Exercise 4: A Person in Your Life
Writing Your Self by John Killick & Myra Schneider
Section 1: Getting Started
I have a second brother, other than James, who died on March 15, 2009. His name is Melvin, although I think he goes by George now. I do not call him George, because that was my father’s name and because I grew up calling him Melvin. I do not consider this living brother family anymore because he has not been in contact with my mother and brother, James, in about eight years.
My father sexually abused me, to my knowledge from about the age of three and continuing after I was an adult, up until the time of his death almost fifteen years ago. I told no one (except my husbands, who I swore to secrecy) until after his death. I was in intensive therapy and worked through the trauma. I had already forgiven my father, but the therapy helped me face the results of his deeds. I am deeply scarred. One aspect of the damage is the effect on my memory. My memory of my life has many blanks because I erased parts of it to cope with the abuse and I have ongoing memory problems. Sometimes I forget things in the short term and do not recall the details until later. I also am unable to visualize. I cannot see anything in my mind. I rely on photographs to remind me of the faces I love because I cannot bring pictures of them up mentally.
My father also abused a number of other people. I even had to take Alex in to therapy because he had been traumatized. My brother, Melvin, learned my father had abused my nieces about eight years ago. He no longer had my father to take his wrath out upon so he accused my mother of allowing it to happen. When I learned he was going to confront my mother, I asked her if she had known my father was a molester. My Mom told me she knew nothing about my father’s misdeeds. She has never lied to me, so I believed her. I know that the things that happened to me were done in secret at times which Mom could have had no knowledge of events. I was so sad that I had to tell her what my father had done. I never wanted her to know, it was not her fault.
My brother, Melvin, came and confronted my mother. She told him she had never known about the abuse. Melvin told her he did not believe her and that he never wanted to see or have any contact with her again. For years, Mom continued to call on his birthday and on holidays to tell him that she loved him and wanted to be a part of his life. He never answered or returned her calls and has never visited again. A few years ago, I told my Mom that she had done enough trying to reach out. I had remained in contact with my sister-in-law, Carol, through email, but with their ignoring my Mom and James, I finally decided to end my contact with her. I began to consider that I had only one sibling.
One of my nieces, Carrie Leigh, is very close to my remaining family. We talk often and she visits when her time allows. I depend on her for help with Mom should anything arise that I cannot handle. She does not blame my mother for things my father did. I consider Leigh one of my best friends. She is the only member of Melvin’s family who has continued contact with all of us.
When I joined Facebook, Carol requested I become her friend. I ignored the request three times and then wrote her a note asking her to quit sending requests. The exact text of the message I sent her follows: “You and Melvin no longer want to be a part of my family. You have not been in contact with Mom or James in many years. You two made the decision to ignore us. Mom did nothing wrong and I will not desert her, I promised James I would take care of her. I have ignored your request three times, I would rather not block you, but I will not change my mind. Please respect my wishes.”
She replied: “We all must do what we feel is best for us and for our family. Apparently James and possibly you and your mom felt it was best to shut us out. We accept that if that is the case. It hurt both of us terribly to find out that James passed away by reading the obituary in the newspaper.
Our attempts at contact were met with hostility and death threats. What other choice did we have but to cease contact after that kind of reception? I’m sure you heard only one side of the events. If at any time in the future you wish to hear the other side, just let me know.
I hope you sincerely do not believe your mom did nothing wrong. If you do, that’s on your shoulders. Not mine, not Melv’s.
Your wish will be respected. Just know that while we feel we have been shut out, our love continues.”
I was appalled that she would send me a message so full of lies. Mom, James, and I did not shut them out. They cut off contact with James and Mom. I finally felt I could no longer be in contact with Carol and be loyal to my mother and brother. All during the time James was ill with cancer, Carol and Melvin failed to call or visit him. James decided since they could not be family while he was alive, he did not want them informed upon his death. That was completely understandable and the family respected his wishes, so they learned he had died from the newspaper.
My mother never acted hostile toward my brother and his wife. She made every effort to reconcile with them. There were no death threats. I have been with my Mom almost constantly for the last ten years. She has never wanted anyone dead. She is not a violent person.
I trust my Mom to tell me the truth. She is no liar. When she told me she had no idea my Dad had mistreated any of us, I never doubted her. I will not attribute wrongdoing to someone who is innocent. Mom and I have discussed what happened to me, not in detail because it causes her pain, and had she realized my Dad was a molester she would have protected me and the others who were exposed to his abuse. My father was very sneaky about what he did. There was no way for my mother to recognize his perfidy. None of us who were abused ever told her what happened. Sexual abuse and incest were not open issues like today. It was not discussed and I was afraid to tell anyone, as I would suppose the others were.
I hope Carol will leave me alone. I find it hard to believe there remains any love for us with she and Melvin. I promised my brother, James, that I would take care of Mom and I will not desert her. Nor will I torture her by being in contact with people who have been so inconsiderate of her. We are not the villains here. The blame for the rift in our family lies with my father who is dead, Melvin, and Carol. There is nothing that can be done about my father’s actions. Forgiveness is my solution for dealing with the monstrosity of it all. Carrying hate toward my Dad would only poison my life. Carol and Melvin have been apart from us so long now that I feel the differences are irreconcilable. I have no brother.
It is terrible that my family has been destroyed like this, but within the portion that remains there are tender loving bonds. None of us is perfect, but we deal with what life has dealt us to the best of our ability. Unspeakable horrors were perpetrated on me, but I survived. I learned to let go of the blame and move on with my life. I am sure it is not the life I would have had were there no abuse, but it is a life and that is precious.
I hope one day Melvin and Carol will realize shutting us out of their lives is their loss, but I must go on without worrying about them. They must deal with the consequences of their actions. I am not responsible and will not be drawn into the drama. The blame they place on us upsets me, but I can do nothing to repair the damage.
This piece covers many relationships to explain the one between Melvin and me. I wish there were a different outcome. I wish Melvin and Carol were supporting my efforts to make Mom’s remaining days comfortable, but that is not to be, and I cannot afford to fret over it. I am doing my best to be a good daughter and a humane person. If I am wrong, I leave the judgment in God’s hands.
Mom is eighty years old and she deserves peace and respect in the time that remains for her. Her health is fragile and I am doing my best to care for her. She read what Carol wrote me and it upset her terribly. I will not allow that to happen again. I have a responsibility to protect my mother; she can no longer do it herself.
Jo Ann J. A. Jordan