Monday, February 11, 2008

Perception and editing the past

My maternal grandfather has begun compiling his personal history. He is retelling his life story, and then having my mother type it all up. She really enjoyed hearing about his childhood, and I am anxious to read what she has typed so far. He really struggled with the upcoming "chapter" because it is where he met, married, and divorced my maternal grandmother. He wasn't sure what to say because he didn't want to stir up any long buried feelings, and didn't want to hurt my mother. He has finally finished that section, and is ready for my mom to pick it up and put it into the computer.

Last night, we were talking about it, and she wasn't sure if she should edit the divorce part of the history at all. She agrees that hurting feelings isn't good. She also thinks that a lot of the deeply personal issues that cause divorce really shouldn't be available for family to read. I have to admit I'd find my family history a lot more interesting if I found out that great, great, great grandma left her husband because she caught him in bloomers or something equally scandalous.

I don't know. She does have a point about causing pain though. I finished MIL's "THE BOOK" for the second or third time this morning. She is quite critical of me in her letters, and there's very little positive. She thought I was so immature, and blamed me for dh and I not seeing the family as often as she thought proper the first couple of years. It's funny. From the time dh was about 13, she was complaining in the letters how his friends and work were always much higher priorities and how he's never home. Then, we get married, and somehow I'm bullying her baby boy into not spending time there. Never mind dh and I were both in college full time, working full time, and doing part time jobs on the side. We still went to dinner at their house every Sunday night, even though that was the only night we were both home and available. Gave up a lot of alone couple time for them. But was that good enough? Nooooooo. She was also pretty sure that I kind of pushed dh into the marriage instead of waiting til we graduated college, even though the opposite was true. Once the first year or two of marriage passed, she eased up on her comments of me.

Learning how she felt wasn't a surprise to me. Her letters stated basically what I suspected she felt, but it still really hurt to read it. By the time the book had been printed and distributed, she and I had made our peace, and had been getting along quite well for quite some time. But it dredged up the old emotions and feelings of inadequacy.

My mom asked if I would have preferred that she edit out all the critical things. In a way, it would have been nice. On the other hand, there really wasn't anything positive about me in there. If the letters said NOTHING about me, I'd really think things had been edited because she'd had such a rotten opinion of me. That, or I was such a nonentity in her life that I wasn't worth mentioning. At least this way, there was no surprises and no imagination at work. I know my imagination would have had her saying much worse things about me. I do have a tendency to awfulize things.

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