Friday, March 09, 2007

Running the gauntlet

The past few weeks have been difficult, not just because of Dad's illness and death but because of my family. Once again, I am not looking for sympathy but a place to voice my thoughts and feelings.

When my father's obituary was published, my name wasn't on it as one of his children. Beanie called me and told me about it and said I was part of the family, but the evidence is clear. Friends and relatives called and emailed asking why I wasn't included. I cannot tell them why. I do know how obituaries work in the newspaper business. You call and give the information, answering questions, and they use their basic format to write it out and publish. The newspaper can only publish what it is given. My family didn't give them my name. I wasn't included and anything after the fact, like Beanie's call and apology to me, don't change the basic facts. I wasn't included.

There was a guest book for my father and one of my sons wrote in it that my parents, his grandparents, saved him and his brothers when I abandoned them, when I left them alone. It was a lie and one I didn't know had been told. I never left my children alone. They were taken crying and screaming from my arms but my mother has spent the last 25+ years telling the lie that I abandoned them and that is what my children believe. She had help. My ex-husband and his wife had good reason to perpetuate the story. After all, my ex-husband married the woman with whom he was having an affair when we were married. At least this is America and he couldn't marry all the women he had affairs with while we were married. He married the one who was the most tenacious and demanding. They're still married. She's not likely to let go of him now that she has him and I was glad to let him go. There is only so much pain and degradation a person can take and I had had my fill.

I called my mother the day of my father's funeral, after I read what my son wrote, and asked her why she lied about me and about what really happened. She responded by hanging up. It took me a few days to decide what to do and Wednesday, two days after my father's funeral, I wrote her. I wanted a record of what I said, one that she couldn't misquote or lie about, proof of what I wanted. I told her that until she tells the truth and gives me back my name and my honor, I do not want to see or hear from her. I will not answer her phone calls or her letters. She cannot buy me with money or things, only with the truth.

My father knew the truth but he had to live with her, he said, and she would have made his life a worse living hell so he kept silent. Dad said she was crazy and that when she decided to do something she was unstoppable. He was right. She is crazy and she's a liar, but he should have told the truth no matter the cost. He didn't and now he's gone.

Some of my friends and family who knew what really happened have contacted me because of what my son wrote and because I was not included in Dad's obituary. They told me they always knew how my mother treated me and there was nothing they could do. They told me stories of what my mother had done to me, things I have faced my mother with, things my mother claimed were delusions and the reason I should be locked up. It all brings to mind a conversation my mother and I had years ago. She told me she has never liked me but she raised me out of duty, that she hated me. Dad was shocked, his jaw nearly hitting the floor. My response was probably a little bit crazy. I laughed. I finally had proof of what I had always suspected, that she hated me. I knew the truth because of how she had always treated me, even to the point that strangers would ask me why. I always gave them the same answer: "You'll have to ask her."

The problem is that whether or not my mother tells the truth, it won't restore my name or my honor. There is no system of justice or field of battle where I can be vindicated. The lies my mother has told over the years have cost me nearly everything and have permanently branded me. My youngest son now questions what he has believed most of his life. He has a choice. He can believe what he has always believed--that I abandoned him and his brothers and they were rescued by my parents--or he can believe the truth. If he believes the truth, his whole life is a lie, everything he knows is a lie, and he has to live with the knowledge that people he trusted deliberately hurt him and me. Or he can believe the lie and keep blaming and hating me, one person, someone who he barely knows. I already know what he will do. He will choose the lie because to do otherwise will turn his world inside out. I understand and I can forgive him. I can even forgive my mother for what she has done because a scorpion after all is always going to be a scorpion. However, I don't have to welcome the scorpion onto my back or into my home--and I never will again.

No, I will never get back my name or my honor and now I have cast down the gauntlet and no longer have a family once the letter reaches my mother and she tells the rest of the family. It isn't as though I haven't always been alone, but I always held onto the hope that one day my family would recognize the truth and make things right. Now I know that isn't going to happen.

We cannot choose the family into which we are born. I certainly didn't. I was a newborn baby who was passed from one mother to another. One thing I do have is a family of friends who know me and care about me. I have had proof of that during all of this. It's nice to know there are some people who see me as I am and never believed the lies because they saw and heard the truth. It has to be enough.