Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let the Cycle Be Broken

I made my mother curse yesterday.

While I admit that first sentence was a cheap literary hook, it is nonetheless true. I was asking her about her father and more pointedly how he talked to her. I wanted to hear the actual words, not just the ‘blankety-blank’ she’d said before. Apparently he had quite the dark vocabularic collection. I’m not sure where my grandfather learned to talk in that way but I’ve heard his father was a sailor. Maybe it was passed down. One thing is certain. It did not pass down to my mother.

While I appreciate the many traits that both my grandparents passed on to my mom, it is difficult to understand why the mere sight of my mother seemed to incite her father to anger. In his defense it seems he had some mental issues and even checked himself into a mental health facility for a rather drastic treatment of a frontal lobotomy. As he seemed unable to keep regular work, due to this or because of the times – it was early in the Great Depression - there was seldom adequate food, clean clothing, and no semblance of a regular schedule of mealtimes or bedtimes. My grandmother, although a self-educated woman only formally completed  the eighth grade.

Studies show that children who are raised with this kind of abuse dole it out to their offspring. By all rights my upbringing should have been similar or even worse. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you had speculated on what kind of life my mother was going to have after growing up in a home where absolute squalor and verbal abuse dominated, you would be off the mark.  That is why I never heard her repeat those words until yesterday, and only at my urging.

You see, at a young age she transferred her affection to her heavenly Father and imitated Him instead of her earthly father. She was a pastor’s wife during my growing up years, and a gentle loving mother. She has maintained a warm relationship with her siblings. In what could be her retirement, she owns partnership in a local Business College, teaching and giving encouragement and guidance to students who have lost their way, both in life and employment. She hosts coffees for the neighbors in her community, encouraging the women, often giving money here or there to people who need it. She holds a bachelor’s degree and is by far the most well-read in her peer group. My mother, a soft-spoken and extremely articulate woman has spent her 84 years in giving back to the world and her God. Not only that but all four of her children are successful, upwardly mobile citizens who have followed her example of faith and altruism. I’d call this breaking the cycle.

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