I had missed that family member. She was a loving, caring soul, but also sensitive and easy to offend. We went into counseling with hope and each other. In all the previous sessions I had been in it was just me talking about my life. Taking out my pocket of sorrows and examining each one. This time it was different. There were maybe seven of us. All at different places in our lives and in our healing process. Some had lived through years of abuse that haunted them. Others, had one or two experiences that they were struggling to put behind them. We each took a turn. We started slow, building a trust as we went. It was such a relief to have my her there. We leaned on each other. Having someone there who knew the craziness of our mother and the brutality of my father, it made me more honest. I didn't try to edit out the hard things. The really bad things that stay at the bottom of my memory. We used a book in those meetings. It was hard. NOTHING about dealing with these things was easy. But that book challenged me, and it saved me. And three little girls, so far away. I didn't even know them yet. But that book was going to change their world .When, their protectors failed them . It was The Courage to Heal. I keep it to the day. Just incase.
We decided that we needed to decompress after these group meetings. We would have coffee or dinner and talk. We each knew things the other didn't and we pieced our shared childhood together. My mother was in an uproar. She didn't like what we were doing. She was beside herself trying to find away to stop us. To break us apart. She would call and repeat things my sister may have said in the past. She seemed to feel that it was about her. We were talking about her and she grew livid. I ignored her. I had grown good at it.
We met after sessions or called each other. We compare notes. It brought us closer together.
Maybe she did what she did next as a defense mechanism. I can't say. She was a strange, foreign creature to me and I could make no excuses for her behaviors. I had gotten close to another of my Cousins. She was a few years older then me and I had always looked up to her. She was a stylist and was running her own shop out of her house. She cut my Mother's hair. She was going through a divorce and to show support I made an appointment. She was also on a path to changing things in her life that didn't work and was trying to analyze her mistakes. We shared our pasts and held each other accountable to change. She came to visit one day, in between hair cuts and told me the most fantastical thing. My Mother had been in for her usual cut and had shown her a large bruise on her arm. Now, my Mother bruises easily, I mean ridiculously so. It was no revelation that she had one then. No, that was not it. My Mother informed her that I had hit her. ME. I couldn't get my mind around it. Why would she say that? I hadn't seen her in weeks, but more than that I am not a hitter. I don't use violence (except for that one time, I know) What was she talking about? There must be a mistake. So with me on one phone and her on the line as well, she called my Mother. She asked how she liked her hair, and said she was worried about that arm and the fact that I would hit her. Here was the moment, I knew she would change her tune. She had misspoken. But, no. She held firm. Now was my turn to be livid. I yelled down that phone line. She was caught out. She was a liar. How dare she. She hung up. I was shaking with anger and outrage and that same hurt that always follows my Mother's betrayals.
I have tried over the years, to puzzle out her reasoning. She must have wanted to undercut the truth. To make me her monster. I was amazed by her drive to hurt me.
In counseling, we had to do an exercise. To imagine the child we were, when our abuse happened. To realize that we were just children and had done nothing to deserve what happened to us and to forgive ourselves for being victims. To lay down the burden of shame. Our youngest daughter was at the age I was when my abuse started. I looked in her beautiful eyes and her trusting nature and I saw the child that I had been.
I had never thought of her. She was a stranger to me. I was the last to abandon her. I walled her in brick by brick and I left her alone in the dark corner of my mind. I was filled with such sadness. For that child I had been. For what was stolen and what was never given. I ached with the sorrow. And I began the long journey into grief.