Chaining the Past

My second mother is 92 years old. That is a great number of years to live in a bubble of your own sanctity, wrapped in lies of your own making. For very close to twenty-five of those years we have been on less than good terms, not entirely estranged but certainly not a normal mother-daughter relationship either. Those that know my mother think she is charming, funny a thoroughly likable woman; they do not understand our estrangement and blame me. This is true whether they know both of us or only her. This is also true whether they are family or just friends of my second mother. Those that know me intimately or have read the rest of the Broken Chains series, may have a slightly different view of my nemesis.

My second mother has a touch of dementia now; her body is beginning to fail. She has lived alone since her divorce from my father nearly forty years ago, the next stage the end stage of her life for her to be safe and comfortable she needs to in a place where there is help. This has been a battle between my brother and me, one we fought once before when my father’s health was failing.  Oddly, that battle had the same lines in the sand; with him saying there is nothing wrong and me saying there is and we can’t fix it. The difference this time is my brother is the only one close to our second mother, he had a different childhood than I did, lived in a different home I think.

I have been enraged for weeks now, but finally this weekend my rage hit a wall of secrets I have held and I discovered the batting I had wrapped around family so everyone could pretend there was nothing wrong. Already by Saturday I was hurt and angry with my brother for placing me in the center of ‘taking care’ of many of the issues surrounding my second mother and her care, move to assisted living and finances. I kept asking myself, why is this my problem? I realized I had to let go of the question, I was not doing this for her, but rather for my brother yet still I resented it and could feel my hurt and anger building with each phone call that failed to acknowledge my life was different from his.



My second mother has a sister, I actually like her a great deal always have. Perhaps this is why I have always kept silent. My oldest cousin was the first ‘Hippie’ I ever met, she was my idol, she died young and it was tragic. My other two cousins are not tragic, rather they are classic East Coast overly entitled judgmental twits, this is especially true of my youngest cousin; let’s just call her Snobbery.

Snobbery has interfered more than once in the care of my second mother. She and my brother have argued over this issue. This time apparently she sent an e-mail to her mother, my brother and friends of my second mother laying out what she believed was right and proper care. I was not of course included in this communication. My Aunt, not realizing I was not included picked up the phone and called me, it wasn’t a call entirely out of the blue so I did not think anything of it until these words came out of her mouth:

“Snobbery is unhappy that you and your brother haven’t acted on her recommendations, I thought we should discuss them.”

I didn’t know what she was talking about of course, had to ask. She told me and finally after nearly forty-five years of protecting my second mothers secrets gave up. First though I told my Aunt that her daughter Snobbery was simply an interfering Bitch and should mind her business unless she planned to pay for her recommendations.

I made my eighty-eight year old Aunt cry. It wasn’t my intention to do so; truly, I had intended to let her go to her grave never knowing anything. Why would I break my silence after all these years? The problem was I simply found I was worn down by the judgment of everyone who knew me, everyone who was supposed to be my family who had decided I was ‘bad’ and I was ‘evil’ and I was ‘ungrateful’. My Aunt tried to excuse Snobbery for her decision not to include me with;

“Well you don’t take care of you mother, you ignore her and her needs. She must have thought you were better left out of it.”

Really? I do that and it must be for no reason at all that I am just that mean!

I don’t know that what I did was the right thing. I certainly didn’t spill it all; only some of the doors were opened so my Aunt could peer inside my heart and discover that there might indeed be reasons for my choices.

More broken chains and I find I am bitter, angry even shattered that so many of my relationships remain tainted by this history of pain. By my choice to keep secrets. To protect those who did not earn my regard or deserve my protection.


These past two weeks have been tough; my soul feels as if it has been rubbed with sandpaper the constant grinding polishing until it weeps salty tears onto my heart. My heart in turn feels torn between my love for my brother and my need to distance myself, from my second mother and our history. Just when I think I am done with this the universe spins and the answer is …..

