Every person is born into a life they cannot choose. If this journey begins with a series of accidents and tears, it can be sure that it will continue throughout life. For years I was certain it was a punishment, because as a child I once dared to say out loud that I hate God.
I was eleven years old and attending fifth grade when my mother had another seizure. I was living with my grandparents at the time. I lived there most of my childhood, as long as I could remember. One of the periods when I lived with my mother before that was in third grade, and from this time I remember being bullied often and I loved to eat ants with a friend during the break. Ants were supposed to be good for the health, as someone could tell us.
My mother is a story in itself. For a reason I didn’t understand at the time, it was my mother who was the cause of our constant conflicts at my grandparents’ house. They couldn’t stand her. My grandmother was more neutral, but my grandfather, and especially my aunt, who also lived with us, could not talk about my mother calmly at all.
But I loved my mother. I loved her just the way she was. I enjoyed our reading evenings when I was living with her in some periods of time. She loved reading children’s books to me and my older brother, and we could talk for hours later that anything in this world was possible if we only wanted it strongly enough.
My mother was a dreamer. Her world was departed in two pieces, good and evil, and depending on her current mood, one of them won. She was a person I could call being closest to me, because there was no one else there I could talk to so openly so much. But she was also one of my worst enemies.
FOR MY MOTHER, LIFE WAS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL, AND WE, HER CHILDREN, ALWAYS HAD TO CHOOSE SIDES. NEUTRALITY WAS NOT AN OPTION.
I remember most clearly how much I always missed my mother. When we got back together, I idealized her to insanity. She was the one who came and saved me from evil. That’s what she told me. And I believed her. I believed everything she told me about how the whole world was evil and trying to separate us, and how we still found each other and stayed together. The longing I felt for my mother followed me for the rest of my life.
My fifth grade went quite calmly. I did well in class and there were no complaints about the grades. At school, I was an incredibly quiet child most of the time. My grandmother sometimes said that the teacher had never seen such a quiet child before. One day the teacher had even called home and asked if I had come to school that day because she did not notice that I was at school. Grandma often recalled this occasion.
After school, however, I was a different child. All I kept to myself in class was released when I got home. I literally stood on my head. I enjoyed doing everything that involved physical activity, and dancing was one of them. Due to my shyness, I always did it alone at home in front of a mirror, but it was enough for me. In those moments as I listened to music, danced, and watched myself in the mirror, the rest of the world around me disappeared. I was in the world of my dreams where anything was possible. Just like my mother said. This made me feel closer to her.
That day my aunt came to me and said that I had received a letter from my mother. I was so glad and I didn’t give it any doubt that something could be wrong. I was really childishly happy to have this letter.
The letter began with how much my mother loved me. She wrote about how much she tried to keep the two of us together. Then it turned slowly to the point where the world was unfair and trying to separate us. She wrote about how others, my grandparents and aunt, did everything they could to keep my mother from doing what she wanted so badly — namely, to be with me. That’s why they’ve done everything to turn me against my mother. The story went on about how evil has been planted in me, how I have become a monster from a good girl, and that there was no hope for me to ever get better again. She also wrote that she understands that I wasn’t quite in my right mind because I had a lack of oxygen during childbirth, and that she forgives me. But the two of us, me and my mother, could never be together again.
THAT DAY AND ALL NIGHT, I CRIED LIKE I HADN’T CRIED BEFORE. I WAS SURE I WOULD NEVER SEE MY MOTHER AGAIN AND THAT IT WAS MY FAULT AND MY FAULT ONLY.
My grandfather and grandmother, along with my father’s sister, tried to tell me that my mother couldn’t be taken seriously. They said that my mother was ill and that she did not control what she was doing or saying. But for me, it was as real as it could have been. I still believed every word that came from my mother’s mouth.
“I want to show you something,” grandpa said the next evening. “Come, sit here,” he continued, as always in a calm voice, pointing toward the couch. Grandpa had the last word in our family. This word was used when there was no other way out. I still had the closest relationship with my grandmother at the time, but grandpa’s word was the law, and everyone knew it.
“Has anyone ever told you about how you got to us?” he asked. No, no one had ever told me that, and to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it so far.
