This spring two women that played an influential role in my life passed away. One was my grandmother. I hadn’t spoken to her in five years. She left this world with very few people by her side. I did not attend her funeral. The other was my ex-husbands mother only a week later. When my own mother passed away five years ago this women stood up even taller and tried to fill the void. Although nearly an impossible task, she did well. She was someone I could talk to without judgement. She adored my children and if you know me at all this holds great weight in my book. She cheered me on and showed me unconditional love. As she succumbed to pancreatic cancer she was surrounded by multitudes of family and friends, myself included. I cooked and helped organize food to feed the throngs of people that came to the farm following the funeral, each to share their stories and love of her.
(my daughter Pember with “Towing Gramma”, my mother in law)
I was asked by several people how I could write off a woman whose blood flowed through my own body and my children’s and yet behold another in such high regard that belonged to the family I voluntarily left. I’ve been called cold or heartless at times, but I have a line and once it is crossed I very rarely reach a piggy toe back over. My grandmother had chances and she abused them just as many times. She did it with other close family members as well. She judged us. She criticized us. She was blind (actually she WAS literally blind….but I mean this in a more metaphorical way) to actions of those doing wrong to the people she should have been protective of. She was selfish and ungrateful. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt for not being there to bid her farewell. She dug her own cold grave that she was placed in with only a handful of people attending.
My grandmother’s voice has always been one of the many in my head. It’s not a nice one. The voices that are the loudest there are the ghosts of my past, of people that didn’t believe in themselves enough to know how to believe in or truly love others, and of my failures. The voices nag and encourage fear. They breed a negative environment in my head that I have to cleanse often. Thankfully my own voice has grown to be the loudest there and it usually knows how to crack the whip and keep everyone in line. Every once in a while though, they come knocking down my door demanding to be heard and sometimes they do it in person. This week one of those ghosts turned up in a hospital bed looking like Charles Manson.
Not long after my grandmother passed away my father fell and broke his hip. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in five years either for many reasons. I struggled for about five minutes about going to see him and realized with the help of a friend that the only reason I had to go was obligation. That wasn’t good enough so I didn’t go and I didn’t feel bad. What I DID feel bad about was the fact that my niece and my sister have had to carry this burden. Last week he fell and broke his other hip. Wednesday I went to see him at the hospital to give them a much needed break.
The voice my grandmother has in my head is the naggy one. Boy, did she know how to nag and complain. The legacy my father has left me, that voice in my head that is his, tells me I am never good enough. That I am selfish. I heard that almost every day as a teenager. It has shaped who I am and how I parented more so than any other ghost of my past. I am now at peace with this voice, however walking into a dimly lighted room where it sat was a different story. I have not been at peace with this entity mostly because I have never told him about the impact that he has had on me. I don’t have “daddy issues”, but I do have trust issues. This man drilled a voice into my head and shaped my own thoughts about myself for a large part of my life. The voice has been dim and I worried that seeing him again would amplify it. He told me I was ballsy for coming. Although I am always the one to put on a good face I told him I was, but I would probably cry the whole way home. I didn’t though. Being in that room with him that night I felt like I was with a stranger and I left feeling not numb….but…..nothing. I was void of any emotional ransom he had ever held over me. The ghost that had been hiding in a back corner of my mind had been freed. The dragon was slayed. The enemy vanquished.
I will probably go back and see him, not for any other reason but to ensure my niece and sister aren’t over-doing it and impacting their own health or sanity. As with the death of my grandmother and mother in law I am once again reminded how important it is to let those you love know how much you love them. Appreciate them. Build them up. Let them know just how amazing they are. Ensure that your voice in their head is a good one, a loving one, a pick up your damn socks for the fifth time one, and one that makes them feel worthy of all that they deserve.
Don’t be the ghost hiding in someone’s head waiting to be exorcised.
Be remembered as love.