7/22/2009 - Mary Johnston
I shared my last blog posting, Road Trip, with my sisters and it unleashed a discussion like no other. Much of it hinged on different memories of our grandmother and their meaning in our family narratives. Interestingly the common denominator among us, of varying degrees, was guilt which Iíve learned often goes hand-in-hand with grief.
Several years ago a friend of mine received a call informing her that her father had died suddenly. He lived out of state and her siblings were scattered across the country. My friend was the youngest. Her oldest brother was twenty years her senior with several siblings in between. She said that as they gathered to honor their father, an argument erupted about who and how he was. She remembered a benign, older father who was gentle. Her brother remembered an abusive man who attacked his mother and had to be restrained by the police. Same father, different memories, disparate meanings.
Iím reminded again that memories are elusive. Even when we agree on the concrete elements of the memory, its context and meaning may be different for each person. For my friend and her family this had to be addressed before they could plan their fatherís funeral. Do you think this will be an issue at any point in your family life?
|5 Comments From Other Members
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||CJ Golden from Newtown CT wrote:
Mary, I think this may be an issue in everyone's family life. While the conflicting memories may not be as diverse as those of your friend's family, we each perceive others through our own unique windows; colored by our personalities and experiences. I sometimes wonder how my own children see me - how different their views of me are. Will there be conflict (hopefully many years down the road) when I'm merely a memory? That's when I'd love to be the proverbial fly on the wall.
||Sue Ann Crockett from Ferndale WA wrote:
I've heard it said that every child is born into a "different" family.. and that makes so much sense. So, it only follows that our memories and experiences would all be different. Grief and guilt are interesting animals.. and both have already played a part in my family dynamics. The part that impresses me is that your friend and her family addressed their issues before the funeral was planned. In the absence of earlier resolution, this is ideal. Letting feelings fester.. especially for years, is never a good idea.
|| from wrote:
People simply remember things according to their own perspective, and it can be very difficult and frustrating to deal with.
||LeAnn Farley from Mt. Pleasant IA wrote:
It is no wonder that memories are different, for all the reasons that have been mentioned. In addition, the language that we use to describe a human being is so limited compared to the complexity of the person. No one is all one quality or another; we are a mixture. If you think about the person you know best, yourself, and ask, "Am I a good person or a bad person?", well, I'd have to say that I'm both. However, no one wants to be judged by their worst deed, and sometimes what we remember about a person is some detail of an event that they didn't realize at the time or have long forgotten.
||Dorothy Sander from Durham NC wrote:
My siblings and I (the youngest of 5) seemed to go through life assuming our experiences were more or less the same. It wasn't until we aged and have had opportunities to talk and reflect that I (at least) came to realize how different our experiences were. My sister's had no inkling of what it was like to be on the tail end of a big family and to essentially feel like an only child for many years. As we worked together to care for my mother int he last years of her life we learned a great deal about our differences. It seems more to have separated us than brought us together. Guilt is glue!
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