Interview with Faye: family fallout, dark burdens, and respect

What struck me here was the wonderful relationship that Faye and all her still siblings have in their 50s and 60s.  I asked her what contributed to this amazing element in her life.  She says, Yes, the four of us are extremely close and I contribute it first to the family foundation, second out of sheer determination due to our losses (clinging to each other) and third, I believe we all share the importance of family. We also had and still have an unbroken thread with aunts, uncles, neices, nephews,cousins (out to our third cousins) from both sides of the family. Do we all agree? No way. Do we respect? Absolutely. Do we bicker and argue? Not really. I think that comes with the respect.”

Wow.

What’s your age?

56

Are both of your parents living?

Mama died when I was 12 (1968). Daddy died in 1995.

What’s their marital status?

My parents were married for 25 years when mom passed away. Daddy remarried and was with my step-mom for 25 years, too.

How many siblings do you have?

3 alive, 1 deceased, and 3 step-siblings

How often do you see your parents?

I saw Dad and my step-mom at Christmas; off and on during the year (weekends, drop-in).

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

It usually consisted of a meal. Some functions at his church. Daddy moved in with me when he was diagnosed with cancer until he passed away. God had a sense of humor with that one.

On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?

Dad – 7

Step-Mom-4

Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit?

Yes, it did.

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

It was respectful, civil.  I did appreciate the fact that my step-mom loved and took care of my father for all those years.

What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?

We could not go deep into past family events, controversial conversations, etc.  We kept it safe.

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?

Negative

What are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?

I left home at 14 due to a family fallout. Many other painful situations arose the next few years regarding Daddy and my step-mom, but I chose not to make issues of them.  Not even as an adult were they addressed.

What do you appreciate most about their parenting?

My mother instilled in me respect, honesty, integrity, joy, laughter, and deep spirituality at a very young age. After she passed, I tried so hard not to dishonor her memory. That kept me from stupid teenage mistakes and helped me think twice about lifetime decisions.  As a child, I felt safe and loved by both parents. Daddy made the money and mama kept the home fires burning. From birth ’till twelve I lived a secure life. Poor, but secure. And very loved.

What do you wish they had done differently?

For Daddy to have made better economic decisions for the family’s sake.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Very, very well. We all talk usually every day. Not the step-siblings but no hard feelings-we just went different ways after our parents died.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents?

Yes, I do.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

With Mama – At age 5, I was very sick with measles. I could not leave my “dark” room for two weeks. Had to use a bedpan and get sponge baths. Tough for a 5 year old. One night when Mama thought I was asleep, she knelt by my bed and began praying and sobbing.  After she left, I cried so hard knowing I brought her pain.

Daddy- We lived at Jacksonville Beach for a few years. There was a boardwalk with games, corn dogs, cotton candy, etc.- a child’s fantasy. But, Daddy told us the boardwalk was only for visitors. If you lived in Florida, you could not go to it. Of course, we believed him! One summer day, as we played on the beach, he told us he was going to sneak up on the boardwalk and get us some cotton candy and that he hoped the police would not catch him. I remember my brother and I begging him to be careful. Yes, we got the cotton candy and Daddy was safe!  Good memories for a young child.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child? 

Mother carried a dark burden that I now know about.  Do I look at my mother differently-? Yes, with sadness that she experienced trauma no child should have to go through.

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