“It’s not okay,” were the first and last words I gave Sierra, a courageous fellow author who asked me to sign her book. She’d read her essay poignantly and honestly. It was about rape by a friend, the ultimate betrayal. A girlfriend flew with her from far away to read, a healing and loving act. Both sisters in this violence of betrayal, we wept silently and hugged fiercely.
Sierra is twenty years younger than my daughter; she could be my granddaughter, yet we suffer the same pain. Part of me is jealous of her. There’s a friend at her side who is willing to share her pain, who is willing to stand up to the world and bear witness to her experience. In my day and age, there was no telling and sharing. Even with my mother, and no doubt Sierra’s, there was no help, no solace. Though I sought help from my mother and the parish priest; no one believed me. Recently a friend, who I’d told at the time, recounted their feeling.
They had no way, then, to understand.
For most of my life, I grieved at every protective act a mother took for her child because none had been taken for me. I had no personal experience of it, except to watch my mother with my brother.
That is, until my daughter was born, and I promised her all I could give, and that nothing would ever hurt her. Now she has two boys of her own. I did my best; but she certainly has had enough suffering, regrettably some from my own history. The worst was that her father demanded full custody after our divorce. He’d sworn to prove me an unfit mother, because I’d been an abused child. I knew he’d do anything to accomplish that no matter how untrue. Our culture was not on the side of abused woman. I was not going to allow my daughter to be kidnapped and emotionally ripped apart by a custody battle. I knew all too well the feeling from the way my father had ripped my small body and heart apart. I could keep her whole by letting her go.
Undoubtedly, we are closer because I knew where she was. Her father’s parents were good people and that’s where he took her.
In that way, I was able to stay as close as possible under the circumstances. When she went to college, she came to live with me.
Now we live close, we see each other often, and I enjoy my grandsons.
My grief included pain around motherhood, and for more than a decade simply being asked about having children brought anguish. It wasn’t accepted that kids, especially a daughter, would live with their fathers. Never mind that. I missed her terribly. Then comes another Mother’s Day, which is torture on wheels. Even my wonderful husband is perplexed as to what to do. Still, I immerse myself in a day of vigorous gardening to avoid the syrupy sentiments that go both up and down a generation making me uncomfortable.
Why then would I choose to write about this? Truly it is not for my own healing, that is accomplished, for the most part. Healing, for me, was a serious matter. I chose long ago to be happy. My daughter is now forty-four. We have good years to cherish, and we look forward to many more.
My father has passed away. The last time I saw him was a long, long time ago, some fifteen years before he died. At that time, he complained I hadn’t given him proper attention when he graduated with his Masters’ degree. Certainly, he wasn’t a great correspondent and I knew little of his life. That didn’t bother me. Yet, to my chagrin, he insisted on visiting me. This complaint topped it off. He’d not paid a dime for any of my degrees, nor even sent a congratulatory card. All of these demands continued. Such egocentrism after he’d treated me like his strumpet until I was strong enough to fight him off. That last visit, when I dropped him at the airport I said, “Don’t come back until you feel like being a father.” His response was, “What have I done to you lately?” This was the closest to an apology I’d ever get. Not a word came from him again! I was younger, then, than my daughter is now.
The situation for my mom couldn’t have been good. I have forgiven her and told her so, though she now denies the conversations we’ve had. “Nothing like that ever happened.” The exact response she gave the priest when he came to the house. It was no help at all. The best, for me, is minimal to no contact with my mother. It’s just too painful. Again, why do I write? It’s for Sierra and all of my other sisters.
I am happy and you can be too. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The kind talked about here are not yours. And that such violence happened to you is not okay. You owe yourself a happier way. What happened wasn’t your mistake; it was his. Find the path you want. Make a choice and don’t look back, except to realize you are strong, intelligent, and beautiful from the inside out.
Kathleen LaFrancis Eaton PhD has published essays, poetry, book chapters, and a gardening column. Her experience traverses the globe including; medical missionary work, intensive care and home health nursing, healthcare executive and consultant, Master Gardener, and Yoga Teacher.
She holds degrees from the University of Guam, SUNY, Pepperdine, and Michigan State University. Kathleen is currently writing a mystery novel. She lives in Tucson with her husband, Dave and Dr. Zeus, her toy Goldendoodle. kathleeneaton.net