by Jennifer on January 23, 2009

In my dream, I’m running. In my dream, I like to run. In my dream, my chest doesn’t burn and my legs don’t ache. I can take deep full breaths and long strides. My feet are sure as they land, and quick, too. It must be late fall, because the forest floor is thick with leaves and the trees are bare. I’m running in a dry creekbed, up a gradual slope, over stones that may as well have been feathers since I never stumble over even one of them.

I seem to make the effort for its own sake, for the feel of the ground passing beneath me, solid. For the feel of the air, cool on my skin. In the dream, I’m not running from something or toward anything. There’s nothing chasing me, and I’m not chasing anything. And that’s the feeling I’d like to carry in my hands, like a small bird, when I pass from sleep to consciousness.

I want to hold on to that assurance that the past isn’t some shape-shifting apparition behind me, and that that I’m not exhausting myself just to go after something I will never find. Answers or a mea culpa, or relationships that feel like an endless basket of clothes that need mending.

My father finally called a couple of nights ago, and I can’t say we really got very far. The conversation had a big moment or two, though.

Like his revelation that he forced my mother to leave, that one day he told her to decide what she wanted to take with her because she wasn’t going to be living there anymore.

He had his reasons. Maybe good ones, even, though I don’t feel the need to be specific here.* But his admission counters what I have always believed – what I was led to believe – which was that she left on her own. I always thought that she decided that she couldn’t be part of our family or be married to my father anymore and just left.

After she moved out, there wasn’t much either one of them did right, so I’m not granting a pardon here. (She left the state not long after she moved out. He married my stepmother.) But it still changes a fundamental belief I always had about what happened. To me, there’s a difference between her deciding one day to leave, or being forced to go.

He admitted that she wouldn’t have left on her own, at least not then. Who’s to say what might have happened later on. I’m keeping my sympathy for her in check, because no one did the right thing at any point, not the way I see it. But I do feel like I can ease up on this one, this one thing I’ve judged so harshly. I’m not sure why she never told me this part of the story. If she did, and I forgot it, I honestly feel bad about that.

Because there’s a difference between “I’ve had it. I’m leaving” and “I’ve had it. You’re leaving.”

There just is.

Thinking about it, in the light of day, I want to go back a few hours to when I was asleep and dreaming. When I was running. When I was moving forward, not back. When I wasn’t tripping over stones in my way, over a lie or the truth. When the ground beneath me felt solid and sure.


*(You can make your own guesses. For all my bravado earlier this week and my claim that I wouldn’t change what I write here just because I know that my father or mother might read it, I’m finding that’s not as easy as I made it sound.)


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Indigo January 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

Never easy dear friend, however it’s a necessary evil to once again have the stones in your dreams feel like feathers. You need to know, feel free to express yourself on all levels. Your parents in time will see how you had to deal with things growing up, the thoughts it left you with, the person you’ve become.

Paul once gave his uncle the link to my journal. I was furious, angry to say the least. There was alot in those pages his family didn’t know about me. As it was the last entry I had posted before he gave the link out, was about my rape. In that entry I didn’t pull any punches. It was as raw, painful, ugly as the incident itself. Later when he asked his uncle what he thought, he couldn’t look at me. It was on a level he never thought he would see me.

What did I do, I kept unlocking those doors inside of me. Finding new keys to differrent locks…I kept writing with the same intensity. Why? because the rest didn’t matter anymore. In the end it was for me, no one else. My readers often comment how they wish they could expose themselves so candidly….It comes with a price, the rewards are yours alone. (Hugs)Indigo

JCK January 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I wish I could swear on your blog, but I can’t…because it is your blog. But, I will say that this is really f*cked up. And I say this, because I am angry for you – the little girl who was left. Can I just say again how much I admire your tenacity and growth as a human being, and your beautiful mothering. The writing, well…I feel as if I’m running beside you. And, I’m not a runner.

I will subscribe, of course.

Jenn @ Juggling Life January 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

What a shift in your world view. It will take some time to digest.

You’re showing up in GoogleReader just fine.

Em January 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I’m so very glad he called.

