1. gloria humphrey says

    The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

    The first time my now ex-husband showed me who he was before I married him,
    Me and some friends were sitting in a car at a night club and I saw my then boyfriend ride by on a bicycle on his way to his other girlfriends house- one of my friends that new finally decided to tell me. I don’t remember the lie he told me, but I believed it. A year or two later I married him with child. After 18 years, 3 more children, abuse, drug addiction, promiscuous adultery, bankruptcy, divorce, a nervous breakdown and instability- The price paid!!

  2. JW says

    I met E when my sister took a yoga class with her. She was running a small business selling Shaklee vitamins out of her home. A meditation circle met in the basement. It was 1975. she was a mother who didn’t want to be a mother. She had an unhappy marriage, was a fanatic for enlightenment. I was intrigued. I didn’t know that in the future she would abandon the family for a younger man. She would move cross-country to follow a guru. I didn’t know she would turn her back on all of us. Telling us to wear white and that she couldn’t be friends unless we joined what turned out to be a cult. I still hung in there. Even after she verbally abused me and my first lover. It took years but we came around again. She was my best friend’s mother. I knew her thirty years. By then she believed in angels and aliens, conspiracy and con-trails. One terrible night we found out T. had hung himself. We gathered at his apartment. She began ranting then screamed at me once again. She told me to get out. She had clearly lost her mind. I realized in that moment I was finally able to see who she really was. My illusions were shattered. I would never allow her insanity or toxic volatility in my life again. The tragedy is it cost me my best friend, who chose sides with her mother in that carnival of storm.

  3. Sunny Shaw says

    Spring in Minneapolis is devastatingly beautiful; a gasp after sharp and choking winter. Our family was in the car and I was seven years old, overwhelmed with irrepressible joy. Sounding, resonating, reverberating joy. I needed to share.

    “Mom,” I said, “they sang my favorite song in church today! Can I sing it for you?”.

    With unrestrained exultation I sang ‘I Come to the Garden Alone’. Offhandedly she commented “Oh, you’re just like me – you can’t carry a tune”.

    My mother showed me who she was and I saw it. A startling moment in time. A window opening. My mother was not me.

  4. Zev Davis says

    since my mother passed on my relations with my sister have been
    entirely different. If, before, she lived seven thousand miles away in
    California with her husband and two kids, and I lived in Israel with my
    wife and a progeny that currently numbers some twenty souls. In the past
    we were not very close, I was a “strange duck” and I know very little
    about her, other than the little she revealed to me in the E-mails that
    passed between us. Towards the last few months of my mother’s was with
    my sister every day. Calling California was different, in Michigan,
    where she lived for over eighty years she was mostly at home and her
    health was reasonable, but by the time she reached the West Coast she
    wasn’t doing quite as well. She was tired, and ailing and phone calls
    were shorter on account of her medical condition. What can you say to
    someone whose daily routine is a gnawing pain in their shoulders that
    doesn’t go away.

    At some point my mother, resigned to pain, let her life run its course.
    She prepared a list of what she wanted my sister to do for her before
    and “after” she left, called her close family members to say “goodbye”,
    not to worry about her, and when the time came, she closed her eyes .
    It was sad, for sure, but my mother was blessed with a passing that she
    chose for herself. I received the notice on Sunday night. In
    California, the other side of the world it was Monday morning.

    It took all I could do to get the travel arrangements , but everything
    worked out far better than I expected and I arrived on Thursday
    afternoon. It took a while for my sister and her daughter, whom I
    hadn’t seen since she was two years old to reach the Midwest on account
    of storm warnings. As it worked out, I arrived in Michigan before her
    and made the arrangements for the funeral service. The burial was took
    place in Michigan, where my mother would rest alongside my father. As a
    former Detroit boy, with ties to the community I made the phone calls,
    found a rabbi, and when my sister arrived Friday morning at the
    ceremony. There were only two of us left, me and my sister, my parents
    and my younger brother now lay together in their burial plots.

    My sister was amazingly business like. She had all the bases covered,
    the funeral home, the ceremony that was going to take place on Sunday,
    and the service the the hotel later that evening.

