A Rude Awakening



Digging around in the closet for something, I came across the above Easter decor I'd forgotten I had. A lamb, the eggs and chicks, and the dish towel. 



Night before last, some time in the wee hours, I woke just as the back of my head hit the floor. Oops.

I did not recall getting out of bed. But Abi has been wanting to go out every few hours the past few weeks. I can feel her staring at me close to my face, and I'll wake up and let her out. 

Yeah, it hurt. I banged my left elbow. The back of my head  throbbed for an hour or so, but I went back to sleep. Guess I'm pretty hard-headed!

The way I measure if I'm hurt is whether I'm able to do my yoga stretching exercises upon awakening. If I'm able to get down to the floor mat and go through my moves, then I figure I'm okay. 

My elbow is swollen. I've been putting ice on it. 

At least I didn't seem to hurt my right ankle. I have been able the past few days to get out and about, so that would have been hard to take. 

Just when I think I might be getting close to getting back in the bathroom to continue painting, etc., something happens that sets me back. 

I sure hope Abi gets back on schedule so I can sleep more than a few hours at a time. I wake up tired and probably don't get enough deep sleep. 

Although I was pretty asleep when my head hit the floor!


I've been reading Necessary Lies. I don't know how long I've had it in my book stash.

It is set in the sixties. It's about a young woman, newly married to a pediatrician, who yearns to have her own career. Her husband is not happy with this decision, but grudgingly goes along with it. 

As a new social worker, Jane goes to see clients who are in a world of hurt. 

Unlike the other social workers in her office, she doesn't seem to be able to distance herself from their personal woes.

This has put her very young marriage, as well as her job, in jeopardy. 

It is of the time when they practiced "eugenics," which appeared on the scene after World War II. 

If someone was "feeble-minded" or had something like epilepsy, the social worker could write up a petition and have a doctor do a surgical procedure to sterilize them. 

If the girl was under age, the parental figure could sign the petition giving their permission. At least that's what happened in the book.

As Jane helps a grandmother who is raising her two teen-aged granddaughters on her own, she becomes deeply enmeshed in their plight.  

When the subject of sterilization comes up in regard to these girls, she is stricken with doubt and apprehension. She doesn't believe in taking away their right to decide, and then lying to them. As she knows sometimes happens.

Her husband thinks this is the right thing to do if they're poor, of low intelligence, and on welfare.

But Jane knows that it's much more complex than making a decision for someone simply because they are from a certain strata of society. Marginalized because of their poverty.

Do you ever read a book and you feel so strongly about the plot that it brings up emotions you didn't even know you had?

Maybe it was the timeliness, that it was set in the sixties. And I recall the harsh bigotry that was prevalent during that time. 

I have to wonder, did the same thing happen to my developmentally disabled maternal grandmother? 

When she became pregnant with my mother, did they perform the same surgical procedure to ensure there would be no more children?

I remember how she was treated, like she didn't deserve the dignity others had a common right to. 

I recall how it seemed somewhat normal to me because it was what I knew. But there came a time when I caught myself treating her the same way. 

I remember feeling stricken when it happened. Instantly ashamed that I had talked to her like I'd heard others talk to her.


I have held that inside all my adult life, that feeling of shame. I have cried about it many times. 

Now, at my current age, I think that I should have done more for her as an adult. I should have gone back.

But I didn't.

The last time I saw her was in the mid to late eighties. I didn't even know the year she died because I didn't keep up with any of my relatives. 

She died around 1993, I learned. But that means there was eight years, eight years when I could have done more than send her the occasional flowers she probably didn't care a thing about. 

The once in awhile phone call that for some reason brought great anxiety and I couldn't wait to say good-bye.

And before too awful long, communication trickled down to nothing.

I told myself that it was just too difficult, dredging up those long ago memories and the pain that came along with them. 

I don't even know that she missed me. She seemed okay just being around whoever was there at the time, the child-like woman who sought everyone's approval, and got almost no one's. Maybe I wasn't even important to her.

But, you see, I know. I know that I dropped the ball, and I can't forgive myself.


Decisions that we make when we're young and oftentimes foolish; sometimes those decisions that were never really decisions at all, come back to haunt us. 

