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The Creating and Keeping of a Child's Honor
I wanted to take my mother shopping. The problem was that I'd have to leave her in the car, and it was hot outside. I had to think about it. Should I leave her behind or have her tag along? It was a hard decision. Even if I left her behind, I would be thinking about her waiting for me. After considering my situation, I decided to go get her. Soon I'd be taking her to another state, and I'd never see her again. In essence, this was going to be our last shopping trip, and I wanted to remember it. I knew she would not be missing me after I left her behind, and I felt sad.
Why is it important to tell you about this? What kind of daughter was I to leave her in the car on that hot day? The war had ended, but the dust hadn't settled. I was battling myself about how I felt about Mother and our circumstances. Why the hesitation? What was it I needed to buy that was so important?
I needed a pretty box and flowers for Mother. You might think that would be reason enough not to take her, but she didn't care about the flowers; neither would she complain if I left her alone in the hot car. Why? Because the box was for her cremated remains, and the flowers were for her grave.
Even though this admission might seem to be crass and uncaring, that is not a reflection of my feelings at the time. I was trying to make decisions. They would either give me comfort over the years or haunt me until my dying day. I wanted everything to be perfect. Every decision needed to be honorable. After all, this was my mother, and I'd never be given a second chance at doing this in the right way.
My story will tell you why I wrestled with all these decisions. You see, Mother and I never had a close relationship. Really, I can't even describe what we had as a relationship. Yes, we were related, but that changed the first time she held me and said, "I hate you. I wish you were dead. I wish you were never born."
I don't consciously remember her saying that. It was her sister — my aunt — who related what she'd heard hundreds of times from the day I was born and years afterwards. Why believe my aunt? When I was fourteen, Mother and I had an argument. It ended when she said, "I hate you." From that day forward, when I felt upset, I would go to the nearest mirror and speak Mother's words to myself. I made her words my own.
I'm going to be as careful as possible as I tell my story. I want to do it in the most honorable way possible. Even though my memories are scant, I feel sorry for the girl, forgetting I am talking about myself.
One of the things I tried to do was keep my information honest and truthful. Everything I was told, even though it could be classified as hearsay or allegations, comprised the truth I built my story around. I don't see myself as a victim, because I survived. My experiences did put me in a position in which I wasn't able to be the best daughter, sister, granddaughter, student, wife, mother, grandmother, or friend I would like to have been. By the time I realized I had a story, I was still young enough to make changes to my thoughts and behaviors but almost too old to do the same for our sons and their children. Fortunately I was able to realize I still had a chance to help with what had trickled down into their lives. It was with passion I finally screamed, "Stop! This can't go on."
It is my mission to relate this in a way that will warn others not to pass on their own trickledown history. Even more, I want to help others become aware of how what they say or do to or around children stays with the children throughout their entire lives and is passed on for generations to follow. I hope my story makes you shake your head in disbelief or sickens you, because even now my past haunts me. My hope is that, by putting this story into book form and asking others to think about what happened, or what I firmly believe happened, they can realize how destructive behaviors and language can be to the most precious gift we can ever have — and that is our children.
How I Respected Mother's Honor While Keeping My Own
July 5, 2016
My mother passed today. She was ninety-seven. I was sure I was going to treat the day she passed like any other day, and life would go on as normal. The wave I'm riding now is different than I expected.
The problem is that I don't feel anything, but consciously I know that can't be true. She was my mother, and like it or not, the child in me recognizes this. My inner self doesn't care about her misbehavior, but the adult I am now has a problem with our relationship as mother and daughter.
What I have done before when someone has died has been just to forget about it. Now, with my new thoughts, language, and behavior, I've had to deal not only with the confusion and panic I felt my entire life, but I must find a sense of compassion, not only for myself but for the ones who committed acts against me.
At the time I wrote this I still had two hurdles to jump over. The first was to go to the care center to pick up her things, and the second was to retrieve her ashes from the funeral home.
Shortly before her passing, a nurse called from the care center to say that Mother would probably pass in only forty-eight hours. I tried to recognize the sadness I might or should feel as I said good-bye to the nurse.
I was aware that Mother was slipping away and felt ready. She was the last of my original family, so now I could close the door on our past, and that would be the end of my struggle. You're about to find out that life wasn't going to allow this, which meant I'd been lying to myself about how unaffected I was going to be.
Since I hadn't felt the need to blame her, I thought this would end my problems. The child in me didn't agree. My inner child sees her as both a protector and a tormentor. I am aware that Mother was also a victim, so how do I regulate my feelings toward someone who also had a trickledown past? It is similar to being blind and having a blind guide lead me into the brambles, then thinking the leader should have seen them coming.
