Untethered

DP821347First Mother – biological mother gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption at birth. Still living, my friend.

Second Mother – adopted me at three days old, raised me maybe even raised me to the best of her ability. Mostly estranged for thirty years.

Third Mother – father’s second wife, my aunt, heart mother, mentor and guide, passed four years ago.

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This past week I sat vigil as my second mother let go of this life, with me by her bedside were those who had known her for decades. Women, who had been her friends, her pseudo daughters and who loved her, who knew her, as I did not. They saw a different woman than the one I knew. These women, they also saw me in a different light, knew me only through her and did not welcome my presence. But present I was, not because I wanted to be there but because I needed to be there for my brother and maybe even for myself.

It was strange to hear their stories of this woman who I knew mostly from my childhood. I did not recognize her. There were times I wanted to scream, “You didn’t know.”

I sat vigil. As she lay in that hospital bed, never waking. As I sat, after everyone else left for the night I watched, I remembered and I wondered. I wondered how she could have been so different, shown such a different my.operaface to them and even to my brother than to me. I remembered the tumultuous years of my early teens before I ran away. I remembered the hurt, the hurtful words of childhood. I remembered the loneliness. As I remembered, I kept going back to wondering how she could have been so very different as a mother to me, than she was a friend to these women or even a mother to my brother who hadn’t yet arrived.

Two of the women who were closest to her had known her since they were young teens; their mother had been her friend, when she passed my mother stepped in as a pseudo Aunt. She has known them for thirty-five years. She has spent holidays, vacations, birthdays with them. She has celebrated weddings sitting in the seat of honor, births of children; she has mourned losses, consoled them through divorces and other of lives ups and downs. In their eyes they were losing a ‘second mother’, they are losing a lifeline. The older of the two let me know I had treated her unkindly, that she did not deserve my selfish disregard. Both shared her judgment but she was the only one to voice it, albeit kindly.

This was one of the times my teeth nearly cracked from not saying what was in my heart and on my tongue. As her words flowed, it was all I could do not to respond with venom. I chose not to respond, not to defend, not to try to change hearts and minds. Honestly? Who cares, my own brother who knows at least part of the truth insists I am wrong for not reconciling with my mother.

As I sat vigil, I try to see it from the viewpoint of others. I try to understand their perspective and see things through their eyes. It is nearly impossible for me to reconcile the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps it is because I have always had such a simple standard;

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My second mother passed from this world on Monday morning. My brother hadn’t arrived. Once again, I had to deliver the news a parent was dead. He is angry with me I think, I do not feel this death the way he feels it. I do not feel untethered by her passing as I did by the death of our shared father and my beloved heart mother. I fear only with the passing of this mother I will lose him, my beloved baby brother.

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For the past ten years, when this mother needed something I have been the one to provide it. Whenever and whatever my brother asked of me, I stepped forward and gave; whether it was to move her from her apartment to assisted living, pay for care, talk to providers; I did what he asked of me. I didn’t do it because I believed I owed it, I did it for love of my brother. Now, I think our last connection is broken, because he doesn’t understand me or my hurt I might lose him, this sense of impending loss breaks me.

So I sat vigil. Then I delivered the news of her passing, I held him as he wept at the airport. Then I watched as my brother pulled himself together to act as executor of her estate. We talked and I agreed the women who had been her friends and her companions should be gifted with any of her personal items, I asked only for two things;

  1. Two pen and ink architectural drawings that match a set I already have.
  2. Family pictures from when we were children.

Clearly, others had been more closely aligned and more dearly loved. I will never agree with my brother or them that it was my filial duty to forget, forgive or reconcile our estrangement. At every opportunity, even in adulthood where she might have reached over the chasm, she made a clear choice I was not important and this is what I reconciled to, her choice.

But I sat vigil. She was not alone, she did not pass without human touch and there was not a lack of compassion, not for her or for those who loved her. My second mother was nearly ninety-four; she lived a full and rich life on her terms. I am not untethered in her passing but wonder if I am losing more than the last vestige of my childhood.

