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blessing | curse

blessing | curse

grandma said that at twelve years old her mother would whip her and lock her in an outhouse if she took a break from picking cotton. she was in her seventies when she told me that story and couldn’t tell it without stopping to prevent herself from crying.

uncle called mom recently and according to her started crying like a baby after asking her if their father ever told her he loved her. she told him he hadn’t and this sent him in a spiral as he explained how their dad never showed up to his school events, waved him off as he entered the military or greeted him when he returned. for whatever reason his emotional outburst upset my mom, and her response was to tell him to stop looking backwards.

after she told me this i expressed to her that some people never look backwards and some only do when they get older, and that regardless when, how or why, it’s important for us as humans to grieve and to understand and embrace that grief for what it is, because that’s often the only thing that gives us the strength to look forward and move in the same direction. she said that might be true because he got upset at her for telling him to stop crying. i told her he was upset because he wanted space to express himself, not get advice or a lecture from his older sister.

these stories about my grandmother, great-grandmother, mother and uncle are weaved together in my mind. when my great-grandmother became incapable of feeding herself i’d sit next to her, excited to put the spoonful of food toward her mouth so she could be nourished. it never failed that she’d slap my hand away and send food flying in all directions. every time. she never said a word but it was like she was making a statement about being fed, because after i cleaned up the mess she’d take the next spoonful in her mouth as if it was planned that way. i’d look back and consider that was the only way she could express that “this situation i’m in is bullshit!” i’d consider my actions might be similar in her shoes.

sixties and seventies seems an awful long time to wait before looking back but like i told my mom, the ability to look back at all is a blessing; it’s moving forward without knowing how you arrived that’s the curse.

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