“You came to live with us when you were about a year old,” he continued in the same calm tone. “I see that you have a lot at heart. I wanted to wait with this conversation, but maybe the time is right for that now.”
He opened the door of his closet, where he kept the most personal things that no one ever dared to touch, and took out a well-used school notebook.
“Here I have written a story about how you came to us. I’ll read it to you and then we’ll talk about it,” grandpa said seriously. Grandpa was a person who, in my eyes, embodied everything related to security. He wasn’t the one I ran to when I was afraid of something, for this I had a grandmother, but I couldn’t imagine my grandmother without a grandfather next to her. He opened the notebook, put on his reading glasses, and began to read:
“It was a cold winter this year. Several tragic things happened this year. One of them was the fate of our grandchild. Her father, my son, was not here to help his child, and her mother was left as the child’s only protector. This week, however, the child’s second grandmother, the one with whom they lived, came to our door. She was panicked and said that our grandchild’s life was in danger because the child’s mother, her own daughter, wanted to take the child’s life. That day her daughter had gone for a walk with the babygirl, but came back in tears and hysterical and without a child. Several hours later, however, she had gotten her daughter so far that she confessed where she had left the child. The child was left alone in the woods to freeze. She found out exactly where the child was left, and asked us to go after the babygirl and leave the child to live with us. She was sure that if the babygirl went back to her mother, it would end in one or both deaths.
I put the wintercoat and the shoes on in hurry and went to get the baby. When I arrived, the child was where I was told she had been abandoned. Her mother had left her about a few hundred meters into the forest on a little babyblanket with something dry under it. The babygirl was almost a year old, really young yet. Strangely, she was completely calm, sitting on the blanket and playing with the toys that were left for her. The child was completely naked. Her mother had left her there and took all baby’s clothes with her because she wanted the child to freeze to death this day. But it was a real miracle, because the babygirl was perfectly fine and seemed to be full of life. I hid her under my coat and brought home to us.
Our lives were turned upside down that day. One of us had to stay home to take care of the child, and we had to plan our finances. The debate over whether to leave the child with us or give her back to her mother was quite big. But Luise, my daughter, was determined that the child should stay with us, and so she did. From that day our grand-daughter began to live with us.
This is what I wrote down at the time,” grandpa said, putting his notebook on the table. “I wrote this letter so that one day you will know your story. The fact that you have had this home here and the family that has taken care of you is largely due to Luise. You have to remember that. She might be strict, but she has fought for you with everything she had.
Now, coming back to the letter your mother sent you, see for yourself. This is not the first time she has done something similar. We can’t keep you completely away from her and I understand that you love your mother. But he’s not worth your tears. You have always been part of the game for her, the manipulation she tries to do to achieve her will. She attacks those who are weak. Don’t let her do it to you over and over again.”
I wasn’t sure what I was feeling at that moment. It had to be mostly disappointment. Grandpa put the notebook in the closet again and left the room, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I tried to understand what he had told me a moment ago, but my mind refused to cooperate with me. The only thing I heard were my feelings.
I WENT TO THE WINDOW AND STOOD THERE IN THE DARK. THEN I LOOKED UP AND WHISPERED THROUGHT MY TEETH, “I HATE YOU.” MY VOICE WAS FOREIGN TO ME. I WAS A STRANGER TO MYSELF. AND THEN I SAID IT AGAIN, THIS TIME MUCH MORE CONFIDENTLY, “I HATE YOU, GOD!”
Maybe I was unfair at this moment. No, I definitely was. But I didn’t know otherwise. I could no longer bear the burden and I handed it over to someone I knew could carry that.
A few moments later, my grandmother entered the room. She sat on the couch where I hid myself under the blanket. We sat there for quite some time, she held around me, and I wondered if I had any family left.
“I guess you just need to make it clear for yourself that you don’t have a father or a mother,” she said, sliding her hand over my hair. “It’s easier that way. I’m not protecting my son. He’s the same windhead as your mother. Neither of them has been able to be parent for you.”
When I listened to what she said, I was sure she was wrong. I had both a mother and a father. They existed. But later, many years later, that was the conclusion I reached myself as well. I didn’t really have a mother or a father. Not in my childhood at least. I actually grew up an orphan. That approach was the best. Everything else was too painful to carry.