When challenged to write by Diane Haugh Moretti, and having chosen the topic, my heart fell. This is all I could think of at first, that I wrote some years ago after my mother died…

Many years later, after putting all the pieces together, I realized that the father I loved had not been trustworthy. I realized that my mother’s love for him, and her unwillingness to accept reality, had put all of us children at risk.

I had biological brothers once. By the time I was five, I had none. They all died in the womb, or shortly after birth. I always wondered why. When I was taking care of my mother just before she died, I learned that my father had kicked her in the stomach in the days just before giving birth. I learned that at least 3 boys were stillborn. I learned that Mom fought for me, the last one she could have. And I learned that Mom still loved my father, and for most of her life refused to accept that he wasn’t trustworthy. She lived at the brink of insanity all her life, in a fantasy world she created so that she didn’t have to accept reality. I learned, too, that the man I loved so much, my Father, eventually learned to love us, and became the man I remember.

I have no way to verify what I was told as she faded away. Perhaps it was just one more fantasy she lived in, to soften her reality. Perhaps it was just illusion.

That is not what I wanted to say in this post. I wanted to write something uplifting, inspiring, something to make me feel loved and loving. I wanted the illusion of family.

When I was five, our family was my mother, my adopted brother and adopted sisters. My father wasn’t there; he had left us and gone back to the United States to live with his mother. He left us behind, in the high deserts of the Atacama to make our own way. And that’s just what my mother did; she made our way up north to that huge, unknown country and with us in tow she tracked my father down in Arizona and made him make a choice as to which family he would support.

We wound up in Maryland and Virginia and then in Panama, because although my father did indeed come back to us, he was not happy in one place or with us. And we were family for a while, there, until we children grew up and moved away and started our own lives. But we were only a family of convenience, because we lived together and had a common name. My siblings and I did not mix well, or often.

We worked together; my father had us work. That was his use for us.

Later in life my wife and I adopted our own children, biological brothers and we thought we were family. Then the drugs and the abuse they generated took hold and although we lived in the same house, we were sometimes convenient, sometimes almost family, but mostly just there.

We were lost, all of us, wandering, alone within our own home. The events that overtook us destroyed our lives as we knew them. And all we could do was to pick up the pieces and keep on going. We had no comfort; the police told us to do what we knew didn’t work, and our neighbors despised us.

Our world tightened around us and all we could see was our misery. And even though we tried to protect ourselves, we were never safe. Nor were we a family any more. We were alone in the most miserable sense, sharing our home with strangers who attacked us, over and over again.

Today, we’re learning. We’re learning to be what I always wanted – a family.

But when first we listened to others telling our story about them, our world widened a bit. Here were people who understood. And even though they knew us, they didn’t look down on us, they didn’t fear us. We were safe while we were in the meetings, and just that tiny bit safer every time we went home.

Now we can surround ourselves with others like us when we wish and when we need it. We can be part of something bigger than ourselves and be safe while we do it. We can not be so horribly alone.

When we recover ourselves, when we see our true selves again, we see a glimpse of the divine in action. We have returned to life as we were meant to live it, free of fear and free to love. We have moved on.

So, although I am surrounded now by many loving friends, I can honestly say that I only know the illusion of family. Not because there is no one who loves me, but because I haven’t yet learned how to be what I most want. My reality is that I can only give my love without expectation of return. I accept and trust that. I accept that I trust only that.

I have yet to learn the final lesson and face reality, that others can be trusted too. We can only experience that which we bring to the table; all else is illusion. I must bring trust to the table to experience it. I must be family, to have family.  I must do this and it resonates within me as I am reminded of this line from The Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente:

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.