The next generation: healing (family photo – Christmas 2016)
Friday 19th December 2008
Since last weekend, Steve has been the perfect boyfriend. When he’s like this, he reminds me of Small Child in lots of ways – he’s playful, loving, eager to please. It’s like I can see the child he could have been.
I know that I am partly the mother he never had because even though I try not to mother him at all any more, I’m a constant in a way his own mother wasn’t. This results in lots of guilt trips and ‘I’m not good enough’ speeches from him. He doesn’t notice that the other members of my family are exactly the same – we sometimes treat eachother horrendously, but we always forgive. He doesn’t understand this – and tries to make me ‘toughen up’, because ‘why do you keep on letting her hurt you? Just fuck her off.’ I suppose it’s because that’s what’s been done to him. At the risk of sounding like Peggy Mitchell, we believe that family sticks together and that we tolerate eachother even when we do the intolerable. A belief that maybe contributes to how I love other people, non-family, as well.
He also doesn’t understand that they all accept him too, because of that. Yes, they know what he did over summer (because I had no reason to hide the truth, not thinking we’d ever be back together), but they accept that, and that we are back together, and so they are fine with him. He can’t get past that – ‘they must hate me, they’re just hiding it,’ ‘they don’t want to talk to me,’ ‘your Dad’s trying to ignore me,’ ‘Kim’s only talking to me because I asked her for a fag.’ He won’t see that we’ve had enough crap in our family to know that people aren’t just their actions – that everyone makes mistakes.
This makes my family sound like paragons of virtue, but that’s far from the truth! My family is more ‘Shameless’ than ‘Waltons’. The truth is more like that it is very energy-consuming to hold a grudge, and none of us can be bothered. Forgiveness is a lot easier.
But I also know that this is leading up to a possible kick-off on Xmas Day, when they are all here. A ‘wander’ is probably the best I can expect from him!
But for now we are happy, and I hope we still have a merry christmas.
Wednesday 19th December 2018
So interesting to read this. There is a the elephant in the room that I completely ignored in what I wrote above.
My Mum didn’t do forgiveness unless it suited her. She could hold a grudge for a lifetime – and she did.
To be fair to her, she didn’t have a great life. Her Mum died when she was 6, and her Dad remarried during the war, and went to live with his new wife. They had a family of their own, and my mum and her sister were brought up by her grandparents. Her dad died before I was born, but his family all lived about 5 minutes walk from where we did. I didn’t find this out until over a decade after I had left home.
I had traced my family tree, and put it on Genes Reunited. I was contacted by a professional genealogist who wanted to know if my maternal grandfather was the same person who had married the mother of his client. He was. It was through him that I found out where they had been living: how for all those years we had had cousins living just down the road from us, and we had never met, or even known of their existence.
When I asked my Mum about why she hadn’t told us, she said ‘well, you never asked!’
And although she had dementia, she never forgot how she was ‘cheated’ out of ‘her inheritance’. Whenever I’d drive her past a particular house, she’d tell me the story of how it was ‘her’ house really because it had belonged to her Aunt and Uncle. They were childless, and she had been their favourite, but then her sister became pregnant. She didn’t want the baby, so their Aunt and Uncle adopted her – and of course left their house to her. Didn’t stop Mum feeling aggrieved enough to cut out another branch of the family, as though they never existed (until dementia made her blabby).
Mum ruled our family with moods, explosive temper tantrums, and silent treatment. The Silent Treatment could last for months – not even joking. If I hadn’t caught glandular fever in 1982 she might never have spoken to me again. But she loved a good illness.
I think I’ve mentioned before what I’d done – left a cake tin at someone’s house overnight.
Whereas we were all conditioned to forgive her without so much as an apology. No wonder we extrapolated that to everyone else.
It wasn’t her who was onto Steve though. He was right – my Dad was trying to ignore him. Dad knew what he was from the start, although he didn’t labour the point, and indeed never mentioned it when we were together. He knew a toxic person when he met one. After all, he married one.
The funny thing is, Christmas at Mum and Dad’s was almost always magical, and I have such happy memories. We’d all get together, Mum would spend all day in the kitchen, everyone would eat and drink and play games and dance, and it was such a happy time. Christmas would start when my older sister (along with her family, eventually) would arrive a few days beforehand, and would only end when they left, often after New Year. On Christmas morning, all the neighbours would come round for a drink and a dance. My Dad’s sister, Auntie Mary would arrive on Boxing Day and ask him if he still had all his own teeth. She’d get tipsy on sherry while Uncle Bob sat outside in his car, because he thought Dad had cheated her out of her inheritance (he hadn’t, Nan left everything to Barnardos). When we were older, me and my sisters would go outside, to talk to him and take him a mince pie, because we were drunk and thought it was funny. It was a sort of ‘make Bob laugh’ game that none of us could ever win.
By comparison, the family Christmas of 2008 was all set to be a fairly sedate affair. But sociopaths have an agenda, and me having a wonderful Christmas time was not on Steve’s.