    Me, I had no idea what to do, except for my obligation to say the
    Kaddish, the prayer for the Departed. At the reception at the house of
    cousins who lived a a few miles away from the cemetery, we didn’t talk
    much, my sister and I, each of us getting acquainted with family and
    friends, some of them cousins, who were “names” my mother would mention
    to me in our conversations. At the service in the hotel suite, I was
    expected to offer the Evening Prayer. My sister is not as Observant as I
    am, and I had some ideas and it wasn’t clear how they might go over
    with her. Then a college friend from the sixties walked in out of the
    blue. He was active in a synagogue in the area and offered a
    suggestion. It worked out better than I expected and suddenly the
    “strange duck” turned out to be miracle worker.

    I “sat Shiva” at my cousins’ house, spending the initial seven days
    required to mourn for the Departed. The “rules” are fairly clear–the
    mourner is not allowed any of the creature comforts, no hot showers, you
    are not allowed to shave, or get your hair cut, you are not allowed
    to serve your guests or prepare your own meals. You sit and talk to
    the those who come to comfort you.

    My cousins were more than generous. Past eighty, in reasonable health
    considering their age they managed well. Born in Poland, they lived in
    Israel, and came to live in the States, they spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, and
    English. So did I. The Yiddish my some miracle was acquired by osmosis
    from my Polish grandfather, the Hebrew something I learned early on
    when I was growing up in Hebrew school. The three languages flowed
    “unnoticed”. We connected well in spite of our differences, picking up
    the strands of a relationship that was always there. It was as if were
    of the same generation, and yet, during the week of Mourning, I didn’t
    call my sister, not even once.

    As per the custom, I prayed three times a day. In some cases the
    services are held in the house of the Mourner, but being that my mother
    no longer lived in the Michigan area, and there was no way to arrange
    them, I attended services at a synagogue nearby. I knew the place from
    the days I lived in the area. In fact, I consulted the rabbi on some
    matter regarding my father when I was there at Unveiling of my father’s
    headstone. In many ways it was “old home week”, and then some. On the
    Sabbath services I sat next to man, in his thirties who was the grandson
    of a man, since deceased who lived on the same block as my parents. In
    the row behind me there was a man whose uncle had served as a principal
    of Hebrew school, in Michigan and moved on to Toronto. We stayed at
    his uncle’s house in Canada when we were there in the seventies.

    The most curious thing that happened was meeting a man who lived a few
    blocks up from my parents. We “knew each other”. He saw me and and
    said, “Oh Zev, how are you. I haven’t seen you in a long time.”–a long
    time, thirty years! Mind you, there was another guy I met in Israel in
    ’68, who came to live in Michigan, whose son was in the same
    Kindergarten as my oldest daughter, now going on forty. We kibbitzed.
    The last time I saw him was thirty years ago, too, I think. It was the
    beginning of renewing old acquaintances, and making new ones. My
    sister had life a life apart in California with her husband and for some
    reason we didn’t click in the same way.

    On the last day I was in the States while I was waiting for my father-in-law to drive me to airport, my cousins said it would be a good thing to call my sister. I did with some trepidation. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have to worry about that because my sister told me everything she knew about be, including what I was supposed to do when I returned home. For the life of me, I didn’t know enough about her to offer the kind of advice to her. Apparently I was a topic of discussion between sister and my mother in the last few months of her life. I didn’t understand half of what she said, but I “accepted” the comments–what else could I do?

    Since then we have been communicating, me, telling her what I thought only to be told that there were things that I didn’t understand. I really didn’t until she told me, but my sister thought it was a matter of insensitivity towards my mother’s passing. The only way I could explain it to her was that it’s a “man thing”. Women, according to the people with whom I spoke, told me that they take the passing of a mother more emotionally.

    Other than the personal aspects that occurred with her, and, in spite of what is also said about men and their mothers, there is something in Western culture that continues to place men as the providers, and women as the nurturers. It’s changing noticeably, but it’s still there. I said as much when my sister objected to the way the Memorial service I conducted for my mother in my town what was an “all male” service where my son spoke in memory of his grandmother. I had to explain that people are more traditional about the way we practice our Judaism where I live. That didn’t comfort here either.

