Secret of Secrets
Our family lineage has been progressively and compulsively disintegrating in the wake of my grandfather’s actions. Many in our family tree have immersed themselves in drugs and alcohol to numb the pain that resides as a latent malignancy. The cycle of suffering has manifested itself consciously and unconsciously. Like radioactive waste, the fallout scattered throughout our family tree. After my sister, Kitty’s death in 2009, her two adult sons, (Shawn and Chad) committed suicide due to the consequential effects of their drug habits inherited from their mother.
A decade later, the erosion continues. It has been another rough year for our family’s losses. In addition to the accidental shooting of my late brother’s grandson Austin, age 18, who I mentioned in my earlier blog, “There is No Way ~ Except the Way,” this July, Kitty’s 30-year-old granddaughter was shot and killed in an attempt to rescue another family member from the clutches of a drug dealer. Another nephew, Jimmy, age 57, died this earlier this summer, certainly too soon in an average life-span. The consequence of a lifetime of drugs and partying took its toll on his body.
Many others in our family continue to struggle with addictions, hidden or otherwise. These particular nieces and nephews were not aware of the generational transmission of emptiness and shame that was unleashed on our family through my grandfather’s actions. His story was kept secret from family members until I began to research the consequence of generational shame. They were simply trying to survive in a family who did not know how to be loving and cohesive. The impetus of emptiness which pervaded our family originated through the wound that our grandfather inflicted on his wife (Blanche) and children (including my mom) in 1934. Each generation after, felt the pull of a deep and dark undercurrent. We could not stop the iterative cycle as our ancestors never openly dealt with the shame they experienced. Instead, they hid the truth and numbed their pain through avoidance and addictive lifestyles.
The words of Emile Zola ring true, “When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.”
Now, 85 years later, I am writing our family story because I too was on the path of becoming an alcoholic. Unconsciously, I was in search of a way to anesthetize the emptiness that lived inside of me.
At age 15, I started drinking for the sheer purpose of getting drunk. The escape from my mother’s engulfment was babysitting my nieces and nephews. There were cohorts a few years older than me who would buy Liquor and join me while babysitting. After putting my nieces and nephews to bed, we would enjoy a bottle of blackberry brandy before I would pass out.
My older sister (Kitty) attempted to mentor me in the art of pot-smoking when I was in eighth grade. She convinced me how safe it was as she allowed her two-year-old son Shawn to get high, off the second-hand smoke. She and her party crowd rolled up the car windows while smoking pot when they went to the drive-in-theatre and then realized Shawn was inadvertently getting high. Sadly, my sister thought that was funny. My first experience with smoking marijuana was not artful nor transcendent. Unlike President Clinton, who did not inhale, I inhaled horribly; I choked and gagged.
Liquor was becoming my choice of numbing. Then, at age 16, I experienced the transcendent through an emotional and spiritual encounter with such magnitude that the course of my life took an alternative path away from alcohol and drug addiction. Addiction is prevalent in our family line. Thus, I became as addicted to spirituality and religion with the same rush my family was pursuing alcohol and drugs. The experience was meaningful and compelling enough to incubate a calling upon my heart, which would ultimately change my destiny.
My mother’s intentions in raising me were the most capable and sincere conation that she possessed. I was the only child out of her six children that had been raised by her, and I was my father’s only child. Mom had not been able to break her own cycle of “numbing by running” until a car accident handicapped her mobility in 1966.
My mother’s control mechanism was overprotectiveness and engulfment, which stunted my cognitive, emotional, and spiritual growth, especially when she reinforced through punitive and selfish measures. “It is for your own good,” she would say, and while her efforts were well-intended, they were out of balance. In spite of her self-destructive lifestyle, she desired to protect me from the things that had happened to her. Her need to control to feel safe overpowered her in such a way that I was disempowered. This environment inhibited normalcy in exercising age-appropriate decision-making for life as I passed through adolescence and early adulthood. My life was advancing in chronology before I was prepared emotionally to meet the challenges of my age. I had not been cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for certain milestone developments to navigate functionally through life.