The story of my second family is told in Broken Chains: https://valentinelogar.com/category/series-broken-chains/

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Comments

  1. Me and my brother are very different persons as well and we grew up fighting mostly. Once we were grown-ups we just decided to agree to disagree and respect each other’s opinion. It has worked wonders! I know how he thinks about thinks and he knows how I think about things and we just left it at that. We are now closer than ever before and I am actually looking forward to seeing him when I do.
    Maybe that strategy might work for you. Hope you work it out with your brother!

    • We do this mostly. It works for us mostly. I think the loss of our parents so close to each other has been difficult, especially given our very different relationships with each of them.

      I hope to see this pass soon. Right now, I am simply going to give it a little bit of space and then reach out with love.

      Thanks

  2. Phff families huh? I must say I have a unique personality and a few of my relatives never “got me”. My humor can often seem sarcastic but it has always been a defence mechanism to awkward or uncomfortable situations …. oh and I tend to say what I think …. no filter. Unless you are the Von Trapps , every family is dysfunctional to some degree. I have always hated family functions because everyone acts how they want to be perceived instead of how they actually are. Tongue bleeds and sucking it up, instead of unleashing, are all part of family manouvering so you can get out unscathed. God forbid you really say what you think. Families magnify everything. A tiff with granny ends up being a war with your aunt’s families and an eyebrow raise from your own. Judgement is the fundamental function of family get togethers. I learned years ago if you don’t like me for who I am I will stay away. I hope you are letting in some sunshine. That shit cloud should be blowing over soon xx

    • Funny, I generally have stayed away for just that reason. I haven’t been known for my ability to hold back. This is the last of it (them). We will see Loon, I suspect part of the issue is far to much all at once.

      Red has suggested a cure. She just might be right.

  3. You are allowed to have your own feelings and you have shown special empathy to others by remaining quiet, kind and respectful as others express theirs. Unfortunately those who are especially grieved may think less of us for not being at their level but each person’s healing belongs to the individual and not contingent on the feelings of others. Well written share, my condolences.

    • Carl, thank you. I have long since learned to hold my tongue. I will never make others understand there are causes for estrangement and have also believed for years, some of those reasons are not the business of anyone’s but mine and hers. She showed a different face to her friends. I respect that. Her and my relationship it was simply what it was and between us. In the end, we both chose to remain distant.

      Their grief, for their friend and my brothers grief for his mother; it is theirs. I do understand it, I also have empathy for it. Whether I feel it or not, I still have empathy for their feelings.

      Thank you for your thoughts and your condolence.

  4. For what it’s worth: I think you did the right thing, in spite of the dirty looks. Family is messy. I think that’s the official Webster’s definition anyway …

    I know many people who have been estranged from their parents and have not bothered to go to them when they were dying. And, usually, at some later point, they end up regretting not having gone.

    I just hope that time can bring some forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation with your brother.

    • I hope so also. Hope springs eternal and families are indeed messy. Mine is especially messy with all the branches of biological, half, adopted and step. We seem to be constantly sorting out the relationships and then pointing out the faultiness of those. One thing is certain, within these relationships (all of them) there seems to spring some sort of bond. I simply hope it holds through this difficult period.

  5. You know the truth, Val, and you have behaved with honor to the end. May you and your brother somehow become close as you two share memories no one else can. understand. May you find peace in doing what was right for you. You were too strong to give in.

  6. Valentine, I am trusting that Spirit will keep both you and your brother close. It may take a bit of time, but your heart is open to him. Your love for him is clearly unconditional and I believe that he’ll receive and respond in kind.

    Separately, I am sending a bit of love and light your way as you “go through” the plethora of emotions you are feeling regarding your second mother. I believe that you are fully entitled to feel what you are feeling. That you chose to step outside of the relationship which proved to be toxic to your growth and bar your authenticity was a courageous act of self-love. To love like that is indeed courageous. Don’t fall back to a place that no longer served your heart and your divine right to love and happiness. You are taking flight into a whole new stage of awareness right now.

    Insist on authenticity and transparency with your brother. He’ll come around to understanding the difference between your love for him and the relationship that once was/wasn’t. You are worthy of it (and so is your brother). 🙂 (Don’t know how to send a wink.

