It is what it is
“But you knew it would bother me, so why tell me if you didn’t want me to ask questions?”
I admit I wasn’t really engaged in the conversation. My heart and mind were elsewhere and this seemed to be just one of the many normal several times a week phone talks I have with my Mom. She said that it was Grandparents Day and that she’d given a presentation at church. She’s done many presentations so I’m sure I replied with an mmhmm or something. But then she said she had honored my Great Great Grandmother. I probably said that was nice of you or again something along those lines. She said she felt like she had to do it, she felt she owed her that and it was time.
Now I’m listening, she has pulled me in.
My Mother has this ability to give you only part of something and then you have to dig and dig to try to get the rest of the story. Sometimes it works but if she doesn’t want to tell you there is nothing that will get her to do so. I know this is happening and I don’t want to play this game. I know one thing for certain at this point and that is that if this were nothing more than “I loved her so much and I miss her terribly” she would have just said it. I know this is going to hurt but I don’t care and at this point I need to know as well as want to know so .. We do the dance where she throws out out unrelated or vague answers and I persist until she gets angry at me. She tells me I’m relentless and that her reasons are her own and don’t have anything to do with me. But I know different and I am her daughter so by now she should know that I won’t back down either.
In a moment of pure frustration with me she throws it out there and it was like being kicked in the gut..
“All of my life I was ashamed of her”
I’ve heard many stories about my Great Great Grandmother but she died long before I was born so I never met her. All my life I’ve been told that I am just like her or when I was a child extended family members would say that I reminded them of her. She would have just loved you to death they would say, I always thought this was a good thing .. apparently I was wrong.
I want to know why but she tells me that I won’t and that I can’t understand. I ask her to make me understand but she has a call coming in and she needs or wants to take it so we leave it there. I’m angry and I’m hurt and I want answers. I want to know why I’ve been compared so often to someone that my Mother was ashamed of. I wasn’t going to get them that night but I think I was too angry to listen anyway.
We talked again last night and I brought it up. I wanted her to make me understand what both my Great Great Grandmother and I had done to make my Mother ashamed of us.
She said I had to take myself out of it until the time that I actually do enter the picture and to do that I needed to close my mouth and just let her talk. She said it was a long time ago and a small town. Things were different then and having a full blooded Cherokee Great grandmother wasn’t as romantic as I saw it. People talk and they ridicule and that she hated it as a child. She said your GG Grandmother was different, she made medicines that the people wanted and needed but it was all done in what passed for secrecy in a small town back then. Everyone knew you could go to her for help but it wasn’t something they openly admitted to doing. Other people did it, not them. So they mocked her and hers openly and often my Mother pretended not to know her at all or joined in the mocking when she was with her friends.
“Yes” she said “You are a great deal like her in so many ways and you always have been. Your love of nature, your need to always be doing something but more so in how you have a peace about being alone and how you separate yourself inward even when you are around other people and your willingness to give so much of yourself without requiring anything in return. You also have the same sort of quiet faith that she had.”
“But where you come in to this whole picture is that by watching you and who you have become I’m finally able to appreciate who your Great Great Grandmother was and now I am ashamed of myself for how I saw her when I was a child. This is why I had to do it and this is why I said it was time.”
This was a conversation that we needed to have but she pointed out to me that despite all of this most days she doesn’t feel like she really knows me at all. She brought up my little trip across the state last January and how upset I was with her for what I perceived as her lack of help. She told me she doesn’t know or understand what it is that I have been searching for so she doesn’t know how to help me find it. She tells me that I always seem to be running towards a place that she spent so long trying to run away from. She says that there was nothing there for her and for all her trying she can’t understand why I seem to think that there would be something there for me.
Sad part is I’m not entirely sure I know what I’m searching for either. It seems like I spend a lot of time looking for answers when I haven’t even figured out what the questions are.
I’m not angry anymore and not just because of her explanation. I’ve come to understand that we all have secrets and if not exactly secrets we all have hidden hurts and needs whether they are old or new that drive us and shape who we are, how we see things and how we react to situations. I suppose the biggest victory would come less in understanding and more in accepting that within ourselves that can’t and maybe shouldn’t be changed.