The Gift of My Elder

Written by on October 31, 2007 in The Healing Journey with 0 Comments

I never knew the elders of my family tree. I consider that a great poverty into which I was born. My mother was sold at the age of two by her Chinese mother. She left China to be raised under abusive conditions by an alcoholic stepfather and a first stepmother, who tried but could not protect her from the abuse, and a second stepmother who did whatever she could to instigate it.

My father’s very white Boston area family were appalled that he would come back from his tour of Japan with an Asian wife who had a son, not his. They did not exactly welcome her or her children with open arms.

I remember my grandfather only slightly, one or two visits over 14 years, before he was kicked out into the streets by his oldest son on charges of child molestation – which I find ironic, since there’s no doubt that’s what was happening between my uncle and his stepchildren, as it happened with my sister and I when he came to visit us.

As for my paternal grandmother, I grew up hearing what a bad woman she was by my dad and how much he hated her. That eventually changed after I had already grown up and left the house. Suddenly, he found it within himself to forgive her, because after he left my mom, he now “understood” why she left his father. Except there’s no comparison between a woman leaving an abusive situation and a man leaving a situation after he abused the life out of a woman.

So as far as my roots go, they don’t run very deep in terms of history or relationship.

But I have them. That I don’t know their names, that I will never be able to sit at their feet and ask them questions about how they lived, and what their dreams were, I cherish knowing that they were there. I don’t stand here alone. As messed up as my family tree may be, there’s also a strong current of perseverance and fortitude flowing through those branches.

I come from a line of survivors. Some who fell and became lost to themselves, a couple or maybe more, who would do humanity a favor if they were locked up behind bars forever, but enough who despite all their pain, all their suffering, all the twisted and hurtful dynamics that wove their way through their lives, also found a way to love, no matter how imperfectly, and at least with my mom, gave this child the gift of the memory of her laughter when she was in that good space.

That’s just as much my heritage as anything else, and I cherish it with all my heart.

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. "For the Sake of Love” is her collection of songs written on Demian's healing journey, and “Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes” is a children’s book she wrote for her daughter about the interconnectedness of life published by Illumination Arts and endorsed by Jane Goodall. Currently, Demian is working on recording episodes for her podcast and writing on the "Where There's Smoke Series on Covert Abuse". .

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