    • Thank you my friend, my sister in spirit for you are that. I must take this into my heart. I must remind myself of this sage wisdom. Right now? I am simply trying hard to put feet onto the ground. I am finding it terrible difficult. The emotions I am feeling, can’t sort them properly out.

      My brother? I do love him, but I think I am quite angry also.

  7. Val, I don’t have any special healing words to share, only that I find it brave of you to open yourself up to the world, and to show that some people do the right thing for the moment despite the transgressions against them. Some of us let go enough, just enough, to do acts such as this one of yours. More than words I just keep sending you hugs from Cali. Hugs and many hugs that if I could be there as a friend in person, I so would. I really do admire you! I’ve been going through my own emotional difficulties these past few weeks and haven’t had any energy to write, but some energy to read, and I’m grateful I read this! XOXO-Kasey

    • Thank you Kasey, believe me the hugs are very much welcome. I understand the not having energy to write. Currently I barely have the energy to stay out of bed. Please be well and stay positive. I am sending hugs back to you.

  8. This is a very personal posting that covers the lives of your three mothers and thoughts that are etched deeply within your heart and soul, you worry about perhaps losing your brother but from your words I figure that he will become closer, maybe he will not fully understand how you feel but as for losing him, no I do not think so.

    I don’t know why your second mother was different towards you, sometimes this happens, I had a similar experience with my grandma and it was never solved, life has some strange twists and turns that we cannot fathom.

    The two women that were in judgement of you have only their own vision of her, only you know the truth and it matters not whether they believe it or not, you know the truth and that is all that matters my sweet friend. I like the slideshow of your family.

    Andro xxxx

    • I hear often that mothers are often different towards one child, especially a daughter. My opinion? Well, you just could not have found two more different and badly matched personalities than me and my adopted mother. We were north and south, polar opposites; we were night and day. From the moment they brought me home at 3 days old, she told me this once, she did not like me and barely wanted to hold me.

      Isn’t that strange?

      As to the rest, even strangers can hurt us when we are vulnerable. This will pass.

      Thank you my friend.

  9. Thank you for sharing so poignantly what must be so painful. I don’t know how your brother can fault you – no matter your history, YOU made it there so she would not be alone. Not even he managed that. You did the right and decent thing. And you’re so right – somebody has to be sorry before they can be forgiven.

    • Thanks Peg. I think each of us see through our own lens, my brother and I we certainly see through a different lens of history. We certainly grew up in different households, I was gone from the time I was 14 so he had both of our parents to himself from the time he was 11. Also a very different childhood. As to forgiveness, yes that has always been my premise.

  10. As you point out, how to forgive when they are not remorseful? I know they say that forgiveness is for yourself and not the other person, but if so, there needs to be another word for it. I accept who my mother is and that she will never be what I want her to be in my life. I love her, but I can’t trust her or have faith that she will be there for me. I have moved on. I am accepting that it is what it is, and I am willing to have a limited relationship with her. I applaud your strength to be there for her and to allow those women to say what they wanted to say. I don’t think I could have done it. I hope you and your brother find a way to remain in each other’s lives. My thoughts are with you, Val.

    • I agree, there needs to be another word. I accept who she was. I accepted years ago our estrangement was what it was and wasn’t going to be any different. I accepted without a complete disregard of my feelings and pretending the past never happened there would be no relationship, ever. I had no need to forgive her for my own emotional health, I was fine. I did not hate her, I understood her and understood where her dysfunction came from.

      I had an extremely limited relationship with her, she was toxic. However, as she descended into dementia and ill health I took on the role of caretaker as my brother lived out of country. I didn’t do this for her, I did it for him for us. I don’t know that he will ever understand this. We will see.

      Thanks Amaya.

  11. Val you are in my thoughts… And you have said it within your own words…

    “At every opportunity, even in adulthood where she might have reached over the chasm, she made a clear choice I was not important and this is what I reconciled to, her choice.”

    You also made it your choice to be with her.. showing her even in her final hours that you were reaching out to her…

    I know how an estranged relationship with a Mother feels , as you know from my own past experiences Val, And reaching out is all we can do. We each have personal responsibly and can only do what we feel from our hearts.. I lost contact with two of my siblings through the poisoning of my Mothers opinions about me.. But that is their choice too… One can only reach out for so long, and then learn to let go..

