13 April 2010


Be forewarned. This is a very uncharacteristically personal post.

Last Saturday, my Aunt Beverly passed away after a very long, very very hard life. She waited for me to come to her on Friday, and on Saturday morning, before anyone was up and about their business, she left quietly.

I find myself not really knowing what to write, but needing to write something. She was the end of an era: the eldest and last of three siblings. My uncle died in 2003, my mother in 2005. They were raised by my grandmother, who, when she raised me, could be equally loving and cruel. She had mellowed quite a bit, but she was still insane. My aunt eloped at 16, running away from beatings at home to a man who was even more vicious. She sank into alcoholism and despair, ending up on the streets, homeless. In the haze of her life, she survived shock treatments in mental institutions, beatings that left her bloody and bruised, and lord only knows what else. My grandmother never told me the whole of her story, but by the time I knew her, she was a broken person.

Although she was the most obvious of the victims, my mother, the baby, and her brother suffered too. My Uncle Laddie lied about his age and joined the Navy at 17, hating it, but taking the only way out. He fought alcoholism for the rest of his life. My mother stayed with my grandmother, then married my father at 21, later divorcing him when I was barely two. She begged my grandmother to let her come home, and then never escaped again. My grandmother raised me as if I were my mother's sister. My mother was an alcoholic, albeit executive level and high functioning, for as long as I can remember. She died of liver failure in 2005, outliving her mother only four years.

Why? That's what I've been asking myself. I look at a picture of the three of them as children with their whole lives ahead of them and wonder how they could get up every morning and make the same decisions. Every day. Day after day. It breaks my heart. None of the three siblings could ever forget their mother and move on with living their lives. I think they always felt powerless: caught by fate.

I am feeling strange these days, like someone without a history. Questions come up and I want to call my mother and ask her, but she's gone. As an only child who grew up without any extended family, the death of my aunt has left me feeling lost, as though the last link to my childhood is gone.

Why am I telling you this? I've been going back and forth about posting it. I often write personal things and then delete them before hitting "publish." I guess, in the end, I just needed to say it.

I may yet delete it.

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OpenID redsilvia said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I think your post is beautiful and honest and hopefully helped you to write it down.

Perhaps now is a good time to take pleasure in your present, your gorgeous family filled with laughter and joy.

Take care.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

I'm thankful that you didn't yet delete. I think too often people need to read such reflections so they know they aren't alone in their challenges and sufferings. May your aunt rest in peace and may you through time and reflection find a renewed sense of your connections to your past and future.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Turtle said...

It can be frustrating to be the one left behind with questions that there is no one to ask. (i very much can understand how that feels, very similar situations with my family) Just remember what you have been building on in your life and current home, concentrate there and try to move forward. Dwelling never helps when it is a dead end. Try to find a few bright spots from the past and think on those.(((hugs)))

9:14 AM  
Blogger Rudee said...

Well I hope you don't delete. After all, this is your journal, Romi.

In my husband's family, his mother had 8 siblings, and of the nine, nine were alcoholics. Their parents were poor, but not abusive. His grandmother didn't drink, but his grandfather did. Every one of his aunts and uncles who are still alive, still drink. His paternal grandparents were immigrants and abusive. None of their children drank, but every single one of them turned into an abusive adult and were completely crazy.

My own mother, while not a drinker, was the coldest woman I've ever known. I waver between missing her, and not caring that she's gone.

I only tell you this so that you know you're not alone. Plenty of people never discuss their histories in part, because they're ashamed of what they've come from. I don't know too many people who had perfect childhoods, including me and my own siblings.

I'm sorry for the life of torment your aunt apparently suffered. May she find peace she never knew in life.


9:37 AM  
Blogger Tiny Tyrant said...

Hugs Rosemary.

Ken has the same questions going on and with the passing of his mother in 2008, he has no one left to turn for answers either.

