Sticks And Stones


[Image by octoberday4U at DeviantART]

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But names will never hurt me

I remember reciting that over and over with Sister Francesca in Kindergarten.

I used to think it was true. I used to think that it didn’t matter what people said to me, what they called me, how they labeled me, because none of it could ever hurt as much as a barrage of sticks and stones.

I didn’t realise way back then that the whole thing was one of those analogies adults often have for children to make their lives more bearable.

Sticks and stones are really not something to worry about. How often does it happen that someone comes after you with a handful of stones or aims at you with a sharp little stick?

It’s the words that can bring you to your knees.

Sometimes it’s possible to detach yourself from words that when released in the act of speaking fall and tumble like autumn leaves. Sometimes, if luck holds out, those words can be avoided completely. But sometimes words can almost swallow your soul.

A letter from my Dad came. Unexpected. It was fine at first the way aspirin dissolved in a glass tastes and then that little gritty bit at the end comes that makes you grimace.

I have reread that letter one hundred times in the hope that it won’t mean what it actually means, but the words are there, as permanent as a tattoo.

I have known for a while that I have disappointed my father. His expectations are high – he would only have been satisfied with a Nobel prize or a cure for cancer. Lil’ ole me, well, I don’t have those kind of chops.

But is it necessary to say it or write it? The way I look at it is that most of us are just trying to do the best that we can. It’s harder than we all think to traverse the obstacles that are thrown up in front of us. Getting through each day is sometimes enough to be proud of. And money and all that it brings?  Well, it’s only money.

My husband is upset. There were several none too subtle barbs aimed at him. I can take whatever my Dad throws at me. I am well seasoned in the theatre of dodging bullets, but my husband is not so practiced.

My father’s letter, when opened, released words more painful than any barrage of sticks and stones. We are weighed down under the debris. Stunned. Heavy. Our limbs are not our own. When someone tells you what they really think about your life you are ill-prepared for the torpor of the aftermath. I can crush the sticks and stones to dust under my boots, but the words remain; a gasp in the dark.

Tomorrow I’m not going to check the mail at all.

23 thoughts on “Sticks And Stones

  1. Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry to hear of this pain you’ve been handed.

    You are an amazing writer. Your words touch so many; they make us think and feel wonderful things, scary things, endless possibilities. You are wise, kind, and your readers are better for knowing and reading your words.

    I’m very sad for your father, for he may never know the magic of your words. Do not check the mail today, and please don’t read the letter again, for his words ring false and hollow against the true beauty of your soul.

    Many hugs to you, my dear Selma.


  2. Wow. That sucks! It appears that your father kinda missed the essence of parenting. The failure resides in him, not you.

    (and ditto what Ms. Karen said)


  3. From the posts that I have read so far it sounds like you are one of those people who should have divorced your parents long, long ago.
    Much love


  4. Okay, first of all: burn that letter in effigy.

    Second: (and you know this) what he said is merely a flashing neon sign into who he is as a person. It has nothing whatsoever to do with you.

    Sel, I know he’s your dad. …and I know your mom is your mom. But when is it ever okay for one human being to treat another in such a manner? ESPECIALLY when they are your parents, for God’s sake. I mean, just think how inconceivable it would be to either you or your husband to say anything like that to your son.

    I know your heart is breaking, and I wish there were something I could do to help. Honestly, I think – if I were you – I would very seriously consider extracting that kind of toxicity from my experience permanently. They don’t behave like “family”, so why should they expect to be treated as such.

    My heart goes out to you. Take careof yourself. Much light and love to you and yours. xoxo


  5. Is he like that with your sisters, too?

    My cousin had it from his father, too. (I refuse to call him my uncle, just because he was married to my aunt)

    He hated his father so much that, after Aunt Helen left him, and remarried, he changed his name to that of his stepfather. I was only about thirteen at the time, and couldn’t understand how any father could treat his son like that. Then, gradually, I heard stories.

    And, like in your case, I couldn’t decide whether the spiteful old bugger needed help or a kick up the backside.