    I hope your brother sees your heart Val, and you can only reach out to him to let him see how much he means to you.. Relationships are two way .. I hope he see’s beyond the bitterness left by the memories of scars long since made.. And holds tight to a sister whose love is great..

    Love and Blessings xxx Sue

    • That is my hope also Sue. In my heart, he is the very best remaining and I can only hope we both find ourselves together in our shared memories of what is best. I don’t think we can ever reconcile our disparate childhood or why it was so different. I don’t even think it is worth discussing between us. I hope, if he does what I do, looks at the pictures of us when we were very young he will realize, “he was always mine.”

      Val

  12. I’m sorry, Val. This sure seems to be a tough time for you, but you express it beautifully. A very touching post with great photos. I’m glad you could be there for her, keeping vigil.

    • I was also glad I was there Monica, despite there was a core of resentment toward these strangers (to me), I was glad I was there. Perhaps this means I let go, remind myself of compassion and empathy, I don’t know. Right now, I simply reminded myself there are other things important to me; including compassion, empathy and living life on terms that make sense.

      Thank you Monica.

  13. I found this piece to be honest and of great interest. It was only yesterday I attended a lecture on forgiveness and how it impacts both the offender (the one who hurts) and the offended. (the one hurt) It never entered my head before that forgiveness actually benefits the offended much more than the offender. Some people look for trust to be restored when forgiveness is offered but the one presenting yesterday made a compelling case for the fact that you don’t have to trust those you forgive. It’s OK not to. Forgiveness is simply the one hurt releasing themselves from pent up anger that eats away at your gut when you think of or see those who have hurt you, particularly when they see no need for remorse. I’ve been assassinated politically and carried the anger for years. That’s normal in business! My anger did nothing at all to the ones hurting me as they achieved their objective, but I found I was destroying myself in my frustration and anger. So I forgave them and moved on. My health improved immediately as I was actually forgiving myself for destroying myself with my anger. Actually they did me a favour as I ended up with a much better position and situation than I had been in before.

    • My estrangement from my second mother wasn’t an issue of forgiveness, it was an issue of remaining outside of a toxic relationship. I was long past forgiving, I understood where her cruelty came from and felt no need to forgive her, I felt compassion for her; for the harm that had been done to her. This did not change though that I was not reconciled and could not be reconciled to her, she never acknowledged the harm she did and continued to do whenever I was in her presence. There are some relationships that cannot be mended.

      I was long past anger, though I have written about the dysfunction of my childhood and the harm done. I have also written about the harm done to her in her childhood. Now she is gone and the harm done by her actions might reach into the future as well. I think Ian, we all have different views on forgiveness and on reconciliation. I am not angry with her, haven’t been for years. I am at peace with my past, but not at peace with some of the repercussions that might still be coming because of that past. I stepped out of toxicity, it was the only door opened to me that would allow me to have peace. This though did not change the hurt.

  14. I pray that your brother remains your brother in name and in love, Val.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures of old. As I watched, I could not help thinking of the dreams that young mind must have once held.

    Luv and hugz,
    Eric

    • I do as well Eric. I continue to hope he and I can heal what is between us, without recrimination. I suspect we still have some hard discussions, maybe even a couple we don’t really want to have. I don’t think I will ever understand, not with my heart or my mind how we could have had such different childhoods.

      Both my parents use to tell me to get my head out of the clouds. Somewhere there were journals I started writing in when I was around 6, but they must have been thrown away.

  15. I am sorry Valentine. For your loss and for all the hurt you have had to endure. I hope and pray your brother and you can remain close. Love & hugs.

  16. Sorry to hear of your heartache. I am hopeful your brother will search you out now and you will both be brother and sister again. 😉

  17. MY relationship with my stepmother was so bad, and her son is now estranged, that I can’t even comment to offer you any wisdom , Val. I just know that you have nothing to reproach yourself for whatever happens. You have done your best. That’s all we are asked to do.