We are still getting stuff from her estate and we have no one to ask about the pictures, who they are, how are they related. It's eating at him and there isn't any way I can fix it. :-(

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think of things I'd like to ask my mother, three years later. May I just encourage and applaud you for breaking the cycle?
Thank you for your thoughtful post.
(and all your Monday posts. I usually lurk, but do appreciate the insights you share.)
Beverly near Yosemite CA

11:29 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Don't delete it; it may help someone else.

The reason they kept repeating the pattern is that they a) didn't know another way, and b)what we know, no matter how bad, is what respond to. If you grow up with violence, you either turn that violence inward (alcoholism), or you spread it around, or both. It can be very hard to break the pattern.

12:39 PM  
Blogger mellenknits said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I understand the need to put the thoughts out there, if only so that you can examine for yourself how they make you feel. We all have bits and pieces of our family that are difficult to look at, both at a distance and up close. But I think that it is in examining the choices that our loved ones make (or have made for them) that we learn to evaluate our own choices. We can either choose to repeat the mistakes of past generations, or consciously step away from them and move in a new direction. While that sometimes means making new mistakes of our own, so be it - they are the seeds of learning for the generation following us. I hope that you are able to reach some peace through whatever path you choose.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Walden said...

I don't comment very often, but I felt I needed to.

Sometimes it is important to share things like this. You are not without a history, it is still there, just not completely known to you. Take what you do know and move forward, not all is worth knowing. I am sure your aunt is in a better place now.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I feel honored that you share things with us. In so doing, you not only help yourself, but folks you don't even know. You are in both my thoughts and prayers at this lonely time.


2:41 PM  
Blogger Thérèse said...

Don't delete. What a sad photo; it reminds us that every life is full of possibility, but the possibilities often go unrealized. Congratulations on succeeding in escaping the trap and living kindly and well.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I'm glad you didn't delete it. It's intense but it'll be important for you to read again in the years to come. Hope you have a great weekend at Yarnover. Probably good to get away.

3:15 PM  
Blogger JelliDonut said...

One's life is not like garter stitch--the same from every side, even and unvaried. While I don't believe we have to suffer for art or anything else, it makes us who we are. I'm in the middle of Brandywine right now, and I know I will not look at the second half of this shawl the same way I did the first half. I will cherish it, because I know a little more about the person behind it. That is special. Thank you.

7:38 PM  
Blogger sophanne said...

There is comfort in knowing that we all share these stories. I have family that I suppose I could ask about and people to ask but just like the other parts of their lives- they won't tell me the truth. With many relatives still around, I don't grieve because I can't ask. I grieve that in spite of asking, I'll never really know. And then those waves of disconnectedness dissipate as I hear of others who share my story of not knowing

7:43 PM  
Blogger Maxly said...

Thank you.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


9:41 PM  
Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your heart with us. ((hugs))

4:33 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

This is of course a very hard time for you. Your courage to speak about it is wonderful! When we are the last ones left it is always difficult, the feeling of abandonment is at times overwhelming, no matter the history of the family it feels horrible to be alone. But you do know you are not alone & you are the Matriarch of the family now. You can shape a new direction of your own design. Allow the sadness, it lets you touch what you have not wanted to touch. My deepest condolences.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Helen said...

You may have been indecisive about pushing the "publish" button, but it is a thought-provoking posting. Family relationships must be one of the hardest things in life to understand and come to terms with. We're far apart, but hopefully you can feel the huge hug coming your way.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Thank you for not deleting. As another only child of an alcoholic mother, my heart goes out to you. We can break the cycle!

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. I hope your aunt finally finds peace. Alcoholism is an ugly thing...it can ruin lives. I divorced my first husband because of it...he died 2 years ago (at the age of 42)-he lived a life of turmoil.
While you do not have an extended family...you are not alone.
Thinking of you-

4:49 AM  
Anonymous Jeanne in Nevada City said...

