Friday, 29 January 2016

No Place Like Home for The Holidays

I planned to spend Christmas with my family in the prairies. I started to feel my anxiety levels rising in the days leading up to my flight. Around this time my younger sister started texting me about issues she was having with my Mum. I took this as "she's finally emotionally available". I was so very wrong. She was manipulating me and because I'd spent the last 4 years being manipulated by him and haven't started my counseling to deal with this reasons why, I never noticed it.

To sum up two 48 hours leading up to my flight, implosion, drama and a lot of tears. My older sister played peace maker and I talked my Mum down off the cliff. She suffers from PTSD and when she gets too stressed thoughts of suicide come creeping in. 

Flight day came, my anxiety levels started to drop and my dog and I landed safely in the chilly prairies. The major disappointment of my trip was my younger sister left the day before I arrived and never came back. I didn't get to visit with her and even worse, I never met my new niece. 

I wanted to take some family photos and  replace my wedding photos. This didn't happen. I also spent my visit divided between my Mum's house and my older sisters house. It was like they had joint custody of me. I will say that spending time with family was great and I didn't want to leave. I was afraid to feel lonely again, that my depression would worsen. I was lonely when I got home and it took a week to adjust. 

Christmas shattered my sense of security that I had because my family, while small, was close. This led me to gain the courage to reach out to my paternal uncle. I've realized that the only people you can really depend on are family member. This isn't an absolute but I chose to believe that no matter how long you go without talking to family, they still love you and want to hear from you. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Finding Family and Healing Father Wounds

Many months ago my Mum had talked to my paternal uncle (for work) and had talked to him about me. She had asked if it would be able to share his number with me and he said yes. Around this time I was still with him and didn't have the emotional band width to process the thought of calling. I was too ashamed of the life I was living and feared having to lie about my circumstances.

Lately, it's been weighing heavy on my heart to call him. Thing is, I'm afraid to call. He's my dad's baby brother and while they aren't close he's still related to him. It's as though he's a part of my dad but he isn't. They aren't alike for the most part. My uncle is softer and more compassionate from what my Mum and I can remember. He lived with my dad and Mum for a few months back when they were married so I trust my Mum's opinion of him. Besides, she wouldn't have given me his number if she felt it would hurt me in any way. 

So why am I so afraid? It hit me yesterday. Its because I was so hurt by my dad. I could only seem to focus on the monster he now is because of recent things I've learned about him and his compassion (or lack there of) at work. I wasn't focused on the fond memories of my childhood. He wasn't always the most involved parent but he did help me to read, taught me to swim, cross country ski and took me camping every summer. I remember his amazing campfire stories that to this day I think he should have published as a children's book. I was focused on the lack of compassion he had and probably still does for the victims of domestic violence. It's like he's treated me that way and I felt shameful.

I finally called him but he didn't answer and the voicemail wasn't a recording, just the number reached by the automated voice. I took the chance and simple said my first and last name and that I was his brothers youngest daughter. I left it at that and hoped he'd call me back. Shortly after that I called my Mum to hear a friendly voice because that call (though I talked to no one) was still a huge step for me. What if he asked about my marriage? What if I started to cry and couldn't stop instead of answering? What if I let it slip out that my husband abused me? What if he judged me? What if he condemned me for not calling my dad in that situation? All these thoughts were running through my mind as I tried to work up the courage to call and I was one step closer to them becoming reality. 

After I hung up with my Mum I decided that 8:00 pm wasn't too early to have a hot bath and go to bed. Literally, the second I stepped my first foot in the tub I could hear my cell phone ringing. Of course he would call me back. Its like when you're waiting for your food at a restaurant, the moment you leave the table to use the bathroom is the moment your food arrives. 

I answered and we chatted. He asked about my life, what I did for work, where I lived and how my older sister was doing. It was amazing; so simple to talk but so scary to make the first call. As he talked and told me of his life, his family I started to pick up subtle hints that he was pretty distant from my Dad. He asked if I had contacted any other family, if I had contacted my aunt. I said I hadn't, that I didn't really have any contact information for any of them. He told me that not only did his baby sister live in my province (which I knew) but she lived in my city. When he told me that area of he city she lived in, I realized that she was literally a 20 minute bus ride away. He suggested reaching out to his oldest brother as well. 

In the last few weeks since Christmas and all that happened (that I'll talk about in another post) I've realized that while I love my sisters and my Mum, I can't rely on them solely to fill the hole in my heart, that I need to find family members that lived closer. I've talked about it before, I want to finally set down some serious roots and stop being a gypsy of sorts. An aunt, minutes away, I cry tears of joy as I type that. Given my issues with men (they scare me lately), I'm so glad that not only do I have family close by, but that family is female.

I talked my uncle and mentioned that I was in my home province for Christmas and had visited my grandfathers (his fathers) grave to pay respect and also to gather proof of his death as part of the information required to request his military records. My uncle mentioned that they were having a memorial at my grandmothers grave the weekend I had planned to visit my Mum for her wedding reception because it will be 50 years since her death. While I would like to attend and be with family and pay respect to my grandmother I certainly didn't want the opportunity to see my dad. I explained that I probably couldn't attend due to that being my Mum's reception day I would certainly like to see my family either the day before or after (or whatever time frame they would be near by). 

After we hung up began to think about what I would do and how I would act if I saw my dad again. Would I be the cold, stand offish bitch I had been previously? Probably not. Would I swallow my pride and boundaries and try and start a relationship with him again? Certainly not. Knowing all I do now and what I've learned about what boundaries are, I understand what I must do. I respect that he's my dad and I will focus on the fond memories of my childhood visits with him. In saying that, I wouldn't turn a blind (and naive) eye to his problems. He's an alcoholic and who doesn't respect women and is racist towards aboriginals. He won't change who he is and who he is isn't the man my Mum fell in love with. The man he is now is because of his profession (a police officer). He's mentally unwell. It's not entirely his own fault, he has horrible association. The job has instilled in him that he's above others and has taught him to be very self centered. I would probably hug him and tell him I loved him and not say much of anything else to him. I wouldn't hide my life from him but I wouldn't chat with him about it. I wouldn't welcome in depth conversations but rather keep it light and talk about the weather or sports or fishing. Anything that wouldn't rock the proverbial boat.

I heard something a few months back during an interview on Youtube where a Christian gal said "forgiveness doesn't mean trust". This rings true to so many areas in my life. I've walked with a heavy heart because I always thought that forgiveness should be mean forget and a fresh slate. It's not quite like that. It means that I won't hold that hurt against you anymore but I won't open my heart and my life blindly to you. I won't let my dad back in my life without some serious proof that he's sober and sorry for the way he's acted the last 15 or so years. It would have to be coo-berated by someone else (another family member). 

So tonight is Friday and I have the weekend off (though I have some paperwork to catch up on for work) and I've decided to call my aunt tomorrow. I've also decided that I'm going to print off the pictures I have of my grandfather and other family members and put them up. I've wanted to hang family photos for awhile and had planned on taking new ones at Christmas but that didn't pan out. I'll print some nice photos from their Facebook.