie nightgown, barefoot, rollers and tears joining the summer night’s rain. I run to the next block and up to a high school friend’s car. It’s Friday night. They were necking. I knocked and said, ‘something horrid has happened.’

    My friend offered the family couch for the night. I didn’t sleep but muffle wails into the pillow. I was spent.

    That morning, I returned home through the kitchen door, made my way upstairs to get dressed. The shattered glass was gone. Coins nowhere. Dad gone. Mom fixing breakfast for my sibs.

    The incident was never mentioned–never discussed. No conversation of this with either parent, nor will there be since they are long dust in the wind. I mediate to the god/goddess/universe of my understanding asking that my parents join in this healing.

    These and other experiences are now conversations in therapy, daily journaling and participating in this supportive community. It’s often far easier for me to write something light and fun, and writing this hurt. But now, it is tossed to the winds to join other baggage I’m trying to unload.

    • Debbie says

      Judy – this work was definitely worth the wait! I could not read fast enough to keep up with my beating heart as the words laid bare your childhood world on that night. Starting with the quote was inspired! I join in your unresolved confusion about how such a thing could never be discussed – and wish you freedom from this piece of baggage. Thank you for the honor of sharing this post with us.

      • Judy says

        Debbie–thank you so much for your lovely comments. I find great irony in the quote: my dad used to say something along those lines. What is printed above came to me in a dream the other night after a draft of the piece. Think I’ll take it as the beginning of healing. :)

    • Polly says

      Judy, wow. I agree with Debbie that it was worth the wait. This piece was vivid and intense. You built the tension experienced by your younger self perfectly. Your pain was palpable, as was your need to protect your younger siblings and your mother. You were just a kid … I hope the act of writing this can help you release the experience in some way. You are brave.

      • Judy says

        Polly–thank you for your kind words and support. Writing helped and is helping but knowing of this community offers great comfort. I’ve encouraged my two sisters to join in here but doubt they will. Oh well.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Judy, from the first line, you snagged me by the sock and I couldn’t have peeled my eyes off the screen even if I wanted to, which I didn’t. I relate to this so closely but I started standing up for my sister and foresaw really bad things ahead. Still, I would’ve done exactly as you did. I never get how such important things could never be spoken of at all. I am happy you write about this and empathize with how you must’ve felt; you did the right thing but what any young girl (like you) must’ve done with all that quiet. I like writing light and fun too but sometimes digging a bit for something serious is more urgent than the other. Keep writing, Judy. To me too, it helps the casting off into the dust, the lightening of baggage. Thanks so much!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Super-sheroes on this blog? I just re-read the story of one of them and that’s yours, Judy. Maybe bravery and courage are catching. It seems true in the way people here inspire me all the time, a self-replenishing pool of cool, refreshing water.

    • Patti Hall says

      Judy,
      A well crafted story of such a hard time in your life. I’m glad that baggage is lifted and thrown to the wind. No person should have to carry such burdens, especially children. Keep writing and hanging out with all of us. Hugs, Patti

    • Ilana says

      Judy- This is amazing. The picture is painted so clearly that I am stopped in my tracks. Some of your phrases are nothing short of magical. “No conversation of this with either parent, nor will there be since they are long dust in the wind” and “My friend offered the family couch for the night. I didn’t sleep but muffle wails into the pillow. I was spent.” Then you end by admitting how difficult and painful it was to write. I felt so comforted by that. My piece this week actually caused me to (or helped me to? I’m not sure at this point.) dissolve into a pool of sobs before a friend I was not even positive could take it. Your acknowledgment of your own pain made me feel less weird, less alone and less freakish. Thank you for sharing, all of it.

      Ilana

      • Judy says

        Ilana, thank you for your dear comments. The validation is greatly appreciated, greatly appreciated. I wish I could get beyond needing such supportive comments on writing, maybe one day. This prompt seemed to trigger much for many of us in this supportive community. There were many cleansing tears shed on the road to healing, this week. I wept when I read your line “Your acknowledgment of your own pain made me feel less weird, less alone and less freakish.” High praise, indeed. Thank you, my friend.

        In twilight sleep this morning this came to me: own your shadow and spread your sunshine. I’m goin’ with that! Blessed be.

        • Laura says

          Judy,

          This piece was so well written with the intense courage and clarity of truth. I also wanted to mention that I am struck by how poetic much of your writing is. Do you also write poetry?

