Titling this post was not “easy peasy lemon squeezy.” The topic at hand has proven emotionally overwhelming and distressing to the point of contemplating ignoring it all together.
However, though I may have been raised to pretend something was not happening when it was quite clear that it was, I am not that girl anymore. And because something recently occurred on our family vacation that needs addressing, that needs to be expunged from my clearly shocked self, I have chosen to “pick up the pen” and let it out.
Last night, around a dinner table of 12– my parents, their four children, one spouse (my husband), one girlfriend (my nephew’s), three nieces, and another nephew–my father, the patriarch of our large family, leaned over to my 23-year old niece and said, “Did you realize you are half of the biological granddaughters in the family? Do you know what that means?”
This niece, who has had two half siblings since birth, has lived with her paternal grandfather’s blatant preference for her over her siblings her entire life. Further, this grandfather, who has been told in so many ways, by his son and others over the past two decades, that treating step-grandchildren so differently than biological grandchildren is offensive, did it again–for no good reason that we can come up with.
“It means nothing,” she replied.
When said niece shared this story with me, I felt both elation for her having had the presence of mind to respond the way she did and anger towards my father for having not only made the comment, but for having the thought in the first place. Perhaps what feels most shameful to me, his biological daughter, is how he included his adopted granddaughter in the category of “less than.” In my father’s family, if one is not related through his blood, apparently, they are not seen as “real” family.
When my educated, conscious, and heart-centered niece shared this information with me tears streamed down my face. The intense hurt of that comment feels as if it will never leave me. As the protector of my child, my only child, how do I shield her from the world at large–who will sometimes see her as “less than” because she did not grow in my body–when I cannot shield her from the one and only grandfather she will ever know? The one who in one breath shouts, “I love you, my darling granddaughter,” and in the next, whispers to his biological granddaughter that she is special because she shares his DNA?
How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all. –Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The anger I feel must be felt, this is true. But how do I forgive the man I call “Father” when I do not believe his words and actions are forgivable? Still, in order for me not to perpetuate the lineage of exclusion, I must forgive him.
It seems, then, that it comes down to me, does it not? How courageous am I? It dawns on me now that I will only know that I have become the mentor I wish to be only when I feel in my heart that I can forgive my father for speaking what he believes is true. If he does not see anything wrong in the words that he spoke, then he has not intentionally done harm, and I must, it seems, forgive.
Of course there comes the argument that ignorance must be put out by the firefighter who sees the flame. If I see the potential damage in the path of the burning embers and I do nothing to stop it from spreading, am I the criminal?
And yet I only know of this hazard because somebody told me about it; I was not first degree burned so I recognize my place in the disaster as one of an onlooker from a distant hillside.
I have no answers tonight, but instead go to bed with a sad and heavy heart. Perhaps there will be no answer to this lifelong dilemma of feeling helpless in the face of what I see as wrongdoing. I write to help free myself from the internal distress that arises when I experience injustice. Sometimes in the process another may recognize a little slice of wisdom they’ve been seeking.
In my perfect world there are no borders, no difference between how I see God and how another experiences a Divine Presence, and no need for compartmentalizing family. One world. One people. One Mother, and One Father.