Jeff’s mom, Gloria, passed away towards the end of last week. Jeff’s nephew called to tell him the news and we’re grateful he did because I’m not sure if anyone would have told us if he hadn’t. I had not written about it yet and honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say here because it’s hard to know the words. I thought if I waited a few days it would be easier, but it’s still hard. I knew I wanted to choose my words carefully, and should any of Jeff’s family members ever read this, my intention is not to hurt feelings (or add more of a rift in the family than there already is), but to just share things from our perspective. So, to be honest, I will say: Jeff’s mother disowned us years ago.
I never met Jeff’s father. I met his mother twice, after Jeff and I had been married and living together for five years I believe, and was hopeful that we would be able to have a relationship. After the second meeting, she sent us an e-mail that was extremely demeaning and hurtful. (That’s a nice way of putting it.) I was shocked, but we still tried to keep things as peaceful as possible. And then after Bracken’s birth, another sour communication. I’ll leave it at that. Jeff tried to communicate and work some issues out between them, but she disowned us and wouldn’t have any more communication with us at all. When she sent out family e-mails, we were told that she would mention all of her family, but exclude our names and act like the three of us didn’t exist at all. She organized a family reunion, with “everyone” there, and of course we weren’t told about it or invited. Who knows what she told other family members about us, but I’d say she probably did a pretty good job turning the family against us, which saddens me. She never met her grandson.
Jeff had a strange upbringing. When he said his home was sterile, quite literally he and his siblings were only allowed to walk across the parts of the floor that were covered in plastic and the plastic on the couches only came off when guests were at the house. But it wasn’t that so much which made things feel sterile, it was the feeling of coldness. Jeff never, ever felt loved by his mother throughout his entire life, though he certainly tried everything to win her approval, until he eventually gave up on that. And he doesn’t have a single happy memory with his mom. I can’t tell how much that breaks my heart.
The picture above is Jeff’s dad, sister, mom, and brother, taken in November 1968. Jeff is not in the picture because he was the one taking it. It’s one of the only family pictures from his youth that he has. There was a lot of secrecy and unanswered questions in his family. And there are many things he will probably never know the answers to now. (Though he did ask questions and certainly tried to find some clarity, it wasn’t received well.) Growing up, sometimes his parents were very vague about who they worked for and what they did for a living. When he was in his fifties his parents sent out an e-mail to friends and family saying “As you all know, we worked in the U.S Government Intelligence Community…” It was stated matter-of-factly, but that was the very first time Jeff had ever heard that.
There’s a lot of heartache there, as you can probably tell. And there are so many things I really want to say, but feel that I shouldn’t. I know we are not the only family members who experienced Jeff’s mom’s hurtful behavior, but I will let others speak for themselves. Jeff did have a good relationship with his grandmother (on his mother’s side) though. She was a dear woman. When Jeff grew up, he knew he wanted to homestead like his Aunt Isla and Uncle Lee and create a life similar to theirs, because there was so much love in it. When I think about his life growing up, it hurts me to imagine what he must have felt like. He ended up being a lone ranger in his life, not relying on anyone but himself. I do know what it’s like trying to jump through hoops to get someone to love you, to no avail, but not with my mother. I think about my relationship with my own mom and how central it is to my life. I truly can’t imagine what I would do without her constant support and encouragement, but most importantly: her love. Her unconditional love has helped to get me through the hardest of times.
Though I wish Jeff’s childhood and family life could have been different, as he says: “It is what it is.” I’m sad that Gloria is gone and nothing can be resolved, but mostly I’m sad for the way things always were. Rest In Peace, Gloria.