Emil’s affect on our lives did not end there. When I was employed by the police department in Galveston, I came across information revealing that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation of a young girl. I notified the evidence technician that the “subject” was dead. I will never forget his kindness. He asked me how I knew the man and I told him that he had been my grandfather. He looked at me with kindness and said ” We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family.” He told me he would take care of removing the information from the files. Now don’t think he did anything illegal, once a person is deceased, the files are archived. He, of course, checked with the Bureau of Vital Statistics for verification and date of death. I voted for that him when he ran for sheriff 30+ years later, he won.
Late one night, I received a call from my mother’s sister who was intoxicated and crying. She knew I was in therapy and wanted to know if she could get help. She told me that her father had molested her repeatedly when she was growing up and she went to live with one of her relatives. She said that she told my mother at the time and my mother wouldn’t believe her. I think it is more accurate to say that my mother was in denial, she didn’t want to believe. As her life progressed, my aunt became more and more inappropriate. She had an affair openly with a married man whose wife supposedly knew, she was into porn which would have been her business if others didn’t have to hear about it, she made a bride’s care package for me that included a used vibrator and various other gross objects (I refused to open it in front if others because I knew it couldn’t be good and trashed the whole thing), and she would say things for “shock” value. I loved her very much even though she was often the source of much embarrassment. I believe that she was tortured by the reality of what life dealt her including a failed marriage due to sexual issues. Anyway, I revealed to my aunt that Grandpa had also molested his granddaughters and that I learned that he had been arrested on charges of child molestation. She was angry when she told me that the “stupid” judge dismissed the charges and how she had wanted her father to go to jail. Galveston was pretty corrupt at the time so who knows what the judge was thinking. She also said that being in the bedroom next to my grandparents (the walls were very thin), she knew that he was perverted and forceful with my grandmother and gave me details. I have the ability to talk, write and hear about almost anything with detachment; perhaps my aunt had that same ability.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that my aunt would run straight to my mother with what she had learned, probably not out of support for me and my sister or to comfort my mother but more to say “I told you so.” A few days later, I got a call from my mother who asked that I come talk to her. I hope to reveal the details of that conversation at a later date but she did deny that she knew about my grandfather’s Pedophilia. She said that we didn’t seem to show any effects of his having molested us because we never acted like we didn’t want to be around him. O.K. so if you didn’t suspect him of being a child molester, why did you watch us for signs of his having molested us or did I over-analyze her reasoning? My mom told me at that time that my father had been the one to bail my grandfather out of jail when he was arrested. She said they believed that the girl was lying. Of course they did! I believe that Mom was the one who was lying, at least to herself. Denial? My father always appeared to be a bit naive or we were just stupid, not sure which. I know that my mother kept things from my dad about her children and her father. Honestly, I feel anger towards my father for never protecting us, for his not wanting to see things that could or did affect us. I will talk about that in another post.
I feel sad for my mother because she had to accept what her father really was. I believe that she always knew but her love would not allow her to acknowledge, even to herself, that her father molested children. My sister asked that my mother remove the picture of her mother and father from the wall in her house. I was proud of my sister for asking because she is one to give of herself to others no matter the cost to herself. Forgiveness is her mantra. In spite of supporting my sister, I sense my mother’s pain at believing that she had to remove the only thing she had left to symbolize normalcy regarding her parents. Once when I went to the cemetery with my mother to visit my dad’s grave, Mom downplayed putting flowers on her father’s grave. His grave is located with the graves of my father, grandmother and two aunts. She took the old silk flowers from her mother’s grave and put them on her father’s saying “I’m only putting flowers on your grave because you are next to my mother, you old bastard.” I knew it was only for my benefit and told her that I didn’t have a problem with her placing flowers on her father’s grave. I have had to come to terms with the fact that like it or not, he was her father, my grandmother’s husband and my grandfather. I am grateful that he died when he did so that our family has not been forced to make difficult choices.
There are some things about Emil that I wish I knew and a lot that I don’t want to know. Alcoholism is a family disease, my mother and her only sister seem to be the only recipients. My grandparent’s youngest son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I wonder if these mental illnesses were in any way related to sexual abuse perpetrated by their father? Was my grandfather molested by his father or did he molest his sisters? Did he ever feel any remorse? How did he feel about Anna? Did he harm her? Recently, my mother has given me permission to ask her anything and promises she will answer. My questions have been very general because I have tortured her all my life by trying to get answers or justifications to comfort my inner child. When is it o.k. to hurt others to satisfy your need to know? Is is it our parent’s obligation to own up to their mistakes and the mistakes of their families before them?
Please understand, I am writing these family stories so that they can breathe fresh air. I have had enough shame throughout my life and I am not one who shakes it off easily. You see, in spite of my family history, I am O.K. today. I took responsibility for my mental health, educated myself and had therapists who helped me learn to live with my life’s experiences and the choices I have made. I learned that life is made up of all kinds of experiences, some of our making and some not, some happy and some sad, some good and some not so good but together they make up who we are. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn. If you embrace your family’s history, whatever it is, you will understand that you are not responsible for who or what they are or were or the choices they make or made. Without getting into each person’s skin, we don’t know what kind of pain or experiences drove them to be who they are or were. Understanding why people do what they do doesn’t excuse their behavior, what it does is help us to see their behavior with more compassion. We never have to accept unacceptable behavior.
I am making every effort not to apologize for my family being who they were and are. Fortunately, they are good, friendly and loving people who have worked hard for their accomplishments. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we have truly exorcised our discomfort with each other over the past. I think no-one wants to “rock the boat” and we all have to deal with things in our own way. Do I wish it were different? I’m not sure, I just know that I can live with things as they are.
Galveston Panorama, Galveston Police Department Website, File name: document.jpg
Caricature of a sitting judge, 123 Royal Free Photos, http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=judge&start=4300&searchopts=&itemsperpage=100
Photo of a young girl, 26198945-cute-little-young-girl-standing-in-the-park-holding-yellow-flower, 123 Royal Free Photos
A digitally converted painting of a single bench in a cemetery, Crystal Graphics, http://powerpictures.crystalgraphics.com/photos/view/cg8p3956745c //digitally_converted_painting_single_bench_cemetehttp://
Photo of Vintage Suitcases, istock Photos by Getty Images, http:www.istockphoto.com/photo/vintage-suitcases-49442414?st=bd567c8ry
Photo of Mother and Daughter in Conversation, http://familycouplescounselchino.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/ilissas-family-tip-8-have-you-considered-mother-daughter-counseling/
Photo of woman looking out window, http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-woman-looking-through-red-curtains-rear-view-20604007?st=69b97fa,