I’m thinking of you.

Louise January 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I have no response to this. I probably do, and it will probably come out as I type, but we have already talked about it, and it seems there is nothing I can say here…

Maybe your mother doesn’t remember. From all her previous behavior, I do not see her withholding such information for the protection of anyone; she only protects herself.

As for your father, it hurts me for your sake that he is unwilling to admit to himself and you that he was wrong– that your childhood was almost completely destroyed, and he had a part in it. It hurts me that he doesn’t recognize what you have become in spite of all of that and acknowledge it and show love and pride in it. It hurts me that like the many of the rest of the family from where I came and you endured, he wants everything to be “just fine,” but on his terms. In the end, it’s his loss, but I know much damage has been done to you and continues to be. I know you’ll come out ahead, but so much mental agony… for what? It hurts me.

Coco January 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I can guess.

The fact of the matter is, whether she did tell you or not, and whether he meant well or had his reasons and they were veen possibly good reasons…as you said, neither of them really did the right thing afterward anyway. And now as time drifts on and their memories tend to want to take the soft-focus version of things as the gospel truth, you’re still dealing with the fallout of them, your parents, the people who were supposed to protect you, making the disastrously wrong choices over and over.

It would just be nice if one or both of them could just say “I made a bad choice/series of choices and I know you were hurt. I’m sorry.”

I hope I can carry this lesson with me, as a mother.

I’m thinking of you, Jennifer dear.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 January 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Oh Jennifer!
I want to give you a big hug! You have been through so much and have come through so strong.
These events, I believe, have made you that much of a better mother.

jenrantsraves January 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I honestly don’t know what to say. There are no words to make it better, though I am sure there are words you wish both of them would say. I’m sending you hugs and warm thoughts. Can you feel them?

V-Grrrl January 23, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Not running from or running toward anything.

Your dream. Not your mother’s reality.

I sometimes wonder what the “nice” way is to end a marriage. If people go their separate ways on great terms, doubts may surface later over whether the separation or divorce was really necessary. Maybe it might have worked out afterall.

The flip side is that if you stick with it, work on it, and hang in there until the situation is truly unbearable for one or both parties, the split is not going to be amicable, there’s going to be resentment, a sense of wasted time and energy. Bitterness.

I’ve known people who had the traumatic, hard splits and those who have had gentle ones and neither of them finds it easy to make peace with their choices, their lives. It seems a failed marriage is always painful, no matter how it ends. Yes, like that unending basket of laundry that never gets mended…

Jennifer Harvey January 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm

V – The reason it’s startling to hear a different version after all this time is really only because my mother’s leaving was held up over the years as proof that she didn’t love us. Beyond that, I don’t care whose version gets told. They all have the same ending. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Emily R January 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm

it takes a brave woman to be willing to revise her opinion on history.

Suzanne January 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm

This must make things feel turned inside out. And will take some time to process this different perspective on the past events. Just don’t forget how far you’ve come.

flutter January 24, 2009 at 12:06 am

The way I see it, the only person you need to forgive is you.

anymommy January 24, 2009 at 2:07 am

Considering the things you’ve chosen to share, you have a huge heart to even consider revisiting the past and thinking about it from another’s perspective. Let yourself take your time, I don’t think I could do it at all.

Ducky January 24, 2009 at 7:04 am

I liked “Your writing is coming along.”

Ducky – He said, “Continues to improve.” 🙂

Tasses January 24, 2009 at 10:13 am

I’ve been a lurker around these parts for some time, but today’s post has me delurking for two reasons:

1. I understand the difficulty one has in being completely honest on a page – be it cyberpage or pulpy one. I’ve yet to overcome this.

2. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how we perceive our parents and how we are perceived by our children. One of the reasons I have such difficulty with transparency in my own writing is the hesitation to fall from grace in my children’s eyes. Perhaps this is a mistake.

Madge January 24, 2009 at 10:47 am

i admire you so very much as i watch you navigate through all this.

Jessica January 25, 2009 at 12:16 am

There is a difference b/w forcing and choosing. Thanks for visiting my blog, it is a pleasure to meet you.

