The Big C-cret... and the answer to a 25 year old question

With last week being "family week" I was forced to face a few conundrums of my childhood. One of the biggest themes is keeping family secrets. My philosophy as a parent is that I don't tolerate lies or secrets. I don't care what my kids are doing, I want to know. For better or for worse. We all have little secrets. I'm talking about bigger things.

My mother was a wonderful woman, whom I've praised on this blog many times, but both she and her other family members were great at keeping secrets.

My Mom looks like C. Florida, ca. 1935.
Last year, for example, I found out that my cousin had 2 sons. These are half brothers of DC, whom I met last week. Another "a-ha moment" was hearing that stories I'd learned about my uncle simply weren't true. I also heard "the other side" of a few stories that I didn't know before. Mostly they weren't my business: divorce, money, he-said-she-saids from the Reagan era. Baggage we all carry to varying degrees.

But the biggest secret was one my mother made me keep. My brother's cancer. I guess I blogged about this before.  The reason I bring this up now, is that in 1985 when my father and mother went to visit my sick brother, my sister, grandmother and I spent three weeks in Colorado with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin. This Aunt visited us on Sunday and it was the first time I'd seen her since his death. (Her child, EC has also died since then). When we stayed with them that beautiful June, my sister and I were under strict orders not to spill the beans about D. Even my grandmother, who lived about a mile away and whom we saw several times a week, didn't know, and wasn't to know. My Aunt didn't realize that when we were in Colorado that both my sister and I knew that D was sick. When he died that December, it was a complete shock to the entire family, the Colorado clan included. She said now that she understand better why we were so emotional (were we? I don't remember that!). Then again, she never lived with teenage daughters... :-)

Did my Mom ever, even for a minute, realize that by asking us to keep such a huge secret that she really was placing a burden upon us? Something I would still grapple with 25 years after his death?

Today I am thinking about this in a very different manner. I wonder if I ask my children to do that I shouldn't? What burdens am I placing upon them? Are my expectations too high or too low for their general success as people? When I yell at my daughter for doing something stupid, is it really misplaced emotions? And how can I know what is best, or change my ways if they really are harmful?

It's easy to identify good parenting practices and bad mothering from the outside. It's much harder when you are in the thick of it. What will C & N grapple with my parenting in 2035? In 2075? Will they know that I love them unconditionally, and hope that I will never ask them to do something that causes them life-long confusion or regrets?

Now that I've seen this Aunt after 25 years, hopefully I can actively forgive my Mom. My Aunt certainly forgave me for not telling her when I could have. How much easier would my life have been if I spilled the beans to this Aunt (or any relative)? My Mother may never have forgiven me, had I not obeyed her. Yet now I wonder, spending the day with wonderful, warm, loving Linda... why didn't I confide in her when she could have been such a source of comfort?

I hope that my children have plenty of Lindas in their life. Adults whom go to when they can't open up to me. I guess that's my answer - make sure that even if I completely mess everything up - ensure they have people whom they can trust.

It's time to forgive my mother for her huge parenting mistakes. But more than forgiving someone who has been dead more than 9 years, I need to forgive myself! And I need to teach my kids- by example AND by word - how to forgive.

Thank you, Aunt Linda for forcing me to take yet another look at my life, by seeing how well you are living yours. You radiate love.

You always have.

And I hope just being with you I caught a few rays to share with the people in my world.


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