I'm glad you wrote... those of us from unusual families don't often advertise. If we did, maybe we wouldn't feel so different. My sympathies for your loss.

1:36 PM  
OpenID dropstitchknitter said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and your family's heartache. So often we don't know the reasons behind the choices others make....I think the most important thing we can know is the reasons behind our own choices and the knowledge that we can live with them.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Mary Lou Bachman said...

So honestly expressed. Helpful to you for being able to express these thoughts, and helpful for all who read them, reminding us we are all connected by the 'human condition' and can experience empathy for others, even though we do not know them. These feeling evoked make us better people.
Thank You

10:40 AM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Rosemary- Everyone has a story, and we don't always talk about these things.

But you are not alone- and maybe a more compassionate person, having seen what your mother's generation dealt with.

5:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many miracles in your story, including that you are thriving with a real and a full life. That you have been able to walk away from that vortex of pain and sadness is a wonderful victory for you. I too came from a dysfunctional family ... Tolstoy is wrong ... unhappy families are alike as well ... no nurture, no roots, no love ... just selfish stupid and often very mean behavior. Grieving is important and you are rightfully experiencing your grief. It took me a long while to realize that in seeking answers to questions no one would give me I was digging and digging into a blackness that was just more of the same horrible story. Breathe deeply, cry if you are sad, hug your hubby and children a lot and move forward.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad's family was similar ..... 4 siblings, " 3 alcoholics and 1 social climber"..... they ended up hurting each other badly.

The good thing about my generation is that there are 5 of us siblings, and NO Alcoholics.... we have turned to food so several of us are obese. Better or Worse? We're still not sure.... we hope our addiction is less critical for the next generation. So far there, no alcoholics and no obesity: maybe we've broken the cycle. We sure all worried and watched, but there is no doubt we all have the tendency toward addictive personalities. You just have to be aw are, and hope... life is tough, isn't it?

Barbara M.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

Blessed be.

5:45 PM  
Blogger lv2knit said...

Thank you for sharing your story, and as many others have said, you are not alone. Part of me is sorry I did not read this before seeing you on Saturday, and part of me is glad I did not. I would have wanted to talk to you about it, and it probably would not have been the right place or time. So take care and know that we all appreciate the road you have travelled and how far you have come.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Thank you for your post. So many people today are using the victm card. You could have chosen to do that as well. We are what we make of ourselves, not what our family does to us. It is so sad that these things happen, but they do. The message is that you and God are in control of your own life and together it can be very good. You have changed the direction for your family and have shown many of us that all that has to be done is stand up and live and love and forgive where it is appropriate. God bless you and your family and many prayers for those troubled souls that have gone before.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Chicken Mama said...

It took a lot of courage to share the story of your family. Your family history, good or bad, has contributed to who you are today. I admire how you and Clint have raised your boys and am grateful for your friendship.

Much love to you!

10:20 PM  
OpenID diane said...

This is the first time reading your blog, but I feel like you could be my sister after reading your post. Families seem to get stuck in things that don't seem logical - just familiar. I too am sorry that you feel this burden and little connection to ........... ? Thank you for sharing - I know it touched me.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Thea said...

Thank you for having the courage to let your beautiful story stand in the public eye. Loss and sadness as well as the bright spots of joy give depth to the incredibly complex fabric of life that we as artists and knitters try to express with our work. Sometimes still there is a shameful silence surrounding the devastation of abuse, cruelty, alcoholism in families. In my personal experience, even after many years of talking about my family in therapy, etc. I hesitate to speak of the dark side openly except to my closest friends. I have tears in my eyes also reading of your loss - both of your aunt and your family. May you be at peace.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all have our dusty skeletons hidden somewhere in the closet. Some choose to dust them off now and then and some just don't bother. Thanks for dusting yours off. I think, I'll do the same.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Beverly said...

Romi, Thank you for sharing this story. Families are perplexing. Your writing about yours is a beautiful thing. xxxx

6:42 AM  

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