On the evening of the call, I knew I needed to see her as often as possible before she passed. This event was something I needed to face, but I wasn't sure how I would react when the time came. This was a face-off between my past and present. If I did it correctly, I was positive I could accept everything the way it was, and then put it to rest along with her body.
When I entered the room, I saw how tiny and vulnerable Mother had become. Her eyes were open, but they were dull and blank. I went to her bed and took her hand. It was warm to the touch, but her fingers had a tinge of blue I hadn't seen before. This was a sign that her body was beginning to shut down.
Suddenly something inside me became filled with a warm essence of grace. I got on my knees so I could put my face close and look directly into hers. Mother's breathing was shallow and barely audible. I placed my hand on her side and felt the rising and falling of the blanket. Looking into her dull eyes, I began talking. As I did, her breathing became deeper, and I knew something in her was aware of my presence.
Over the past months I had seen her mind deteriorate. She always remembered her birthday. When I showed her a picture of her parents, she would say they were her mama and daddy. She couldn't remember their names, but she knew who they were. As for me, she had no idea who I was. First she said I was her mother, then her sister. I didn't feel upset because I knew this wasn't personal.
While I was there I caressed her hand and told her how hard her hands had worked. I mentioned the things I had seen her do as she struggled to keep our household together. I knew this wasn't the time to talk about anything other than positive things. The time for doing anything else had passed long ago, and I felt satisfied just letting it go. All I could do was listen to my internal spirit as I held her hand and talked about the dresses she had lovingly sewn for me to wear to school or for my own personal Easter parade. I thanked her for those things. The room seemed filled with warmth, love, and acceptance. I knew she was ready to be with Jesus and those who had gone before.
The next day I came again. This time I told her she would soon see Jesus, her sisters, her mama and daddy, her sons, my stepfather, and my father. I told her they were gathered waiting to usher her into heaven.
Mother constantly had prayed and talked about "going home to be with Jesus." Now she would soon be able to walk pain free as she left behind both me and the worn-out body that had carried her throughout her troubled lifetime.
I prayed with her, held her hand, and looked into her eyes. After I ended my prayer, she tried to speak. Even though I couldn't understand, I was sure she was trying to tell me she loved me. "Yes. I know you do," I said, "and I love you too." She tried three times with as much volume as she could muster to speak to me. Finally I left to get my family. I told her I'd be right back. I hadn't been home more than twenty minutes when someone from the care center called to say she had passed.
Several months earlier I'd made arrangements with the funeral home and with my uncle. I knew cremation would never have been her first choice, but I was going to take her ashes to another state, and this would be easier. I realized it wouldn't make any difference if I took a body or ashes to be buried as long as I did it in a respectful way.
My husband suggested I put both my father's last name as well as my stepfather's on the stone. My brother, who had died in 1956, was buried at the same cemetery and carried my father's name. This would enable others to see the connection between them as mother and son. I felt apprehensive when I went to the center to pick up her things. When our sons were little, my aunt gave my mother a sheepskin. Mother carefully cut out the words Joy in Jesus using red velvet ribbon. She put them on the skin and hung it above her fireplace. It was the first thing visitors saw when they came to see her. Later I hung the words in her room at the center so anyone coming knew where she had placed her heart and mind throughout her life. I also bought hot pink letters spelling her name and put them on the wall above her bed. It may have seemed silly, but I did it to humanize her. This made it clear to every visitor that people cared for her.
On the day she passed, we came into her room to see her body for the last time. Even though it felt sad to say good-bye, I knew it was a cause for celebration. She was now free to move on to that place she had longed to be so long ago. I kissed her still-warm forehead and told her spirit to go free.
You'd think that, after that experience, everything would be sadness, sunshine, and roses but it wasn't. I was happy for her freedom, but waves of emotion swept over me in a way I hadn't expected. I felt a sense of displaced anger slamming into me. It was hard retaining that feeling of grace and peace one minute and anger the next. I finally recognized that my sense of anger didn't need to be over analyzed. I just need to allow it to be part of the process I was going through.
When I came for her things, I talked with the woman who worked at the center who was always singing "Jesus Loves Me" with Mother. She told me she'd sat with Mother the night before. Shortly before her next shift someone sent her a text telling her, "Your little songbird has passed."
