Childhood Trauma Affects Present-Day
Dear Annie: I'm 63 and number eight of a Catholic family of 10. Only one sibling remains Catholic; most of us went to other churches and are now Christian. During my childhood, I seemed to be the one to get it bad in terms of punishment.
One day, I told my mom the neighbor kid had spit in my hair. Rather than being sympathetic, my mom cut off all my hair that went down to my waist to up past my ears. After years of silence from her, all she would say was, "If you don't know what you did, I'm not telling you."
When I turned 16, I took the kids I was babysitting to the library and was attacked by five bullies. I was taken to the hospital. The next day, my mother brought me over to the main bully and slapped my face in front of her. I ran away that very day.
I didn't see my family for 11 years. When I came back, my parents apologized, and I took care of them until they passed. I decided to start having a family get-together every year, but after the second one, I'm not feeling it's worth it. They look at me like a person they wouldn't want to be around. I don't do drugs. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm happily married, but most of them look at me in a bad light.
My long-winded question is, should I continue a family get-together where everyone shows up, or should I call it a day and love them from a distance? It hurts my heart that they've never asked me what happened in our childhood. I guess they really don't care to know me. -- Waste of Family Time
Dear Family Time: First off, I want to highlight what a strong person you are and, unfortunately, had to become because of your childhood. Your mother's actions toward you sound appalling. As kids, our parents are supposed to love, support and protect us, but yours put you in unfair situations.
Despite this, you've shown grace and allowed them chances to redeem themselves -- even caring for your parents as they got older. You have a big heart and a giving spirit. If the surviving members of your childhood family aren't able to see that or aren't interested in getting to know you, by all means, discontinue the family gatherings.
Dear Annie: I had to respond regarding "Torn in the Midwest," who was debating whether to send an apology to an ex-girlfriend for the way he ended things 12 years ago. You were right in telling him to send the apology. I was involved on the receiving end of such an apology, and it literally changed my life.
Two weeks before I was to be married, my fiance broke everything off with no explanation. During the following years, we both lived our lives in different states, marrying others and raising families. I harbored a deep, hidden hurt I never discussed with anyone.
Then 35 years later, I was contacted about a college reunion, and I planned to go until I saw his name was on the list. I canceled. He contacted me by email asking to call. I refused but told him I would share emails. That was when I received a heart-wrenching apology from him. I felt as if a million pounds had been lifted from my shoulders. He had been looking for me for over 30 years to say those words. I was able to forgive him. I had been waiting so long but just didn't realize it. So much cleansing came from those few words, and we both needed it.
So, by all means, I agree, send the apology! -- Soothed by a "Sorry"
Dear Soothed: You were among several readers who shared stories of an apology that came decades late and remarked how much better they felt afterward. As another reader wrote to me, "Whether she is happily married or not, there are some pains that don't go away." It's never too late to do the right thing. Closure is priceless.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.