NO…not quite yet


  1. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    I believe you read my sister’s post about toxic friendships; I thought of that as I read this, and wondered about all the toxic people whose charming exterior conceals–if only barely–a much darker truth. I’m often bemused by how others don’t see, but all the more grateful in those cases for the people who do . . . or who, even if they don’t see it, trust you enough to know there is more than wanton meanness in one’s decision to cut another out of life, daily routines, what have you. I trust that you made the right decision. I only regret that you’re not allowed to make it in peace. I love you.

    • I think I am learning how often people need to hold on to their versions of truth for their own peace of mind. Oddly, I am finding a certain peace for myself in this. What did I know but silence at 11? I only knew what I had been told, be silent, no one will believe you and even if they do they will think it was your fault. This led to all the other horribles, many that were caused by my own bad decisions but all of them leading right back to my silence. Now I have one more act, perhaps it is my act of forgiveness. As my silence is broken, as the walls tumble and the dams break, maybe now it is time to finally let go.

  2. Oh, Val. What a difficult story/life. I feel for you although I cannot empathize; I have never been there.

    But my sense is that you went where you had not alternative but to go. You aren’t the bad guy, and playing that role has cost you dearly. It’s time to let someone else play it. You can now be who you are, for good or ill.

    I suspect it will be mostly for good.

    Peace, my friend. I hope you find some soon (not in an everlasting sort of way, though)

    • Thanks Elyse, you are right. The choices right now are difficult, not cut and dry at all. I am not the bad guy but I felt a bit like one last week. Now, well I just need to do what is right, for all of us without drama and with a minimal of pain all the way around.

      I think the problem is, I stuck to my guns. Said to all of them get the hell away from me, not out loud but in my head. Now they want to know why I am so evil, my feeling is ‘wtf” are you kidding?

      Ah well, I will do what needs to be done. I always have. Then I will live my life as it is supposed to be lived, I haven’t always done this but I am learning.

      Peace, it is most welcome.


  3. —Val,
    I will only add that you must “follow your heart.” It usually knows best. The rest will follow.

    Sending you love from Minnesota. Xx

    • Ah Kim, my heart and my head are going in two different directions is the problem. My heart, well it loves my brother and wants to help and protect him. Even now, even after all these years, my heart still wants to protect him. My head, well that is another matter entirely. Between them they are in a battle to save me, somewhere in all this I exist and I also am worth saving.

      Your love is so worth it, thank you.


  4. riatarded says:

    I don’t really know what to say except I am sending lots of hugs and love your way. 🙂

  5. Lotsa pain mixed in all of this. I can’t advise you no kinda way but I will offer you a little virtual walk down a quiet road for you to have some away time. The birds are chirping and a slow rain is starting, which immerses you in the peace of mind you need right now.


    • That rain and those birds are most welcome, I need the peace. I suspect I will need more I have one more thing to do, it won’t be easy but I am trying to settle my heart before I take this trip.

      Thank you Totsymae.

      Hugs Back!

  6. Val my thoughts are with you, it does get better I swear to you, Once we release, then the ball starts to roll.. It can gather to it some mud for a time, but the longer it rolls it sticks less..

    I know my story is nothing compared with your own Val, But the wounds and hurts run deep… and last long..

    One thing I have learnt throughout all of family pain, is that we all of us have choices..
    I can choose to hurt and carry on hurting, or I can choose to let them go, knowing my own truth, as you know your own truth..
    I still have two sisters who do not speak to me through lies..
    It affected me right up to this year right from 1995, and my mother passed still not speaking after 10 yrs of silence.
    You have carried your own wounds so long also..I hope soon you can let them go..
    breaking the chains can be hard, but once we sever them and let them go, we then give ourselves the chance to heal within..
    I so hope you can soon heal Val..
    Much Love..
    Sue xx

    • I just thought Sue, hell I don’t know what I thought. Maybe that I could let go and people would leave me alone to let me heal. I didn’t think this, this last bit would hurt quite so much. I didn’t think the judgment of me being the ‘bad’ one, yet again would hurt as badly as it did. There was that bit of me, that child inside that wanted to fling myself to the floor and scream ‘But I am not bad’.

      That is why it hurt. For decades now I have been painted with that scarlet letter. I allowed it, shrugged my shoulders and said “I don’t care”. But you know, I guess I do.

