I’ve encountered many heroes and heroines in my years in the field. People who overcome obstacles, who keep smiling despite the difficulties weighing them down, who prefer to praise rather than lament, people who manage to make themselves emotionally available for their children as their lives are collapsing around them. The list goes on.
From an impressive list from which to choose, my heroes of all time are a set of elderly parents, living somewhere in North America, who just never gave up on their daughter. Trapped by an abusive husband in a marriage in which she was frequently forced to cut off contact with her parents, such that the parents often came to Israel merely in the hope that they would be allowed to see their daughter and grandchildren More than once they were reduced to sitting and waiting in the hotel, hoping for a moment of grace from the husband, in which he would allow the children to see their loving grandparents.
Of course, the same husband never had a problem accepting money from those same grandparents, and in fact, expected them to pay for the privilege of seeing their grandchildren. At times, their daughter, who was manipulated by the husband, spoken to them harshly. And yet, they never gave up.
Never gave up being available for their child and grandchildren, never stopped calling me to ask what else they could possibly do to rescue their daughter, or at the very least, to make sure she didn’t fall down the abyss and the children didn’t fall prey to even worse abuse.
When the time came that the daughter found the strength to leave the abusive husband, the mother was here in a flash. An elderly woman, she left her husband who was not well at the time, made sure the daughter was moved and settled into her new apartment, that the children were adjusting, had their basics provided. An American woman speaking no Hebrew, she shepherded her Israeli grandchildren around Jerusalem, accompanied her daughter as she waded her way through bureaucracy, and kept focused on one goal – to do whatever she could so that her daughter and grandchildren would have a shot at a healthy, productive future.
Sometimes she complained, she’s a human being, not an angel, but they are heroes. They are heroes because they just never gave up, they never stopped believing that their daughter and grandchildren deserved – and could have – a better life.
Now that the daughter and children have left Israel to join the parents, the situation is of course not simple and not something all parents, whatever their ages, would or could endure – the daughter and children have moved into the parents’ apartment, I understand that some of the children sleep on air mattresses on the floor. The kids are rambunctious, making the transition to a new life, recovering from the traumas of the old, and the parents are there. To quote (with permission) from a recent email:
believe me, it’s not easy – which I knew before they arrived….S. seems to be full of anger after speaking with his father…..everything takes time….we have to be patient…which is hard for my husband…..he thought everything would be a smooth sailing when they arrived – I knew better.
I always tell clients about to embark on divorce proceedings that there are two unknowns which will determine how things go – who the lawyer on the other side is, and who’s the judge. The truth is that there is a third element, sometimes predictable often not, and that is how much support the client will get from family. This too determines how smoothly the client will experience the entire process.
Parental reactions, particularly when there is abuse involved, can be problematic. At times, there is anger that the person married the spouse of whom the parents disapproved. A kind of “I told you so” anger. At others, a lack of understanding about how the abuse disempowered and wore down the victim, so that they were unable to react and defend themselves from the abuse.
And then there are the cases where one of the parents has put up with abuse for decades, so their own child speaking out against abuse enrages them; they may see their own child revolting against abuse as a kind of an indictment of their own inability to break away from the abuse. Perhaps, as well, they are envious of the child having a chance at a life they didn’t fight for themselves.
So, as much as we would all like to think that loving, supportive family members are a given in these situations, like anything else having to do with human beings, nothing is a given.
And so, to you my heroes. May you be blessed with good health, long and happy lives surrounded by children and grandchildren who appreciate all that you have done, and may your family imbibe the values by which you have lived your lives.