{July 20, 2012}   The Ghost in the Machine

In the previous post, I told the story of the only time I saw my great-grandmother, in the state mental hospital in Milledgeville, Ga. just before she died. But, something strange happened recently that makes me wonder if she tried to tell me something from beyond her grave.

My father died in January, and a cousin that I rarely see came to my father’s funeral. He’s researched the history of our family and told me that he had a couple of old photos to email me. I posted one of them below of my great-grandmother, Underwood. I moved the photos he sent me to my desk top after he emailed them.

One afternoon in February, about a week after my father’s funeral, I got a certified letter from my mother that she was firing me from my father’s company and canceling my health insurance. It wasn’t a huge surprise, as she abused me physically and mentally as a child and has continued throughout my life to act as a predator–actively hunting for ways to directly hurt me in any way she could. I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in 15 years before Dad died. She knew after his death that this was her chance to kick me to the curb and attempt to hurt me financially since he was no longer there to stand in the way. In fact, a family member told me that in the limo returning to the funeral home from the burial, that she announced that she hoped I would hire a lawyer about the will so I would “spend all of my money and not get a dime.”

So, that afternoon after I received the certified letter, I looked online for stories similar to mine–women who had mean, abusive mothers who acted as predators even when they were adults, and I found an article called “Mean Mothers” talking about how Mother’s Day affects people who have been abused by their mother. I decided to post the article on Facebook and I also wanted a printed copy to refer to later. So, I highlighted the article and sent it to the printer. Even though the printer light was on, it sat still. So I pressed print again, thinking maybe I hadn’t pressed print. The printer sat for another few seconds and just as I was about to cancel the printer, it started printing. I waited for the article to finish printing but only a single page printed. When I picked up the single page, and turned it around to read it, it wasn’t the article that printed. It was the picture of my great-grandmother.

I sat speechless in my chair. I looked carefully at the photograph and there, deep in her eyes, I saw suffering. I saw the pain and hurt that I’d overlooked in the picture earlier. The thought came to me–she must have suffered abuse just like I did. Maybe from her mother. Maybe from her husband. Maybe both. Then, I had to ask myself–is she trying to tell me something from beyond her grave? That she suffers with me? That investigating this phenomenon of mothers who abuse their daughters is the correct and right thing to do? I suddenly realized that perhaps when I talk about it, when I come clean about family secrets that cause me shame, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe, just maybe, this is what I am destined to do.

So, that is why I started this blog, and why I will continue to share stories about what happened to me and how I’ve worked to overcome the memory of abuse that I suffered. Because if it happened to me, it’s happened to other people. It’s happening right now to someone. And, as my great-grandmother may have signaled to me, it happened to her, too.


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