Who we really are

Who are we, really?

I watched an episode of ‘Once Upon a Time‘ last night, and there was a part that struck a chord with me. One of the characters is told that she will see something only when she accepts who she truly is. After some deep discussion with a friend, she admits that she is an orphan, even though she has met her family.

Once Upon a Time (TV series)

Once Upon a Time (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She realizes that even though she isn’t the same person she was before, even though she is an adult with a respectable job and house, even though she has met the rest of her family, she is still the same lost little girl that she was long ago. She is still an orphan. Sometimes those big, defining things don’t just go away.

Even when we try to move past things, sometimes they linger. Even when we aren’t the same person we were before, that doesn’t change what happened before. No matter what we think we know about ourselves, there can still be scars or wounds from before.

It struck a chord with me because it pointed out something I’d been denying for a while. I never really dealt with the death of my Mother. I thought I did. I told people that I did. I wanted to be done with it. What I  never actually did was deal with it.

I covered the wound with bandages. I kept changing them until it stopped hurting. I told everyone it was better. I never stopped to check and see if the wound was infected. I just assumed it was fine.

As a child, I think that I never knew what to say, or who to say it to. I ‘got over it’ quickly, because I didn’t know how to be appropriately sad. I figured if I didn’t know how to grieve properly, I should just not do it. I should be a little sad that everything changed, (I mean everything,) and I should be sad that  I didn’t have my Mom that I loved very much anymore. I didn’t know how to process those huge feelings.

I’m sure there are things that this affects, but I don’t really know what they are yet. I’m just beginning to notice that there are things about that time in my life that never really got addressed or solved. I was 9, and I didn’t want to be sad about it all, so I just kind of stopped being sad. I’m only now, 19 years later, realizing how bad I screwed that up. I can’t say I should have known better, because I was a child, but I can say that I now realize that I didn’t do all the things I needed to to come to terms with all that happened.

The trouble for me now is, that I don’t really know what to do with this new information. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about how I handled things 19 years ago. Especially when it’s not as if I wronged someone, I just didn’t properly handle my own emotions. So at some point, I’ll need to figure out what to do about it all.

For now, I’ll just be content that I finally realized that I didn’t do it right. I’ll have to worry about the rest later.

A little sad about the things that will never be.

I was just telling you about my valiant garage cleaning attempt from yesterday. Part of what I was doing was going through some


Photograph (Photo credit: http://www.robertorey.es)

photographs from my Mother’s side of the family. I’ve mentioned before that my Mother died when I was 9. I’m still trying to deal with that a lot of days. My Grandmother was moving, and had a lot of extra family photos that she wanted to give me the pick of.

I was pretty conflicted about a lot of these pictures. I really wanted to have some of them. I wanted to have the photos and the memories. I wanted the photos of different times in my family’s lives. I wanted some photos of a “happier” time in my life. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time staring at pictures of my Mother, who died when I was 9, hooked up to machines in a hospital. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking at pictures of my Grandfather, who died when I was 19, at home in pain from bone cancer. I definitely didn’t want to spend any time looking  at pictures of my step-father, who is still alive and I wish he wasn’t, for so many reasons I can’t get into them now. I’ll share later, I promise.

I managed the sorting and choosing portion pretty well. I took some, left others. I tried to not end up with doubles or very similar ones. I also noticed that my Grandparents got A LOT of portraits taken. I did alright though. I wasn’t too sad or too angry. I ended up with some nice photos. I took them all home in their frames, to protect them. I figured I’d just throw the frames away later. This is what I had to go through in my own garage. I needed to take them out of their protective frames and take them inside. This was the part that got hard.

My family has always kept a relatively accurate photographic archive. Most of the photos are portrait type shots, and they take them every few years or so. That means that through the course of my 28 years, I have seen photos from every hairstyle and fashion fad. I’m not unfamiliar with pictures of my Mother from high school, or myself in questionable attire. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sadness.

When my Mother died, I wasn’t quite old enough to understand. I have enough memories to miss her, but I wasn’t old enough to know what had happened until later. I understood that she wasn’t around anymore, that it was sad, and that she wouldn’t be able to come back. It wasn’t until much later that I began to understand what it means for someone to have died. I only now understand what it means that someone, especially my Mother, died while I was still in elementary school.

When my Grandfather died, I knew what it all was going to mean. I was as alright as I was going to be with his death when it happened. My Grandfather was a vibrant and vigorous  man. He was sweet and he was passionate about so many things. When he got bone cancer, we first thought it would be easier for him than others. He would never show his hurt and he would be the same lively and dignified man as always. The cancer destroyed him. He hurt so much and only showed us a little bit. He wasn’t able to get up and do things like before. He was sad and tired and he was never sad and tired. I was so happy  for him when he passed away quietly at home, because he was in pain and because he was not my Grandfather. He was not, at that time, the man everyone knew and loved. I refuse to remember him that way.

I wasn’t prepared for how all of those photos would force me to feel. Make no mistake, they forced it upon me. They forced me to remember how pretty my Mother was. They made me see the happiness in her eyes. They captured my eyes with my Grandfather’s handsomeness. They took my will to look away from his lively eyes and smile. They gave me no option to escape my step-father’s false mask. They refused my attempts to forget that he was alive.

As I took all of those photos out of their frames and gathered them to keep safe inside, I had no choice but tho remember how happy we had been before our world came unglued. I won’t say that my life was better before. I am everything that I am because of the sum total of my life. I was happy before it all began to tear at the seams. I was less happy after my Mother died. Anyone would be.

