I woke up a few days ago and forgave myself. For everything. It was ok to be me and every decision I had made, good or bad, was part of my upbringing, environment and genetic make-up. It’s ok that I am anxious and battle addictions. The stay at home order has enabled me to think, to analyze and to let go.
I loved my parents, but boy, were they characters. My handsome Italian father, was obsessed with his weight and being a golf pro at a club on the south side of Chicago. That was his persona, his life, his true love. Playing golf, schmoozing and interacting with people who had a lot more money than he ever would have. The golf course was his kingdom and he had many loyal subjects.
My beautiful, intelligent Greek mother, who was not allowed to go to college in 1941 because my Greek grandfather said, “girls didn’t have to go to college,” became a brilliant, angry, super-neurotic woman for the rest of her life, because of that decision. Her anger, in my opinion, killed her, as her rages created high blood pressure, obesity and emotional dependence on her family.
I grew up in a small four room apartment in a four flat. I was an only child and lonely. I still am and deal with it often. My parents loved me and I loved them. They loved each other, “not wisely but too well,” and they fought like cats and dogs for 60 years, until her death.
One momentous argument involved a whole watermelon being hurled across a tiny kitchen back and forth while a small child cried (me). Albee’s George and Martha might have been modeled on them, without the alcohol. They had loud voices, articulate even in anger, that were positively Wagnerian.
My mother had a short fuse. During one argument, as my Dad prepared to walk away from her, Mom ripped the undershirt right off his back. She had very strong hands. I was crying. I yelled I was going to call the police and that shut them up. They were embarrassed that their anger had escalated and was being noticed. There was a Stanley Kowalski edge to this incident that I never forgot.
I have been in and out of therapy for many years, but not until I was older and had the time and health insurance to cover it. When I was a teen in the 60’s and 70’s, I didn’t know many people who went to therapists. In my circle, it wasn’t done often. Problems weren’t talked about, swept under the carpet or perhaps confided to the parish priest.
My daughter lives in Europe and has an online therapist in Texas. They talk weekly. I think it’s fabulous.
Today when she and I FaceTimed, we spoke about the past, and getting past the past. I asked her to forgive me for not being as patient with her as I could have been, when she was having teenage issues. I said having a job as a city school teacher and being a single parent was difficult. My demanding parents who stuck their nose in my business every day of their lives brought another element of anxiety. My ex-husband? Divorce brings stress. I was also attached to my broken down Victorian home near Wrigley Field that I didn’t want to give up but worried about money.
My daughter thanked me for the apology. She understood what I was trying to say, as she was processing her past at a much younger age. I am so proud of her for not waiting until she was 50 years old like I did. I am now 67.
I told my ex-husband a few years ago that I was sorry that I only knew how to deal with our issues with anger, as that was what I had learned from my Mom and Dad. He looked stunned. I never knew how to step back and walk away from a situation until I was older. I am still learning.
The COVID-19 disaster is creating a lot of private space for us. We can think and self-analyze with or without the help of a therapist. I have been to AA meetings where the 12 steps are a tool for recovering addicts to find health and peace. There is one step that I think should be added. We need to forgive everyone who has wronged us. It works both ways, forgiving and being forgiven. It’s crucial to growth and emotional healing.
When I woke up a while ago and realized that I was a wonderful, beautiful human being with many talents and friends, in spite of, because of, the strange angry, loving parents I grew up with- it was a revelation. It was my personal eureka moment of enlightenment and fireworks exploded in my brain. I was so happy. Even though I am a work in progress and have many goals to achieve, I can look back without regret and look forward with anticipation.