It’s never too late

I think that there are times when we underestimate ourselves. I don’t mean this in the sense that we could try harder, or do better but in the fact that some of us make light of what we’ve been through.

We are so often afraid of being weak or perceived as less than. More often than not we make a mention that other people have been through worse. All the while we dismiss the opportunity to realize we too have been through some hard times.

I was watching a video on Upworthy a few weeks back about a woman talking about coming out of the closet. She said that we all come out of the closet at some point in our lives. I couldn’t agree with her more! She said, hard is hard, there is no clear distinction and definition of what life events are harder than the other. . .the bottom line is that we all go through hard stuff, we all have hard conversations to have, we all have to come out of our comfort zoned ie closets and face those hards topics.

For many years there have been things I’ve battled with internally. However I found that because I was resilient that I was not allowed to classify them as hard. I told myself all the time, “others have been through worse!” I was okay with that until one day a few years ago, and again today after a motivational speaker came and spoke at a training/meeting I was attending.

Growing up I was raised by my mother and grandfather. My father went to jail when I was approximately five years old and after that, my mothers foundation and backbone went missing. I can’t say that I remember my mom before, I don’t know my mom in any other capacity than the woman who was emotionally fragile.

I was a vivacious child, always seeking attention and always hoping to finally shine the spotlight on me in the chance that my mom might once take a glance at me. My mother was preoccupied putting hot meals on the table and clothing us. I am absolutely grateful for that but while she spent hours upon hours providing for me and my siblings, she rarely spent a moment consoling my heart that eroded over time.

I took a liking to my grandfather. I ran to him every time I hurt myself. I sat on his lap as he played guitar. I danced and played in his room while he watched his tv shows. I was very much present in his life, while I was barely a glimmer of light in my mothers.

When my grandfather passed away, any semblance of love was gone. My one parent, support system and symbol of love was gone. I can count the few times in my life that my mother even mumbled the words I love you. I make allowances for her because she was raised by my grandmother, whom in my experience was frigid and cold. I felt bad for mom and for some reason made it okay for her to not have loved me enough. It was hard to feel invisible but because I knew it was hard for my mother, I let her slide again and again.

All I ever wanted was effort. I was an excellent student and I wanted her to come and hear it from my teachers but it never happened. I needed hugs and warm embraces and instead I was treated with snacks and cakes to comfort me instead of the one thing I truly desired.

My mother was institutionalized several times in my life. My mother was at times suicidal and even once tried to kill herself and us all while trying to drive against traffic in one of the busiest intersections in Tampa. Fortunately my sister was there to yank the steering wheel.

I went to 8 different elementary schools and somehow I kept up. I don’t have true childhood friends because it was impossible to keep up. I never went to one school more than a year before we moved on to the next apartment lease.

I thank my mother because I was raised to face adversity but I don’t appreciate the fact that she raised me emotionally incapacitated. I was so broken for years.

I’m sorry comes so easy to me, I hate being wrong, especially on my own. I love to clear the air and I try my best to make my love for people known.

This afternoon while the speaker gave her message I began to tear up. She confirmed something that I thought was silly because my hard situation may not be as bad as someone else’s.

A few years ago I got into an argument with my mother. I was angry like never before. The dynamic had changed and I no longer was the only one she disappointed. My son had been playing soccer for five seasons in what is quite literally her back yard. Not once did she show up. He had practices and games and on more than one occasion he had championships. My son began to ask me, why his grandmother didn’t love him. I had no real explanation other than, this is just the way grandma is.

I finally had enough!

The last time I’d seen my father was when I was 11 years old. My father is a criminal, a registered sex offender, and as such could not have contact with us. I was not his victim but I was related to the victim. On this particular day after I argued with my mother, I was devastated. I had never even raise my voice at my mother but I was so angry because after years of making excuses for her, nothing had changed. So I looked up my father. Unfortunately and fortunately there is a website for people like him, so I obtained his address. (This is clearly complicated and understandable if people don’t comprehend but I know where my intentions were.)

I mapped his address, which was barely 15 minutes from me and I went to see him. I don’t know what I wanted. I could take care of myself, and I didn’t want answers. I think parts of me wanted to see him before it was too late. He wasn’t home when I arrived so I started to leave. Just as I was leaving he pulled in. I have to admit that I was initially relieved when he wasn’t home and now that he was, I began to wonder what I was actually there for. I got nervous.

For years I resented him for the life I lived because of his poor choices. This man was the former illicit drug user, alcoholic and sexual offender, but somewhere in the trenches of that lost soul was the few and only memories I had of whom I affectionately called, “Papi.” There was the man who called me Junji, the man who took me to get vanilla icecream cones with rainbow sprinkles every day to the Carvel in our backyard. To this very day, that is my favorite treat. I love the ocean because he loved fishing and I can play dominoes just like he did. I also happen to share his face and a birthmark over the side of my nose that he also has.

This man with the good and bad memories was now standing before me wondering who I was. I recognized him immediately because he wore a thick gold chain around his neck, just as he did when I was a child. I stepped in closer and I said, “hi, I’m your daughter Johanna.” He hugged me and immediately my emotions got the best of me. I stood there a 26 year old woman but in his arms I was a sobbing child. I didn’t speak a word and he hugged me and said repeatedly, “I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault!”

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I heard something foreign and felt parented in the first time in ages. There it was, finally, an apology. Admittance that everything I went through as a child wasn’t handed to me because I’d earned it. It. Was. Not. My. Fault.

In the 29 years I’ve been living, that was the first and last time any one of my parents have ever apologized for anything. That is what I needed more than anything. I needed permission to say my life was hard, but it wasn’t my fault! I needed someone to say, it sucked but it’s going to get better. My dad stood there and apologized until the words could no longer catch up to his tears.

I haven’t seen my dad since, and I don’t know that I ever will, but on that day in his arms I was able to let go, forgive and fix a little part of my broken heart.