          I haven’t been on here much or in a while. This prompt triggered some amazing, though often painful, writing from the group. Thanks to all of you for writing — The Muse can be a beautiful and mysterious Healer.

          Laura

          • Judy says

            Laura, thank you for your gracious comments. I love to read poetry and try to write it–bowing to the Muse as I type. Look forward to reading your pieces.

    • Hazel says

      Judy,
      Thank you for sharing this powerful story filled with anticipation, conflict, action and then to end with, “The incident was never mentioned-never discussed.” I have a feeling that nearly every household has some story that will “never (be) discussed”. That seems to be the way it goes for human beings. I also have a feeling that the universe is full of, ” But now, it is tossed to the winds to join other baggage I’m trying to unload.”

      Very good writing!

      • Judy says

        Thank you, Hazel. Your opinion helps me write more and want to improve. And, yes, I’m sure your lost computer items are hanging out with the unloaded baggage. Good line. :)

  15. Terry Gibson says

    Dear Mom and Second Husband,

    HOW COULD YOU?

    My brain tries to get a handle on it twenty-four hours a day. I can’t shut it off.

    How could you? Live with what you did?

    What could go so horribly wrong in your minds to make you do THAT?

    What did I possibly do? I was as quiet as a mouse. I didn’t drink, swear,
    do drugs, disobey, sneak out windows, or even spew at you both all I felt inside.

    Wait a second, how could I possibly have told you? You ground me into silence.

    Why would you want to hurt me SO badly? In such an intimate way.

    What in hell made you think either of you had the God-given right to
    rip my life apart so horribly?

    I want you to know that I don’t despise you, but listen to me for a change.
    ********
    A child alone, predators chased me down and thanks to you both, word spread so fast–the town slut was out leaking tears, life-spirit, sweat, gritty geysers of pooled blood. Carrying on with your traditions, I was the butt of jokes, plied with GHB, baptized the pre-internet victim from my own “steubenville,” enduring the rancid, stomach-churning stink of a strange man’s breath on my neck (twelve rapes I know about), multiple beatings, self-loathing, utter aloneness, many years on psychoactive drugs for panic, fear, blackouts, anxiety, self-esteem at the level of dirt, and a grinding compulsion to harm myself through cuts, burns, drugs, throwing
    myself in front of drunk drivers in speeding cars, and drink poisons.

    Years later, at an autumn “Take Back the Night” event, I watched esteemed,
    good women—some I volunteered with at the Rape Crisis Centre–march and chat with pride. I stood on the steps of the National Post Office, partially hidden from sight. My insides shrivelled up; I was scum. I could never be good or worthy enough to stand with them.

    From the pocket of my jeans, I produced my coveted bottle of liquid, I had secreted inside. Scared but knowing this was all there was for me, I
    gulped the dirty, brown acid from which I hoped they’d tell you, “She died.”

    Keeping that in mind, do you have any idea of the indignities you subjected me to? With rape back then, most people would only think of the risk of pregnancy. I never had that problem, thank God. Just others. Your bastard friends gave me an STD but I knew nothing about it. Didn’t even know what that WAS.

    Why in hell didn’t you tell us ANYTHING? I didn’t know what sex was. It never occurred to me to see a doctor; we all know why the two of you wouldn’t take us. And, with no bathrooms, and being locked in the attic and basement all the time, we were never taught proper hygiene either. Like I said: I knew nothing.

    Suddenly, aside from having the two of you spread lies and filthy jokes around town about me, I wanted to drink. When I could, I drank myself
    half to death.

    I was in physical agony. A high school ‘friend’ (too good for me but still
    attentive enough to notice something was wrong) started trying to
    talk to me. I don’t know what we said, or if I revealed a word, but know
    if she referenced anything sexual or having to do with the female body,
    I would have imploded with embarrassment and shame. Somehow, she got me to go to the doctor, where it turned out I had venereal warts. He gave me a bottle of something potent enough to burn them off.

    Lost in my self-loathing, about four days later, the agony rose beyond anything I ever felt before. I broke down and forced myself to the doctor again.

    “Well, I feel sorry for you,” he said, upon examination. “You’ve got second- and third-degree burns.”

