The other night I came across a piece of information that knocked a little world inside me off its axis. I don’t want to say here how I found it, but I do want to tell you about it.
This: a photo of my stepmother – you know her as Sue – at a tea and silent auction to benefit a local organization in her city (my hometown). It was startling enough to see the photo of her after all these years, but there was more.
It took me about five seconds to discover that the proceeds from the event would go to a parenting skills center whose mission “is to provide a variety of quality preventative and treatment parent/family education programs to families at risk for child abuse and neglect and domestic unrest/violence.”
And there she stood big as life, posing for a photo like there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t be there. As it turns out, one of the women in the photo with her is the founder of the center, and another woman is a therapist and adoption coordinator. You have to wonder what they would think if they knew the truth about the woman standing with them.
After that first moment of shock, I just became really calm. I wasn’t sure yet what I would do, but I felt as though stumbling upon a piece of information like this called for some kind of action from me. (Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.) I felt like it’s time. Time for her to deal with me in a way she’s never had to before, as someone strong who has a voice and a pen.
So a couple of hours later, I sent a note to Sue through Facebook (relatives of hers are on my friend list, so she came up on my list of People You May Know).
My words were simple.
“I hope you made a large donation,” followed by a link to the page with the photos. And then, “You might be interested in reading this,” and a link to the series of posts I’ve written here about my family. (There are others, but those are a good start.)
It’s the first contact I’ve had with her in over 15 years.
It’s possible that she will come to this place to read what I’ve written, or maybe she won’t. There’s even a chance she won’t see the note I sent, so I plan to send the same thing to her by mail.
In any case, that’s not the point. What she does or doesn’t do now doesn’t feel as important to me as what I do.
I don’t expect anything to come of this, really, nothing satisfying, anyway. It’s impossible to drink from a broken cup. Any action on my part is bound to feel hollow and so long overdue that it’s almost irrelevant. If anything, maybe people who think one thing about her will come to see another, truer picture. Maybe that’s something.
Or maybe all that comes out of this is that I say my piece and go on, which is what I started here. I’ve said what was and what is, and somewhere in there I’ve even hoped for something better in the future, certainly for my own children. And I know (I know) what could be doesn’t lie in the past.
But some things do lie in the past that maybe shouldn’t. So there’s a good chance that I will talk or write about those things in other places besides here, places closer to home for her. And she will know about it. Whatever I do, it will be measured and careful and without anger or any hope for justice of some kind. (The days for that are long past.)
It’s possible that some people out there won’t agree with me or see the point of reacting at all, and that’s fine. Sitting here, I’m not sure I can put words to what this is that I’m feeling, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a solid reason for doing whatever I feel needs to be done, once I figure out what’s next.
There are a lot of reasons, and many of you have read them (many of you have lived those reasons yourselves, and have your own stories), why it’s not out of line for me to react on a bedrock-deep level (below anger, below pain, even) when I see this woman pretending to be an advocate for abused children. Whatever reaction I have to that isn’t outsized compared to the nerve she has to put herself in that place, in that photo.
It just isn’t.
If you have a moment, Emily wrote a poignant, related post at her place today that – as she often does – inspired me.