Like Carli Lloyd, Jeff Deminski understands family rifts all too well
New Jersey native and soccer sensation Carli Lloyd has a book coming out Monday. In it she shares some painful stuff. She's estranged from her family. The Olympic gold medalist and World Cup title holder has been on the outs with her family for some time. In her memoir she tells of not being invited to her sister's wedding and not even being told of her father's open-heart surgery until well afterward. Ouch.
In "When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World," she gives the painful details. She talks about how a lot of it started in her parents refusal to allow her to grow up, trying to micromanage her life and her career. I'm sure they'd have their own version. Everyone does.
When I think of family rifts I think of how I never met my grandfather. Not once. My mother's father was not allowed to see me. When my mother was 3 years old, he abandoned his family. My grandmother had 9 children with this man. My mom was the next to youngest. My grandfather had a drinking problem. And a violence problem. And a responsibility problem. The last night my mom saw her father as a little girl was just before Christmas when he came home drunk out of his mind. Complaining about something, he turned violent with my grandmother. Began chasing her around the house to beat her. Not an uncommon sight from what I've heard. My mother's baby brother was in my grandmother's arms as my grandfather tried to attack her. In the dining room, a table separating them, he picked up a heavy object and hurled it at my grandmother. It could have killed the baby. Police were called. The last memory my mother had of her father was him picking up the entire Christmas tree in a drunken rage and hurling it like a javelin through the length of the house. She watched it shatter into the farthest wall.
He left, and for years no one knew if he was alive or dead. No one knew where he went. What became of him? Almost 25 years later after my grandmother died, they found out he was still alive. The first clue was a rose left in my grandmother's hands in her coffin. Each sibling thought the other had placed it there until they compared notes. The funeral director finally told them some old man showed up on the doorstep hours before the service asking if he could see her and leave her the flower. He explained he wouldn't be welcome by the family. They knew it had to be him.
In the months following the funeral, he made contact. First with one child. Then another. Over the years, and many apologies, one by one all his children forgave him to an extent and to an extent allowed him somewhat back into their lives. All but my mother. She loved her mother dearly, and she could never forgive her father for walking out on them. What made it even worse was my mother from 3 years old on grew up in abject poverty. Imagine being a single woman trying to raise 9 children with no support. It turned out that my grandfather had cleaned up his act enough to open and run a successful bar not terribly far from where the family he abandoned lived. He knew where they were, but they didn't know where he was. But he never once sent a penny. Not even anonymously. Once he was back in the lives of 8 of his 9 children, he finally found his wallet and at times sent little gifts for his grandchildren. He tried several times reaching out to my mother but she wanted nothing to do with him. He wasn't allowed to see me or even send a gift to me.
Eventually, another 25 years later, he was well in his 90's and on his deathbed and asked his family to ask my mother one last time to see him. She finally did. It was the only time since 3 years old that she laid eyes on her father. He had dementia by that point, so it wasn't much of a meeting. Certainly no Hallmark card moment. I hope it gave them both a small amount of peace. I understand my mother did what she felt she needed to do. I also understand my aunts and uncles who forgave him. Everyone is different and everyone has to live with themselves in the end. Everyone has to do what is right for them. What was right for my mother was to keep him away from her, and from me.
Like I said, she loved her mother dearly. Sometimes when a person hurts the one you love most in all the world, forgiveness is not something to be expected.
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