    Yes, I can hear you snickering right now. I know. I was the kid stupid enough
    not to cross the street while parked cars were there. And now the much
    older snot who didn’t wash off the treatment because I wasn’t told to do so. You taught me so well in some ways!! You must be so proud.
    ****
    I want you to know that I don’t despise you–although it would be so fitting.

    • Polly says

      This piece broke my heart and left me feeling outraged. That means that you did an absolutely phenomenal job of writing it. I’m so sorry you had those experiences. Thank you for having the courage and trust to share them with the rest of us.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – this is a courageous piece, full of experiences difficult to assimilate, strong emotion and unimaginable emotions. I am amazed at your strength to not only survive such actions – but also in your willingness to “say it out loud” to us. Bravo to you!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Polly and Debbie, thank you. Your comments are always appreciated. What do I want to say? I am not comfortable with writing these things. In fact, I hate it. I am still that 17 year old in some ways. Despite my false bravado, I feel the same way about being compelled to tell this story; it’s way too close for comfort. However, I sought far and wide for words in print to explain to me everything I needed to know. Then I found the books, ‘Daddy’s Girl’ by Charlotte Vale Allen and later the Courage to Heal by Laura and Ellen Bass. I decided I would put out there everything my story had. Because somewhere there are young girls like I was who are frantically seeking the kind of sustenance they need to survive their own similar struggles and crises. I won’t be alive forever so my embarrassment and discomfort is transitional. I need to get beyond it, to fly free.

    • Judy says

      Terry==great courage to tell your experiences. Bravo to you and may you ‘get more dust off your boots’ as you continue to write and share with others who will benefit from your tellings. My heart raced and raced as I read these pieces. Do you know how brave you are to share these experiences and emotions? Do you know how you will help others? I totally get the last line…’I need to get beyond it and fly free.’ Beautifully written and know we are the wind beneath your wings.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Judy. You made me cry. Feeling a tiny bit less tightness in my throat and chest tonight as I prepare for a soothing bath and the bliss of sleep. An extremely emotional day. The last line you wrote made me smile and flow tears at once. And I, and this wonderful community (thanks a billion times to our dear Laura), beneath yours, Judy. Take good care.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- This is so well stated. The details were heartbreaking but just enough. Had you gone further you would have lost me. Had you not given what you did then the piece would have been lacking. Thank you for sharing your story of courage with us.

      I just need to respond to one section, directly. “Years later, at an autumn “Take Back the Night” event, I watched esteemed,
      good women—some I volunteered with at the Rape Crisis Center–march and chat with pride. I stood on the steps of the National Post Office, partially hidden from sight. My insides shriveled up; I was scum. I could never be good or worthy enough to stand with them.” You WERE, ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE good enough to stand with them and I would be proud to stand by your side at such an event.

      Often when my heart breaks under my own burdens I think of your sweet face and your gentle voice and am comforted. Don’t stop fighting. Don’t stop loving yourself. It is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your sisters. Thank you, Terry.

      • Terry Gibson says

        I really am speechless. Thanks so much. As you know, I think a lot about you too. I draw strength from you, your difficult struggles, love of chocolate-making, and joy in the sweet stuff of life. I value you so much! Always and in all ways. When I can’t find my own anger, I think of your determined, strong face and hear you reading so beautifully, as you do. I know your post this week inspired me to try as well. Thank you. I haven’t been able to express it as strongly as I did this week. I did it as you did. Thanks so much for the prayer. Your favourite resonates in a wonderful way with me! Thanks. (Well, not that speechless, although I promise everyone I won’t gush and be as long-winded again as I was this week.)

    • Ana Lewis says

      Oh Terry, My heart and head were screaming inside when reading this. As you know, I know your story and love you dearly. However, every time I read more, I get all balled up all over again. How could they do this to you is right!

      What I find most amazing about you, is somehow, someway, you have found your light through it all, via your exquisite way with words, your sense of humor and your ability to appreciate.

      Thank you for continuing to unload your past, you deserve so much better and I am so glad to see you surrounded by and living in love today – because THAT is what you deserve.

