The Legacy…

Back in 2000, when my grandmother passed away, my brother and father had a very nasty falling out at her funeral.  My father invited my neice, my brother’s eldest child, and her mother, his first wife to the funeral.  His reasoning was that it was her great-grandmother, and she had a right to be there, and if my brother would not go get her, her mother had to bring her.  He also said that, just because he and her mother had gotten divorced, it did not mean that we considered her mother any less a part of the family.  He felt that she knew my grandmother, and if she wanted to be there, she had a right to be.

That did not go over too well with my brother.  He said that he and his new wife could not grieve our grandmother’s passing properly with her there, and that he did not appreciate the fact that dad invited her.  He and my father yelled and screamed at each other, and I suddenly realized that this was exactly what would have occurred if my mom had come to the funeral.

For days, other family members had been asking why my mom did not come to the funeral home.  They said they missed her, and she was still a part of the family.  They told me to let her know that she was welcome any time, and that they wanted her to be there. I kept telling saying, “You know that daddy would have a fit if mama came here.”  And they assured me that he could, “Just get over it.”  But even after 20 years, I knew that he would still cause a scene if she were to visit.  I also knew that she would never go because she did not wish for him to act an a** in front of my brother and myself and cause us more stress.

Every cruel word he had ever said about my mother was never more vivid to me than it was on that day.  I saw my father in my brother, and it hurt.  It was at that very moment that I finally understood everything that my mother had endured and realized how hateful my father really was.  I was enraged that he passed this anger and rage on to his own son, and that it had the potential to destroy another child.

Fortunately, my oldest niece’s mother left before it was too late to spare her daughter the pain of growing up in a home with so much rage.  My niece is now a well-adjusted, normal teenager who understands that she is loved.  She also understands that, though she deeply desires to have her father’s love, it is not required for her to feel whole.

It makes me so angry to know that this is the legacy my father has left for us.  And although I have chosen to reject it – it is still being passed on.



Every time someone yells, I find myself shrinking into my protective little world.

“Stay quiet, avoid eye contact, make yourself small, and if you are lucky, you might not be the one that takes the brunt of it all.”

I know my feelings are irrational, that the adrenaline rushing through my veins and my racing heart are conditioned responses to explosive anger. Every time I feel this way, I feel stupid for letting myself be bullied, and angry at others for subjecting me to it all over again.

At times, I am simply a bystander, listening to people yell at each other because that is they only way they can communicate. Sometimes, I am a listening ear that receives the yelling because it has no other place to fall. And I know, that there are plenty of times that I am the place that the blame should fall, thus the yelling is deserved in others eyes.

Each time I react – I used to always hide. Yet, now when someone yells at me – directing all their stored up aggression in my direction – I tend to get a wee bit perturbed. I used to take it all, but somewhere along the way I learned that there are things I don’t deserve. Being the focal point for someone’s inability to cope is not my lot in life. I am a person – and thus a rational being (contradictory to the third sentence I know…). I am capable of conversation, and of understanding the finer points of others feelings without the need for raised voices to deliver the punch.

So I ask you for one last time: Do not yell at me, and I will not yell at you. I respect you that much. But if you must insist on yelling, you will spar only with yourself.


Oh, how quickly I am undone when there is tension in the room.Even after all this time it still does not take much to make me fall apart. With one look, a slightly raised voice, a mood swing or a harsh answer I am quivering inside. It may not even have anything to do with me, but if someone does not calm down quickly or explain to me what’s going on, my mind and body go on alert.

I try so hard to be understanding and realize that other stessors could impact the situation. However, when someone takes it out on me, it’s hard not to let my feelings get involved. As my mind starts clicking through things I might have done, I begin to work to minimize damage by shutting down.

“Be quiet. Say what you must. Don’t let them know your feelings are hurt – it will only piss them off. Do anything possible to remove outside irritators in order to prevent greater wrath.”

After doing all these things, I begin to get angry myself. I begin to think of how hard I am trying to accommodate this unreasonable person and how it isn’t helping much. I think about how tense my body is, and how it is not my fault. Add this to my already racing pulse and I am usually just about ready to explode.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be ok. I know that all of it has to do with my childhood, but it is very hard to stop. I want to be ok. I want to shrug it off.

But then I wonder – “What if it really was my fault.”