Family relationships are never easy. They’re even harder when the people we love have untreated mental illness and almost a century of emotional baggage that makes my thirty one years of such baggage look minuscule in comparison. It has only been in the past two years that I’ve really come to grips with the fact that this is just the way family works. Some families get over it. Some don’t.
My relationship with my mom’s father–my last living grandparent–is an interesting one. He has only met The Mister once and that was at my grandmother’s funeral six and a half years ago, a year prior to us getting married. He was not at any of my graduations. He was not at my wedding. And in a turn of events no one sees as surprising, he has yet to meet the girls. His only great grandchildren will probably never know him.
I keep in touch with him. Up until this past fall it was almost entirely through letters for several years. His absence on my wedding day hurt and I put up a fortress wall so high that no mortal man could climb it. I shouldn’t have been surprised when his boutonniere never got picked up and put on and the pew he should have sat in had an empty seat. In the following year he temporarily disowned my mother. I know he was depressed as hell over the loss of my grandmother. I know he has problems that existed long before that. But I couldn’t stand by and let myself bear the brunt of those problems.
So I put him on the other side of the Wall.
I started taking trips to the other side of that Wall to make contact with him some in the last year. I sent a few more cards. I showed up and visited him. Granted, I had a small ulterior motive, but that was just the instigating factor in getting me there. It wasn’t the entire motivation. Yet when he called on Monday and cancelled my visit with the girls on Friday without being able to talk about a date to reschedule, I was not at all moved emotionally. I sat there and took it all in and let him talk about his medical problems and doctor’s appointments and then I calmly ended the call and went about my life.
There’s a point when we can’t buy in to the emotionality of a certain situation anymore. For those times, there is the Wall. He’s on the other side of it now and I cannot invest myself too heavily in someone who has placed themselves there by their own actions.
I am a very compassionate person. Sometimes to a fault. I give people the benefit of the doubt far too often and for far too long. But once you’ve crossed that line with me–once you’ve made it abundantly clear that there isn’t hope for you changing the things about our relationship that hurt me despite every chance to do so–then I am done. Done.
Despite being very sassy and outspoken, I’m rather meek when it comes to standing up for myself. I hate confrontation. But one day on a school sponsored trip in law school, I went off on a fellow classmate who had finally made her way over the Wall with me. I still remember being possessed by some demon that saw fit to tell this woman off in a way I never knew I had in me. Out of my mouth came things I had only ever thought before and never put into actual words. (Don’t feel bad, this girl deserved it. Many on the trip and back home thanked me for my service to the human race after.) So when I heard her outside on the hotel balcony calling her pastor to ask him to pray for me, I sat on the bed and smiled.
There ain’t no prayer to save you from the Wall, my dear.
Now, I don’t go off on every person who crosses the Wall. My grandfather will never verbally hear the ways in which his actions have hurt me and my family over the years. I know it’s pointless and I’d rather preserve what little relationship I do have with him. There are others that I have to deal with for years to come due to association by marriage, by profession or otherwise that fall into this category. But make no mistake, my mind has been made up and very few people have ever successfully climbed the Wall back into my good graces.
I’ll never reach enlightenment carrying around the weight of this Wall. But I never really was looking for enlightenment anyhow. I’m just looking for a way to make it through life and do the most good while I’m here. If it takes the Wall to do it, then so be it. We do not live in an enlightened world and there’s too little time on Earth to mend every fence.
Sometimes the best replacement for a broken fence is a big old Wall fit for your heart.
Is it just me or do you have a Wall?