This afternoon, my dad called to ask me about an email he had sent me and to see how everything was going. The conversation moved from my work, to his work, to my cousins, to their children. I told him how guilty I feel for not having given him and my mom more children, how I wondered whether it would have made the situation with my nephew any easier on them, and how, even though I knew not having children may have been a real kindness given our family history of mental illness, it didn't make it any easier on me and how I continued to struggle with it. I told him how hard it was not to have anyone in our family to pass things on to, but how I have chosen to embrace DH's family and pass my things on to them. My voice trembled as I tried fight back the tears to get the words out.
My father, the only member of my immediate family who has ever been able to show me any kind of genuine respect, sympathy or understanding, said that I should not feel any guilt. He said, jokingly, "Please! don't do me any favors!!" He agreed with my embracing of DH's neices and nephews, as he has my mother's neices and nephews (since he had none on his side of the family being an only child). He said that I should instead think of it as a blessing that I didn't not bring an innocent child into the world burdened with serious problems, who would suffer the debilitating effects of mental illness that I (yeah... I said it!!!) and much of my family have suffered, as have my cousins. It's something that I considered before I even met DH. Would it have been cruel and selfish to have children knowing what my gene pool holds in store, or at least the potential it holds? Certainly, if everyone thought that way, there wouldn't be very many children born each year!
But even as I write about the conversation, the tears are unstoppable. My mother on the other hand makes comments about how she wishes she had more grandchildren. And I do truely believe that she faults me for not giving them to her. A couple weeks ago, when I was home visiting, we were going through her drawer of little gifts and trinkets people has given to her that she didn't want be kept to regift, or little bargains she has found for unexpected gift-giving occasions. As I openned one little box I realized it was a giant safety pin with blue rhinestones on it... a baby ornament. I looked at her puzzled. "Mom, this is a baby ornament." "I know," she said, "I saw it and just really liked it so I bought it." She had no one in mind or friends who had grandbabies on the way. I stung like a slap. She doesn't get it at all, and is just incapable of seeing how anyone would feel differently than she does.
Thankfully, I do have my dad. I hope he's around for many more years. He's the only one in my family who ever really got me at all.