      Much love you you my dear friend,
      Ana Lewis

  16. Terry Gibson says

    Please let me add something important here. All of this is true except the actual drinking of the solution. When I started writing this, I took it that far as a symbol of how far I would go. A discussed this day with my peer counsellor shortly after. “I don’t think it would’ve killed you, Terry,” she said. “I think it would’ve just burned out your throat and stomach.” This year, I learned about a case of a young woman who did just that. She didn’t die instantly but suffered horribly for a few days. I was relieved I didn’t do it. One thing I am sure of–back then, I did not want to wake up ever again!

    • Patti Hall says

      Terry, I’m so glad you made it through all of that to be here with us. You are a superhero for living through what you have…so many superheroes here. I ache from being a witness to your pain, but I soar as you move on to the free Terry. Thank you.

  17. Terry Gibson says

    Thanks Patty. I love that line, ‘I ache from being a witness to your pain, but I soar as you move on to the free.’ I feel this way always as people have poured out hundreds of stories to me over many years, but I wouldn’t want that to stop for anything on either side. No, I’m not a ghoul or voyeur; in movement, there is hope and, for some of us, that is all there is. My Amsterdam flight on Aug.12th (first leg of Scotland trip) is symbolic of that to me. A brand new life, way of living, and the contentment of knowing that every day now I’m pushing myself Hard to find work, pay bills, and get my book out! A new and much wanted birth. :)

    • Terry Gibson says

      So sorry, Laura. I have no clue why suddenly I’m starting a new topic with replies. I know how to do it properly but don’t know I’ve messed up until I see the post. Will watch that.

  18. Sheila McGinley says

    When my mother died at 94, she took with her the only true memories of my near-death from polio. She took with her the smell of my body and the feel of my skin as I struggled to breathe, to stay alive. She took the memory of the terror on my face and the fever on my cheeks. With her went the only chance I had to know what those days, those years, were made up of for me. With her went the echoes of the horrors done to me by some staff at the hospital, the painful treatments she had no choice but to allow, the fear and boredom in my face during the hour she was allowed to visit me, the sorrow she carried each time she had to leave me there for days at a time.

    Of course, she had had many years to tell me all of this, but the things she actually did tell me could fill a single small sheet of paper. When I asked her about my own life during those two years, she usually answered with the same words: “It was too horrible to remember.” And so, each piece of my own story that she did utter was a poisonous treasure to me, a faint and disconnected echo from my past. And yet each piece was like a lonely leftover broken section from a child’s toy, left on the floor and swept into a corner when the family moves on. I would obsess over each small and disconnected piece, trying to imagine what the puzzle around it looked like, where the edges were, where it stopped. I tried to squeeze my eyes and see the whole of it, or to make a whole that fit. The story never seemed right, or true, without more pieces.

    I always thought that someday, when she did not any longer have to worry about the cares of each day, my mom would remember. That we would sit together on the couch and it would all spill out of her. Perhaps, if it did, my life would also open up to me and together we could put the pieces in a pile and reconstruct the puzzle. Of course there would be the enormous holes of the life I had during those two years in which there was no mom, no family to be there next to me. There would be that constant feeling that would awaken me in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, that feeling that a piece of my life, or a person, was missing. There would be the mist surrounding someone else who loved me enough in those hours to keep me from giving up. There would be the black hole of the people who did not, who hated me enough to use me for their own ends. But at least I would have a whole, a scene, a sense of my life that could leave me feeling grounded to this earth, to myself, to my life. And from there so much that came after could be understood.

    But as she aged, my mother could not remember. Perhaps she was too filled with all of her own needs and sorrows, her loves and losses. Or perhaps, as she said, it was all just too horrible. She did tell me that I must never forget that she knew me, that she knew what suffering that I had had, and that she loved me. She did tell me that she was proud of all that I had become, but to be careful. Like the kind of child who cannot feel the nerves in their feet and so can get an infection, she was afraid that I would not respect the injuries that had been done to me and would try to do too much. She told me to be careful, to trust my hesitations, to learn to love who I was and not who I wanted to be if I had been always free and whole.

    I am left with my own memories, or more precisely my lack of them. I am left with body memories not grounded in words or history. I am left with wisps of sounds and faces, of people loved with no grounding for that love. I am left with constructing my childhood from the outlines of negative space, the outline of black holes. And yet, not quite. Once, when a gifted hypnotist friend at a conference we both attended off-handedly offered to guide me through to that time and help me remember with eye-movement desensitization, my body began to shake. Almost as if it did not belong to my mind anymore, it shook as if it were a rocket taking off from the firing pad. My eyes rolled back in my head and my hands turned backward on my body. My mother’s voice echoed in my head: too horrible. Perhaps she was right: it was all too horrible to know in the end. I shook my head, no, and my body subsided.

