I had a sort of NPR ‘driveway moment’ this weekend. Mine was in the parking lot of Walgreens where I was heading to pick up a medication for the dog. I flipped on WESA because I was a little weary of Christmas music.
Listening to Lee Smith on The Moth Radio Hour reminisce about his Granny Smith makes me weep and feel so alone without my family. Especially these sentences
“Granny was interested in me and my happiness. She was my resilience. She was magical.”
“She came to all of our rescue at one time or another, softening hard and harmful emotional landings … She understood the importance of a child having an ally when a parent fails them.”
I didn’t have anyone like this in my family. I had the misfortune of being a child who was groomed for terrible things by now dead adults in my family so I had the illusion of someone being interested in me and my happiness, but it was a huge violation of everything that’s supposed to come from adults you trust. Not just them fucking up, but actually planning it and preparing you for it.
For years, I clung to the idea that some piece of it wasn’t a lie. I idealized other adults, I rationalized, I tried to fix things. I even left and came back in my late 20’s, thinking that now that I was an adult things could be different. I finally had to accept that all of these adults who I thought could have saved me made a conscious decision not to even try. And the ones who tried were themselves victims of this monstrosity.
And now as an adult, I don’t have much family of my own, certainly not anyone with this Grandmother’s intentional support. The hard and harmful emotional landings took their toll on my willingness to go along with the secret keeping and the pretenses. So I’m an outcast and a pariah, not for being a lesbian but for being a queer survivor who refuses to shut up.
I’m grateful for my friends who allow me to share in their family lives and traditions, to everyone who invests in my holiday projects as a gesture of support for my happiness and resiliency – for even recognizing how much it matters to me.
And I grieve that not a single person in my family ever does. In all the years I’ve organized drives and collections and projects and charitable events and fundraisers, I can count on one hand the times a person in any part of my family excluding Laura has actively supported my efforts. It isn’t for a lack of resources. It is simply that they don’t support me period and don’t care. They didn’t care back then and they can’t care now.
I will never stop feeling that absence of an ally, not to me as a lesbian but to me as a traumatized, neglected child experiencing terrible things in all the supposed safe spaces – home, neighborhood, school, church, etc. If you are a person who did not have that ally in your life when you were a vulnerable child, please listen to this story. And take comfort I hope in knowing that you can be that person yourself.
You can listen to Lee’s story