Sunday, January 27, 2019

Letters

I have some letters from my parents. Many emigrants of my vintage could say the same thing, I imagine. Many of these letters got lost along the way and I am sorting through what I have.

My mother would write me newsy letters. She wrote like she talked full of family and neighbour talk. Every week.

After she died, my father carried on. Writing me every week, getting pissed when I didn't respond immediately and reprimanding me mildly when he had to wait impatiently for responses. His writing was tiny, he would cram so much on to 2 pages, exactly 2 pages.

In this one (May 1991) he hits me on the head in the opening sentence:

"I thought you had given up the matter of letter writing".
And
"A pity you were not able to visit us this year."
- Well, Dad, I was broke. Single mum. 2 kids.

He proceeds on page 2 to tell me - without consultation, as always - when he would arrive in Canada for his annual visit - August 17th. Which was 1 day after my birthday. And then guilts me again with:
"you know the old saying if the mountain won't come to....etc..."

Thusly I would give up my measly vacation time to spend it with him.

We didn't have the best of relationships my dad and I. I felt obligated as he was a widower. He loved one of my kids and despised the other which made things awkward in my home. So I would take him away on trips to the states or the maritimes or touring Ontario.

We made half-hearted attempts to cross the distance between us. But I could never quite surmount the fear I had of him as when I was growing up he was a cruel, abusive and emotionally unavailable martinet.

But the last time we went away together, to Nova Scotia, he abused me verbally for the very last time. Post therapy, I stood up to him, declared my boundaries, and from then on he was no longer welcome in my home.

Subsequently, to my surprise, in all our interactions, he treated me with respect and yes, a little fear too.


22 comments:

  1. I can so identify with you. My life was a nightmare until I married David.

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    1. So sorry to hear this Gigi. It does so much damage. I don't think any parents are perfect but some are just cruel.

      XO
      WWW

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  2. I was lucky to have a father who was kind, giving,understanding and loved me unconditionally.
    I am sorry for those who didn't have this kind of love.
    There are very good men and fathers out there.

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    1. You are very lucky Gemma. I think the role of a good father has so much to do with a girl's/woman's self esteem. And also how he treats her mother is so important.

      XO
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  3. Oh I hear you. My father was an autocrat. We were at war (again) when we found out he was dying. We put the hostilities on hold, but if he had recovered they would have recommenced. He viewed any concession as a weakness and moved right in to exploit it. I have no doubt that your father respected your 'line in the sand'.

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    1. Oh EC, so very sorry. Their legacy is upheaval and therapy if we're lucky. It took me a long time to sort my way through the quagmire. All children deserved to be loved unconditionally.

      XO
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  4. My father was verbally abusive, my mother was the kind offset to him. My sister, going on eleven years younger, literally had a different father, kinds and understanding. But her mother was critical, demanding. Yet, the very same people who raised my brothers and myself. There is so much more to a family dynamic than children or adults can comprehend.

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    1. I've seen this in my own family, Joanne. The eldest 4 suffered. The youngest 2 had a very different father. There were degrees of suffering of course. My mother was so afraid of him and her mantra was "any price for piece".

      Family dynamics are extraordinary. The youngest minimize the damage done to the sufferers as they can't understand it.

      XO
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  5. It does seem as if the parents "learn" and make the most mistakes on the eldest children, and the youngest get the benefits of that learning. My own mother said she thought (I was her first child) that if she just was very strict with me I'd be a perfect child, but by the time her third and fourth children came along she knew that wasn't how it worked. -Kate

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    1. Trial and error for sure Kate. My elder was the "perfect child" and the younger one fairly wild and suffered in school by being compared to her older sister. Who always looked out for her which wasn't fair to the older one. We live and learn by our mistakes and then it's too late for corrective parenting, LOL

      XO
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  6. I don't have any letters from my parents, they lived in the same state, but in the mid-northern part and in separate towns. my mum used to get cross that I "couldn't be bothered' coming to visit her, when I had four kids, didn't drive and hubby was away a lot, plus the drive is six to eight hours each way. Even when I lived interstate, she expected me to visit. When she died, I got a letter inside a photo album, "all those times you didn't visit me, well, it's too late now..."

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    1. Sweet Goddess, River, isn't it amazing how insensitive our parents can be to our actual circumstances? Looking back, I had so very little time to myself, working full time, single mother, living paycheque to paycheque and such a complete lack of comprehension from my father who swanned about in his white male privilege and enormous government pension.

      I shake my head. And truly that final guilt-o-gram that you found after she died takes my breath away.

      XO
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  7. I love your writing, WWW. I don't get much time for reading right now, but I do grab a post or two of yours when I can. Takes me away from my own worries. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks RGA, I often think of you and yours and wish only the best my friend.

      XO
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  8. That's so interesting - I had a very similar situation with my dad where I finally stood up to him and held him accountable and he apologized and changed. We had a good relationship from that time on.

    My grandmother and great aunt both used to write me weekly and I always responded weekly if possible. My great aunt wasn't pushy, but my grandmother would carp at me if I got to busy to answer promptly. Completing a dissertation or caring for a new born were no excuses!

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    1. I have learned from these experiences and curb my internal demands on those I love remembering how I felt. (i.e. waiting for a text response, hoping for an offer of help to move something heavy, etc.).

      Guilting serves no one well. My dad was a genius at it, even on his grandchildren.

      Young children are voracious time guzzlers.

      XO
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  9. My dad is a perfectly nice man, he was a little insensitive at times and weak. Mum was great at some things but terrible at others and dad was too weak to counterbalance. They still live just twenty minutes away so I'll never have letters....

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    1. Kylie that's probably a good thing! Maybe it doesn't serve me well to re-read these missives!

      XO
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  10. As you know, my father was somewhat similar - a bad-tempered authoritarian. The only time I had regular letters from him was when I was at boarding school. After I had left the family home he never wrote to me and in fact we were totally estranged for some 20 years until his death.

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    1. Nick did you keep any of those letters? I am so sorry you were estranged for so long. It sounds like he would never have changed no matter what. At least my father changed in his abusive approach to our relationship and was also kinder to my younger child whom he disliked so much.

      XO
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    2. No, I didn't keep any of the letters, but they always included a crossword he had compiled himself, which was a real labour of love. So odd that he took against me so strongly later on.

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  11. The letter writer in my case was my mother who insisted on writing at least once a week and expected me to respond immediately on receipt. My father and I did not have a letter exchanging kind of relationship but he tried to make amends when fate brought him to live with me towards the end of his life. His problem then was his hearing and that caused its own set of problems. I do not have any of the old letters as I have been a declutter maniac all my life!

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