Me and Charlie

Hi again. Glad you came back. 🙂 The last two posts about what has led to me sever ties with my ‘genetic family’ were difficult to write. I admit it’s been hard to re-examine these scenes. It’s been challenging to look my buried feelings in the eye and let them move through me. It’s also been freeing.

Lemme take you back for a moment to the old Charlie Brown cartoon. Lucy gets down on her knees and holds the football for Charlie to kick. The first time she pulled the ball away because she didn’t want Charlie’s shoe to get dirt on the brand new football. Every time after that, though, she did it on purpose. Every Fall, she would promise she wasn’t going to pull it away on him again and he believed her. And she’d do it again. Every time.

I have often felt a lot like Charlie Brown within my genetic family. Every time something unkind, cruel or nasty was said or done, I’d forgive them or overlook it or try to fight back, which always made me feel worse. Every time I felt the lash of their words or the gut-punch of their actions, I’d believe the next time would be different. I believed they’d let me kick the ball. Repeatedly, I was left laying on my back, betrayed again and again.

There was my wedding. I had two sisters and one friend who was as close as a sister to me. I did not want to choose one sister and hurt the other. I wrestled with that and finally asked my friend to be my maid of honor, so both of my sisters could be my bridesmaids. What happened leading up to the wedding includes backstabbing and nastiness from my sisters toward my maid of honor. None of which I knew until a year after the fact. My sisters took over throwing me one giant bridal shower including co-workers and people from my fiances family as well as mine. They pushed my MOH to the background. leaving her with nothing to do. They gossiped and complained about her throughout the lead-up to the wedding and afterward. Frankly, they added enough stress to the preparations that I remember talking to my fiance about eloping and scrapping the whole ordeal. Maybe they didn’t want dirt from my shoe to get on their brand new football?

There was also an argument J picked with me two days before my wedding day. To this day, I have no idea what she was yelling at me for. Our bedrooms were on the second floor of the house and there was a small hallway at the top of the stairs that led down to the first floor. I was in my bedroom when J threw something in my room and stomped away, yelling. I came out of my room to respond to her and she took both of her hands and tried to push me down the stairs. I am not kidding. I was able to catch myself by grabbing the top of the railing and remember my knees going all wobbly as I almost fell. I was in shock, I think. I know it took me a while to really believe what she had tried to do. I pushed the event quickly to the back of my mind and kept moving forward. It was hectic and busy and I had no time to deal with it. I picked myself up off the ground, brushed off the autumn leaves and thought, like Charlie Brown probably did, ‘It’ll be better next time’.

My sisters and I grew up dreaming of our weddings. We’d talk about the dresses, the hair styles, the shoes. I had always assumed that we’d all be in each other’s weddings. In fact, at one point, we may have even promised it to each other. I got married first, had both of them in my wedding. Then J got married and had M and me both in hers. A couple years later, M was planning hers.

One day, I got a call from my mother. She told me that M was distressed because she had one ‘extra’ woman for her bridesmaid choices and that would throw the things off as far as the number groomsmen her fiance had chosen. She asked my mother if she thought I would be okay with not being in her wedding. Why she wouldn’t ask me about it directly is probably obvious. She knew I’d be hurt. My mother was calling to tell me that she answered M by telling her ‘Ellen’s been in enough weddings, I’m sure she’s tired of them’ and let her off the hook. Talk about gut-punches. And there I am, laying on my back again. I looked at the cloudless blue sky wondering why I ever trusted them.

My godmother died in 2005. I was at her house with my parents to help clean out her things. My cousin offered me her French Bible, which she had brought with her when she moved here from her birth country. I was thrilled to have it. I cherished that I’d have something so I could stay connected to her in some way. On the way home in the car, my mother said to my father, ‘That French Bible should be given to M, because…..’ I don’t recall her reasoning, but it was happening again. I was being tossed aside. Something that was mine was being given away to someone else. I remember objecting to her comments that day, only to have my father and her insist it was going to be given to M. I was staring at the sky again, with the orange and yellow leaves against the blue background. Again, on my back.

One last story. My grandmother died in 1998. She had a mahogany dining room set that was to be mine. I was given the table, chairs and server. My aunt took the china cabinet and told me on several occasions in the coming years that when she passed away, it was mine.

I waited twenty years. It was 2018. My aunt died. My mother called me after a day of cleaning out her apartment. She listed the things she had accomplished, donating this and that, my one cousin taking something and my other cousin taking the china cabinet. I spoke up and said, ‘but that was mine, Mom.’ She came up with 42 reasons that I didn’t want it, shouldn’t have it, wouldn’t have wanted it, why it was too late to get it back for me, and on and on. I felt the Earth beneath me yet again.

I kept believing these women loved me. They were my mother and sisters, right? Mothers and sisters always had your back, right? They’d love you no matter what, right, ‘cuz blood is thicker than water and all that? I didn’t know how to handle any of this treatment from these people.

This last time, I don’t get up. I lay flat on my back, thinking. Lucy and the football are gone from this place. The warm-cool breeze brushes my skin. I sit up and look around. Has there been anything that has ever been there for me? Has there ever been anything there when I landed? What or who has watched these events occur and never abandoned or betrayed me?

I felt the Earth beneath me…the solid unwavering ground. I felt certain it would not dupe me. I sat up and looked around. There were trees. Each one waiting and watching. Each one offering branches and leaves and breezes of restfulness.

So this is my last post about why I am estranged from these people. I’m glad I brought the memories back up. I shared them – spoke them out loud. It seems when you name something, call it what it is instead of burying it, it decreases or eliminates the power it has over you. Instead of burying them this time, I’ve let them go.

I will never again talk with Lucy, nor will she convince me to kick that ball. Instead, I walk among the trees and leaves, feeling the love and life beneath and around and above me. And at last I know the truth. Me and Charlie have been too trusting. We’ve been too forgiving. By that, we allowed ourselves to be mistreated. We weren’t wrong to extend the trust. We weren’t wrong to be so giving. We only needed to believe what we were seeing. We needed to believe what they were doing and not listen to the ‘blood is thicker’ sayings. We needed to simply walk away. And know that we can go elsewhere to get the love we need.

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