“Did you know they were married this weekend?”
She asked with pain and anger in her eyes. It was Monday afternoon when Mariah and I went for a visit with one of our neighbors.
“Yes, you had mentioned last week that they were getting married this weekend, though I was not sure what day since I have not spoken with either of them in almost a year.”
I paused for a moments and then said,
“I know this sounds bad, but I am so sorry to hear that.”
A pain began to form in my chest. I looked at my neighbor and asked,
“Did the brides parents fly in for the wedding?”
Her head dropped and she looked down at her blanket as she responded with,
“No, actually none of the bride’s extended family attended, just her sons. It was such a sad situation. The groom kept changing the date so her parents could not book their plane tickets in time. Not just her parents, the groom also made sure that the date was changed so often that her brother and sister, and their families, were not able to attend as well. It was so heart breaking seeing the bride hurt like that. She wept almost the entire time.”
The bride was and is Old Man’s granddaughter. A granddaughter he said he loved and cherished, and in a way I think he did. She is a wonderful individual who was raised with little to no self-esteem. She admitted to my neighbor, before the wedding, that she had settled on this man. She did not feel she could do any better.
There was not much I could say, mainly because of the pain I was feeling. The conversation ended shortly thereafter, and we walked home.
I thought about the conversation most of the night. My heart was heavy and in a way I was angry, though I wasn’t sure why. By the following morning, though, I came to realize the source of my anger, and eventually the source of the heaviness in my heart.
I was angry with Old Man.
I know that sounds irrational because he died in 2010, but I was. Though I loved him deeply and unconditionally, I knew he had not been the father he needed to be. He not only failed himself; he failed his wife, his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had been, based on the stories that he had told me, and from watching him on daily bases, a very selfish, and at times, a verbally mean man.
I thought about the way he use to speak to his granddaughter, and the disparaging remarks he made to her concerning her weight, and her appearance. Remarks that he thought were funny, but she took to heart, and again I hurt and was angry. No wonder her self-esteem was so low. She just wanted to be loved unconditionally, and yet unconditional love was foreign to her. Not only was it foreign to her, it scared her.
As I thought about the bride, the wedding and all the pain surrounding it once again I began to appreciate the family that I came from. Not only the family I grew up in, but my extended family, and one person in particular, my grandmother.
Though we have issues, and traditions that others would find dysfunctional, I can say without reservation that if it were not for my grandmother, and the changes she made for herself and my mom, in her younger days, our lives would have been so much different. We could have been like Old Man and his family.
My grandma Sherod, who is no longer with us, was raised in the dirt-poor Ozark Mountains. Her parents were the definition of poor country folks. Not only were they poor, but to be quite honest by today’s standards, and yesterday’s standards, they were abusive parents. Yet, as a young divorcee’ she chose to change her life. She left the Ozark Mountains and settled in Neosho, Missouri. She developed an incredible work ethic and tried to parent her children in the best way possible. She chose, according to my mom, to walk away from her past and the wounds of her past so her children could have better lives.
Though she really did not know what she was doing, she was successful at turning her life and the lives of her children around, and her hard work paid off. Many of the abusive family traditions that she experienced and learned as a child were abandoned. Her children and grandchildren were given a new lease on life. In a way she drew the proverbial line in the sand. A line that said, “I will not continue to repeat the past.”
For that I will be forever grateful.
As I sit here this morning thinking about Old Man’s granddaughter I was reminded of the new years resolution she made in 2012. At that time she decided that she was tired of the way her life had been going. She wanted better for herself and her sons.
For a few months it looked like she was truly making positive strides. Yet, extended family fighting arose, the verbal insults began flying and she abandoned the changes. She retreated to what was known, what was familiar. All contact with her ended, and my heart hurt that time as well. I felt the same pain I am feeling today.
I know rationally there is nothing I can do about her pain and the choices she is making in life. I know there is nothing that can be done to reverse the pain she had endured down through the years, but still I hope. I hope the day will come when she will decide to change her life once and for all. I hope she can draw her line as well.
With that said,
“Thank you Grandma for being courageous enough to take the time to make life changes. Because of your hard work, and the changes you made you altered the course of future generations. Well done!”