Source of image: Wikipedia

If you dig a little, you will find that every family has at least one: they come in a variety of names: dirty laundry, skeletons in the closet, the Family Secret or just “Shhh! We don’t talk about that.”

Having a parent with dementia is a great way to learn not just your own family secrets, but the dark side of other people you grew up knowing, trusting and loving, as well. A parent who would never have dreamed of telling her children the darkest secrets of her friends’ and family’s past will open up like a four-year-old child about such stories once dementia has taken hold of their mind.

The worst secrets are heavy: they feel like a burden. Luckily, by the time your parent has become dependent on you to carry such awful secrets for them (because they now feel too little to carry it all by themselves), you have become a full-fledged grown up, and you must be strong enough to bear the brunt. You are now the adult in the room and sometimes, your ailing parent just needs you to tell them “There, there, it’s alright. I’ve got this. You’re safe: you can let that go now.”

I am ambivalent about cancel culture: it tends to be too one-sided; it tends to be too “us or them”. It tends to be black and white when anyone who is a human being knows that we are nothing but countless shades of gray. And it tends to happen without the benefit of a trial, a judge or a jury.

Some secrets, however, make it hard to see a person you once adored the same way, ever again. Some secrets are so awful that you find the only way to sooth your wounded soul is to exorcize the person entirely: if you admired them from afar, you may opt to admire them no longer. And if you actually knew them, you may want to give away every memento they ever gave to you; remove all traces of them from the family photo album.

Cancel them, so to speak

In the latter category of people, I’ve done this three times now. And I did not ‘erase’ them lightly. I will not write about them. I will not perpetuate their names or their stories. They don’t really deserve the recognition.

Never mind that I find it impossible to entirely forget what I know. My Mom can let it go now. I’m the grown-up in the room and I’ve got it.

But oh, the load feels heavy…

Patti Moore Wilson/©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

37 thoughts on “Cancelled”

  1. I think I understand what you’re sharing, Patti. My mom suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s and in the last year of her life, she let go of a lot…and while I expected some of **her** darkest secrets to escape, instead, I heard things about family members that I never wanted to know. It was hard because it put some that I loved in a very different light, but it’s been eight years, and the time has helped. Sending hugs to you for the unexpected weight of it all. xo to you…take care! ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  2. What you describe is moving into a space that you didn’t really know existed. A space that you could not choose to move into. A very different experience that requires an inner resource that you might not be prepared to muster. I just can’t imagine.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Being at a point in life now that my kids are asking about the past and interested I feel I need to be honest and open with them. We’ve talked about what they may hear, especially as I am divorced from their dad. As we have agreed to move forward on this journey they know they can stop me if needed. They have the scoop as I know it on everyone and every story from my past, but their dad is one I must tread lightly on in many ways even though they have seen and heard a lot on their own. I feel like this is a journey we are on together and they seem to have a good perspective themselves, knowing that I may have biases. I trust them to make their own judgments and always ask questions, knowing they can do the same with their dad if needed.

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      1. I hope so Patti! At least as adults we are all able to voice how and what works and make decisions about how we proceed. It clearly would be stressful if any one of us was dealing with true aging and health issues. Another reason I was so glad this journey started sooner rather than later.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My kids – all grown up now – tell me it was a good thing they were so little when their father and I divorced. It was always their ‘normal’. And we all – kids, parents and stepparents – get along pretty darned well. We all tried to always make it all about the kids. It wasn’t easy (ever) but it helped a lot…

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  4. It’s so true when you say that “Some secrets, however, make it hard to see a person you once adored the same way, ever again.” In some cases, one may never again feel safe in that person’s presence. Knowing the truth can be a burden but also liberating. After learning the secrets my mother guarded since her childhood days–spit out with rage during her years of dementia, turning her into a person I no longer recognized–I now have a better understanding of the inner struggles she faced to survive in this world.

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    1. Oh, I’m so sorry you lived through that, Rosaliene 😔 I wonder if it is a kind of gift, though, to learn a bit about how our parents ‘became’. And – finally – to understand them a bit better. I’m glad you can see it that way. Thankfully, almost every person Mom has told me about is no longer living. It would have been much harder to live with this knowledge if they had still been in my life.

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  5. Wow, a lot to unpack Patti. Feel for you. First helping someone with dementia is a job that no one asks to sign up for and then to have these type of situations come up is certainly something no one wants to come up. Ugh. And yes, I’m not sure how you can forget. It’s got to be eye-opening no matter what. In any event, sending positive thoughts and prayers your way to help with you that heavy load.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Brian 🙏🙏🙏 Honestly, taking care of my Mom is mostly lovely. She still knows us. She is still in the room. The difference is that I am the ‘Mom’ now. And she is safe with me. I kind of hope, though, that she has told me everything; that there are no more secrets left to tell…😕

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My mom was molested by her father. She kept this secret until I was in my early forties. By then, he’d gotten around to several other family members. I understand her feeling of “shame” ’cause that’s par for the course; but, some secrets need to come out…

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    1. Alexander, that is incredibly kind of you… thank you so very much… I am deeply touched… And oh, I am so profoundly sorry about your condition: it’s wonderful, though, that you have found a way to combat it (live with it?) through your writing. I have always had a truly abysmal memory so I, too, took to writing everything down, from my teens on. Unfortunately, my most private journals (and unpublished posts) contain my darkest thoughts. When I am gone, my kids may want to just burn the lot and call it a day. I am a much happier person than those journals indicate 😬 I am so glad I recently found your blog 🙏💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are such an awesome writer, I’m so glad I found your posts. Now we have something in common. My condition is something I was born with, if I could get rid of one thing it would be the seizures. Always here, roaming the dark hallways of my blog if you ever need a chat. I will keep in touch, Patti. 🫶🏻

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  7. When my mother-in-law was on her deathbed a few months ago, she told me things she needed to say to someone before she went. I think she chose me because I had no connection to the people she was telling me about, and she knew I was a writer. Her tales were mostly from her childhood and dark. It’s a heavy thing to say “I’ll take it now, let it go.” It’s beautiful you are able to do that for your mother.

    I have the same feelings about cancel culture. There’s so much grey-area and without the ability to defend oneself, it’s hard to sit in judgement. However, if you know the person it’s very different indeed. I cut an aunt out of my life lately and it was a very long time coming. She wields guilt like a double-edged sword and I grew tired of the blows. It’s come with lots of backlash (and self-doubt), but I know its the right move. Humans are so complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It can be a real mess when you learn about the issues after the offender’s demise. It is something with the potential for disaster. In our case, all involved made their peace with the past and went on caring about each other. I am grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

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