Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Choices we make

The choices we make eventually come back to knock on our door. We don't pay much attention to most, if not all of them, until later in life, when they're standing in front of us and there is little we can do except realize the reality of them. This is an old thought in human history, and something all of us do, the decisions and actions of our youth played out. But they find us as we find ourselves facing our past and facing the decisions and actions of others from what we did and said.

On my desk is a small cutout of one panel of a Peanuts cartoon from long ago. Charlie Brown is lying in bed with the sheets puttled up to his chin and head against the pillow with his eyes wide open. Above him is the caption he is thinking, "Never lie in bed and ask yourself questions you can't answer." It's always stuck with me, because it's something we all do, and we all find ourselves in the darkness wondering, either why or why we're thinking why.

The reason for this thought? My Mom passed away March 17, 2006. And easy day to remember. She lived her later years in Billings, Montana. Not a place she loved, but lived to be near my sister who moved there shortly before from Denver, Colorado where both of them had lived since 1964. After Dad died in 1994, she sold the house and moved into a condominium. But neither she or Dad were good money managers and my sister had to help her manage things.

And this is the reason for this essay. I live outside Seattle, Washington. In December 1968 I was told by Dad to leave his home (essay about it). My Mom was never told about this for another 25+ years and always thought I left for my own reasons. And even after my brother's funeral and my Dad's death, she never understood why I hated to come home.

It's one thing to reconcile past differences and another to ignore they ever happened. My Mom choose the latter and even after our frequent conversations and my letters she never came around to understand my feelings and perspective about what happened between Dad and I in the years between his statement to me and his death. She wanted to make things right with the family, but in doing so, made it worse. She never saw that.

She also never understood that continually asking for me to come there for family events, because I was single and being easier for me to travel, that I stopped going there for several reasons. I never earned near the income my brother or sister and spouses earned but was always expected to pay an equal third for anything. I was always expected to travel there where they didn't have any of the same expenses to get and stay there.

And lastly, no one ever offered to come visit me wherever I lived since leaving home. They always said it was too expensive for their family, but cheaper for me being single to come there. And so after attending the funeral of my brother in 1991, I told everyone I wouldn't come home again. I lost the best person I ever knew to an early death for reasons that no one saw wasn't his but our father's.

My father died three years later and I was told not to bother. He was cremated and buried in the national cemetary in Denver, where my Mom was buried in May 2006. My sister was the executer of the estate. I won't go into the details why I haven't spoken with her in over 30 years but suffice it to say we just don't get along. And I learned this again, and faced the choices I've made.

Once the estate was settled it took me nearly 18 months to get a copy of the will, to discover I was excluded from anything in the estate. Not by giving everything to everyone else, but by writing in it I don't get anything. It's one thing to be ignored and another to be intentionally excluded. I can't say it really hurt that much because I understood and knew it was what happened. The hurt was being mentioned to be excluded.

And so I laid in bed in the darkness one winter morning wondering why but knew the reason. When I left home decades before I didn't close the door, I wanted my parents to open it and talk to me. I discovered it was closed behind me by the same people I wanted to open it. I'm not absolving myself of any blame in our relationship, I'm just not accepting all of it either. My parents never understood the basic rule of being parents, you always love your children.

They made their choices and I made mine. And in the darkness of the morning I know the answers this time. But it still hurts and still makes me wonder why.

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