This week I participated in a particularly juicy Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime Chapter meeting. Nothing like opening up the human heart to ponder why people kill, and why mystery/thriller writing needs those bodies to show up.
Which made me think of my own close scrapes with death and danger, whether they be near drownings, car accidents, illness, and the like. I grew up petrified of water, and it wasn’t until someone pointed out a photograph of me in a wading pool that two and two equaled four. I had a relative who was not to be left with other grand kiddies in said wading pool after holding a few of us down under water. In the photograph the relative was beaming, the rest of the kiddos not so much. The explanation she gave for nearly drowning us? She wanted to teach us to swim. Yeah.
The same relative, whom I was too stupid to distrust, sped about our small town with me holding on for dear life as she attempted to fling me off her car hood. I can still see the laughing faces in the car. Yeah, no one stopped her then either.
But the big picture here is the deadly tightness of family loyalty at times, the unsaid oath to keep secrets and don’t stir up trouble, even if death’s involved. If you grow up in that toxic brew of a bath, you get gaslighted into believing creepy Uncle Walt really didn’t touch you inappropriately, that you imagined any number of horrible things. Like someone trying to kill you. They were just kidding around. Don’t make a fuss.
If you growth up with few or no needs being met, you learn how to scrabble for control, for food, for things, and suspect anyone who wants to love you. And if you’re lucky to have at least one person who loves you unconditionally, the loss of them is devastating.
I went through other close calls with death in my life, but each one left a mark, an unseen scar on my heart. The ones I went through as a child are the deepest and least easy to forget. I spent most of my life taking care of myself at the expense of my little family and friends. I’ve been selfish and self centered out of some primeval need for surviving. That’s no excuse though.
Who we are now in this moment, looking back at our mistakes, our sins, our regrets, can remake us whole. Forgiving ourselves and asking forgiveness when possible. Making mental and spiritual restitution to those who love us and want us in their lives, if possible. Forgiving, if possible, those monsters who preyed on us so that they no longer have a grip on our lives.
May we all find peace and love in our lives.