Thursday, September 4, 2008

Revisiting The Past through the Now

For those of you who do not know, my brother's girl friend found me two weeks ago. I had not seen my brother since my mother's funeral five years ago. I had not spoken to him since Ella was born. So, that gives you the picture of our present relationship. None. Yesterday morning began with details on what happened to my brother's daughters, my nieces. I've had to take the story in small pieces. My nieces have been in my mind for many years. Children are always the fallout of the messes adults make along the way. I wrote letters to the last known address. I knocked on doors with no answers. The whole family disappeared. The truth is I didn't want to find my brother or his wife at the time. So, I had to settle with sending the girls thoughts, love, and prayers that prove well under what they needed.

The news I received yesterday was heart wrenching. My oldest niece has followed in my brother and his ex wife's footsteps, drug abuse at twenty-one and the lost of a child to DEFAC. The youngest was taken into foster care over two years ago. She is doing well and chooses to remain in foster care rather than go to my brother, who is clean now. But clean is such a subjective word. The Webester Dictionary's definition is as follows: 1. Free from dirt, impurities, or contamination. 2. Free from wrong-doing: honorable. Can any of us claim this? So clean is something that happens after we become dirty and there's always the chance we will become dirty again.

I can understand my niece's need to remain in the place where she found peace and love. You see it is that young abused girl, who still resides in me that relates to her decision, who cheers her on, reminding her to outgrow the legacy left to her by her family. But in doing this I walk away from protecting my baby brother, who is now 44. Has the time come to release my role in this family? Is is way past time?

Here I would like to give you a poem by Nastasha Trethewey called Momument. She wrote this poem after visiting her mother's grave that did not have a headstone. Her mother was murdered by her second husband when Ms. Trethewey was 19.


Natasha Trethewey

Today the ants are busy
beside my front steps, weaving
in and out of the hill they’re building.
I watch them emerge and—

like everything I’ve forgotten—disappear
into the subterranean, a world
made by displacement. In the cemetery
last June, I circled, lost—

weeds and grass grown up all around—
the landscape blurred and waving.
At my mother’s grave, ants streamed in
and out like arteries, a tiny hill rising

above her untended plot. Bit by bit,
red dirt piled up, spread
like a rash on the grass; I watched a long time
the ants’ determined work,

how they brought up soil
of which she will be part,
and placed it before me. Believe me when I say
I’ve tried not to begrudge them

their industry, this reminder of what
I haven’t done. Even now,
the mound is a blister on my heart,
a red and humming swarm.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Green

My mother was many, many things that I will not go into within a blog. But I had a revelation with this news. She was the handhold to these two girls. Never in our lives together was she able to be this for me, but she gave my nieces a small tiny life of security, not perfect by far, security all the same. When she left this world, they were abandoned.

We are so many different people. My mother was because of her mental instability. Her faces changed on a daily basis, but yet, she did touch these girls' lives.

It is my plan to reach out to my youngest niece through her caseworker only when they determine she is ready. I would never do anything to jeopardize her well being. I do want her to know she has an aunt who loves her and now knows where she is. This news was tough on many levels. It brought to light, once again, what my family was like when I was a child. Many times I've been told: You are so strong. How did you come out so together, so successful? I would never guess. That's my favorite.

It's times like these I'm reminded I didn't come out of it ok. I'm marked, a reflection in a younger girl's life.

Where I am right now is due to my spiritual background and my refusal to stay down. Also, my gift of writing brought me through with my sanity and that is why it is so much more than a mere career and publishing credits. I became a storyteller and I surround myself with creative people when I have a choice. The only way we take a journey like I've taken over the years is by giving and receiving. They go hand in hand. Period.

Yesterday after my news I met with a new friend at the coffee shop one block from me. This is a independently owned shop called REV. I go there to write when I just need to see something different. My suggestion of meeting at REV was my way of giving a glimpse of me to this person. We had a wonderful talk and goooood coffee. I was given handmade necklaces. One for myself and the other with a prayer box for my new mommy daughter. The conversation was healing for me. When I returned home it was with high spirits and determination to continue my journey and not go back into the past any more than is needed. But we never leave the past completely behind. We can't. I've come to accept this and in this I find peace.

And this my friends is what living is all about. There is no physical matter to the gift's existence. The spirit is what brings the action alive.

I passed the prayer box necklace on to new mommy daughter. I told her where it came from and all about my day. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "I can put all my prayers in here and wear them."

We must push our journey forward. Push, friends, push.

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