V-Grrrl January 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Oh Jennifer, I can’t imagine being told all those years that your mother left because she didn’t love you.

What a monstrous thing to say, what a cruel myth to perpetuate.

I can’t fathom the depth of that hurt…

david mcmahon January 25, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Can I simply say that we, your readers, care deeply.

the mama bird diaries January 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I am so sorry that your past is so difficult.

Your blog looks good. Did you do a little rearranging?

Stacie January 25, 2009 at 8:27 pm

You write so beautifully! I just want to wrap up that little girl that was you and take her home with me. Not before giving your parents a huge ration of you know what!

Bruce January 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm

This was an exceptionally good read. Very well written and engrossing. Subtle in it’s tone, but it speak far more than the sum of the words. Well done…..don’t change a thing, regardless of who reads it.

Kimberly January 26, 2009 at 7:40 pm

You have such a gift with words.

I’m glad he called, but sorry he dropped this on you. Thinking of you . . .

Fat frumpy and fifty January 27, 2009 at 2:16 am

Oh gosh!!! Like Louise, I really not sure what to say or if I can say anything without upsetting anyone…but when I start to type it will brim over in a flood!

ALL I KNOW is this, (for me anyhow) now that I am an adult, fully? grown and a mother, wife and all which that enfolds…. is that to maintain sanity. It is best to stop wondering about which one cannot DO anything..theause it is all about perspective and attitudes.

past is the past and however much we go over it we cannot change what has passed and we will never know what happened, what informed other choices, becauseTheir recollections will never match up, let alone with yours..
It isn’t my place to judge l don;t feel as most people do the best (or worst) they can do at the time…and it is a given, it is done. Of course we can all move forward and make the future better because that is all one can do.

Of course here l’m not talking about such things where behaviours are criminal or unlawful….but I try to not judge and think, walk a mile a their shoes, in their life’s context, their personalities, frailties etc…

of course we all judge the little things and make comments on others in everyday situations hut talking about the big things….I do try and let it go…its healthier and enables a person to move on and try to make better choices and memories..

Hope this helps

congrats on POTD from David

moannie January 27, 2009 at 4:40 am

So many sins are commited by parents upon their children, unwittingly in their belief that kids don’t notice or care when they fight, brawl separate and divorce. And wittingly as witnessed by the dreadful stories of neglect and brutality we read every day. How we cope, as adults differs of course, depending on our characters. Some, like myself, bury the hurt deep inside us, so deep that it is almost forgotten until something triggers a memory. Others bear he pain like a prominant visible scar that has only a thin skin of tissue that is easily broken.

I have written about my past and my family-just for my children, and post excerps from it occasionally, finding the responses helpful and healing. And for you the search for healing continues. If you could find it in your heart to believe that your mother’s leaving was an act, not about you, but about her circumstances, her inabilty to cope, and know that she suffered. Forgive her, and your father and move on and you will be stronger for it.

Merisi January 27, 2009 at 5:35 am

I came over from David’s Authorblog, to congratulate you on winning the Post of the Day Award. I have read your story today. Not knowing more about your parent’s behavior and your childhood, I would say that your dream sounds hopeful, a sign of somebody coming out of a nightmare. The writing is exquisite, painful to read even for somebody not involved, and so very touching. I wish you the best in the world for your future. There comes a point in life when one realises that one has surmounted the need to look back, to batte with the past, but arrives at a point where a genuine need arises, to forgive no matter what happened, and to go on and live life to the fullest. I wish you all the best on your way forward!

Sandi McBride January 27, 2009 at 7:30 am

Oddly all my favorite “famly shows”, Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, got the family dynamic right for tv, but each show had at least one child actor whose life at home bore little resemblance to the one they portrayed. The only one that seemed to escape that blight of home cruelty was The Andy Griffith Show…I think you feel in your heart that since your mother was made to go, she is still wrong in that she made to attempt to take you and siblings with her. And so you suffer still. Just remember that every family has it’s problems…no one’s is perfect.
Congrats on Post of the day mention

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