That reminded me of a memory from childhood. I was eight, and Mother had taken me to evening services at church. Half asleep, I lay my head against her chest as services came to a close and the congregation sang: "God be with you till we meet again." I remember hearing the words echoing in mother's body; I remember the sense of peace and joy I felt.
When I talked to the woman at the monument company about Mother's stone, she asked what I wanted put on it other than the normal things. I wasn't sure, and then suddenly the words the caretaker used came to mind, and I asked if they could put "Little Songbird." Thinking the story was sweet, she asked if I would like a small bird etched alongside those words, and I told her that was perfect.
So now when I think of Mother, I will remember her singing when I was eight and how only a few weeks before she passed she smiled as she sang her last song to me: "You Are My Sunshine." It is my hope that, when I am finished with my grief and Mother's ashes have been placed in her grave, I will be able to tell myself "well done" and be pleased with how I honored both my mother and myself.
July 27, 2016
Finding — Discovering — Then Becoming the Adult I Was Meant to Be
Traces of Pain
Traces of pain Run deep in our souls. When we dig it out It makes us whole.
An Overview into My Past
When I see the words trickle down, I first think about politics because that's where we've mostly heard the term used. At a second glance, I see something different. Before each child come parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth. There are some aspects of personality that can't be changed because they come from nature. Others come from our nurturing. That was what I built my life on. It was supposed to have been a solid rock, but unfortunately I found it was nothing more than shifting sand. It had been exhausting to pretend everything was all right. When I realized this was untrue and there was something wrong, I froze. Finally I had to remove the blindfold I had worn throughout my life; otherwise, I would crash into every wall and fall into every ditch set in place by my original family.
Another word to think about is perception. This book is about my sense of what was happening to me as a child, as well as what was happening around me. I filtered what was happening to me through my own experiences, my own lens, and then tried to make sense of it. My lens was distorted like a fun house mirror because my mind couldn't afford to see the truth. Everything was out of focus, giving me a constant sense of confusion and panic. That was the only way I could continue living — or not living — in my world.
Having a degree in psychology would have helped me to share my perceptions. It isn't that I didn't have the brains to become a psychologist, because my self-study happened over a twenty-eight year span of time. During this period I studied a great number of books, many of which were college texts. I could have worked for and received a PhD. But why? I'm standing too close to the mirror to have a clear vision of what happened to me as a child. Even with a degree, I could experience any unresolved issues beginning to surface. If this happened, there would be a chance for over identification.
When I began talking to counselors who worked in the field of rape and incest, I encountered the healthiest, most understanding, underrecognized professionals ever. Each seemed capable of hearing things that would make others throw up, and yet they were willing to wait as stories unfolded. I never found anyone trying to make comparisons. To this day I stand in awe of how well they do such a difficult job.
I'm not planning to tell who did what, because this information is unavailable to me. My story is about the impact the abuse of others had on me over the years. And it did not affect just me; it affected anyone who came in contact with me. This is where the term trickle down comes into play. The things people did to me followed me into every aspect of my life. It might appear to others that I was the only victim. Not true. Everyone I touched became a sideline victim. Explaining this is the goal of my book! I hope to show the impact that abuse had on me as a child and how it has stayed with me.
What was said or done to or around me stayed tightly intertwined in my life until I had to attempt to remove, repair, or lessen the damage. This is what my story is about — my valiant, focused, determined effort to regain and reshape my life so I could become more of what I was originally meant to be. I'll share what I've learned because I know I'm not alone. There are others just like me who are unaware of how what happened can be passed on.
What to Do
I don't know what to do.
That makes me quite this way.
I've tried and tried again My memories to regain,
I filled the voids with memories Of varied lengths and kinds So I could find the peace desired In this thing I called my mind.
In 1988 I was forty-six and knew I had choices I needed to make. If I was careful about the directions I followed, I was sure I could make serious alterations in my life. I'm thankful I didn't know how many years this was going to take, or I might have decided to leave well enough alone and do the best I could with what was left of my life.
Excerpted from "My Trickle-Down Childhood"
Copyright © 2017 Mary Davenport.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Creating and Keeping of a Childs Honor, 1,
Chapter 2: Finding — Discovering — Then Becoming the Adult I Was Meant to Be, 6,
Chapter 3: Taking a Personal Look into My Life, 74,
Chapter 4: Noisy Mind, Noisy Body, 134,
Chapter 5: Therapies, 204,
Chapter 6: Falling Back Through Time and Beyond, 255,
Chapter 7: Questions I Ask Myself Today, 262,
Chapter 8: The Rules I Abide By Today, 269,
About the Author, 273,