We celebrated my grandmother’s 91st birthday last year. Nearly everything I teach today was poorly addressed, if at all, in my grandmother’s life. Sex education was non-existent. My grandmother described her first sexual experience, with her own husband the day before her wedding night, as rape. She was accompanied by shame when her aunt, checking the sheets after the wedding night, found that my grandmother was no longer a virgin.
A year after the birth of my mother, Zdenička, my grandfather made it known that he was expecting a child conceived out of wedlock. My grandmother never slept with him again and they divorced a few years later. Divorce was not common in the 1950s; they had to have time to think it over. Tremendous shame for one’s body. Sexuality unfulfilled for a lifetime. Severe wounds caused by infidelity and betrayal.
But what always made my grandmother remarkable was her great inner strength. The strength to overcome even the biggest obstacles. The strength to pull herself together and do what was necessary. Physical and mental strength. Perseverance and tenacity. A sense of order. A sense of justice.
Today, my grandmother is a wise woman who, at the age of 91, can look back on her life with a certain detachment. There is also the little girl in her who is horrified by the possibility that her parents would divorce.
And so she is letting go of some of the emotions that she has held inside all her life. When she tells about the moment when my grandfather told her that he was expecting a baby with another woman while she was holding my one-year-old mother in her arms, her eyes fill with tears. Or when, with tears in her eyes, she reveals to me something she has never told to anyone in her life… that her father, my great-grandfather, considered divorcing my great-grandmother and she despairingly and spontaneously blurted out that she would have run away from home. And I’m glad that she feels. That she feels and is letting go of what she has held inside her whole life…
And I am that much happier for every person to whom I can bring relief in the form of accepting and letting go of their own feelings that are not “appropriate”. I am grateful for every life, relationship and family that I have been able to help find the way to love, strength openness and vivacity.
© Mgr. Denisa Říha Palečková, 2020
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