There were family secrets that had been hidden for reasons that made sense to my mother’s generation. When I was a little girl, I remembered my grandmother, aunt, and mother talking about those secrets in hushed tones when they were together. Bedtime at my Aunt Betty’s two-story white Victorian home holds the fondest of childhood memory. My grandmother would pick up an old guitar and sit on the edge of the bed and strum chords. Then my aunt and mother would sing harmony to the old gospel song, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” There was a calm that would permeate the room in those moments. It was rare to experience that type of peaceful presence with my mom.
What could have been a vigorous rootstock, was uprooted, creating erosion, and then sifted through a lens of shame. Little did I know the amount of shame that my grandmother, mother, and aunt carried as they spoke of those things from long-ago that my grandfather did. This man who abandoned his family in the 1930’s was now serving a sentence in a State Penitentiary for unspeakable acts. Not only had their father The Evangelist, made head-liner news in their local newspaper in 1934, but he also went on and perpetrated more shame upon the family.
Our family has all experienced the cumulative effect, which impacted their era. I hope that the generations following will find insight into their unconscious questions as I share mine. Many roots systems constitute our family tree; the nuclear family unit, and extended families. In addition, the grafted family (my precious friends who have become closer than blood). My family originated through Pavich’s (Paternal Nourishing Rootstock), Foote’s, Baker’s, Buffon’s, Espinosa’s, Dofner’s, Hathaway’s (Maternal Rootstock). I am the direct descendent of Pete and May (Foote) Pavich; this story is theirs, and by extension, mine.
Edward Wimberly wrote in Recalling Our Own Stories, “Beliefs and convictions are represented by certain repetitive themes that appear in the stories we tell… Myths are the stories we tell while themes reflect the beliefs and convictions in the stories, (Myths are our way of talking of a reality that we cannot know directly.) The project of existence is an overarching framework in an individual’s life that gives meaning and shape to everything that goes on. It is a…window, through which we look at all of what we do. It is the dominant, self-understood purpose for which we have been born. It tells us what to do daily…and it informs how we execute our roles and function. It serves as a kind of road map in fulfilling our call.”
There has been a calling on my life; I sensed it from age four. The perception of divine calling continues to stimulate growth well beyond anything I would have attained in the absence of this belief. My maternal ancestors extended a weak spiritual legacy, and as a result, we did not flourish as a healthy family stock. Instead, erosion of poor choices undermined our root system. Those of us who remain alive on the branch survived various pruning cycles; having the persistence to stay attached to our deeper roots we became the new sprout. We are granted an opportunity to become a solid and nourishing rootstock for the following generations.
Recent ancestry’s genealogical discoveries reveal we have a spiritual heritage deep within our root system. Our ancestor’s several generations before bore a call upon their lives; they began to sojourn across the United States in search of their utopia.
The heritage on my mother’s side (several generations earlier) were Mormons who journeyed from Pennsylvania, by way of Ohio, eventually establishing roots in Crescent, Iowa. During their sojourn a religious shift occurred in their spiritual development, the Foote’s become Pentecostals. My father’s family left a spiritual imprint in my soul as devoted Catholics of integrity who fled from communism in Croatia to immigrate to the United States. I find a sense of hope to discover that I come from a rootstock of those who found the courage to journey from distant soil to begin again. Joseph Campbell would call this the Hero and Heroine’s Journey. I am excited to share more about the heroine’s journey in future blogs.
Collectively, my generation has not experienced or known such honor in experiencing our spiritual legacy as a secure family unit. We were scattered to begin again with hybrid seed in new soil. God’s spirit has never forsaken us, as he lavishes his love for a thousand generations on those who love and obey his commands.
The reticulated feminine imagination of Firefly Horizons and aesthetic architect of its contextual nature. Crystal establishes artful metaphor and metonymy in interpretative language to convey abstract questions to easy answers. Through sovereign reflection, she initiates imaginative beginnings. Read more about Crystal • Articles by Crystal