You never know what someone else has gone through
Boy scouts proudly share their motto: Always be prepared.
Maybe being a girl scout would have helped me in life. I’ve always felt unprepared for just about everything. But maybe if I share some of my story, you’ll understand why.
Both sets of my grandparents emigrated from Greece. When someone asked us what nationality we were, we were told to say we were of greek descent.
Some of my feeling different than others could have stemmed from that. We were from a different culture. My father was from the “old school” mentality. Or at least that’s what my uncle told me. I saw this played out when I was in 7th grade. Kids talked about “going” with someone. It didn’t mean anything, but one thing was for certain, I wasn’t going with anyone. So I felt different socially. Odd.
Years later, I remember a boy holding hands with me. It felt wonderful. But then I cringed when he asked for my phone number. How would my father handle that?
Still, I went home and I asked. That’s what you had to do in our house. You had to ask for everything.
“No! You don’t give your phone number to any boy. And another thing, don’t ever think of bringing a boy to this house. You’re not even going to date till your 18.”
Sometimes I think it would have just been easier if no one asked me. Then I wouldn’t feel like we were so different than other people. People who did things, people who went places. In our house everything was about family. Nothing else.
I remember asking if a friend of mine could come over. I held my breath.
“Yes,” my mother said.
So one day Judy, who was also a sophomore, came over. I felt less different. It felt wonderful. But sometimes good things don’t last long.
Judy and I were downstairs in the basement talking, when all of a sudden, my brother ran through the rooms at full speed with my mother right behind him, waving part of a rubber hose.
I just wanted to disappear. To climb into a hole and never come out.
This felt even worse than when anyone met my dad. Oh, he was nice enough. To others anyway. And many found him funny. But when you live with a person, you know who they really are, and sometimes it’s not funny at all.
The only time I felt safe with dad around was when he was eating. He was over 400 pounds and food was the most important thing to him. He even owned a Snack Shop.
I don’t know what stressors were in dad’s life, I would guess finances, but whatever it was, he took it out on us.
And we’d never know when it was going to happen. All of a sudden he would pull the belt out of its loops and start swinging it at us. One after the other. When I heard my brothers screaming in the next room, my stomach would tie in big knots, knowing I would be next.
And no amount of pleading helped either. “Put your hands down or you’re gonna get it worse,” he’d warn.
I grew to hate the beatings, but I hated the one who gave them even more.
At the time, I never considered that maybe my father had problems. I just assumed we must be bad kids.There was no liquor to blame. It was just pure rage.
But my mom chasing my brother with a hose? I stood there frozen. And then I felt my face get all red and hot. Later after Judy left, I wrote her a note.
The next day, after school, mom called me down to the basement where she was ironing shirts for my dad.
When I walked into the room, something felt very different.
“Never in my life,” she began. “Never in my life, did I think I’d have a daughter who would feel the need to apologize for me.”
She had somehow seen my note.
And then there were tears. I felt like the worse daughter in the whole world. I mean look at her, she’s crying. I hurt my mother.
Her tears started mine. And then I was apologizing to her, telling her how sorry I was.
I apologized to her, but she never said anything about what she did. Not one word.
Yes, I grew up in a dysfunctional home, and not one of us even knew it. I think that’s part of the dysfunction.
But soon our lives changed in a way we’d never recover.
Mom wasn’t feeling well one night, so dad worked her shift in addition to his. Two days later, she was gone.
The six of us stood beside her bronze colored coffin. And as we filed by for the last time, I felt the weight of the world on me. Sixteen was too young to lose a mom. And to be left with dad? It was too much. The next thing I knew I was screaming, “No, no!” as I threw myself on top of her.
When a mom dies, the family dies. And that’s exactly what happened.
First Gus moved out. Then a couple years later my sister did, and not long after that, I followed suit.
Our family had disintegrated. The house felt empty, just like we felt inside.
And yet, the world seemed to go on as usual. We were expected to function as if nothing had changed. There were no counselors back then to help us process this. We felt completely alone.
And our extended family had stopped coming around too.
On the outside, it looked like we were growing up, but the truth is, it was a facade. We were still wounded kids inside. And emotionally, we were stunted.
Years later, when my husband and I had our own children, I did the best I could. But when it was time for our son to move out, I remember feeling such great sadness. It’s true, most parents feel loss when their children leave the nest, but this was more intense.
“Just think back to when you moved out,” other mothers told me, hoping it would help.
But I had no launching memories in my closet to pull out for comparison. Not one. Just memories of our lives changing forever.
The thing is, life happens whether we’re ready or not. And we are expected to live it. And sometimes, what we have is a bunch of people who are just faking it, hoping that no one will catch on.
We never know what someone else has gone through, or what they are facing.
I think if we’re honest, we’d agree that all of us feel weird at one time or another. Some of us are just better at hiding it.
More About Anne
While Anne enjoys being a poet, speaker and published author, her favorite title is still ‘Grandma’ to her four grandchildren here, and one in heaven.
To find out more about Anne you can visit her at:
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