      Thank you Sue, as always you give me so much to ponder while you wash me with peace.

      XX Val OO

      • I know, its hard as we are tarred with a brush from another’s paint box, My mother poisoned the minds of two of my sisters that took a while to come to terms with. They still do not keep contact … And I have let them go with love..
        Like you, I have come through a whole series of emotions throughout the years Val,

        After my total nervous breakdown, I took along while to heal, and even up until Last year those wounds would still be opened up by the silliest of things as I would tell myself it didnt matter.. But yes it does matter.. especially when we are painted with lies of the truth..

        Letting go of that is the hardest to do .. But I did knowing that I had also helped teach some of those life lessons of forgiveness, and patience, and tolerances.. Which were obviously lacking within my Mother … Maybe she can now look back upon her own life experience in that other realm of existence. And Maybe her views have now changed..
        I hope so..

  7. I can understand your silence in wanting to protect others, but holding it in can cause a damage also. Families are complicated and can cause the deepest pain. May you find peace and strength. You must have courage even to share this. Someone said we are all dysfunctional families!

    • Much of the story of my second family is here in Broken Chains. I have broken the silence in the only way I know how, but I have not made my family privy to these words. I think just as I decided many years ago to keep my silence despite their not earning my regard, I also decided to not allow them entry to my healing.

      Perhaps that also is a mistake.

  8. Family. Such a complicated and difficult yet life-sustaining force. Sorry to hear of your troubles.

    • Carrie I think I can honestly say my second mother especially was not ever life-sustaining. Truthfully, in nearly every way possible she sucked my spirit dry, it is only through grace and the great love of others I survived and then ultimately took flight. Now, I am learning finally to Thrive, but it is a very long road.

  9. I say HOOZAH! Did it hurt to let it out? No, it did not. To see the one you care about be shattered is what hurt. She wanted to believe her sister was exactly as she had always known her. It is hurtful to find we have been lied to; however, you were merely the messenger. It is hurtful to find the one who should have stood beside us has a dark, leprous underbelly just beneath the gossamer cape of piety; however, were the victim. Her pain is laid at mother’s feet, albeit you were the bell ringer.

    Snobbery needs a life rather than the surrogacy of mother’s. Brother hurts more than aunt because you adore him and know the shattering of his idyllic memory is more than he would be able to bear. It is the core if the longevity of the argument between you.

    I love you, my darling. Would that I could wipe away the years of silent suffering. For now, I must support your voice, with a megaphone when necessary.


    • I know you do and I am so grateful for your love and support and the megaphone.

      You are right about my brother, that is the heart and the reason. It is also why it is unlikely that I will fully break the silence. I will draw the line, do what I agree and that is the extent of what I will do. She will die eventually, cold I know but that is the cycle of life. When she dies, it is the end of it we don’t have to ever talk about it again.



  10. It’s is HARD to say ‘be strong and be patient’. How long does a body have to wait? I’m sorry you are still hitting your head against a brick wall. I wish I knew uplifting words to lessen your pain. All I can do is say I understand.

    • It is okay, or it will be. I simply have to draw some lines in the sand I think. My brother and I have always had a strange relationship, I am allowing that relationship to drag me into unhealthy choices. But perhaps also, my silence truly did need to be broken beyond the wall I had erected.

      More chains to unwind, more walls to kick over. Thank you for understanding.

  11. I was blessed with very good parents but I can understand a little about your feelings. While good, they weren’t perfect and my mother and I never really connected but I can’t talk about my hurts with my sisters; in their minds, my parents were perfect and get offended if I don’t entirely agree.

    • Oddly I have more than one set of parents. My first (birth) my second (adopted) and then throw in the odd step. Some of them were terrors and did great harm, it is only now I that I am beginning to unravel it. My brother and I, truly did live different lives. The parents we knew were different because for a large part of that time we were separated. He also would rather see the good and keep anything bad somewhere in a black hole. I have allowed this for years, perhaps I will continue to allow it. I don’t know yet.

  12. Wow … a lot of power in this post. I think it’s best for me to say “Be Strong and Be Patient.” Thanks for sharing.

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