    And yet it is lonely to be without that pain to ground me in those sorrows that can leap forward out of nowhere now. It is lonely to be without the kindness of those strangers who managed to love me or hold me through two years of horror. Now, as I am getting older and feeling my body again betray me, I find myself wanting the puzzle to come together whole, for me to feel part of the something that has been my life. I miss my mother’s knowledge of me, and of that time, the most of all. While I can not know what made my body shake, at least I knew that hers shook with mine in those years. And I knew that she understood the fire from which I had come.

    I have my comforts, in that as I grow older I have found the gift of joy in being alive that eluded me for so long. I have the ability to understand loss and pain in others. I have an almost unbearable love of the unexpected beauty in our world. But I do wish, oh I so wish, that I had been able to sit with my mother on quiet nights and weave together with her my missing life, my missing stories.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Sheila, thanks so much for sharing this story here. I will be rereading it many times. After that, I can only ‘say’ what I should have said to others as well the last few days, especially given the mind-blowing depths of the work from this prompt: sometimes a reverent silence is the best and only response. There aren’t words for being privy and graced by someone sharing their heart and soul. And, breaking my own rules, this is so eloquent, devastating, and all-encompassing! The stuff of literature? It is, with no doubt, to me.

    • Ilana says

      Shelia- Thank you for sharing this story. It gives voice to something I could never actually put into words. As you may know from some of my other posts, I had emergency brain surgery five months after my wedding. (almost 13 years ago) I wish I could remember what I went through. I wish I could piece the puzzle back together. I have hounded my husband for details but he doesn’t want to talk about it. It was very painful for him, five months married and facing the possibility of becoming a widower at age 24. What you’ve written here expresses my explainable need to understand that time in my life.

      As for the piece itself, it is exquisitely written. Your phrases flow smoothly and the cadence fits your subject matter perfectly. I think you also do a beautiful job of honoring your mother while at the same time acknowledging that she was not able to give you the information that you wanted. Well done! Ilana

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thank you, Ilana! It was good to know that it hit home for you too, that I share this feeling with someone. And thanks for the encouragement with my writing. I am compelled lately…..

  19. Debbie says

    Sheila – this is so beautifully written, so achingly descriptive I could really sense your loss, the confusion about snippets of memories and longing for the closure that might come with knowledge. Amazing! Thank you so much for allowing us this glimpse into your “missing stories”.

    • Sheila McGinley says

      I am glad it came through. I went the whole week unable to write it but longing to. Then it was there.

  20. Judy says

    Shelia, I want to take time to read this again before commenting fully. But, in short, me thinks this is the stuff literature is made. Thank you.

  21. Polly says

    For whatever it’s worth, I wrote this piece earlier today but only for myself. My therapist recommended recently that I write a letter to my oldest brother that I never send (similar to what Laura recommends in The Courage to Heal). I have 7 pages of loose leaf filled. This time it’s for me. It is absolutely a conversation I haven’t yet had, though, and I’m glad I’ll did it. I’ll try to actually contribute to the next prompt. Thanks everyone.

        • Polly says

          Thank you so much. I really just wrote for pages and pages, calling him out for what a piece of sh*t he is. I’ve spent the past several days turning all my rage in on myself, but that’s not where it belongs. It’s all on him. Sending it where it should actually go feels amazing.

          • Terry Gibson says

            That’s really working for lots of us this week. I’m glad you let it pour out of you. It feels so great to do that. It’s my new religion, I think. :) Well, that and physically working out the bad energy at the gym. Endorphins and Terry go well together.

  22. Deb Mansell says

    I still don’t have a post for this I am so very raw, there is a conversation I need to have with my mother but I cannot waste my energy on that now! I have too many raw nerves showing.

    I have had several very long phone calls to my chosen mum, Christine, who has soothed and loved me and given me strength to carry on my feeling and healing.

    So I’m hanging in there. xx

    • Terry Gibson says

      Please be kind and gentle to yourself, Deb. I’m so glad you have your chosen Mum and that you’re hanging in. Glad that you posted this update. Was wondering how you got thru the day. Take care.

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