I have been reading my mother's diaries. And now I am thinking about alternative facts.
Monday, July, 1997. My mother writes:
"Well, well, well! Last night while I was eating supper and Chris was talking with me, she said something about wondering why Cousin N seemed mad at her. Chris had asked her, but she wouldn't say. I said, "You want me to tell you?" She said, "Will it make me cry?" But I told her and her reaction was rage, not sorrow, thankfully.
She marched in the bedroom and called Cousin K and confronted her. Cousin K tried to weasel out and said, "It's not an issue for me anymore," which isn't the point since it's very much an issue for Chris and has caused her a great deal of heartache, wondering why she felt Cousin N, S and D were mad at her.
Chris of course, remembers the incident differently than Cousin K, but not much differently and that's not the point anyhow, now. The point is that Cousin K told the 3 people who would most disapprove and show Chris in a very bad light.
So they talked a while til Chris got fed up and said, "I don't think this conversation is getting anywhere and if you want to make amends you need to call Cousin N, S and D." and hung up. Then she tried to call cousin N but the line was busy. Cousin K talking to Cousin N?"
My mother does not explain what incident my cousin K told my cousins N, S and D about. The diary says that they called me that night after my sister called Cousin S and D. My mother goes on to say "Chris felt vindicated. And I felt huge relief to have it all out in the open. CLEAR THE AIR!"
It's all drama, right, old news, why does it matter? My cousin K was talking about my sister to the rest of the maternal family behind my sister's back. To the point where my mother finally intervened.
But....where did my cousin K learn to do this? And this is not teenagers. In 1996 I was 36, Cousin K was 35 and my sister Chris was 33. And the drama was in my maternal family.
When I was 19, my Uncle J and my grandmother were talking about my other Uncle's wife. They were discussing power lines that had been put up near the cabins. They said that it was terrible that my other Uncle's wife had allowed power lines so close to the cabins. We were on a lake in Ontario, Canada.
The next day I said something snotty about it to my other Uncle's wife.
My cousin S, the oldest maternal cousin, came and scolded me. In front of my Uncle and my grandmother. He said, "That is Queen's land. No one can stop them from putting though the power lines. It is not my mother's fault. How dare you say that to her. You need to come apologize."
My response was, "That is what I heard." I apologized in person to my Aunt.
My Uncle seemed embarrassed, as he should have been. But he did not mention it to me, nor did he apologize. My grandmother did not mention it either. But.... I thought she approved. My impression was that if I rebelled or brought something out in the open, she approved. Even and especially when it was rebellion against her.
So what is this about? Alternative facts. I was being fed alternative facts about my aunt. My mother and her two brothers all talked to each other about each others' spouses. And not in a nice way. I can't remember my mother saying anything nice about either of my aunts. My father did: he thought one aunt was a brilliant athlete and the other he admired because she was a musician and had perfect pitch.
And in my mother's diary I find a letter from one uncle, about the other uncle divorcing. He is not going to be kind to the divorcee because "she might visit". He says that the only thing that would have been better is if the uncle had divorced her 20 years ago.
But we cousins were raised on this scorn, this talk, this behind the back talk, alternative facts. In my aunt's case it was absolutely untrue. I was ashamed of being nasty to her but I was glad that the truth was out in the open. My Uncle and grandmother stopped their talk about the power lines being her fault. I don't know if they knew the truth or were just making up a version, alternative facts: lies. Untruths. Gossip.
I adored my grandmother and yet was also very cautious around her. I feared her words. And yet she put me through medical school.
We have to stop lies, untruths, repeating things that we have heard, repeating things when we have no idea whether they are true or not. Repeating things about other people. Talk to the person we are upset at and do not make assumptions!
My parents were healthier with each other. They would disagree, argue and then bet. Sometimes a quarter. Sometimes a dollar. Sometimes who would do the dishes! What is the capitol of Uzbekistan and how do you spell it? We were terrible spellers. They could be tremendously funny with my father arguing that his absolutely horrible French was correct, even when he knew it wasn't. They could be silly and serious and discussed everything and anything. And sometimes they agreed that they probably were both wrong and had no idea what they were talking about.....