::If you are related to me, I want to say something before you read the rest of this. I want to say that I love you, and I’m just a student trying to embrace where she came from, appreciate all the positive, mourn the negative, and understand what it all means. I am a meaning maker. And no amount of mourning, incredulity, or pattern-counting means that I reject, dismiss, or demean you. I love you, not what you’ve done or what you believe. And sometimes that’s hard. You know what, be honest: it’s hard to love me sometimes, too, based on what I say, do or believe. Okay, read on.::
I had to do a genogram. again. for class.
It’s like a family tree.
And it’s exhausting. For me and for those I’m calling, facebooking, texting. (Thanks Daddy, Tia, Gamma, and allllll my cousins.)
Do you know how many family members I DON’T know? And I only did two generations. Mine and my parents, and I included their parents but not siblings. I.E. my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. In addition to being huge and complicated, this project has been encouraging and devastating. Encouraging because I am stricken with how incredibly blessed I am to not have fallen prey to generational patterns of broken relationships, but devastating to see how far this brokenness extends. For example: out of the 47 relationships that were not ended by the death of one partner, only 7 are still intact, and only 4 of those are with couples who report to genuinely enjoy each other, and enjoy being married.
Let me ask you: how exactly does one bring things up like, “Hey Uncle Soandso, you know that third illegitimate child (awful term) from the third woman who you weren’t married to, what’s his name?” On facebook. That’s how. Because I, like a coward, have spent the last 10 years making off-handed comedic remarks about family and running from them. Because in (I PROMISE) a way that has nothing to do with judgement, I want to scream “THIS IS NOT OKAY! This is not how children grow and thrive. These are not the patterns we should pass on.” But it’s the pattern they’ve seen. And it’s the thing they don’t question.
Seriously. Do you know how many divorces I can count on this tree? 10.
Dissolved relationships involving children (or not even relationships, as some of these children are the fruits of …shall we say passion?) NINETEEN. Nineteen times people have had kids but not gotten married or stayed together.
Of only four currently deceased within the generations I listed, two deaths were as a result of suicide. Two currently in prison. I cannot even tell you how many have been in prison. I also cannot tell you how many affairs are not on the damnable thing because I just don’t want to go there.
I have question marks. Literally, people un-accounted-for. Because rumor and story have secured that they existed. But no one can tell me where or who they are.
Abortions are also not listed. But there are at least three. 27 children born outside of marriage. There are only 90 people total. Only 13 of those listed in the tree were born in (or shortly before) and are still in families with married parents
So what I’m saying is, from my current standpoint, one that does not celebrate the dominant narrative but very much believes in and prizes covenant marriage, fighting for children, honesty and hard work, in relationships, redemption and restoration and the value of keeping promises, I am broken hearted over the legacy I see.
HOW?! How do I mourn this without coming off as judgemental? Because I’m not mad at my grandparents for the fourteen partners they have among them (as opposed to the standard four). But I am torn up about it. I do see that you cannot go through what my family has gone through without a very intense lack of security. For some, it came out in blatant anxiety. (Like for me.) For others, it came out in a laissez-faire attitude or complete lack of respect for authorities. (I’d do better to count how many relative have NOT been arrested than those that have. Not to throw anyone under the bus. I’ve been arrested too.) I do want to ask, “How did this affect you? How does it change the understanding you have of promise, or commitment? How did it affect the kids?”
Because it does, y’all. It does. I grew up knowing only this. Only broken relationships. Only the “We’re together until we’re not together anymore” model. AND IT CHANGED ME. I grew up cynical and sure that love was a joke, something for suckers. I had no concept of permanancy.
And because I love them. I usually suck at showing it (I’ve been “home” once in the past three years) but I value them and appreciate the inherent value of their humanity as well as the fact that generally, they are fun. They’ve done a hell of a job loving me. I tell you what, my family is not a judgey family. Say what you will, but I don’t get a lot of time talking to people with planks in their eyes. And they let me say and do and think what I want. And they have taught me so much about overcoming obstacles (these people are FIGHTERS), about approaching life with a smile, about questioning and FIGHTING FOR THE OPPRESSED. These are values I learned from the same relatives who embody everything listed above. God uses broken vessels, people.
And no one should be shamed for their past. Shame isn’t gospel-oriented. Justice meets grace, that’s gospel-oriented.
I called one relative and asked, “Could you help me with dates about marriage and divorce?”
“No,” she said, “I can tell you when the kids were born, but I don’t want to talk about the rest.” She spoke the rest of the conversation in pain. She said with her words as much as she did with her silence, or subject-changing. No one wants to look back (especially with an aspiring therapist) and recount the relationships that can only ever be labeled “failed”
I am hopeful in the source of all hope, but I am also mourning what society knows and my genogram shows.