Archive for the 'fictive kinship' Category


March 7, 2013

I did finally respond to the woman who was like a second mother to me growing up, who recently got back in touch with me.

What I ended up doing was to write her a letter, as she had to me.  I think snail mail has its advantages.

After thanking her for the words of sympathy and condolences, I described my reaction to the card (first joy, then concern) and talked about the consequences to my family of not having them in our lives after Willy died.  And how I took a different approach to my life instead, how I am grateful to the love she and her family shared with me while I was growing up, which allowed me, I think, to be a person who could take the approach I have.

And then I said I was trying to think of a way of re-connecting that I would be comfortable with.

Then I wrote of how I think of her fondly when I drive and talk to other drivers as she did when I knew her [she taught me how to drive, in her large and yellow station wagon;  interestingly, my mother-in-law drove an even larger yellow station wagon when I met her — maybe it was the fashion then, in the late 1970s, early 1980s], and then I closed with something again about trying to figure out what to do, and in the meantime, Love, Diana.

I have no idea how what I wrote will come across.  It was honest, it had affection in it but also wariness.  And no, I don’t know what to do.  But I didn’t want to not respond; when somebody puts themselves out there, I don’t want to hurt that vulnerability.

It’s her call, of course, how she reacts to my response.


Second mother

February 24, 2013

Someone who was like a second mother to me from the time I was eight until I was in my mid thirties sent me a note recently, on the occasion of my father’s death.  She offered condolences for Willy’s death, too, noting their belatedness (he’s been dead almost ten years).

She included two phone numbers, a request to call, and a reference to a “hurtful misunderstanding.”

It took me most of a day to realize that Emily Post doesn’t encourage making requests of people addressed in condolence notes.  My initial reaction had been joy, thinking how it would feel to go back to the old relationship.  Then I felt misgivings when it occurred to me that I couldn’t assume that I would experience the person with whom I had that relationship.  Instead I might encounter the one with whom that “hurtful misunderstanding” arose.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do.  My actual mother suspects the other woman feels guilty and seeks forgiveness.  What I’m not interested in doing is having yet another person ask me to pick up more slack.  I can see that she did the best she could twenty years ago when the parting occurred, but her behavior caused real damage.  The damage had consequences.  I live with all that on a daily basis.  I don’t expect her to do anything about it, but I also can’t be involved with someone who ignores the damage either.

So I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

I find it helpful to look at this as old karma.  I’ve felt betrayed by all my mothers, the two mentioned here and my mother-in-law, but I’ve also been aware that this has happened before and with more painful consequences.  So I see progress.  And as for what to do in response to the note, I will wait until I see what I feel called upon to do.


November 29, 2011

I am trying to figuring out what lies behind the apparent fact that sometimes when we’ve experienced an emotional transaction with someone else we try our best to avoid doing it to others, and why sometimes, whether intentionally or not, we wind up repeating the transaction but with ourselves in the other role.

So, for example, I’ve received very unhelpful condolence notes myself and I make an extra effort not to do the same myself when it’s my turn to write.  On the other hand, I resented that my father refused to teach me how to drive (someone who was like a second mother to me taught me instead, including how to talk to other drivers), and I’ve taught neither of my children to drive (my dad did teach my older sister), although for very different reasons.

I suspect this has to do with how the life lesson needs to be taught, perhaps like the difference between reading about something in a textbook and doing a hands-on project.

So, I titled this “Oppression” because I am wondering how people who grow up feeling oppressed deal with that as adults, whether they try their best not to force others to conform, for example, or whether they visit oppression on others in some other form or guise.


Lasting gifts

October 28, 2011

For about nineteen years, on and off, I’ve thought about how a woman who was like a second mother to me (her “fourth daughter,” she would say, and from the time I was eight until I was in my mid-thirties) literally would not let me in her house anymore shortly after we adopted for the second time.  I grappled with trying to understand, especially after my husband died and I realized the extent of that previous loss, whether I ever really knew her or she me.

But recently it dawned on me that, whatever happened to the relationship, the changes in me her warmth and love effected over all those years continue on, that she gave me a lasting gift in that way, and for that I am easily grateful.  So I focus on that and try to let the rest go.