Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Back Story

Like everyone else, I have a back story. Here's some of that story..........

When I graduated high school, I was headed for university. I had no idea where I was going, but I was going. Lucky for me, Mummy had a friend who was a former high school counselor and she was willing to help. Arlene encouraged me to consider schools in the US. There was no money laying around waiting to pay those bills, but Arlene suggested I get all the requisite books and look at school profiles anyway. I took her advice and after much reading and research, I hit upon a number of schools that looked good: Vassar College; Barnard College; George Washington University; New York University. I was accepted at VC, GWU and I think NYU. Barnard said "No thanks!"

There was plenty of joy at my acceptances but that was tempered by a whole lot of reality too as no one had offered me a penny. My mother, yes the same one I complain about, second mortgaged her house to pay the first year's fees and she made a verbal agreement with my father that he would pay for years two through four. Given that he'd barely contributed much to our education to that point, it seemed like a fair deal.

Well, to keep this simple: my father flaked out. He paid part of my first semester sophomore year fees but not all. He was also to apply for my permanent residence (the famed green card) so that I could apply for loans and such, but refused to do so. At the end of the first semester of my sophomore year, I had no choice but to withdraw from Vassar College. My mother couldn't pay and my father wouldn't/couldn't/didn't. Worse still than his failure to keep his word, he never apologized, never sought to explain, never sought to say what went wrong. His breaking of his promise changed me. I am not ashamed to say it. He took my dream and spat on it and in so doing, he changed me and the trajectory of my life.

When I left Poughkeepsie, I moved to DC and into his house. That was an experience. I lived on 13th Street NW, in a fabulous 3 storeyed row house.  There were 2 or 3 dobermans living up on the third floor, barred from coming downstairs I don't know how. I lived in mortal fear of them escaping and tearing me limb from limb. No joke. The dogs lived on the third floor, the mice and I lived on the second. The first floor comprised a sitting room that looked like a room that could be featured on an episode of Hoarders, a bathroom and Heaven only knows what else.

The house had no heat and was largely unfinished and unfurnished. It was a fixer-upper but no one was fixin' it up. I lived in something approaching squalor for 3 or 4 months, and again, I am not ashamed to say, it changed me. By the time I left there, I was deeply depressed and 30 pounds heavier than I had been when I arrived in this country.

Fast forward 25+ years. On Monday, my mother had a stroke and was hospitalized. Among all the calls we've had to make, we've had to call our biological father. This morning, he called us back and then called again, at around 10:00. He wanted to know where Mummy was and whether she's allowed visitors. "Is she recognizing anyone?" he asked, "Because," he went on to say, "she didn't recognize me in November." And then, and then, he wept. That I could be kind to him, that I could extend any kindness to this person, given our history and the real damage his failings did to me personally and professionally, is a sign that I'm evolving.

We are all broken in one way or another. If we are very lucky, we will find opportunities to be mended or to mend ourselves. If we have good sense, we find, we take the opportunities that life presents us to grow and be changed. Maybe with all that's been going on with Mummy, I've found my way to forgiving not just Mummy, but him as well? I make no promise to be better with everyone. There are a few people that I'm still a long way from forgiving but Lord willing, I'll get there.

These two people were broken people, just like the rest of us. They had hurts and in their emotional immaturity, they ended up hurting each other and their children. Not unusual. Maybe I've got to a place where I can see past their shortcomings to the person - the lost child? - inside and give them the love they need and deserve from me? I've no idea. All I know is, it feels pretty good to be able to be kind to someone who couldn't quite meet my needs. This doesn't feel like martyrdom, it feels like maturity and it's a pretty good feeling.




1 comment:

  1. Lisa.RichardsonMay 8, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    It's not just maturity but growth in Christ. The bible tells us Christ died for us while we were yet still ungodly!!That's the ultimate gift of love!! Expressing love to someone who either does not love us or who is ungodly is Christlike. We are to follow His example. This is a perfect example of you loving as Jesus does.

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