    BTW, the ‘useless little git who’d never amount to anything’ became, first, a Navy pilot, then a research meteorologist, is a D.Sc., has a lovely wife and three beautiful kids …


  6. KAREN:
    I think it’s time to separate myself from my family for a good long while. Who needs this? Who needs to keep reading about this? I guess I haven’t made the break because I keep hoping things will improve, but they don’t. Thanks for your constant support, hon!

    He is skilled, though. He makes it feel like it’s my fault. Time to move on, methinks.

    Too right. I need to do something like that because mentally, I can’t take it anymore.

    I could never speak to my son the way my Dad has spoken to me. And to think that all of this is the result of my parents allowing my sister’s abusive husband back into the family and me being uncomfortable with it. The power of an abuser is far-reaching. I really had no idea. Thanks for your kind words, hon.

    He and my sister Shelly haven’t spoken for years. But he would never even raise his voice with my youngest sister. It’s so sad because he is always pontificating about the importance of family.

    I’m glad your cousin ended up doing well despite all the drama he had to go through. Those types of stories always cheer me up!


  7. sel, i am going to venture an opinion here. the reason your abusive brother in law is being embraced back into the family — is that it seems that he is more aligned with your parent’s way of thinking/behaving than you are.

    Your dad is abusive; your mom is abusive. abusers NEED to make people be small so they feel big.
    for a long time, whenever my sister sent me letters or e-mails I would immediately toss them or delete because I couldn’t chance that she wouldn’t throw in an ugly barb or two or 50.

    I’m sorry they shit on you; your job now is to keep their shit off of you and on their side…….don’t let him complete his mission …. don’t let him hurt you. if it doesn’t happen this time, eventually it will.
    love ya sel


  8. I think family members are harsher with their words, I suppose they think they are doing you a favor by telling you directly but if it was me, I would definitely tear up that letter and all the ones that comes after

    whatever happen to loving your children and family unconditionally?


    You never cease to amaze me. You just know how people work. You have definitely hit the nail on the head. My youngest sister( the one married to the abuser) does that to me with the emails. She’ll be chatting away about the weather or something and then WHAM – she’ll hit you with something earth-shattering.

    Thank you for your wonderful insights!

    I think some people don’t understand the meaning of unconditional. You are completely right – I think it’s best not to read any of their letters anymore. My new philosophy is – I just don’t need to know!


  10. I am so sorry to read this Sel. Your parents have a gem, a shining star for a daughter, when it comes to you. Sometimes things that happen make no sense, this is the case here. So very sad.

    Hang in there….many hugs, G


  11. It’s the words that can bring you to your knees. SO TRUE and you need to set that letter on FIRE and do not open another letter from someone who obviously wants to HURT you. I cant even IMAGINE how you must feel right now.


    Thank you so much, G. That has cheered me up immensely.

    What would I do without you? YOU. ARE. AWESOME. XXXXX


  13. The Mail is my mother-in-law’s favourite method of letting us know exactly what we are doing wrong in her opinion. I now refuse to have anything to do with her. I’d like to say that she is clawing to get back in our lives. She isn’t. She hasn’t seen any of her grandkids in five years. (The only time we hear from her is when she is looking for money.) It’s sad.

    It took a lot of soul searching, but you know, she is the one who is alone. She is the one who is missing out on it all… and well, it’s sad… but I’m not putting my son through her vitriol because I know that sticks and stones hurt but words leave bigger scars.


  14. Oh Selma, I wish I could hug you. “It’s the words that bring you to your knees.” That heartache/stomache and so much more is horrid. Yes, I know all too well…if you remember reading certain posts of mine.

    May I have your email address? My computer crashed and broke and “life stuff” rendering me out of blogland all of these months. Your addy is probably right under my nose, but my eyes are glazed over trying to find people’s addies to email them of my new blog and that I’m ok. I put my new website and my new email address in this comment.

    Take care and try a different type of earplugs or …well I better email you my other suggestions. My hubby is a snorer, too.


  15. Wow, I can’t imagine how a parent could be that way. Is he totally blind to the wonderful person that you are?

    Sticks and stones…

    Do you remember “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”

    If you get another letter from it I wouldn’t even open it. I’d mark it with ‘Return to Sender’ and send it back to him. I could be really cruel and say mark it with ‘Deceased’ and see how he reacts.