    • I think Valerie, I had to let this one go. This was fear speaking, fear and maybe some regret. Regret for what, I don’t know that I am even certain of what. It is there though, maybe because at the end of the day, I do know her history and I think if only she could have let it go, given what I heard of who she was to others, maybe we could have found common ground. Maybe that is the regret.

  18. It is never, ever one’s obligation to forgive or reconcile, no matter what members of the peanut gallery with mere peanuts of information themselves think. I forgave my dad some time ago, but there was not reconciliation and will not ever be unless he is able to acknowledge the past. I am not interested in having a relationship with someone who demands unilateral sacrifice and oversight of misdeeds as a part of that relationship. I am interested in building relationships built on mutual compassion and accountability. If others are willing to sacrifice these things for fragile, uneven relationships, well, that is their choice, but an extremely poor one IMO.

    About a decade ago, I decided I’d try reaching out to my dad. I heard he’d changed and wanted to present an opening in case that was the truth. I quickly discerned nothing had changed and restated my old message that we would have no relationship without accountability. Period. He has been good and quiet since.

    You have a strong and beautiful heart. Though my feelings here are irrelevant, I trust your judgment more than virtually anyone’s. You did well to set aside your feelings and ensure she was kept company at the end. You didn’t need to, but you did, because that’s who you are. That’s good people, no matter what anyone else chooses not to see. Sending much love.

    • Thank you Deborah, I needed this today; a day when I am feeling just so damned drained, literally wrung out. I think that is what I am looking for, the idea of reconciliation being something more than a gift without mutual trust and accountability. I wondered as I listened to the judgment passed, from family members and her friends, didn’t they ever wonder what was under the estrangement, didn’t they ever question why a fourteen year-old child would run and run hard. Were they really that blind or willing to not consider there might be two sides. Yes, despite they play no part in my life, it still hurt.

      So thank you. The hits have come fast and furious in the past couple of months. I don’t seem to be able to breath. I need to see myself through other eyes, you help.

  19. Beautiful.
    Powerful.
    Heartbreaking.
    Empowering.
    The photos took my breath away.
    Love. Love. Love. XXxxxxxxx

  20. Hang in there.

  21. Powerful, powerful, powerful! My God, Val, this story had me riveted. It is brilliantly told and it wouldn’t let me go. You did the right thing by not striking out at them, of course. So hard, but so right. Striking out would not have changed anybody’s mind about the falsehoods they believed, and might have alienated your brother for good. You chose grace, you chose forgiveness, and may you see the fruit of that choice in a future close relationship with your brother. Blessings, my friend. You’ve taken a lot of hits recently; God it sure is time for an upswing.

    • From your lips and heart to God’s ears.

      I hope I chose grace, truly. I hope I chose kindness. I hope someday, whoever is left to stand beside me, does so with compassion. Perhaps that is what we all should hope for.

  22. You did a wonderful thing, Val, in being there. For your brother, for your second mother, but mostly for yourself. Because you overcame so very much to be there. Hopefully your brother will understand; although the slight glimpse of him you show here and in other places, it looks as if he too is looking for a second mother.

    • I am trying to put it all in perspective Elyse. You know I think things are coming at me all at once, all to quickly. The only question I have, is can I breath now?

      I think my brother and I, we have a strange and sometimes difficult relationship. This mother, she did great harm. Perhaps she didn’t intend to do that harm, not to me, not to any of us. The view I got of her from those who surrounded her in the end was very different from the one I have had of her all my life. Isn’t it strange who she was to others, including my brother. I have always said I was the worse child they could have put in her arms. But it is over now and what happens next, well it is between my brother and I, or maybe truly it is between my brother and his heart.

  23. Hi, Val. I tend to agree with Stacie’s observations. And I, too, believe there is hope for your relationship with your brother. If nothing other than to introduce yourselves as who you are today (not the roles you’ve played your whole lives relative to this mother figure) and to move forward from there. Your relationship is more grounded in love than misunderstandings.

    • She wasn’t hard on me, she was abusive. There is a very real difference and it is why we have been estranged for thirty years, she did great and lifelong harm. Though I understand her history and have written our history and her history, it doesn’t excuse the harm she did. Whether it is because I was the girl child or not, she did great harm. Yes, she treated my brother differently, yes some of this was likely gender related. It nonetheless, doesn’t excuse the harm she did.

