Last year, for Christmas, I bought Mum a family photo shoot as a present and we booked to have it taken at the beginning of this month. When I bought it, in my head, I envisaged the children, Mum and myself taking part. However she had other ideas. She wanted her husband to be in it, my step-father. If you've read this blog for a long time then you will know we have an awkward relationship that goes back to my teenage years. More recently it has become easier but all of a sudden, the thought of being in a family photo with him filled me with horror. It was a strange feeling, something deep and buried; one that wise people, who have commented on the situation before, have told me I must resolve. They are right, under the surface everything is still raw but mostly I don't notice on a day to day basis.
The problem was that Mum didn't communicate to me about her wishes until very close to the time the photo was booked. And without going into massive detail, she was miffed about my response, so miffed in fact that she was fairly unreasonable.
The storm broke when she emailed me saying I had lead a charmed life as a teenager. I saw red. I was so angry I shook. She had no idea, she had forgotten? I knew she had never believed me. All those emotions flew around my head.
So, in a step that I thought I would never take, I wrote to her telling her how things had really been, things which I always imagined she would die without knowing, things she would have been better not knowing. But I was angry and I realised that the anger was all to do with her never doing anything about the situation.
Though I wrote in anger I did not send until I was calm and had read it through many times. Her response was that she thought she had solved the situation by never leaving me alone at night with him! I reassured her that it wasn't always the night that was the danger.
She believes me now, she said she did before - which made things worse in a way because, despite knowing what he did she stayed living with him, always has lived with him. How could she? I know she is too old to leave now but, how can she live with a man like that? Unhappily I suppose, as she has over many years. She's not as strong as me, she tells me, 'I couldn't leave him' she states. Whilst all I can think is ' if someone I lived with laid one finger on either of my children they'd never cross the threshold ever again' but that is the difference between us I suppose, the difference that makes me free and her a prisoner in her own life.
Was this all cathartic? May be. The photo was cancelled to be rebooked under different circumstances perhaps. At least she has acknowledged that my dream childhood was not that at all. For her though, I know I should have kept it to myself, what can it all have done to her?
She's currently not really talking to my step-father, for what good that will do. She thinks it punishes him but I know he is just lying low until the dust settles.
Seeing her again will be difficult. Yet we can both put on a great act...The whole episode made me think about the notion of family and the massive web of emotions and feelings that the simple word contains.