What I know

After my grandmother had died, my aunt called me to tell me that she had told my sister something important. She said that I should call her. It was about Christmas time, and I was going to spend it with my sister in San Francisco. So I waited until we were in the taxi out of the airport to ask her what my aunt had been talking about. 

She nonchalantly said, “Oh yeah, mom was s&xually abus&d.”

“By who?” I asked. 

“Her brother.” 

I was getting annoyed with my sister, because this was pretty important information, and she was treating it like it was regular family gossip. I prodded her for more, but she didn’t know anything and I let it drop. 

I have to say, I almost immediately felt a sense of relief, which is probably a surprise to you. Why? Because this news answered so many questions about my mom. 

My mother was a really intense woman. She had what could only be described as temper tantrums on a daily basis. She would scream and cry, throw things and end up in hysterics. She did this every day. 

She was also very religious. She was particularly enthusiastic about chastity. My sister used to say that she got the impression that it would be better to kill someone than to have s&x. 

She was constantly in battle with a s&xualized culture. We weren’t allowed to watch tv shows or listen to music with s&xual content. Unfortunately, we grew up in the 70s so my mom had her work cut out for her. 

Now, looking back on it, I realize that to my mom, s&x was something hurtful and abusive. As crazy as her actions were, in her own way, she was trying to protect us. She naively thought religion and her own energetic efforts would keep us innocent, and in her mind, safe.

I also think it is why she was so against feminism. Her own mother worked. I really believe grandma worked because they had so many kids, and were living off a miner’s salary. But in my mother’s mind, my grandmother was selfish. In retrospect, I wonder if my mother thought that if my grandma had been at home, maybe the abuse wouldn’t have happened. Maybe she thought grandma could protect her if she didn’t work. Again, this would be a little naïve on my mother’s part. 

The most important question it answered for me was why my mom allowed herself to be abused by my father. My father was a very violent man, and I never understood why she subjected us and herself to his abuse. I was really angry at my mom for a long time about this. But knowing what I know now about her past, I have more compassion for her.

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3 thoughts on “What I know

  1. That’s the thing, once you know, it changes everything. You have a reason for all the craziness. It doesn’t excuse it, but it explains it. The best thing is if the next generation can stop all of that abuse in its tracks and raise their kids well. It sounds as if you and other friends of mine with that kind of history have turned things around!

  2. I agree with Rhea. Now that you have “reason” for her behaviors, it must help with bringing closure to some questions you had.

    And she’s right, once we start talking about it outloud, we gain knowledge so the abuse won’t be repeated.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. “The most important question it answered for me was why my mom allowed herself to be abused by my father. My father was a very violent man, and I never understood why she subjected us and herself to his abuse. I was really angry at my mom for a long time about this. But knowing what I know now about her past, I have more compassion for her.”

    Hmmm…
    I came to a similar realization about my mother and my father’s abuse of her when I entered and then came screaming out of a relationship that was horribly abusive, not with a man, but with a woman whose children I loved and took care of until I literally backed away from her (and sadly from them) after three years of complete and utter horrific insanity. She was also an abuse survivor and could not see far enough into it to do more than recreate all that she had experienced. She still looks at me with hatred for having “abandoned” her.

    Thinking about my mother, I understand how easy it can be to relate to a person as a human being deserving of care, as someone who has a wounded child tender side. It’s quite easy for someone who hasn’t been properly parented, loved by family, to end up in emotionally manipulative and downright abusive relationships where they stay longer than they should.

    This is not choice, this is programming.

    I struggle to forgive my mama, but for doing that odd hetero woman thing: I don’t want to alienate my kids from their father. So, I’ll let him, abusive tendencies intact, spend time with them.

    I was raised by my father. He raged and withdrew and raged and withdrew. He was a complete authoritarian patriarch. He only loved conditionally. He was not present. I raised myself past the age of 12.

    I look back and saw my mother in flight from horror. She created a new family and regulated us, the children from her first marriage, to orbital, second rate status.

    She created a “perfect” family that was perfect only in her mind. I think her present husband is an alcoholic, my half sister came out and they ignored her and give her disincentives until she started going out with men again.

    As in most other parts of my life/world, I’m the person who speaks and writes about the shit that others attempt to obscure.

    My parents who have been divorced for more than thirty years, interestingly enough ally with each other in their shared hatred of my ability to speak and see and resist.

    whoo-HOO!

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