2009 – the year the defining family event occurred. It’s been 8 years. Eight years since life as I knew it changed forever, 8 years I lived without family, 8 years of pain, and suffering, and confusion, and unanswered questions. But it was also 8 years of change, 8 years of healing and growing, 8 years of becoming who I am now. And after 8 years, I have finally found some peace.
I returned a week ago from visiting my terminally ill mother, while staying with my brother and sister-in-law. It’s something I never thought in a million years I would ever do. My expectations were varied but my hope was high. And the reality far surpassed what I believed possible.
Memories of the last time I visited, back in 2013, were fresh in my mind, the time I knew instantly that it was a mistake, the time that sent me fleeing in tears and emotional turmoil. But time has changed, I have changed, and I was hoping my mom had changed as well. My sister-in-law had shared with me how excited my mom was to see me. I called my mom to let her know I was on my way over, grabbing coffee for us both. Feeling more calm than the last visit but still apprehensive, I stood at her door, pulling up all the strength I had inside me, and I knocked on the slab of thin wood between me and my future.
She opened the door, I walked in, and I knew this time was different. Instead of time seeming to stand still, time relax, and it felt more like the mother-daughter we used to be rather than the strangers we had become. We sat and started talking, at first not about much, just the how are you’s. And then an amazing thing happened: as time wore on, we started talking about what had happened all those years ago and since, not in total detail but in a general sense. We talked about what it caused more than what specifically happened. The truth is, just like I had come to learn, my mother didn’t have memory of a lot of those years, when her mind was going due do to the horrible living environment she and my father had been living in back then, before my father passed away. Rather than bring it all back up, I just told her that certain things had happened and I had shut down.
Over the three days I spent with her, we talked about so many things: me, her, my traumatic childhood, her equally traumatic childhood, learning things we had somehow never known about each other. We fondly remembered old family fun times and memories. There was tears, and laughter, and understanding. I felt a piece of my heart begin to grow where only emptiness had lived for the last 8 long years.
There’s so much I want to write about but it is too much for one post, but I will be sharing more over the next couple weeks. For now, I want all those out there dealing with familial estrangements to know that it is never to late. It depends on your circumstances – I certainly will never reconcile with my two sisters – but those relationships that you wish could be fixed, it can happen, it is possible. Sometimes it just takes time, and a willingness by both parties to admit their own faults while being understanding of the other’s. There is no room for pride – pride blinds. Honesty and openness is what opens the door to new possibilities, to a new future.