My family is far from perfect. My parents both grew up in what are called, today, dysfunctional families. My paternal grandmother was a sociopath. My maternal grandfather was prone to violent rages and physical violence until told by his doctor to cool it (credit to him, he took that advice to heart and was a completely different person to his younger children and grandchildren). My maternal grandmother was an enabler of this behaviour and, at the age of 86, still dislikes the existence of other women, including her own daughters and granddaughters (they are competition for the attention of men). My paternal grandfather died when I was around 16 months old, so I have no personal experience of him (although I know he considered me backward because, by that age, I still couldn't walk-- I mastered that skill a month after his death); I do know my father had little or no fondness for him. I also know a fair amount about the childhoods and upbringing of my grandparents and thus have a grasp of why they were/are the way they were/are ... knowing history goes a long way towards accepting and forgiving people. My parents did an incredible job of not letting their childhoods influence how they raised their own children ... we were wanted and we were loved.
That's still no guarantee ... my younger brother has substance abuse problems (the "cool" people with money also did drugs, so he did too) and my youngest sister is on her second marriage based on gotta-get-a-man rather than love (not something she learned at home). On the other hand, my middle sister is happily married to the guy she started dating when they were both fifteen; their marriage has survived the sudden death of one of their daughters (many marriages break up after the death of a child) and they are devoted to their two surviving children. And me ... well, you know about me :-)
Which leads to my recent actions concerning my mother. Over the past year I've given much thought to why it took me such a long time before I fell in love and why I fell when I did (and to who). And so a couple of weeks ago I wrote my mother a letter (an old-fashioned type, with ink and paper), thanking her for the example she and my father set me ... for showing me what a good and loving partnership should be (my parents were married for 34 years, until my father's death at the age of 58) and teaching me to want and expect the same type of relationship for myself. I also expressed my thanks to her for being a mother to whom I could easily say that I was in love with a woman (the official parental response to that announcement was, "Oh. Okay" ... THAT is something I will treasure all my life). There was more that I wrote, but the important thing is that I told all the stuff I'd been thinking about to the person who deserved most to hear it. I could have done it in a phone call, but this way Mom has something concrete that she can keep and that she can look at on bad days.
I'm very glad that I made my mother cry and I plan to do it more often.