I do not have a conventional family tree. I have a lying tree.
For as long as I can remember the “facts” behind who my blood relatives really are have been blurred and carefully edited to fit a narrow narrative of acceptability. What will the neighbors think? What will random strangers on the street think? And, finally, what will the people at our church think? That last one always created pause for me since church implies certain moral values and the very act of lying to cover personal embarrassment from fellow churchgoers is ironic and laughably hypocritical.
But, don’t say this to the patriarch and matriarch of this fabricated fable!
In modern times there is this little thing called the internet. On this construct exists a massive online newspaper archive called Newspapers.com ( and I am sure there are many more) where anyone willing to pony up a few bucks a month can search the names of relatives, friends, ex-friends, and ex-lovers to see if they ever “made the news” from the 1700’s to the 2000’s.
On this website, I found out that my paternal grandfather was charged with and eventually found guilty of misappropriation of funds while a Justice of the Peace for Cook County, Illinois in the 1960’s. He was sentenced to 6 months in county jail and not once, in all the years I have known my mother or father have either said one word about this. Not surprising really since my mother said once, in church, that my older brother was “away at college” when he was actually in jail. Being a scofflaw runs in the family you see but, Que sera sera, there is not one thing that can be done about it now. The fibbing branches just keep falling…
Several years ago, after a few glasses of wine around my younger sister’s kitchen table, my older sister mentioned a conversation she had with our mother that included the words, “That was the time when your grandfather was away in jail.” Wait! What? “Oh, didn’t I tell you that?” was my mother’s response to my sister’s shocked surprise. No, you sure as hell did not! Much like the various health conditions relatives had that were not shared with us or the fact that she had been borrowing on life insurance policies our maternal grandmother purchased for us for years without our knowledge. I’m sure there is more but will stop at the tip of the ice burg for now. What they don’t know won’t hurt them right?
THIS is the kind of thing I am talking about here. This is also the kind of thing that the truth-impaired bemoan as “ancient history” and “what’s in the past is the past” but my argument is that this very shit stabs right at the heart of what is wrong with my family and many others. Lying just for the sake of lying, lying for personal financial gain and finally, lying to save face. Once you have protected your image to the point of alienating and potentially physically harming family it becomes clear what is more important to some people:
Not us. Not me. Not my daughter. Not my partner. Everyone is fair game for an attack apparently. I have the letters, emails, Facebook posts and text messages to prove it.
My family is a sad stomach churning potluck of avoidance, delusion, resentment, and selfishness. And, I too have experienced and participated in all of these things over the years and will make that clear. In order to write this I have to be honest and in order to write this, I also have to shore myself up for any pending attacks on my recollection and character. I have been attacked on both fronts by both my mother and my younger sister so any further vitriol is easy to shrug off. They will do what they do and have always done and I will do the opposite because to do anything else is a sure recipe for self-harm and I’m too old for this shit!
As you, dear reader, peruse this little essay I am sure that there are other eyes scanning as well. Eyes that are looking for any mention of them, any mention of blame, any mention at all. Hello! Despite our falling out, I am glad you are here and I am even gladder that you might be reading my words. Take them in. Mull them over for a bit before responding and, might I add, before firing off in a flash of keyboard courage consider picking up the phone to address any grievances with me personally. I will take your call and I will listen to what you have to say. I may hang up without saying more than an initial “hello” but I will listen none the less.
So, for the foreseeable future, I will be HONEST. Everything I write about will involve confession, confrontation and, finally the search for redemption. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to be redeemed in my family’s eyes but in my own. I am looking for peace, nothing more and nothing less.
Stick with me on this journey okay? I might need a cheering section when the wolves arrive…
© 2018 L.A. Askew
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