Archive for the Barbara J Brooks Category

Beyond the Door …

Posted in Barbara Brooks, Barbara J Brooks, Christian, Love, Personal Challenges, Personal Relationships with tags on 30 December 2015 by Barbara J. Brooks

I experienced an unexpected loss of friendship over the past year and have allowed myself several months to reflect, examine myself, and ask God to elevate me above the stench of betrayal.

Over a year ago, I received a call from her in which she informed me that I had hurt her very deeply by not offering her the use of my home at a time that she was coming to town to tend to matters concerning her brother, who had been stricken with cancer and was very ill. As she began retelling the details, she told me I simply said “No.” This made no sense to me. It had occurred more than seven years before our conversation, so the details momentarily escaped me. I could not imagine myself saying no to such a request, given what she meant to me, as well as the fact that I had such deep affection for her brother. I immediately apologized and stated, genuinely, that I was ashamed of myself for having responded as she said I did. She then added, rather off-handedly, that I had said I was going to be out of town at the time. It clicked then. Yes, she had asked if she could stay with me, and when I informed her of my unavailability, the matter was dropped. When I called her during the course of that week in question to inquire as to her and her family’s well-being, there was no indication that she was offended by anything I had said or done. Certainly her concern was for her brother, so even if there had been a “vibe,” it would have been attributed to that far more distressing matter. In our conversation in which she finally took me to task for the incident, she confessed that because of that offense, she had been “challenged” by her feelings for me over the past few years and that I must have noticed her changed attitude. I had, but I wanted to believe that the reason for her moods was unrelated to me.

Yes, I noticed the frequent instances of coldness, impatience, dismissiveness, and what seemed like unwarranted hostility, but I convinced myself that it was my imagination, that I was reading her wrong. I noticed the lies that she concocted to erect distance between us. I noticed that she only offered the most grudging affirmation of my accomplishments. I noticed the insults, insinuations, and sarcasm, but I let them go—affording her far more grace than she did me. I now know that all of those slights and offenses were the unleashing of her passive aggressive vindictiveness, which she has since replaced with unforgiveness. Our conversation ended with her stating that she was continuing to “work through” some issues. I told her that I hoped it helped that I was deeply sorry. Apparently, it did not.

The irony is that I have been nothing but a good, loyal, and supportive friend to her. I was the first person at her home, with our then-pastor, when her mother passed. I was with her at the loss of three of her siblings, and my heart ached for her. I had previously sheltered her in my home and have since offered to do so. I sheltered her daughter in my home—I have sown into her daughter’s life. I helped her with my meager financial resources when she was unemployed—more than once. Because of me, even my elderly mother loves her and has given her assistance. I was with her in some very dark times in her life. My point is not to quantify my friendship, but to substantiate this question: How does one’s value for a “friend” hinge on one thoughtless act; one incident that only occurred because of an oversight? For me, it simply never occurred to me to offer my unoccupied home to her and her daughter; for her, there was a presumption that I should have done so. Yet this incident, as opposed to my unwavering support and love for her and her family for forty-two years, is the gauge by which she measured our friendship. I sat at her dying brother’s bedside with her, yet she remains “challenged” by what, at the time of our conversation, was a more than seven-year-old grievance.

When we spoke again nearly a year after that initial confrontation, she told me that my apology was for my benefit and did not address how I had hurt her. I was shocked that she had recast what had come from my heart and the genuine sorrow (I reminded her) that I had felt into something so vile and selfish. She again, emphatically, stated that I had said “No” to her request. That is just not true, for she never made a specific request to stay in my home when I told her that I would be absent. I would certainly not have denied such a request, and if it had occurred to me to initiate the offer, I would have done so. Her insistence on this point and her disregard for truth is at once peculiar and yet revealing. She called me selfish twice in that second conversation. If I had intentionally said no to her, then yes, it would have been selfish. But I did nothing of the kind.

Astonishingly, when I expressed to her in that second conversation how deeply hurt I was by her treatment of me over the past few years, she justified her behavior as having been “reactive” and added that no one could make her offer an apology that was not in her heart. I agreed with her, for neither would I offer an insincere apology. I was not asking for one, but it was my responsibility to address her despicable behavior, especially since I was angry with myself for not having questioned those incidents when they occurred. I understand provocation, but I also understand that provocation can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. What is more, I understand that adults must be willing to own their reactions, provoked or not. To excuse her offenses as simply reactive with no regard for their hurtfulness and intentionality (as she had admitted herself), while continuing to hold me responsible for an unintentional and thoughtless oversight and reject my apology as self-serving was quite curious. That she would be unforgiving of me for one arguably minor transgression and ignore years of love, support, kindness, and “being there” is baffling and painful. Of course I have no right to demand her forgiveness, but I had every right to expect it. Moreover, I cannot help going back to the question of why she accepted my many acts of friendship since that incident, all the while harboring such hostility towards me. I find that reprehensible.