I think karma has already made me pay my dues, if in fact that happens. 

I feel the pain of being distanced from someone I love. And I figure that perhaps that is something I deserve to some degree. So I stoically accept it. Or try to.

It kind of evens things out, you know? An eye for an eye, or something to that effect.

When you toss a stone into the water, ripples suddenly appear and spread across the water's even surface. 

The water will eventually become just as placid as it was before you threw that stone. No one would know that a ripple ever appeared if you didn't tell them.  

But you witnessed it. And the fact of the matter is, you will never forget.



31 comments

  1. Oh- the guilt we feel, Brenda, for the things we failed to do, or worse, for the things we did that caused ripples in our lives--or the lives of others. This is beautifully written and I understand every word on a deep level--because I understand....and wish I didn't...... xo Diana

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    1. I feel your pain in between your words. Regret and guilt is like a balloon that bobs atop our heads as we go through life.

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  2. While it's good to learn and realize mistakes of the past, you can't undo them. You can only go forward and do better. You can bring sunshine to somebody who doesn't have any (you already bring sunshine in your blog, but you know what I mean). There are lots of people whose families are far away or incapable of giving emotional support. You can't help your grandmother now, but you can help somebody else.
    BTW, the NPR podcast/show Fresh Air with Terry Gross recently re-aired an interview about the book "Imbeciles," on the 1927 Supreme Court decision upholding sterilization of people (mostly women) deemed unfit to procreate.

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    1. I know all that intellectually. It's when I read something like this book that touches on similar emotions that bring it all crashing back down.

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  3. I understand those feelings. If only we could go back in time. I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband who tells me the choices I made were what made me who I am today and he wouldn't change a thing. This is not enough. I feel guilt everyday for past mistakes.

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    1. I think women are often harder on themselves than men are. Part of our make up.

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  4. I think you're being too hard on yourself. Yours was not an easy road, and you made decisions based on what you had to work with then. You didn't know better then, because it had not been taught to you - had not been shown to you. Cut yourself a little slack and realize you have grown in good ways through time. at the very least, Like who you are now, there is no going back, so why dwell on it.

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    1. I guess some things press down on us harder because of feelings of obligation we are rendered as children.

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  5. This so beautifully written and heartfelt, Brenda. It was certainly a different era. Telling your story helps others who read it, and hopefully a little peace to you by sharing it.

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  6. Wow, I'm glad you didn't do some serious damage to yourself when you fell, Brenda - how scary! Very heartfelt post, I think we all have someone in our past that we could have done more for.

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  7. Your transparency about yourself is always refreshing, Brenda, even when we hurt for you.

    A senior moment is leaving me without a name to put with this for credit but I've never forgotten an author saying that we can spend so much time "housecleaning" our past that it interferes with our enjoyment in the present. Still, it's sometimes difficult for me not to also.

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    1. I don't dwell on that often. It was another time. But sometimes I miss some dust in my house cleaning and need to sweep it back up and out the door.

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  8. Brenda, I think you were a victim as much as your grandmother. You did the best you could at the time. You are a much stronger person now and I know if your grandmother was still here, you would do everything you possibly could for her.

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    1. I was just a little tyke when my great-grandmother started talking to me about my job of taking over when she died. It frightened me for her to talk about it so much. I had just turned 13 when it was handed to me. For other reasons I was taken out of that environment at 15, and once I tasted freedom, I guess it was hard to go back. Her siblings took over then.

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  9. I agree with Debbie, above. I feel terrible guilt about my mother as I was across the country and didn't understand or get as involved as I now know I should have. Plus I was caring for my husband's father so really feel the guilt. I hope my children are not as unaware as I was.

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  10. perhaps the most helpful book you could ever read is
    louise hay's 'you can heal your life.'
    you can read it right on the internet if you like.
    it's entirely based on forgiving others and the hardest of all... to forgive ourselves.
    she says it's the key to healing our bodies of pain and illness. a wonderful book.

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  11. Very well written. And some very good comments and advise. I think we all have regrets it just depends on the depth of hurt. I have also found, this to be true, "we reap what we sow." Beat yourself up, and the let it go and move on. We can always spread sunshine and happiness where ever we are in life. The world is in need to goodness.

