Understanding our ancestors helps us better understand ourselves

If we're fortunate, at some point in life, we become introspective. If we're really fortunate, this self examination begins early rather than later in life.

I'm a late bloomer.

I have a long list of bad decisions in my life. I wear no blinders that prevent me from seeing them and the ill effects they've had on people I love. And I understand well why I have had difficulties making good decisions. My daddy died when I was twelve, so I'm a classic father-deprived female. I hated my mother, and failed to accept the little life instruction she provided. For all purposes, I grew up parentless. This was included in my recipe for disaster, and I followed it religiously.

One way I tried to overcome my bad decision-making was to ask myself, "What's the worst thing that can happen, and can I handle it?" There are so many loopholes in this question. It provided me with a green flag to make bad decisions as long as I believed I could remedy them in some way.

So during my self introspective times I've asked myself "Why?" Why do I make such bad life decisions? I know the answer. It's ugly.

The lives of sexually abused children are negatively impacted in different ways. Some turn to lives of drugs or alcohol. Others to sexual promiscuity. I've understood the trigger for my bad decisions for a long time. In reality, understanding the trigger and implementing fail safes to prevent bad decision making is difficult. My first inkling that something was wrong was in the middle of a catastrophically bad life-altering decision. My youngest son was about 10, standing in the dining room and talking to me; when I turned to look at him, I didn't see him. I saw another room, one that I recognized as a child. There was a hoosier cabinet in the room, and the pull-out shelf was white enamel trimmed in red. I had collected red-trimmed enamelware for some time. I didn't connect my collection obsession with this episode in my childhood. During that moment of crisis, I thought, "So this is what happens when we loose it". When we go crazy. We see things that are not really there.

Then the nightmares began. They were always incomplete...snippets really. I couldn't make sense of them. I became sleep-deprived, depressed, and suicidal and sought help. After months of keeping a diary of my thoughts, dream snippets, and therapy, nothing happened. I was no closer to understanding what was happening in my life than I had been during my dining room moment. We made the decision to try regressive hypnotherapy. It worked.

Near the end of the session, I could hear the therapist explain to me that he was going to bring me back. I heard his instructions to me. I was aware of the alarm in his voice when I couldn't quite get back. Only when he screamed my name did I "wake." I was curled up in the corner of the sofa with my legs tucked under me. I was sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. I knew what had happened during the session, the identity of the perpetrators, and why I made such bad decisions. The therapist believed my daddy had been the abuser. It wasn't my daddy. It was my great uncle - my grandfather Sanford Holmes' brother, Ed (the minister), and his son Robert.

It took awhile for me to regain my composure. A funny thing happened enabling me to do this...I tucked the memories back into the folder of my mind where they'd resided for so long, and walked out of the therapy session as if nothing had changed. To this day, I have to make myself find the drawer then the folder that holds these memories in the file cabinet called my brain. I don't do it often. On the rare times I do, it's painful, but it brings, in a strange way, a sense of peace. I better understand me.

It took years for me to deal with and understand the effects the abuse has had on my life. Genealogy has helped. I learned from cousins that I wasn't the only victim. Unlike mine, the memories of those who had escaped were intact. Because no one is left here for me to confront, I thought of different ways to desecrate my Uncle Ed's and cousin Robert's graves. I imagined writing long letters outlining what I knew, and even laminating the letters and attaching them with some sort of chain to the grave markers. Rus reminded me this might get me arrested and that I should rethink the idea. So I have been...for years. I can't think of a better solution.

I now understand why my mother used to tell me not to pull my panties down for anyone. I used to tell her that was an awful thing to say, but I didn't understand or remember. I now know why the Sunday family dinners stopped abruptly and we avoided that side of my mother's family. What I don't know is what my daddy and mother did to address it with Uncle Ed, Aunt Susie, and their son Robert. I don't know these details and probably never will while I'm here.

I know the entire family knew, because of my memories. I recall the episode when I was backed into the hoosier cabinet trying to escape from Uncle Ed. I remember the pink pjs I was wearing and my fuzzy slippers. I remember the cut of my hair, and from photos, I know I was probably about 7 or 8. I remember his overalls and his smell. I recall the time during a Sunday dinner when all the cousins were playing hide and seek. Robert called my cousin to come into his empty house, that he had something to show her. She wouldn't go. I did. It was in this house that his wife walked in while he was on top of me. She jerked my arm and pulled me from the floor screaming she was taking me to the 'big house' to tell everyone what I'd done. I was 7 or 8...and she thought it was my fault.

I keep reminding myself that I believe sins against children can be forgiven, but I cannot fathom the repentance process and anguish the abuser must go through to be forgiven.

I know the same thing probably happened to my mother and my Aunt Coot. It helps me understand their life circumstances and decisions better. Without the genealogy research, I would be left with only the bad memories. Now I know more of the story.

A multi-generational abuser and self-professed minister and his son deserve to be outted. I'm still pondering how to do this other than here. For now, it's good enough. If and when it becomes not enough, I hope I have a better solution.

I'm OK. I wonder if they are. I'll bet not.

"Gone but not forgotten." No truer words.

This is a series of stories I'm writing, because my older granddaughters gave me a journal years ago, and I've neglected writing in it. Recently I asked the oldest Emily if I should just write about the good. She said they want it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. This blog will become that neglected journal.