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The small book of 153 pages titled as Heal & Forgive II: The Journey from Abuse and Estrangement to Reconciliation by Nancy Richards Blue Dolphin 2008 is narrative memoir from the point of view of the first person "I" Nancy herself. Like Charles Dickens's Great Expectations telling of Pip's story from his own tongue and inner heart; Here in Nancy Richards writing no long novel passages and fictional characterization, a plain and simple book of family healing, Psychology in the most American possible way.
Nancy Richards is neither a sooth-sayer nor a therapist, she has no advice for the reader but an honest story of what and how, no pretensions, no grand theories, no mega ethical judgments, no unnecessary thoughts over self through the eyes of other, no pre-conceived roles for family members and no theory of family as a mystified theological and God created unit.
The story is touching because it is a story of almost everyone who has experienced estrangement from parental love and affection across cultures. No wonder Cinderella's story has always captured our imagination for million of years and will always be told in differing tone and voices in every part of the world, our love for the long dead is our anguish and cry to bond with the living ones in reality.
The best thing about the book is its simplicity and directness that is enough to win the heart of any reader. One narration based on the inner feeling and emotional responses in the past from the now more confident and secure Neo-Nancy; happily married and has raised her own kids after the initial fourteen years of silent and painful estrangements from her mom and brothers. Going in one direction what Nancy felt then and how she emotionally grew and forgave now, the book is based on personal experiences while growing up initially with her brothers Rob and Randy, loving father and her mom Jean Richards.
Richards remarried after the unfortunate death of her husband; biological/spiritual father of the three unfortunate young children including the unlucky, uncompromising Nancy demanding love and unconditional affection from her beloved mom in a changed family structure. The differing personality traits of Nancy naturally resulted in her becoming a family scapegoat in an explosive family environment of mutual distrust, rage and gross domestic abuse from the step father Ed. The new family after the demise of Nancy's biological/spiritual father was a seriously dysfunctional unit with specific abusive and cruel treatment of the three kids by the new husband Ed and re-born wife in the second marriage, the dear mom of the past always agreed with Ed reprimanding the kids without empathy.
Nancy struggled to handle the immediate period after the event of mom's remarriage and her subsequent third marriage after diverse from Ed. suffering profound emotional scars she had no choice but to estranged herself from the family as a last ditch effort to gain sanity haunted by voices from the hellish past, flashbacks and repressed anger. Contact with family member felt like a sudden impending doom for a very long time, typical symptoms of in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.
Taking baby steps to reconciliation and forgiveness, slowly and gradually holes in the heart began to fill on every family member part. As she healed and spent time with her inner self away from the past dangers, there came the golden moment when she was ready to forgive, when she could no longer be available as scapegoat. Nancy stretched her arms for mom's hug, the end of Homer's Odyssey, the search for the Holy Grail, the end of human endeavor, the moment we all aspire to live for, mom accepted the embrace breaking away from her past, the fatal cold emotional demeanors acquired and deeply scripted on her spirit by her own long forgotten family. According to Nancy's judgment of her mom's personality, she is an intelligent person, knowledgeable in history, current events, literature and business. Yet she isn't the one to share her feelings readily, mom has never considered the language of emotions as a worthy discourse, the subtle gestures and small kindness of the human spirit that inspires and creates a universe of relativity; more precious on a human deathbed than the jewels of Queen Victoria. The fatal mistakes smartest people are prone to make subconsciously with devastating consequences.
Nancy gripped mom in a rare hug, the embrace, no wonder, was strong, Nancy was no more a damaged child crying for inner protection. She has learned the greatest lesson of adulthood in her odyssey; it is ourselves whom we should depend on affection for, the very meaning of growth from childhood as poetry of healthy self-esteem pours out in our profound experiences of adulthood defining who we are. The Neo-Nancy was a confident mom herself with a deep sense of inner security, a free flying honey bee that has gathered too much honey which is to be disposed off with no time to waste. The new way of living in Nancy extended family was understanding mutual needs; appreciation of each others subjectivity and new and improved communication styles.
Mom has apologized, and that meant the whole world as we all know from our inner deepest moment of isolation.
As one reads on now, It is sad and unfortunate that living smart people out there are taking a long time to understand this simple idea of empathy and healthy respect for children needs and are spending less time and effort on improving communication with children.
I have learned my lesson; I am going out with my kids this evening on a Merry-Go-Round and will listen to what they have to say. Nancy's courage is indeed inspiring.
© 2009 Samin Khan
Samin Khan, Philosophy Lecturer Postgraduate College Kohat, Pakistan