Relatives who drift in and out no longer can break her heart

  • Written by Claudia Parker


What happens to a family when one party hurts another so deeply that the offense seems unforgivable and the damage irreversible?

In recent news, two young boys from a middle class family in Atlanta allegedly tried to kill their parents. The puzzled voice of the mother could be heard on the 911 recording saying, “I have no idea why they would do this? Maybe for the insurance money…?”

She and her husband are expected to recover from their physical wounds but one has to wonder if their hearts will ever heal?

One thing is certain, that 911 call spared their lives.

Some might credit me for saving a life with a call. Well, it was more like “resurrecting” a life, by a missed call -- to be specific!

I had a family member resurface after decades. In former years, this person had unrestricted access to my heart and would break it, repeatedly. But, after much time and a little wisdom, I was able to free myself from the expectation that they would change. That allowed me the bravery to separate myself from our toxic bond. Then, like a quiet storm, they emerged.

I answered the phone to hear, “I’ve had your number for quite some time. It’s taken a lot of courage for me to use it. How are you,” the voice asked?

     Have you ever known someone to be so ashamed of something they’ve done that they just disappear? Now imagine that person resurfacing to apologize. It had been nearly three decades! Call me a softy but I felt for them. I’d moved past the pain and settled forgiveness in my heart ages ago. Yet, they’d been carrying that burden around. Rather than responding with, “Well, well, well”, my response was, “Heeeey, how’s it going? I’m good. And you?”

Honestly, I was thinking, “How long do you have left to live? I noodled around the subject with questions like, “Everything alright with your health?”

Once I was reassured that ‘all was well’, I engaged the conversation as if we’d spoken frequently. This sparked a renewal in our relationship and we began to talk on a regular basis. I was always polite, yet cautious. I kept waiting for the “real reason” to surface for our reunion. After a few months, it came.

This individual is from a generation resistant to technology. Texting, email and even voicemail are perceived as frustrations and not practiced. However, on this occasion, an exception was made after several of our telephone connections were missed. I’d left a voicemail explaining why I had been unreachable but they hadn’t received it because they weren’t checking voice mail. I presume out of frustration or worry, a decision was made to retrieve messages.

My hypothesis had been correct all along. It was all on their voicemail. A missed call from their health clinic expressed that the mass found on their colon was benign. I was the first person to know, “If I wasn’t trying to get your message off my voicemail, I would’ve been still walking around thinking I was sick,” the person shared.

I celebrated with them and had a few chuckles at their expense. But, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Now that your demise is no longer looming, will you remain present in my life?”

Nope! Our relationship went dormant shortly after. I wasn’t surprised, it was typical. It’s been nearly five years since that reunion.

No matter how much we love our family, some of them will still hurt us and leave us disappointed; most of the time -- for no good reason. We have to protect ourselves and guard our hearts from being misused. We have to be careful not to enable their behavior by making excuses for them. I believe in separating myself from energy that is toxic to my personal, emotional and spiritual growth.

As people, we all need to own the space we occupy on this earth. It’s a personal call as to whether you share that space with family, who either add to or subtract from your life experience. For me, it’s not set in stone. Just because we’re related doesn’t give one a license to treat me “however” they see fit. To keep my life in balance and in relationships that are healthy, I make adjustments as needed.