In my comments section a couple of entries back, Stefani remarked: “You’ve come a long way in the last couple of years from when you and the girls weren't getting along so well.” Ain’t that the truth. We went through some extremely trying times. It was bad enough that I was really struggling to get by during the years of separation and divorce, but the girls made things even more difficult by treating me badly.
They were indifferent to my physical pain, even when I was suffering from the herniated disc and related sciatica. For the most part, they refused to help with the housework, and the little they did do, they did begrudgingly. I tried everything I could think of to get them to be more responsible, and even sought advice from professionals, but nothing worked.
Worst of all, they were cruel. So very cruel. That was when the thought of an empty nest was becoming increasingly appealing.
Then things changed. With Rebecca, the change was sudden. With Leigh, it was more gradual. I’m not talking about housework, because they’re both still slackers in that department. I’m referring to their attitudes towards me. Somehow, the close bond we had when they were little appears to have been restored, especially with Rebecca, who seems more open to letting me back in. And, apparently, she is open to being more honest with herself. I guess that comes with maturity.
Recently, Rebecca showed me two papers she wrote for school. One has already been graded and returned to her, and the other has just been handed in. The paper that was just handed in was a memoir of sorts. Rebecca chose to write about her father’s alcoholism. I cried when I read it. Here’s an excerpt:
“I didn’t understand until much later that his drinking was a problem. I blamed my mother. All of their fights: her fault. His crying: her fault. So it seemed obvious, his drinking: her fault. I saved my pity for my poor father. But now I know it wasn’t her; it was my dad.”
“His drunken moods are unpredictable. Sometimes you get lucky and he is goofy and fun. However, something small can trigger my father to erupt, and he goes on a rampage. When I was about eight or nine years old, my sister, who is one year younger, wasn’t asleep at her bedtime. After yelling at her for twenty minutes, he decided to come into my room, wake me up, and yell at me. Apparently, it was my fault Leigh was still awake, and, apparently, I was a horrible kid. Once he finally left, I locked myself in my tiny closet with a flashlight, notepad and pen. I wrote my parents a letter asking if I was really that bad of a child, and I made sure to soak the paper with my tears. I left the note on my mother’s computer table. She came upstairs immediately after reading it and told me that I was a great child, and that she loved me more than anything.”
It broke my heart when I found that note propped on my computer desk, and it broke my heart again when I was reminded of it while reading my daughter’s essay.
On a more uplifting note, Rebecca’s other paper, an assignment that required students to write a letter to James McBride, author of The Color of Water, earned her an A. At the top of the paper, her professor wrote: “I don’t think this could have been any better – an elegantly written and mature letter with terrific literary observations.” As I read the paper, I was surprised and moved when I got to this part: “The need for a child to protect his or her ‘mommy’ is something that I feel crosses all racial boundaries. My mother means everything to me, and I would do anything to keep her from harm.”
Wow. I might be in terrible pain, but I am also incredibly blessed. Blessed to have daughters and a husband who love and want to protect me, and friends like those of you that have left notes of concern and support. It really does help to know that people care. Thank you so much.
Song of the Day: God Bless the Child By Billie Holiday