I have been unable or unwilling to add to this memoir blog lately, paralyzed by something, stalled and uncertain. What has it been? Fear? Restlessness? I had this feeling that I should move forward somehow, take some action, try something again. I contacted my mother’s son and commented that I had not been able to reach our mother. I had decided that her lack of email now, and lack of response to my written letter, had left me no choice but to let go. But then he responded with her phone number. Could I call her? After her silence, her continued absence from my life, her lack of any communication these last several years, could I just pick up the phone and call her? I decided to take the risk. It took me two weeks to finally make the call, but when I did she answered. We talked. We talked of the present and the past, just like that, we had an actual conversation. Through tears she told me again that she regretted not fighting back all those years ago when my father told her that she should let my sister and me go. I told her I did not blame her. Again, I gave her my complete forgiveness, my complete understanding. I reminded her that I knew she had planned to take us with her, but when my father found out he had thrown her out, forcefully. I reminded her that I knew all this.
She told me she was planning to visit her mother soon, this summer, in my state of Massachusetts. She would be making arrangements, though she wasn’t sure when, to fly here. I said I would meet her if she wanted. I would drive to her mother’s house and see them both. She sounded happy about this. We confirmed this is what we would do, before hanging up. She sounded sure she wanted this. So now I wait. There is always this doubt of course, of if she will retreat, not respond again, will change her mind. I know my presence in her life is like opening that would again, but it also has the potential to heal, even a little bit. I will be patient, but if I am not also persistent, our entire lives will pass by without seeing each other again. This I am sure of.
Father’s Day came with its familiar confliction, what to do, what to say. For better or worse, this is my father, has always been. Do I ignore him, leaving him curious as to my avoidance? Do I seek him out and treat him like a father? I ended up inviting him to our home, last minute and decided ahead I would live pleasantly with this choice, and not second guess myself. And then when he was here, I was reminded of how proud he is of me, and how his love, so inadequate, so flawed and crippling in the past, has transformed into something different. It is the love of a man for his long grown daughter, the one who has set boundaries and gained his respect, despite fumbling with telling him my truth.
A shift occurred within me. I watched my father talk, an old man weathered by time and softened somewhat by life. And it occurred to me that he had changed, at least somewhat. That he was not the bully he had been. Flawed and delusional perhaps, but not quite the same. Forty-five years separated the day my mother was left, or rather was torn from me, from today. Forty-five years! In this moment, on Father’s Day, I accepted my father as he was and at the same time knew with certainty that I would continue to tell my story. I knew I would not choose between mother or him. He could reject me if chose to, for writing my memoir, for seeing my mother, for saying this is what happened to me. I have two parents. I can be a daughter to my mother and to my father, in all those limitations, with the scars that are left, in all the messiness or depth or letting go that it requires. I can perhaps, just maybe, have both. I think that I am capable of forgiveness- radical forgiveness- and all the peace that comes with that.This moves me forward.
“Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed”. I am seven years old now, and I feel so small as I say these words. Why? I wonder. Why am I not worthy? What have I done? But my question lingers only for a moment, and then I continue to recite.
Daddy and Kate have gone away for the weekend and Memere is taking care of Amy and me so we’ve come to church with her. She holds her black rosary beads. She obeys, reciting the words, kneeling and standing and doing whatever she is supposed to do to get into heaven.
“Kelly! Come here!”
I walk into Memere’s bedroom where Amy is rummaging through her dresser drawers. Memere has stayed outside talking to a neighbor when we get back from church, so she doesn’t know what Amy is up to. Only I know that Amy is standing there holding up a handful of envelopes and two small, wrapped boxes.
“They’re cards and presents from Grandma Stockwell!” Amy whisper-yells, sounding both surprised and proud of herself for finding them.
Instantly I know that Daddy did not want us receiving these and Memere has obeyed him by hiding them.
I have nothing to say to Amy. “Oh wow”, is all I can muster. Then I sit on the bed while Amy looks at each envelope, addressed to the two of us, and she doesn’t dare open them. She puts them back in the drawer and we leave the room before Memere has come in the house.