What I had been avoiding thinking about and couldn’t avoid yesterday was how that all applies to my life from here on out. Those people I love and respect so much will never get to see what kind of a man I turn into. I’m a man now, but I know I’m not finished becoming what I will be. They will never get to see how it happened or what it will be. They will never get to see me have children. They won’t get to see what they become. That’s what makes me the saddest. 

One of these days I’ll come to terms with that. I’ll be able to accept that that is the way it has to be. I think what will help is knowing who WILL get to see those things happen. My still living parents and grandparents. They are the ones that will have to be loving and proud to my future children. 

I suppose eventually I will be able to get past it all. It seems that sometimes the only way to truly be able to be okay with something like this is to look back and realize you’ve been okay with it for awhile now. Seeing that you’ve made that peace in hindsight is sometimes the only way it can truly come into focus. 

Until then, I’ll just have to not be scared to think of when it hadn’t begun to crack yet. I will have to accept that thinking about that will make me sad. Sometimes, I will just have to be sad.

Sad Story

Possibly sad fiction incoming.

EDIT: Definitely sad fiction incoming. You’ve been warned.

I was trying to focus on my silent reading when the secretary came in and started talking to my teacher. I thought it was odd, because normally Mrs. Atkins doesn’t deliver messages to classrooms herself. There’s usually some sort of office aide that helps with that. I knew it had to be important. I hoped it wasn’t about me.

I knew what it meant when Ms. Hollis came over to my desk. She was forcing a smile, but there were tears in her eyes. I had seen that look a lot lately. I din’t want to think about it, so I just listened and nodded when she told me that my Dad was there to pick me up. I picked up all my books and I followed Mrs. Atkins out of the room. She let me lead the way to my locker to get my backpack. I didn’t have a coat, it was practically summer.

Dad was waiting in the office. He took my back pack and thanked the secretary. She looked like she might be about to cry too. I followed Dad out to the truck. He put my backpack in the backseat, and he let me sit up front. I never got to sit up front.

As we pulled away, Dad told me where we were going. I already knew, but it was easier for both of us to talk about it like it was all a surprise. Dad didn’t seem to be upset, but then he never seemed upset; unless you did something to make him really mad. I had only seen him that way once, when Mom wrecked the car.

We got to the hospital quickly. There wasn’t any traffic on a Thursday afternoon. We went straight up to the fourth floor. All the nurses gave me the same forced smile that my teacher had. I appreciated that they were smiling, but it was weird knowing how hard they had to try. Mom and Grandma and Uncle Tim were all in the family lounge on the fourth floor. Mom and grandma started to cry when we got there. Uncle Tim just put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. At least he didn’t force that smile.

After Mom and Grandma stopped crying, we went down the hall to Grandpa’s room. All the machines were hissing and beeping and whirring, just like the last time I had been here. Grandpa still wasn’t moving, just like the last time I was here. A couple of weeks ago, he was able to look around after the bed was moved up, but he didn’t seem to recognize us. He wasn’t scared or anything, he just didn’t seem to notice we were there. a couple weeks before that he couldn’t talk, but he would nod while we were talking and squeeze our hands.

Mom and Grandma were crying again, and Uncle Tim was talking with Dad. Just stuff about work, nothing important. I think it made it easier on him. He sat down in the chair when the Doctor came in. The Doctor talked to Dad for a little bit, but none of what he said seemed to matter much. It seemed like they were just confirming things that they had already decided.

They asked me if I wanted to leave and I told them no. I don’t really know why, there wasn’t anything for me to do. I just didn’t feel like standing in the hall by myself when they did it. I did go stand in the corner. There were nurses and the Doctor. They did something and the machines made different noises. Mom and Grandma really started crying hard. They had Dad do the last thing. Uncle Time kind of just left. Dad herded me out and went back in for Mom and Grandma.

He was holding their hands when they came out. They were still crying pretty loud. We all went downstairs, and got in our separate cars and went home. We didn’t stay there long, Mom and Dad got some things and we went over to Grandma’s. We were going to be staying awhile.

There were a lot of people in and out of Grandma’s house the next couple of days. Lots of people were hugging and crying. Dad ran a lot of errands for everyone. I went with him most of the time, because I didn’t know what to do just sitting at Grandma’s. Lots of people were asking if I was ok, sometimes they didn’t even ask me. Sometimes they asked Mom or Dad and they always said how well I was doing. I never cried.

Man and Children Page 565

Man and Children Page 565 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew what had happened, but I didn’t understand. I knew I would never see Grandpa again, but never is too big an idea for a 10-year old to comprehend. So I just sat. I helped when people needed my help, and I went wherever we had to go. Grandpa was gone and that meant everything would change.

I spent a lot of time at Grandma and Grandpa’s. mom and Dad worked different shifts and it was easier to have Grandma and Grandpa watch me. I didn’t know what would change but I knew it all would.

The funeral was weird. I liked all the nice things they were saying, but I didn’t understand why we had to do all of it. I just wanted to try to go back to normal. IT wouldn’t be normal without Grandpa, but it would be whatever the new normal was going to be.

After we went home, lots of people came over and there was a lot of food. We had food and people the whole rest of the day. Near the end when people were packing things up, I went to find Dad. I hadn’t seen him in awhile, and he was the only one not acting weird.

I found him in the back bedroom. He was sitting in Grandpa’s old chair. He didn’t have any lights on, but the radio was playing. When I knocked on the door frame, he waved me in. I could see in the light from the hall that he was crying. I climbed up in his lap, and he hugged me. I finally started crying too.