As anyone who has read my blog knows, I have disappointment and anger toward my mother, which I have worked to put into perspective. Right now a large number of females reading this are shaking their heads in agreement from similar experiences.
But I am fortunate. It took a horrific event to help my mother and me have a relationship. No one should have to suffer the way she suffered. But one good thing that came out of it was emotional healing for us.
When I was 21, my mother had massive strokes from which she never fully recovered. She had double vision and had to have a patch over one eye except when she slept. Her face had fallen on one side and she could only drink liquids through a straw. She could not walk unassisted except at home and still used a walker and then a wheelchair. She was depressed and embarrassed. She would say she wanted to die.
I stopped hating her. I still hate many of the things that she did, or allowed to happen, but her strokes made me grow up. Instead of being a whiny little girl in a young adult’s body, I started to get to know my mother. She was definitely different as her mind had been affected. And her long-term memory was better than short-term.
Most of all, due I think, to the part of her brain that was destroyed, she had no desire for alcohol.
For the first time in my life, my mother didn’t get drunk.
From 1975 until her death in 1994, I forged a relationship with my mother. I was able to forgive her for most things and most importantly, to realize that she was doing her absolute best. We never had serious talks about the past. I don’t think she could mentally do that. But through stories and through physically helping her deal with her disabilities, little by little I changed.
But it took my genealogy to put our relationship, and my parents’ relationship, in some perspective.
I’ve done AncestryDNA and have my family tree done on FamilyTreeNow (which is free, by the way). I’ve worked on our family’s genealogy on and off for a couple of years. I’m now moving everything over to Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com seems to have bought out, or at least cornered the market, on many of the documents needed to prove lineage.
And that has been transforming for me. Have any of you worked on your genealogy or seen any of the old documents?
Seeing scanned copies of the original census of where my great-grandparents were living in 1875 makes me emotional. Not a dry report. Details of where they lived, with whom they lived and what they were doing. Making them come alive
Seeing the German birth record of my 2nd great-grandfather who was born on 21 Jan 1818 in Recklinhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany amazes me. And then I wonder why my grandfather, my mother’s father, on census records stated his father was born in Germany, which he was, and then changed it in 1925 to say his father was born in Holland. It shocks me.
We were always told that this side of the family is from the Netherlands. Did he change because Germany was our enemy in WWI? How did this affect my mother growing up? My grandfather’s father immigrated here at the end of the 19th century. Why the need for subterfuge?
My maternal grandmother’s family came here from England in the early 1600’s. Seeing these photos and documents and seeing that I am from real people, with real lives and real occupations, not just “ancestors” has changed the way I view my parents. And now I can teach my children that they are part of this huge history of immigration, love, life and death.
My mother’s and my relationship is but a tiny part of this long line, the seeds of which go back so many, many generations.
It is humbling.