    Stay strong Sel. (((Hugs)))


  16. I totally agree with everyone here and I especially like Employee’s idea of returning all future mail Return to Sender. At least don’t let your dad have the satisfaction of knowing you read his words.

    I can’t fathom how your mum and dad can’t see the person we all see but honestly Sel, they are the losers here. For your own sake honey, I think you need to cut your ties at least for the time being. No-one should have to feel that kind of pain at the hands of another…the fact that it’s your own family just makes the wounds even deeper.

    I love you mate. You are good people.


  17. My comment went pooof….

    Meleah’s idea is a very good one. Joe and I had a cleansing “ceremony” several months ago. We each wrote out hurtful and painful memories on small pieces of paper, placed them in a container and lit them on fire. We focused on releasing all the anger and pain as the fire continued to burn. It was simple but powerful. Sometimes, simplicity is best.

    Hope this helps. Hang in there Sel, you are the best!


  18. wow what has dad got stuck in his craw?? what a mean thing to do.. and as you say words cannot be taken back,, especially when you have them in writing!!!!


  19. so true, so true. right now my own father is visiting me and my son. his last visit was a disaster. so much anger and stuff. i “read him the riot act” for 3 days, and it hollowed me out inside. he left on sort of good terms. didn’t know what to expect on this one. but it’s turning out really good (in spite of my having ignore a few little firecrackers, words of course, thrown my way from time to time to get under my skin….) but overall very good. i feel relieved, actually.

    so i guess my only thing to say is that when i took the risk to take my father to task last time, wondering if i wasn’t sacrificing our relationship, it actually paid off. it hurt so bad to do, but i did it.

    i don’t know if you can do it, in your circumstance and am not particularly recommending anything, just sharing an experience. but i can say that part of my strength to do so came from realizing that when i put my foot down with my son, it always paid off, as well as with others in my life, this after letting people walk over me a little too much in the name of being kind or generous (or so i told myself).


  20. Selma – I am so sorry to hear about this letter. It often seems to be the gentlest people in a family that are singled out for scapegoating. I think you are absolutely right that your parents are uniting to attack you because they can’t or won’t attack the person they should really be attacking.

    A similar kind of thing happened to me and I was ostracised from the family – aunts, cousins, parents, the lot – for years. To be absolutely honest, I was quite glad to be out of it – all the gossiping and analysing of every little comment. It was a blessed relief to be able to focus on my own little family – husband, son and dogs – and leave the poisonous birth family to their own devices.

    PS. Years later, when my mother was dying, there was a warming of relations and I sat with her when she died, so even if you cut off communications just now it doesn’t have to be for ever. Take care of yourself, be confident that you are a good person and that this situation is NOT your fault.


  21. Sorry for the late reply to the comments….

    I am sorry to hear about your Mother-In-Law. She is definitely missing out. Your first responsibility is to your son, for sure. I’ve been thinking a lot about that too and my son deserves to live without the vitriol. I feel bad that I’ve allowed him to be subjected to it for so long.

    Great to hear from you. Will send you my email address shortly. Sorry to hear about your tech problems. Glad you got them sorted out. I have missed reading your blog.

    EMPLOYEE 3699:
    I do remember the ‘I’m rubber’ one. They don’t write them like that anymore. Thanks so much for the hug. I really need it right now. XXX

    Now I know you actually are an angel. Not just by name, eh? I’m going to keep my parents at a distance for a bit because they really are doing my head in. I just don’t need it. I am so grateful you are still around the blogosphere. Makes me feel better!

    That’s a really good idea. I’m going to try it. Those types of rituals are really effective. Thanks for all your support, hon.

    I think he’s got plenty stuck in his craw. Hopefully, things will change soon!

    What good advice. I have hedged around for years instead of doing that very thing because he’s my Dad and I feel I should be respectful towards him. I can see now that not making a stand has caused me a lot of grief.

    I am so glad things are going better with you and your Dad right now. I really appreciate your advice. Thank you.


  22. PUDDOCK:
    What wonderful advice. That has made me feel so much better. It doesn’t have to be forever, does it? And at the moment it’s all about self-preservation. Thank you. XXX


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