Longing for What Wasn't Meant to Be
When reviewing my family history and really examining what is, what was, and what could never be, I am amazed at my own resiliency. It’s not to say that I didn’t have good times, it just seems there were an equal amount or more hard times. Now, that history is in my rear view mirror, I find it still teaches me.
Things spoken and unspoken still need reconciliation and healing. I know this because when I open the many boxes that store picture upon picture of my family, I am longing to have just one more conversation with my parents, and my brothers to see if things could have been healed then and now. I am longing for the relationships that were never meant to be. Can I have a do-over? Sadly, I cannot.
I couldn’t figure out why my mom was always so sad and not engaging. As a young girl and teenager all I wanted was to have what my friends had. My friends and their moms would go shopping together, cook together, work on household projects together. But my mom was often preoccupied. It isn’t to say that I never experienced those things, it’s just happened rarely. And, I just always felt we didn’t quite understand one another. What I didn’t understand was she was depressed; she had no means to speak to a counselor and get guidance. It just wasn’t accepted then to talk with anyone about what was really hurting. The stigma of seeking a mental health professional was a carryover from by-gone eras.
I knew that she and my dad were always worrying about my brother that was 7 years my senior. I didn’t learn until many years later that he left home at 17 to get away from home, to forget about what had happened to him. He enlisted in the army and was stationed in Germany. Revealed to me years later was that he had been molested by a family friend for years and tragically when serving in the army he was raped by a group of men. My parents didn’t know how to deal with the molestation they didn’t have any support or tools. My parents were carrying heavy burdens and a fathomless ocean of emotions, including most likely guilt, that they hadn’t protected him and, that they didn’t realize what was happening over and over. They were in deep pain and sorrow. I understand this all now, but the estrangement that occurred because that pain was unresolved and not really ever addressed created a chasm between them and their son. The side effect was me, the kid-sister, that just wanted her brother to come home and spend real time not, just an hour or two. I wanted to hang out with him. It was not meant to be.
As the years have passed, and I have matured, I know he had to work out being victimized, unfortunately without any help. I am certain he had no counseling in the army because of course he could not report the rape to anyone. He just held it until he died.
When he finally told me about these horrific experiences, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t grasp that these events happened to him. I needed time to grieve our loss of time spent as kids, the loss of his childhood innocence and, the loss of dignity at having been raped. As time has passed and now having a better understanding of these devastating, degrading and humiliating experiences, I get why he didn’t want to come home but just for a few hours at a time. It was too painful for him. The crevasse between him and my parents was beginning to heal years later when my mom died and, 5 years later when my dad died. I cannot imagine the depth of pain he carried, the pain my parents shouldered both physically and emotionally. It’s just too much.
What I have learned is that when there is a break with our loved ones or friends, we shouldn’t wait a minute to reconcile and begin the process of healing. So many holidays not spent together, countless birthdays separated from each other, no fun National Lampoon kind of family vacations for us, not a single one; no sitting on the sidelines cheering the other on for a seventh-grade football game. It is a longing that still haunts me. I have worked on these deep wounds and will continue to do so as my heart still aches for what wasn’t and what could never be. I will say that the pain that resides in my soul for our family is not without reclamation. Now, I move through life embracing every moment that I share with my extended family and friends as their commitment to me and, mine to them is remarkable. I am so very grateful to have them in my life. They enrich me in ways I can’t explain. Had I not been witness to what happened to my nuclear family and, really examined it, I would probably not be the person I am today. Instead I choose healing, I choose reclamation and connection. I may not be granted a “do-over”, but I do have the insight to make today’s relationships mindful and meaningful.