A Visitation

As I wrote yesterday, I am deep in an unfolding. I have been for months, since I moved to Garrison. Which is partly why I’ve been so quiet on this blog, probably. The work I am doing is very deep, happening somewhere off my radar, but blooming nonetheless.

Last night I had a visitation, from my mother or my father or my guardian angel or god or all of the above. I had a dream, a crisp, live-action dream, in which I was standing somewhere that felt like the front window in the dining room my childhood home, surrounded by white curtains. My whole family was with me (though I couldn’t see them), and I was making phone calls: phone calls to my father’s brother, to my mother’s mother, to their coworkers I knew, to family friends, and more.

I was calling to tell them about my book, to ask for confirmation on two things: that the tragedies of what I lived with my mother and father were true—do they remember my father’s rage? can they share with me a story of my mother’s mental instability? can they assuage my concerns that I am not telling a tale that is true?—and to exchange also warm anecdotes of my mother’s magic and wonderfulness, and my father’s goodness.

Certain facts got jumbled: In chatting with my dad’s (younger) brother, the stories of the birth order and siblings of both my parents merged. And my mother was on the phone with me, behind me, when I was talking about her, and participating in the conversation, which of course isn’t quite right. But the voices were those I recognize and know so well, and the answers they gave, they were… breathtaking.

But it was not lost on me when I awoke, chasing the threads of the stories my parents’ familiars were weaving, that the bigger thing that was happening is that I was asking permission, and forgiveness, for preparing to tell the tale of my parents’ weaknesses and failures.

And they gave it to me, that permission, those voices from all the decades of my life.

A thousand tiny walls are coming down in my mind as I prepare to tell this epic love story about my mother and me. I’d lived the first half successfully, of being able to love and love and love her, even as she was hurting me, and to know she was doing the best she could. To forgive her and understand her and pray for her, and do what I needed to to protect myself, even though it made her so angry. (“I never imagined you’d turn out just like your father,” she said once. Oh, a thousand stories of insight and truth that comment launches, but I’m not sure she could see that then… but maybe she did. The rich ironies and absurdities of life rarely escaped her—and yet, she found herself stuck in her own eddy, anyway.)

I have always thought I would tell this story, her story, my story—everyone’s story, the story of doing your best and yet still failing those you love and failing yourself and yet still finding a way to carry the grief gently, to hold on to the love.

What I didn’t know is that there was and is a second part to the story, which is the story of me behind those little walls, the story of the woman will be standing when at last the little girl within me lets out a deep exhale and realizes her terrible loss—of not being able to escape her parents’ unintended damage, of not being bigger than that pain and grief—is actually a victory. A victory of humanity, THE victory of humanity. To know that love is what is supposed to win, always.

And I suppose that is why I am making phone calls to the universe under cover of night, to make sure that my family knows that the legacy of my forgiveness is much bigger—and so much more important, so much more lasting—than the details of the painful story that led me there.

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, longtime magazine editor (20 years in the business, 6 as editor in chief of Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. Right now, I'm searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after living through a series of very jarring changes that bumped me out of the life I was living: a son, then a divorce, a cataclysimcally messed-up house, which led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece), and then, one week after that book came out, my parents both fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and maybe my career), my son got very scared and then, later, was diagnosed with an anxiety/ADHD disorder, my parents died, and at the same time, my boyfriend moved in with my son and me and we started the long and very painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolds on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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7 Responses to A Visitation

  1. alexandra says:

    Sitting here, jarred. Stunned just like when a tadpole is thrown back into icy water. When going through my mother’s things, I found a note, “and Alexandra, so much like her father, of all of them.” Yes, the words she wrote about me and in the context of what I knew of my father. I couldn’t believe it myself when I saw it in her handwriting. I need you to write this book, Stacy. In this small world, think of how many need you to write your story. When we find our stories in the words of others, it heals and gives hope and lifts from the years of isolation. All those years of carrying this burden alone is made lighter by someone to walk next to us. Thank you for being here.

  2. stacy says:

    And thank YOU for being here, my dearest Alexandra. Your words and your belief that I can tell this story, that I should write this story, will shore me up on the long days ahead when I wonder what I have done… I feel so lucky to have found a handful of soul sisters for this journey, you and the others who appear here, us all cheering each other on as we reach toward being as human as we dare. xxoo

  3. D. A. Wolf says:

    ‘Permission and forgiveness.’ These seem like just the right words for the delicate process if seeing our parents for their flaws and strengths, and still loving them.

    Recently I came across some letters to my mother from 30+ years ago, and journals of my own when i was very young. So much I had forgotten…

    These journeys are unsettling and illuminating, and I look forward to hearing more about yours.

    Such bravery, Stacy.

    • stacy says:

      You, too, Wolfie. In the front row with Alexandra and Rita and Lindsey and more, rooting for me to out with the all of it, so I can finally see what I’ve been trying to say—to everyone—my whole life.

  4. Lindsey says:

    Those answers may have been breathtaking, but so too is this post. To say I’m waiting in line to read your book is an understatement. Love to you, xoxox

  5. Rita says:

    Alexandra beat me to the words that were in my head as I was reading this post: I need you to write this story. And if I need you to do it, and Alexandra needs you to do it, there are many, many others who do, too.

    It’s a story I have wanted to write myself, but can’t. My parents are still with me, and I fear that I cannot tell it right. I am afraid that they would only see the pain, and not the forgiveness and victory and deep, abiding love.

    Go, Stacy, Go! (That’s me cheering.) I dare you to be as fully human as you can. It’s a game I don’t think you can lose.

  6. Pingback: In the Deep | Filling In The Blanks

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