The Letters

It’s amazing how much one accumulates when they not only have all of the detritus of their own lives but the artifacts from their deceased parents, grandparents (both sides) and brother.  What’s even more amazing is the vast amount that I have is just a tiny fragment of all that I once had that was lost in the many moves, due to lack of care and so forth.  It’s insane all the crap I have of everyones lives.  We’ve moved the boxes of stuff a few different times and it’s always been a sore spot between me and Chris.  He wants me to go through it, I do and throw away some and then find a shiny object and move onto another thing and never quite make it through things.  I also have never sat and sorted.  I’ve opened boxes and gone “oh it’s ____” and move it to the keep side and keep on trucking.   In April, I finally took on the task of sitting down with the things and going through it, organizing it and deciding what to do with it all.

It’s always a bit of an emotional roller coaster going through this kind of stuff.  Pictures of people that are all dead.  Memories that come flying back that are bitter and sweet.  Times you wished you remembered and times you wish you could forget.  I think that’s a lot of why I became a photographer was because all I have left of my family is pictures.  The letters are a different matter.  It’s funny to look back and see so many letters one saved.  All of my love letters from high school boyfriends (I pitched those finally).  Notes from friends secretly passed between classes.  Cards for my birthday.  Our kids won’t likely see these things from our generation forward as all of our correspondence now is digital and hidden behind passwords.  These are some of my favorite treasures to find from my family as they give a peek into what life was really like in that small snippet of time.

I found a box within one of the big boxes full of cards and letters my Mom’s parents saved.  Cards from various events from 1979 – 1985, they saved them all.  I ended up making the decision to not hold onto these any longer as I don’t know most of the people in the cards and letters and sent them on to my Aunt whom will appreciate them more than I or my kin (if I have any) ever could.  Then I came to letters from my Mom to my brother while he was in Basic Training and then on duty with the Navy.  I’ve read many of these letters before when they were sent to us along with other things from his room after his death.  I haven’t re-read them in years and just took the envelope with them and moved them to the keep pile and kept on sorting.  Then I came across three letters that were apart from the main letters that were kept.

I should have just sorted them along with the others.

I read the first of the three letters and while it’s harsh and biting towards my father and calls me lazy, it’s not so bad.  I’m not one that looks back upon someone that died with starry eyes.  I know my Mom had a lot of faults and one was that she wasn’t nice.  She was very sick with COPD and that exacerbated her grumpiness.  The letters to my brother always had a theme: I’m sick, I hate your Dad, send me money, you hurt my feelings and your sister doesn’t help enough around the house.  Keep in mind that my age through the span of these letters was around 10-13.  While I was “older” I was still a kid.  The second letter was more mean than her normal self and mentions how my Dad didn’t want to kill a bees nest because he hated to kill them.  She then tells my brother how she doesn’t get how he could be upset about killing a bees nest when he killed the dog without any qualms.  I about fell over.  KILLED MY DOG?!  See, I’d been told that Mandy went to a farm because she was too old to be inside anymore.  She was peeing everywhere and going blind.  FOR YEARS my Dad kept this ruse up and eventually a few years later he told me she died.  I get it now why he did what he did, he did it to protect me.  Mandy was old and in pain, it was time for her to go on but he knew I’d be upset so created the farm story.  I now wonder if the cats really made it to a REAL farm or if it was the same farm Mandy went to.  Poor Mandy.

The final letter.

Why didn’t I stop?

The final letter was more of the same and lots of guilt trips about my brother not sending money or spending time with her when he was home.  NOW I totally get it.  Back then though, I didn’t know about the letters and never understood why Mike didn’t stay with us or see us much when he was home on leave.  After reading these letters, I can’t blame him at all.  Anyway, she was complaining about not having time to write like she usually does because I stayed up late every night keeping her company, playing cards etc. and how finally that night I was in bed “early” at 12:30AM.  That made me laugh because I’ve always been a night owl.  Then there was more bashing of my Dad and the usual and she comes to me again.  This time I get bashed too.  She tells my brother how I’m such a strange child and how she just doesn’t know where I came from because she can’t relate to me.  She says I’m unfeeling and how she doesn’t understand why I don’t cry at movies or books.  She just doesn’t like me and probably never will.

WTF?  OUCH?!

What kind of mother says that kind of shit?  Beyond that what kind of mother says that to her SON about his SISTER?

I cried when I read it so guess what Mom?  Apparently I do have feelings.  I was freaking 10, of course I didn’t cry at movies or books.  I mean it’s not like Superfudge is all that sad?   I don’t know why it bothers me so much, I KNOW my Mom didn’t like me, hell I listened to her try to plot how to kill me, but it doesn’t mean that it hurt any less.  Just another chapter I guess in my screwed up childhood.  Mothers Day was a couple weeks after I read these letters and I have to be honest, I didn’t miss her much that day.  I feel so darn guilty about harboring some ill will towards her but that letter, in particular that line, really sliced to the core.

Maybe this is why I am not a mother.  I really worry that I won’t be any better.

Thank god for Dad.  He may have not been nice to Mom but he was amazing to me.  The letters made me miss him so much.  I think he must have kept them separate from the others so I didn’t read them.  Because that’s the kind of parent he was, he told me my dog went to a farm to protect me from the pain of seeing a beloved pet die.  He hid the letters to protect me from the pain of knowing my Mom didn’t like me.  He gives me hope that someday I will be the kind of parent that would protect their children from pain instead of cause it.

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