    I hesitate to call her, not as much on account the cost of call, but . . . it’s easier to send E-mails. I get the same kind of response, and, it means a little more editing so I don’t get carried away with the text. As it is, anything that I write to her has to be concise, and to the point, though my style gets in the way sometimes.

    It’s clear that her heart is the right place, and it’s obvious that we have to do certain things together in the coming months, me in Israel and my sister in California. So far, it’s still harder for her to “see the name” written down, while it’s clear to me that this is time to send memorials with her name that will credit her with blessings from above. It’s the Traditional way Jews honor their Dear Departed, but my sister is less traditional about those aspects of Judaism

    It’s not just that, either. We are different people. If, she spoke every day to my mother when she was alive, and, I my name came up, it was way of communicating with me without me actually being there. That buffer isn’t possible anymore. I am confident that we will find a way to be brother and sister, a little fractious, and a little contentious at times, but . . . it will work out.

  5. vickie says

    My life has been filled with moments of ignoring the true character of a person,always believing in that small glimmer of goodness that lies just below the surface.The price for such foolishness has been the discovery that good does not always win out over evil and love does not always prevail.

  6. Tempered Ashes says

    The first time my mother showed me who she is, I shut down. The constant criticisms, the inability to separate herself from me and the neverending sideswipes that shut down my sense of who I was and who I could have become resulted in exactly what SHE wanted: a very accomplished but very sad and lonely daughter who could certainly add to the “family resume,” as well as to my mother’s egoistic sense of the “perfect family–” HER perfect family. I guess it’s just what other people think that really matters, right?

    WRONG. I am now realizing at 39 years old that it’s what I think that matters. And, well world, here’s what I think:

    I come from a sweet family that has been extremely sidelined. Sidelined by anger; by pride; by family secrets; and by just some gosh-darned, good old-fashioned repression.

    I come from a family that will, unfortunately, probably never recognize their true value because they’ve been so stuck on projecting a certain image to the world that they’ve actually forgotten to pay attention to their true selves. And by that I mean they’ve forgotten to notice that it’s not so much what other people think of you, but more what you think of you. And if you don’t really like you, or respect you, or give yourself the credit you deserve (i.e. from the inside out– as opposed to outside-in), then no amount of worldly praise is going to make you into a whole person. I’m lucky enough to be realizing this now– at 39 years old– as opposed to never.

    And boy am I pissed off! I’ve spent the last 30 some odd years trying to perfect the science of “appearance”– since this is how I was raised. And so much living– from the outside in, has literally done nothing but finally cave me in! But what a gift that was, quite frankly. The hell that I’ve gone through these last 10 years (and it’s really been more like 15 if we’re really counting) has done nothing except open me up into a beautiful flower.

    I can Finally start to see myself now– not as the world sees me, but as I see me.

    And here’s what I see:

    I’m a little self-righteous– but only because I still have a lot to prove (i.e. still haven’t totally liberated myself from my demons..)
    I’m a little nerdy
    I’m a little bit of a straight-arrow
    I like things done “right”
    I’m a professor (not in title but in nature)
    I’m kind
    I’m generous
    I’m sweet
    I’m cute enough
    I’m huggable
    most importantly,
    I’m me.
    I’m not the depiction that my family tried to create, and that they are still trying to swing to the community and others around them. I’m separate and apart from them– and my value stems not from my accomplishments but from the fact that I am a self-sustaining human being borne on planet Earth. That’s it, folks, that’s all.

    We all deserve the chance to discover who we are– and unfortunately many of us don’t really get that chance. I’m one of the lucky ones– better a bit later than never. I’m still young, I’m healthy and I have so many opportunites ahead of me. I can be fun, vibrant, productive, healthy in body, mind and spirit, and generally be a good, positive force in the world. Who really gets to say that?

    Although the consequences of my mother’s conduct certainly contributed to me being shut down for much of my life, I am lucky in that it has also contributed to my awakening. Now comes the hard part: I must now start my life– at 39 years old.

    hmmmm, better late than never as they say,, better late than never..

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