      I hope my brother and I can get beyond his version of the truth. I hope we can get beyond his anger that I stepped out of a toxic relationship. My only true interactions with our shared mother was after she had slipped into dementia and illness and then only because he asked it of me. If this sounds harsh, I cannot help it. I don’t think sometimes he has the capacity to see beyond the bubble of the world he lived in which was largely without me.

      • I’m so sorry, Val, for the pain you have suffered at the hand of this woman who should have been your protector–not your abuser. If for some reason I appeared to downplay that point by not speaking to it, please accept my sincere apologies. It was not my intention to validate in any way her actions. I was simply agreeing how an insignificant criteria (like gender) can draw a parent like a magnet to one child or another for either loving purposes or hurtful purposes.

        Depending on your brother’s level of emotional intelligence and his capacity to improve it, he may never be able to empathize with you and your truth–THE truth. It might help if he were at least sympathetic. The clock is ticking and if he is well advanced in age, you may need to gauge the possibility for a revelation and possibly cut loose physically and emotionally if the prospects are bleak.

        And, please, please, please, Val, accept my apologies as I stumble through an effort to comfort and support you. Sometimes I fall short of my intentions.

        • No Sue, don’t worry please. I am raw right now and reacting. Many have never read the story of my family, don’t know who or what we were to each other.

          My brother? I don’t know, perhaps we will heal in our own way; perhaps we won’t.

  24. As someone who has always had a difficult relationship with my mother, I think I understand a bit. This is hugely painful, but you have done the right thing. And blessings to you, dear Val, for doing it. You are dear. You deserved better, way better!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • I hope I did the right thing. I know I resented it except when I was alone. Thank you Kathy, I am still processing. Processing the feeling of being orphaned and so very alone in the world. I wish I had the right tears.

      Hugs back

      Val

  25. “…and so the conversation turned. Until the sun went down.” Keep feeling, Val.

  26. Even though you and she were estranged, Val, it sounds like a tough loss psychologically. If your brother was urging you to reconcile with your second mother, maybe he will recognize that the two of you going separate ways is not the best course. Possibly time will have a healing effect and you’ll continue to have a relationship.

    • I can only hope he will come to realize we are of value to one another and love is important. I don’t know that he will ever understand, I don’t know that I care that he does. I would prefer to simply have a relationship with him without the baggage.

  27. riainthecity says:

    My condolences to you and your family. Much love to you.

  28. I love you. In my heart of hearts, I do not want this to be the end of your relationship with your brother. I am here for you.
    xxx

    • In my heart, I hope it is the beginning of something different with him. Something less contentious, something more grounded in just us. That is what I hope. I remain pragmatic.

      I love you also my sister.

      XX

  29. Sorry to hear of your “second” mother’s passing. It’s always difficult, no matter what the relationship, as much for the feelings it provokes as for the actual loss itself. Thank you for the slide show at the end. I enjoyed seeing that. Went nicely with the tone of your post.

    • The loss, in a sense it is a loss of history. In another sense it is a letting go. All my parents, but one are gone now. It feels strange.

      Thank you Carrie, even though I do not mourn her in the way some might think ‘normal’, I am sad we were never able to find common ground.

  30. Valentine,

    If a mother is predisposed to be hard on a child, it’s usually the daughter, and often, the one she’s most like (even if not biologically connected). I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to be the general rule that mothers have soft spots for their boys and fathers have the same for their girls.

    Although this relationship wasn’t the one either of you hoped it would be, you were kind, generous, and mature to honor her death. It seems, from your words, that now you need to do all that you can to connect with your brother. You clearly love him deeply, so use your beautiful words to make sure he knows just how much.

    Hugs,
    Stacie

    • If it were only so simple Stacie, our relationship was horribly dysfunctional, toxic and even abusive. While I understood her cruelty once I was an adult, I couldn’t accept her continued disregard for my humanity. She poisoned so many relationships.

      I hope I am able to reach my brother. I hope he can accept I can love him without loving her.

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