I write this letter to let you know that I now understand why your eyes always looked so pained. I understand why those beautiful eyes always seemed to be welled-up with tears. I know why you always seemed so sad, and that’s because you were-deep inside you were always hurting. You suffered in silence all those years, and never told a soul. But I understand now, because I have read your story.
Since your passing in 2009, I have kept your journals stored, along with some old photos. I’ve looked at the photos time and time again, but I have not been able to bring myself to read your journals–until now, that is, some eight years later. I don’t know if it was a feeling of guilt for violating your privacy or if it was that I knew I would find some things that I just couldn’t bear to learn about; maybe a little of both. Needless to say, I have kept away from that box filled with years of journal entries all this time. But some things have come to pass of late, Mom; things of which require me to seek answers. And I know the answers I seek are within these journals. Some memories are coming back to me, memories I buried long ago in the deep recesses of my mind. I guess I’m recalling them because I’m trying to make sense of what’s going on now in life. And so I think it’s time to set those old ones free. Maybe if I do, I can figure out why things happened the way they did and why life turned out the way it did, etc., etc. And maybe, I’ll be able to figure out my new path. I just need answers. That’s the bottom line. You have these answers, Mom, because you recorded the events of those days long past, in your journals. They were sad and terrible times, for all of us, but most especially for you, I think. So, now I feel it’s the right time. It’s like you called out to me and said, “It’s ok, Beverly, you can read them now. It’s time.” And so I have, still am, in fact. I’m just up to 1979 and my heart is breaking. I almost want to stop, but I can’t now. I only did for a moment, to tell you that I understand the sadness in your eyes and that I’m sorry for all that you suffered through.
And what a strong woman you were! You loved and cared for your family so much and so hard. You worked tirelessly to try to make our home a happy one, even though we lived under chaos, drama and violence almost all the time. And when “HE” tried to bring you down, you prayed to God, not for yourself, but for everyone else, for us, your children; and especially for HIM. If he did wrong, every time he hurt you or us or anyone else, you prayed to God to fix things. When he flew off into a fit of rage, cursed, hit, threw all the food against the wall, had a tantrum, anything, you turned the other cheek, as your faith taught you to. Meanwhile, you begged for God to make a better day for us tomorrow. And most of all, you always forgave him, even though he didn’t deserve your forgiveness.
I’m here to tell you, mom, you did nothing wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact. You did everything right. You were both mom and dad to us. None of us saw that, unfortunately. We were too embroiled in the chaos and darkness and confusion of those terrible times. We all suffered, in some way, but not as much as you. As I said, you always suffered in silence and never told a soul, except for your journal. That was your release. You put on a happy face every day and cried yourself to sleep at night. You, nor we, never knew from one day to the next what monster we would meet up with; we never knew if it would be a good day or a bad one for HIM. Because the world always revolved around HIM and how to make him not go crazy or see things or hear things or lash out against us, physically, verbally. We were just kids and we found ways to go into our own worlds to forget the evil in our household. We had school. That helped. But you were in the trenches with it every single day. There was no escape or peace for you. But somehow, you held the hope that tomorrow would be better, because you asked God and you felt in your heart that he would answer your prayers.
All those years ago….the memories come to me in flashes. I only remember bits and pieces; memories are just flashes of light and vague images. But your journals have spoken to me from beyond the grave and I am able to put the them together now like pieces to a puzzle. I am starting to remember and now I understand, Mom.
I write you this letter to tell you that my heart aches for all that you suffered. I can’t undo your pain. But I can share your story. I feel as if this is what you want me to do. I heard you calling me. You came to me in my sleep one day, or maybe it wasn’t a dream and I was thinking of you. But suddenly I knew that this is what you needed me to do. And I will. I promise.
RIP – Phyllis Figueroa, I love you eternally.