1. Choose to forgive. Do I really want to forgive them? Forgiving my family means taking the blame away from them and accepting responsibility for my own life today. It’s so much easier to stay in the victim’s role. It feels good to say “poor me.” In the space beyond all thoughts, the divine space, the emptiness—there is room for all forgiveness and love. In that space, even Hitler can be forgiven. So maybe I can forgive my own parents.
2. Become a wise ghost. A wise ghost is a compassionate spirit who sees the past with mature insights. As an adult, I know how sad and confusing adult life can be. I feel compassion for the suffering I see in others. As a wise ghost, I can float backwards in time and look at my childhood with fresh eyes. I see huge truths that I did not understand when I was younger. As a wise ghost, I see how trapped and wounded my own parents were. I see feelings of self-hatred, depression and despair over rigid sexual and cultural roles. In many families there are huge myths that everyone supports. Many family members were in pain. A wise ghost knows that the executioner is in more pain than the hanged man. It’s far easier to forgive my parents when I see that each of them alone did not cause the things that happened. Instead what I see is a mother and father doing the best they could. They did not understand the beliefs and emotions that drove them. it’s hard to comprehend the rules from 30 or 50 years ago. Some conflicting beliefs make us crazy: “Be a success” vs. “If you win, it’ll hurt your brother” or “Follow your heart” vs. “You have to support your kids.” And some old cultural beliefs were simply too harsh for us to tolerate today. When his father died, a 12-year-old boy was required to work twelve-hour shifts in the mines to support his family because he was a boy. As that boy “toughened up,” it’s no surprise that he became a joyless, cruel and abusive man who beat his children. And yet, as a boy, he was a good son who did what he was supposed to do. As a wise ghost, compassion floods me. I see my family and my culture’s suffering. I am ready to forgive.
3. Accept the apology you never got. What I know is that, if they had known how, my parents would have done better. Most parents were doing the best they could. My parents and grandparents were wounded, just as I was. Now I can look at my family with compassion. I can be a wise ghost who watches the old dramas with equanimity. I forgive my family because I forgive myself. I love them because I love myself. I am not perfect, but I am good and I am whole. May each of us forgive ourselves and all others. May all beings come to this place of love.
my mom has often told me she did the best she could with what she had. I always knew my parents loved us. being dairy farmers was not easy....long grueling hours. constant worries. if a cow died, it was a financial crisis. the herd is sick...how to pay the vet? milk prices dropped but feed and electricity costs stay the same. we were expected to work right along with them. hot. cold. Thanksgiving. Christmas. they milked with the flu. on crutches. mom milked pregnant and dragging young children around with her. there were no days off. no sleeping in. no vacations. plus she had meals to cook. and she found time to make candles and crafts and sew and bake. and sketch. and play piano. and read. and it wasn't just the milking. there were chickens and pigs and calves to care for. hay. fences to keep mended. cutting wood since we heated with wood stoves. and turkeys. the huge garden. mountains of laundry. always a pet or two. squabbling children to deal with. making sure we got up and on the bus on school days. trying to keep track of our practices and concerts and ball games and field trips. and keeping us in clothes. birthdays and Christmas. the big family events at Grandma Grace & Grandpa Vermal's. The 4th of July picnic they used to host. Aunt Minerva's picnic.
we recently went through...hell, still treading deep water, but someone threw me a lifejacket....some very scary, very real financial difficulties. bounced checks. paying bills late. it is stressful. and terrifying. and depressing. tempers flare. when you bust ass at work and then can't even scrape by, it is demoralizing. they worked hard every day. milk prices were out of their control. herd sickness out of their control. there weren't enough hours in their day, then throw in a pack of kids. I know I was a whiner. a chronic complainer. and lazy as the day is long. (I still am. all these things.) I wasn't easy to raise, what with my pouting and skulking. but they put up with me. They didn't expect us to work harder or longer than them. just to help them. It was Little House on the Prairie, working together to survive. and mom tried to make fun times....there was the wagon Grandpa Vermal built so she could pull us kids in the wagon behind the riding lawn mower. when we were older, we'd ride our bikes thru the grass paths she'd mow. she'd pack picnics for hay field and summer fence building days, putting a blanket down for us kids under a shade tree or by a crick. she taught us to sew and bake and play piano. My fondest memories of mom are her curled up in a chair, her feet tucked beneath her, immersed in a book, with a finger twirling in her hair. she had an impressive library for their resources. I read her copy of Gone With The Wind every summer break. and she took us to the library in Princeton every week during summer, we got to do the Summer Reading Program. I checked out The Stand and read it every summer. still my favorite Stephen King book. and we checked out LPs (albums) from the library, too. I loved Helen Ready ..".I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore, and we know too much to go back and pretend...."we stayed at Grandma & Grandpa's a week in the summer and took swim lessons at Trenton Pool. when my clearance mail order wedding dress was unavailable, mom went to Janette's Fabric in Princeton, bought a bunch of patterns to get the sleeves and neckline, etc. of the dress I wanted, and bought bridal satin and lace, and made me the exact same damn dress. while running a dairy farm full time. and with a toddler underfoot. She'd always always watch my kids. she never forgets their birthdays. she made our birthdays into big events, cooking our favorite meals. letting us have friends over for sleepovers. and she decorated for every holiday...Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day....
I try to be a good mom. some days I am. some days I am not. but I keep on trying. and hope my kids can forgive my shortcomings and know that I love them more than life itself. and that they were always always always wanted. I wish we could've done more for them. I hate to ever tell them no. I am so proud of each of my kids. Koren is such a good mom. I am so happy that she figured out how to be a stay at home mom. (I know deep in my heart these are the best moms.) KJ is looking for a teaching job, but true to Axsom form, is working at a job to pay the bills. I myself have been at a job I hate most days for 20 years. but it pays the bills. Work is work. Fun is fun. Kate is busting ass keeping her GPA up and working part time and very active in a lot of activities. She has taken over the dance team and they've never been better. she is an ambitious girl with big plans.