Friday, 11 November 2011


Thinking about myself and my own family, this year is a poignant Remembrance Day. I feel our lives are bound up in the atrocities of World War I and the psychological aftermath on my grandfather which I wrote about in 2006. And then the effects on my mother which she in turn inflicted upon us and which I in turn have tried very hard not to inflict upon my children. Of my siblings, one is incredibly scarred and screwed-up and the other does a brilliant job of keeping all the hatches tightly bolted down. There is half-sibling with whom we sadly have no contact.

From 1917 when my grandfather was first gassed to 2011 when my mother died is ninety-four years. My grandfather had nine children of which the eldest committed suicide, the next died youngish in a road accident and the next is a recluse knowing he had to stay away from people though is quite charming when I visit him, and then the next is my mother, the eldest daughter. After my mother the rest of the siblings, although damaged, did not obviously inflict the level of pain and suffering on their children that my mother did. But then, by the time he had fathered the rest and they were still young, he was finally and forcibly evicted from the family home so the rest did not experience or really know the violence experienced by the elder siblings and were left with a loving mother.

This is not to say that everything is blamed on the aftermath of the war, but if someone has something like Aspergers, especially from way back then when it was not acknowledged, then the brutality my mother experienced and witnessed from her father was easier to replicate on us. What if she had been brought into a loving environment that cushioned and supported her, life could have been so very different. I would be someone completely different. I have said it before, I do not subscribe to the idea of giving thanks for my childhood making me into who I am. Such brutality and psychological traumas are barely able to be survived. Cue my elder sibling who amazingly is still alive despite a lifetime drowned in drugs to escape reality.

Yesterday I was asked by a friend how I am since my mother died a few months ago and I said how strange it feels. This person who was so omnipresent and such a character is suddenly not there. Nothing. Nada. Wiped out. Gone. It is puzzling as to why a person could ever have had such a hold. She hated Remembrance Day and condemned the going on about the past and these old fogeys dragged out each year. Yet there were years, as kids, we'd all be stood to attention at 7am in the cold greyness to get the "best" spot at the Cenotaph in London. I do not have fond memories to remember and I do not cry for her. Yet, it is Remembrance Day and I do feel an interconnection and strangely sad and tearful. More for what could have been than anything that actually was.

All those lives and families affected. In contrast, there is a lovely article on the BBC News website about the Thankful Villages.


Jo said...

I had forgotten about your grandfather's story. I clicked back to 2006 and re-read...and saw my response there to that post.

Yes, your Mum gone now. And you still reflecting on the shape of the space she has left, unsurprisingly.Passing on pain is what so many families do. Congrats my friend that all that abuse from one generation to the next stopped with suffered a great deal from your Mum's actions but you have been resolved not to act them out to your kids.

You wonder maybe if talking therapies could have helped...going all the way back to 1917? Psychotherapy was in its early infancy then. Though I guess what could you do for a man who was shot, gassed twice, and doubtless saw dozens of friends murdered in front of his eyes..?

Doris said...