For a while, I tried to tell myself that I just did not give a damn, but that was dishonest—inconsistent with my value for what I thought was a genuine, loving, decades-old friendship. I was not at the point of not caring at that time, but since then I have moved on to an even better place. I know that we never heal from any loss or disappointment without admitting our true feelings and searching our own hearts for responsibility. I was hurt, and the sting of her betrayal and deception may linger for a very long time. Our friendship had meant something to me. I felt angry, disappointed, and abandoned as I know that, facing the inevitable storms of life, I will have been there for her in ways that she will not be there for me. I sat with her through pain and loss for forty-two years. But when my father passed in July, she had positioned herself and redefined our relationship such that even informing her of my loss would have been pointless.

I am so grateful that God has spoken to my heart as I have submitted to Him for self-examination. She closed the door on nearly forty-three years of friendship. It is always sad when the devil is handed a victory, and surely he is elated by the destruction of a relationship between two women who are united by the blood of Christ. Still, God has never failed to use even painful experiences for my good and my growth. Ironically, I was thrust into the position of having to forgive her for her unforgiveness and her disgraceful mistreatment of me over the past few years. The difficulty was compounded by her so intentionally and viciously withholding her regret for her behavior. Still, I have completely forgiven her. For the sake of my own spiritual well-being, I hold no ill will towards her. The place where I do not give a damn was on the side of that door where hurt feelings and anger dwelt. But on this side, beyond the door she closed, are my peace, a clear conscience, and a revelatory understanding of the venom of unforgiveness.






The Alzheimer’s Abyss

Posted in Abyss, Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Disease, Barbara Brooks, Barbara J Brooks, Dementia with tags , , , , on 13 November 2012 by Barbara J. Brooks

I want to scream at Alzheimer’s to “LET MY DADDY GO!” When I look into his eyes now, there is nothing there. My grief process has begun. In the early stages, I unscientifically measured the progression of his condition by the number of good days versus the bad days he experienced. There are no more good days. It is agonizingly clear that the memories that anchor me to the working class upbringing that he provided for my mother, sister, and me are no longer shared with him. Two years ago I brought him to my home for a visit. He looked wistfully at childhood pictures of my sister and me and proudly stated, “I took good care of those kids.” “You sure did, Daddy,” I agreed. “Oh, you were there?” he asked. Back then, I laughed a lot to keep from crying. Now, humor gives way to sadness for him. Dementia’s grip is firm and unrelenting—it seems to quicken its pace day by day. Its final campaign might take ten years, or one week, or one hour, but it is certain. He has descended into an abyss from which he will not emerge.

I fear that to him, I am quickly losing my identity. He stares at me sometimes as if he wonders who I am. Already, I have no relationship to the newborn he lovingly cared for when my mother was too sick after we both nearly died during delivery. He does not recognize that I am the little girl he over-indulged. As a young adult I shared his militancy, which became the touchstone of our relationship. But all of that is now lost to him, and when I stand before him I am only a part of his “right now.” I am becoming Anybody. Still, he holds the presence of my sister and me dear. “You talked to Cyn?” he asks me repeatedly. “You talked to Barbara?” he asks her. Those are merely our names, though. He is no match for oblivion.

This hideous ailment has violated our relationship. His love for me has always been deep and abiding. I have never questioned it, although it has never, ever been spoken. It transcends the words that men of his generation often find too difficult to utter. Now, he feels, but he has lost the meaning for the words that would articulate those feelings. When I leave his presence I always say, “See ya later, Daddy. I love you.” I thought he may not know what I meant, but his eyes water. He feels.

I remember when another relative was dying of a smoking-related cancer nearly thirty years ago. I quit that filthy habit as I watched his demise because I feared contracting a similar illness. It was one of those positive outworkings of fear that motivates one to change for the better. A few months ago in a moment of self-pity, I told God that I would rather die where I was sitting than live one day with Alzheimer’s. I know that it was fear that was speaking, but I don’t know how to outrun this disease. There is nothing definitive to quit or do proactively. I simply trust God to keep me. My maternal grandmother lived to be ninety-eight years old. At the age of eighty-four, the age my father is now, she spoke boldly: “As long as God keeps me on this Earth, He’s going to keep me in my right mind.” He did. Every morning I wake up and praise God and make the same bold declaration. But I must confess, it is more of a plea.

To that, I add my prayer for research that leads to more effective prevention, treatment, and ultimately, a cure. Please add yours.