My maternal grandmother did not get along with her siblings. If I remember correctly, my mother said their issues had to deal with property that they were left by their parents back home in Jamaica.
My mother and her brothers (she is the only girl) do not get along. Their issues stemmed from my grandmother favoring the children of her husband, as opposed to the children that she had before that marriage. In that same respect, my mother and her mother did not get along.
So when I became a teenager and realized that my siblings and I did not get along, I immediately thought it to be the result of a generational curse that was on my family. Granted, my siblings and I weren’t speaking to my brother because he had raped me but I always blamed the curse for putting that evil spirit in him.
My belief in this spirit caused me to think about the future adoption of children, even though I was only a child myself. My first thought was that children that weren’t biologically mine would not fall victim to the curse. Then I remembered that I wanted to experience the joys of motherhood and pregnancy so I decided to only have one child. Again, I believed that with only one child, sibling rivalry would be impossible and the curse would end with me.
No matter how foolish my logic, I just wanted to make sure that the children after me never felt the pain that my siblings, my mother, and I had felt.
Hate begat hate…
To my knowledge, my mother didn’t have a problem with her brothers. It appeared as though her issue was with how her mother and her brothers treated her because she had children at a young age. Whatever the catalyst, she and her brothers did not get along. By the time I was born, she was only on speaking terms with her eldest brother. He aided in rearing me and my sisters; he also aided in bringing my brothers to America. I do not recall having a relationship with my grandmother, as she also preferred the grandchildren that came from one of her favorite sons. Even as a child, that hurt me. I had done the math and I knew that my mother’s children were older but my grandmother did not like my siblings…simply because of our mother.
I remember the December that my grandmother died. It was 1995 and she had been in a diabetic coma on my mom’s birthday. She ended up passing on my uncle’s birthday and was buried before another uncle’s NYE birthday. My mother, my eldest sister, and I all cried at the funeral but for different reasons. For me, I cried because my mother was crying. For her, I think she cried because she was burying a mother who never knew how to love her.
That following Thanksgiving, we tried to come together as a family but my siblings and I soon realized why we kept our distance. As a result of the rape and my new obsession with eating to cope with pain, I was an overweight child. I remember clear as day my uncle’s wife turned to me, a 10yr old, and said “you must eat the whole refrigerator.” Naturally, I ran and told my sister. She was 22yo and was always my bodyguard. She came and put my uncle and his wife in their places before promptly snatching me out of that situation. Never again did we try another family gathering. By the time I had told my mother, she had decided that enough was enough and she just cut off communication with my grandmother’s precious three sons.
Over the years, my mother stopped communicating with all of her brothers for one good reason after another. Despite how she feels about her brothers, she still maintains wonderful relationships with her cousins and other relatives in Jamaica. But her brothers here in America? Nah, we don’t talk to them. Forgiving them is one thing, but they also represent decades of pain and anguish that none of us want to relive.
Ironically, despite the relationship that my mother had with her brothers, she always encouraged me to work on my relationship with my siblings. Only thing she didn’t understand was that as we aged, we began seeing qualities in each other that we could not stand. For instance, I am severely opinionated and that is one quality that I cannot stand in my sisters. So when they would voice their [unsolciated] opinions about my life, I would often cut back on my communication with them. Then I would run and tell my mother (first mistake) and she would tell me the same thing every time “you have to be the bigger person.”
Being the bigger person…
For a long time I thought my mom was referring to my weight when she made that comment. Yes, I was active in church, but surely she didn’t mean that I should apologize to them when they were older and I felt like they should apologize to me. No way; that’s not how I believed God worked. But no matter the disagreement, they would eventually forgive me and become my favorite siblings again. Now I must add the disclaimer that they can hold grudges against each other forever but they never held onto anger against me for too long.
My mother inadvertently taught me many things. I say inadvertently because I never listened to her when she actually said it…no, I gave her words YEARS to sink in and take hold of my heart. But I do remember the lesson that I had to teach her: how to love M.E. Prior to me asking for it as a teenager, my mother never hugged me or showed affection. Because of how she was raised, she believed that going to work and paying the bills meant that she loved us. I waited until high school, when I could no longer hide it, to let her know that I needed more.
I needed to hear my mother say “I love you.” I needed to feel both of her arms wrapped around me in a meaningful embrace. I needed her to speak positivity and affirmations into my growing spirit. I needed that but my mother didn’t know how to do that because no one had ever done that with her. So I taught her. I hugged her often and told her I loved her every day. We even developed a routine where I kiss her on the cheek and she rubs her nose on my cheek. That’s our thing; small in gesture but major impact on my life. Now as an adult, I see my mother giving my nieces the love that I desired as a child. She is trying to be the grandmother to her granddaughters that her mother should have been to me and my siblings. She’s not rich but she prays incessantly and she buys all their clothing (that’s her thing; her grands never go without clothing. LOL!)
As I continue on this healing journey, I am understanding more of what my mother tried to teach me as a child. Of all my goals, my first desire was to break the curse. The disgusting and despicable cycle of pain and hurt that flowed through my family ends with me. At the women’s conference last month, an attendee affirmed that because I was speaking my truth- God’s truth- that I was breaking the curse and ending the cycle. And I believe that! God laid it on my heart at 3am to let the world know that whatever situations of bondage and pain entrap us, He is bigger than them all. He can free us from those chains and shackles.
When I began this journey, I gave the Lord all of my hurt, my pain, my anger, my fear and instead picked up His grace and mercy. I challenge you to do the same. We are not a product of our pasts; it may have contributed, but our pasts do not define our present nor our future. Turn to God. Let Him break your chains and set you free.