By Patricia LaPointe
It started during my childhood.
“Mom, Dad, look. I got all A’s this term!” Silence and a blank stare or a quick change of subject, often to something I hadn’t done right.
I loved to write. Mom said it was a waste of time, adding “What makes you think anyone will want to read what you write?” I would have preferred the blank stare or change of subject.
I hid my writing.
After my husband, children and I moved three hundred miles from my parents’ home, I decided I would finally go to college. In spite of raising four young children, I received all A’s and made the dean’s list nearly every term. After trying several times to talk about this several times on long distance calls with Mom, only to be met with silence, I gave up mentioning it.
I hid my scholarly achievements, kind of…..
Because on a whim, I decided to send a copy of my grade report to my parents. No response. Sometime later, I asked Dad if they ever received it. He said yes, it’s on the end table in the living room. I didn’t ask if they read it. Why add insult to injury?
There were no congratulations when I graduated college or when I was accepted into a Ph.D. program.
All through my college years I had discussed classes and teachers with my children. They would remember to ask me what grades I got on exams or what new projects I was working on.
While was in graduate school, my daughters spent a lot of time with my mom and sister. Without first asking me, my mom and sister would take them shopping for clothes. If I acted surprised and perhaps a little angry, Mom said “Well you’re too busy with whatever…!” I was not.
Soon, I began to get the same disinterested response from my daughters as I had from my parents: silence and a change of subject. When I published my first book, it too was not acknowledged by my daughters, parents or siblings.
Again, I hid my writing.
I could understand my parents’ reaction. They had not gone to college or had careers. It was difficult for them to accept that I’d be so different. But, to this day, I do not know what my Mom and sister may have told my children that would have made them respond in this way.
I continued to hide who I am from them.
Last week, I met my grandson’s girlfriend, Maggie, for the first time. She is getting her first job as a social worker. I was surprised to learn that she knew about my earlier career as a psychotherapist. We sat with my two daughters, Julie and Samantha at Julie’s kitchen table as we talked. Minutes after we began sharing our experiences discussing clients and best places to work, Julie, in a huff, rose from her chair slamming it noisily into the table, and busied herself filling her dishwasher. Samantha joined her there and they began discussing their plans for the day, in voices louder than mine and Maggie’s.
Apparently, Maggie hadn’t yet been told such conversations were not permitted when my daughters were present. I have no doubt that Maggie and I will never speak about this again in my daughters’ presence.
© 2021 Patricia LaPointe
Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.