Sometimes you wish you hadn’t asked
Posted on January 31, 2017
There is an image that I’ve kept seeing my whole life. It is always the same, and on some level I even believe it’s a real place.
The image is a series of scenes: First I always see the stand of macrocapa trees, bowed towards the left. They look like a line of protective witches.
I’m looking at them from behind a house. I know that there is a road to the left, or rather a dirt track. Next I see the house. It’s not a house by modern standards, it’s a settler house. It’s just made of unpainted wood, and it’s old. Around it is broken crockery. But it feels happy inside – incredibly happy. I feel safe there. But I also feel like there’s something I should remember, that I can’t remember. Something missing.
The main reason I started this blog was to document the pattern of estrangement in my family history. So far I’ve found a pattern of father figures either disappearing, dying early, abandoning or just not being around on my father’s side. My mother’s side is still largely unknown, as all of her family are in the UK (as far as I know), and my mother rarely talks about her family. However, when I was in my home town I went to visit my aunt, my mother’s sister.
The unreliable storyteller
My aunt is very mentally ill, but she has moments of lucidity right next to moments of delusion. In one of those moments she revealed some things about my mother’s past that I’m still processing. The things she said have the ring of truth, but how do I know she’s not just making them up? She says words but I have no documents to back up her statements, and she’s an unreliable narrator who drifts in and out of reality. I had to concentrate really hard to to capture what seemed might be true inbetween stories of Marilyn Monroe visits.
What she told me in some ways I wish I didn’t know, and hadn’t asked. But they make sense, they tie up with how my mother was as a parent. After my visit I went back to my airbnb and messaged my cousin, trying to find out if she could corroborate anything my aunt had said, but she couldn’t. What she said was “whatever happened in that family, it left 3 people very traumatized”.
So, then. Perhaps my aunt’s severe mental illness IS the story. And even if she is ill, it does not follow that she’s necessarily a liar. What she said was that their father was a monster, and other things. My cousin sent me some photos of the family, and he is noticeably absent from most of them. So – did he just not like having photos taken? was he left out deliberately? or, after he died, were his photos removed? Either way, it’s a large ommission.
The worst thing is I just don’t know and most likely never will. And for the first time, I’m really questioning whether it’s such a good idea to expore. Maybe forgetting is the right answer.
*UPDATE: my cousin read this post, and had this response:
Just read the latest post. I can confirm that the photos of grandad were destroyed by granma. She ripped them completely out of the photo albums. Think I was around ten or eleven because I remember it clearly.
There are also no photos of your mum. I remember them being there while I was growing up however I don’t know when they disappeared.
I really hope you don’t give up on this