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  12. Living with guilt and "what ifs" can drive us crazy. But remember this: we only do the best we can at that particular time. And with ANY relationship, it always takes two to tango. Don't blame it all on yourself.

    I know all about physical setbacks...as you know. Take good care of yourself.

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  13. Sorry to hear about your fall, Brenda. Getting up through the night is tough! Sounds like a really interesting book - I had no idea that went on! I can't imagine finding myself ready to have a child and then realizing someone had take the opportunity away. Devastating. I wish you weren't so hard on yourself. You've gone through a lot of hard things, and none of us is perfect. You are sorry for what you said. I have been there! But the reality is none of us can pay the price to right our wrongs. I'm so thankful that Jesus paid the price for us. I hope that weight is lifted from you and that you feel peace. You have a kind heart, and I wish you all the best!

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  14. Given the chance, we would all do some things differently, or not at all. It sounds like you and she both had a hard time of it. You are only human and we all make mistakes. You bring much happiness to others. Forgive yourself.

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  15. That's scary about the fall. I'm glad you didn't get seriously hurt.
    You came through those life experiences pretty well I think. I know some people dont get the full picture. I can relate because of my adopted son.
    You will always question since so much is unknown. Stay strong.

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  16. Brenda- Love your picture & was wondering if it has been made in the last year or two . If it wasn't make when you were young..... keep it up it sure makes you look younger. I enjoy your post, but LOVE when you have your patio & flowers on your post.

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    1. The photo was taken about 6-7 years ago, before I left TX. I am always behind the camera. Very seldom in front of it!

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  17. You are much too hard on yourself. Things we do as children do not always relate to what kind of person we are as adults. I don't believe in Karma. We do reap what we sew, but you seem to be a very compassionate person who has gone through some bad times. But they were not necessarily your fault. I, too, have a child estranged from me, but I have come to believe it's his decision for whatever reason. He had a wonderful childhood and we love him, but he chose to make some wrong decisions. Life just has a way of throwing things at us when we are least prepared, but it's not always because of what we have done in the past. It's life. Period. I choose to turn to God and that helps me.

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  18. Certain things haunt me too. I ask myself did I know better. If I answer yes, then I must accept and own my actions and accept whatever emotions i feel related to what I've done. Too many time we let ourselves say we were too busy, too tired or whatever "too" allows us to justify what we did or didn't do. Did we know better than to do what we did or didn't do? That's my personal line in the sand.

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  19. Abi may have a urinary tract infection.

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  20. Hi Brenda. Your way of thinking and working through issues in your past is similar to mine. I feel empathy for you and don't want you to be so hard on yourself, yet, I am hard on myself in the very same way. It's funny how I can read your words and I want to say something to you that will help you to be freed of your guilt and freed from your thought that you can't forgive yourself. Yet, at the very same moment, I am beating myself up in my mind over some incidents in my own past, and not giving myself the freedom and forgiveness that I want you to have. The fact that we have some insights into the past, and feel some guilt and shame about our behavior, shows that we really aren't the awful people that we think ourselves to be -- if we really were so awful, we wouldn't even notice that we made those mistakes in the past. If the mistakes were brought to our attention, we'd just brush it off and say, "Oh, that was a long time ago, it doesn't matter now." But, we don't do that. We do care. I hope and pray that our caring natures can lead to us forgiving ourselves, by applying the same empathy to ourselves that we willingly give others.

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  21. I hope you are ok after that fall Brenda..I would have Abi checked to see if she has a medical problem..Waking up every two hours is certainly
    not good for your health...Hugs to little Abi!

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  22. My dad died in the 90s. I hadn't seen him for 25 years because of family stuff. But recently he came and asked about the lies he was told about me. I told him the truth and he was happier afterward, that is what I felt from him. Glad to know the truth.

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I always enjoy reading your comments and having you join the conversation here at Cozy Little House. It is like having a gathering of friends sitting in my cozy apartment. Enjoying coffee and dessert, chatting and having a good time. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Author Bio

Brenda has been writing since grade school. She majored in professional writing/journalism in college, where she won awards for her feature writing. She loves to decorate, garden, enjoy nature, read and spend time with her Yorkies.
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