What I Learned...
It may have taken me a few years before I actually took the time to sit down and start writing this incredible story, but the journey was most insightful and enlightening. It allowed me time to focus on my own behaviors and the collateral damage as a direct result of my grandmother’s masked past.
Although my grandmother may have gained much in NOT looking back, I have gained a tremendous amount in doing just that. Although I wasn’t looking back at my own immediate past, I looked back three generations, and those insights and revelations I found over a century ago, are still influencing my life today.
The past may be the past, but sometimes hidden way back in the past you can uncover things, maybe not secrets, but things that can shed incredible light on your own behaviors that didn’t quite make sense before.
Some of my grandmother’s unexplained behaviors and traits that didn’t fit someone born into a happy, wealthy family from Boston did actually fit someone who survived hell on earth. Her complete and utter dependency on family, which increased the older she got, all make sense now. Where and why she had developed a fear of being left behind, I now understand. Why her discomfort and anxiety escalated when she was around strangers or in unfamiliar surroundings, becoming irrationally shy, apprehensive, and at times even withdrawn. How she distrusted outsiders to the point of always looking over her shoulder for fear they might snatch something precious from her. Or the fact that she was always extremely frugal and money conscious when she had so much. Of course, living through the ‘great depression’ didn’t help, but I would suspect the seed was planted many years prior, perhaps from her own family’s humble beginnings.
Once I knew the truth about my grandmother, her many trials and tribulations, it was easy to understand my father’s unexplained behavior and traits. It was very hard for my father, if not impossible, to show affection. And just like my grandmother, he too would stiffen up like a toy soldier when anyone attempted to give him a hug. I always resented him for that, assuming it had to be my fault. Finding out where this unexplained trait originated, I was able to let go of the animosity I felt towards him my whole life, finally confident that it was nothing I had done. And, our relationship improved.
So if asked, what advice do you have to offer, it would have to take an in-depth look back at your own family, at least a few generations back. You just may find out more about yourself than you ever could have imagined.
Behind the Mask
I never thought much about the faces we let the world see and the ones we keep well hidden behind a mask. But we all wear masks to some extent. The sad thing is they mask much more than people think, and for a lot longer.
I also never did reveal to my grandmother my secret before she died, but somehow she knew. Not what it was, just that I too had been living a lie, hiding behind a mask of secrets. My secret didn’t compare to those my grandmother had spent her entire life hiding, but still on some level she must have been aware that we both were hiding something; perhaps that’s what bonded us so closely. We connected in a way no one else in my family ever had, not for generations. I like to think that’s why she finally confided in me, instead of continuing with her masquerade, and burying her secrets even deeper.
Through this unexpected journey my grandmother allowed me behind the mask she had worn almost her entire life. I not only gained a deeper understanding and sensitivity to previously unexplained family traits and behaviors. I also uncovered their origin. Now they make perfect sense. I also learned the insidious effect that lies and secrets can have on a family for generations.
It’s funny. The truth that we thought would destroy us doesn’t. The lies we told out of fear of the truth weren’t really necessary. And the secrets we keep safely guarded at all costs, only mask getting to know the deeper, much more fascinating person we kept hidden from the world. Your past is your past, and although it may be insightful to visit it once in a while, it has no power on your future, unless we let it.
My journey into writing AMAZING GRACIE was very much like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together to finally reveal the hidden truth. A stunning portrait of a young girl who survives the shocking destruction of her poor-yet-loving family, and rises to become a woman of strength, courage, tenacity.
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. Copyright © 2018 by Michael Haibach.