Tag Archives: Grandpa

Damaged Goods

I just finished reading Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton. Linda is the oldest daughter of Poet Anne Sexton who suffered from chronic undiagnosed mental illness and attempted suicide many times throughout Linda’s childhood. She finally succeeded and killed herself when Linda was 21 and a senior at Harvard. Linda’s lifelong struggle with depression, alcoholism, medications and 2 serious suicide attempts is vividly retold in the book. Despite being continually abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother, Linda is slowly drawn into repeating the very same behavior with her own children and family. While she knows first hand the pain that suicide leaves with those left behind she cannot resist the desire to reconnect with her mother even if it means her own destruction. The book opens with Linda’s first serious suicide attempt 6 months before she would turn 45. This is significant because her mother’s suicide was only 1 month before her 45th birthday. This can’t help but make me reflect on my upcoming 45th birthday this year and my brother Mike’s suicide less than 1 month before his 46th birthday. In a little over 1 year’s time I will be older than my big brother and time will continue on like that for the rest of my life. Linda’s detailed descriptions of her life at her lowest points also resonated strongly with me. Any reader will recognize the personal human pain she feels and lays out so unselfconsciously whether they are dealing with a depressed loved one or if they’ve traveled a similar path themselves. The book gives an eloquent voice to those who most need to be heard but because of their situations cannot get the words out.

Now I find myself wondering what kind of emotional legacy my brother and I received from our own mother. When my daughter was born my dad compulsively evaluated and criticized every single choice we made with her. I knew enough to ignore his advice even if it meant arguing over every single one. I now realize that he probably did the very same thing with my mother when my brother was born. As a new mother in a relatively new country I’m sure she had all the normal insecurities in her ability to care for her infant son. I have no doubt that my father was unable to let her find her way on her own. I can see him trying to control every single thing she did with the baby from the very start. She must’ve felt so inadequate when comparing herself to her professional Psychologist husband. Surely he knew what he was talking about! I can imagine how defenseless and alone she would have felt. Eventually my mom withdrew from the family and let my dad cast her as the enemy.  I was quite young when my dad started to tell us that it wouldn’t take much for my mother to become an alcoholic. I guess that this was to undermine our trust in her and scare me especially into wanting to be on his side. It was very important in my family to take sides. I was very aware that it was my father and I versus my brother and my mother in a lot of ways. How did this dynamic play out as we got older and my brother started getting into trouble all the time? My parents always fought about my brother. My dad would rage and blame my mother for Mike’s every fault. She loved Mike through it all but of course just having her love wasn’t enough for him in the end. It was damaged goods.

I guess the question now is not what emotional legacy will I pass onto my own daughter but whose?

 

Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective which endorses Blog With Integrity.

To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.

Half in Love Relationships and Depression Series

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Grandpa

We journeyed to Skylandia this past weekend to belatedly celebrate the holiday and my daughter’s birthday with my parents. Thankfully my in-laws were able to come as well. I think my mother had a good time. She stayed up late everynight enjoying the company. I did all the cooking and planning. I have been talking and thinking about this pot roast I wanted to make for weeks now. We finally get there on Thursday and I pull my 4lb roast out of the cooler and my dad turns to me and says, “oh, she’s not allowed to eat meat.” We later clarified that she is supposed to eat only lean meats and fish but it is not like she can’t have a little bit on a special occasion. I wish that he had told me earlier. I would have obviously made other plans but it was way too late to change it and she ate it (and enjoyed it) anyway.

Grandpa was in fine form for our visit. He is constantly underfoot in the kitchen. It’s like how I used to describe my dog Dylan. She was like a VISA card, she’s everywhere you want to be. He thinks that he is helping you but when someone tries to clean everything as soon as you set it down it is just annoying. I don’t know how my mother has done it all these years. He was pissing me off and I was obviously pissing him off. I could hear him complaining to my mother in the middle of the night on Saturday. I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying on the other side of the wall but I could recognize the tone and the anger in his voice. It’s exactly what he used to sound like when he would talk about my brother.

The highpoint of the weekend is when he told my mother-in-law that Piper is beautiful except when she smiles because her front teeth are too big. I remember him telling me not too smile in pictures because of my teeth when I was a child. I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want her to overhear any of it. I’m not sure what to do because he’s bound to tell her sometime. He just can’t keep those little bon mots to himself. You can’t unring that bell.

In the immortal words of Mr Awesome, what a douchebag.

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Weekend

We went to visit my parents this past weekend. It was the first time we had seen them since this happened. My mom looks so tired and sad. She is very quiet and says even less than she usually does. My dad on the other hand is talking a mile a minute. He’s trying to work it all out in his brain I guess. He’s looking for answers and even went as far as to ask me if my brother ever “told” me anything. He also wants me to talk to his wife and find out what was going on with them from her. He’s crazy if he thinks I’m interrogating my friend for him. He was saying that he knew his son when he was a little boy but that when he got older they knew less and less about him. I would say that was because they didn’t care to know anything about him. They didn’t approve of the choices he was making so they weren’t interested in his life. I think that once he got older and started going his own way they couldn’t deal with it. Now my dad goes on and on about what a wonderful thinker, writer, friend, person, etc., my brother was. It makes me crazy because he never really bothered to tell Mike any of this when he was alive and maybe if he did a little more often, we wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in. I know my dad wants me to look to them for comfort now. I just can’t. I know it would help him, to feel that he was helping me a little but I’m not ready for that yet. I haven’t looked to my parents for comfort for a long time now and I’m not about to start now. It’s just that it doesn’t come without judgement – at least from my dad. He’s got to have an opinion on everything and he’s got to let you know his opinion whether you’re asking him to give it or not. It’s like I’m seeing them so clearly right now and I’m just taking a step back and taking it in for now.

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