FAMILIES & HEALING–a difficult journey

Life imitates art, IS art and therefore can leave us both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time.

Yesterday was fascinating to me because of two 'experiences' with family–one in real life, the other in the movies.

Yesterday, Uncle Geo celebrated his 100th birthday by 'dovening' the prayers before and after his Haftorah reading in his synagogue. Without getting too much into the details of the Jewish rite of passage known as the Bar Mitzvah [usually we do it one time at age 13] Uncle Geo had made a habit of re-doing his own Haftorah portion periodically and inviting his family members to attend.  After a few of these 'shows' of bravado, most of us stopped attending.  But yesterday was clearly different.  Let's face it–there are not too many 100 year old Bar Mitzvah 'boys' around.

As he looked around, he was gratified by the turnout.  'More people here than at the High Holiday' services.' he noted.  There were his three remaining siblings [out of an original eight]–two sisters remarkably intact in their 90s and my own Dad, frail by totally 'with it' at  age 89].

Of note were his three children, my cousins.  Each one had stories and remembrances about his parenting style.  They had the psychic scars to prove it.  He had been a tough SOB.  Demanding, yelling, critical.  Rarely did he reveal a soft loving side.  I doubt it there was much physical abuse but  emotional abuse had clearly been dished out.

Each child had dealt with it in their own way–yet they were each there to celebrate with him.  Some have noted that he has 'mellowed' in recent years, perhaps as a result of his own physical frailty and perhaps because of medication.

Each has raised their own children with a direct awareness of how different they would be as parents.  They have each been terrific parents–concerned, involved and loving.

In some manner, each owes their parenting style to their own suffering.  And despite this awareness and undiminished memories of their own tribulations, were able to 'be there' for their father.  Families are part of life's adversity that many struggle to overcome.

Last night by 'coincidence' my wife and I saw the film RACHEL'S GETTING MARRIED' directed by Jonathan Demme.  Anne Hathaway was phenomenal as were the entire crew of actors.  It is about familial dysfunction to the extreme.  Attempts at reconciliation, personal hurts, unforgiving and forgiving are the meat of the film.  Debra Winger play a fantastically cold, self-involved Mother who barely has time for her daughter's special day.

In effect, there are traumas that can be forgiven or at least overcome, and those that cannot.  In an ideal world the story ends 'happily ever after' with warm hugs and kisses.  For some of us reconciliation on some level is possible.  We can learn how 'not to behave' or treat others by the way we were treated.As we grow we can recognize that our parents may have been damaged in some way by their own upbringing.  They were imperfect beings who happened to be our parents.

At times we can 'forgive' the other with a sense of compassion for their own inadequacies.  Perhaps they did 'the best they could'.  Of course we cannot force ourselves to love them.

But if we have an option–reconcilliation is best.  If for no other reason than it can begin to heal a gaping wound in our own souls.  I do believe that we are 'together' for a reason.  Perhaps the healing between two souls may take a multitude of lifetimes to acheive and the truth is it takes two to make the effort to heal.  But one can begin the process—alone. 

This may only involve releasing the anger and hatred toward that family member who should have shown love—feeling compassion for someone who, for whatever reason,  was incapable of doing so —someone who suffered more than you could know, perhaps more than they could know themselves.

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