Turning Rejection Around

I hope you’ve read the story of how my grandfather had been rejected by his father. My grandfather spent his formative years growing up in the same community that his father had owned the only store there.

Most likely my grandpa had been sent to his dad’s store in his childhood to buy essentials. I can only imagine the harsh statements that came out of the mouth of the small frame, blond, blue-eyed, fair-skin store owner to the young boy that mirrored his physical features.  

In the 1910 census my grandpa was living with his paternal grandmother. She was widowed by then. I’ve been to her and her husband’s gravesite and told her, “Thank you, for taking my grandpa in as a young boy.” I don’t know how long he lived there because I was told that, when he was a child, he was “tossed” from home to home.

We’ve all been rejected and have rejected by now. Some rejection in our lives is essential. We need to “filter” our influences and weed out the negative ones. Wise people reject bad influences by seeking advice from “seasoned” wise leaders. That’s often done through reading or following those leaders in a media format.

One of my uncles rejected being an alcoholic. He had been one for a few decades of his adult life. But, early in his fifties he mastered over his desire to drink. He stayed sober for the rest of his life, which was about ten more years.

Experiencing rejection is usually a painful experience though. And it most likely is going to happen multiple times in yours and my lives. It’s just the way human nature is. I’ve come to believe that the “wounded wound.”

When I met my mother-in-law for the first time is memory that’s still seared in my mind. In other words, it wasn’t a pleasant experience any which way you turn it. Jeff and I had been married about a year by then. We were both in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. We had met through the Chapel activities for the young airmen (and airwomen).

We met and married in the same year, which was 1978. My parents had come over in May of that year to visit me and for us to tour some of Germany. During that time, they had a chance to meet Jeff. They liked him from the start and encouraged me to not let him get away from me.

Not long after they went back to Western NC, Jeff and I set a date to be married. I was able to extend my stay in Germany by the last minute. And we were married by the time I had received my extension. That was in August.

The next August we moved back to the States. We both were stationed at Hill A. F. Base in Utah. Jeff is from near Athens GA, so we were able to see both sets of parents and extended family before our long drive out to Utah.

We had arrived at the Atlanta airport and Jeff’s parents, Al and Fran picked us up and took us on the long drive to their house. All seemed well to me. We chatted the whole way to Monroe, where they had a house out in the country.

Al had built a store on the front of their property and sold carpet there. They had done quite well at it, and even had Jeff work there in his teens through his early twenties. But, Jeff had gotten tired of the work and always “butting heads” with his dad on how best to seam or cut carpet. So he joined the Air Force in 1973 and was stationed in New Mexico before going to Germany where we met. 

Not long after unpacking I began to suspect that I was pregnant with our first child. It’s about two hundred miles between where his parents lived and where my parents lived. So, we were in the car a lot and I wasn’t feeling great. We held that news back though, until we got to Hill AFB, Utah.

Not long after meeting my new in-laws I realized that Jeff’s parents were two very opposite people. Al was relaxed and laid back by this time. He was forty when Jeff was born so by the time I met him he was in his senior years. He seemed pleased with all he had accomplished so far in his life.

Fran, on the other hand was temperamental and seemed to always be “set on edge.” I picked up on that right off, but I wouldn’t known to call it anxieties. But, much later I realized both she and Jeff suffered a lot with feelings of anxiety.

Fran (Francis) had been 36 when Jeff was born. There was four years between him and his next older sibling, who was a boy. Jeff’s brother, Danny had passed away in his teen years of a congenital heart defect. That left Jeff’s older sister Marilyn, as his only sibling. She was seventeen years older than Jeff, and had married when he was three years old.

By the time I met her and her family they were living on a few acres of the forty that Al had originally purchased when he and Fran established their carpet store. Marilyn and her family lived with in walking distance to Al and Fran’s house and store. Although, I noticed that no one walked the short distance. They all drove up to Al and Fran’s or back down a small slope to their house.

Well, that’s when I began to realize that Jeff was not only a “late baby” but the “replacement” baby, also. All of that made him extremely special to his possessive mother. She never wanted him to leave her sight. And told him that often during his teen years.

Jeff did have a first marriage before me. Al had let Jeff and his first wife live on the back of his parent’s property in a small basic house. Al had built it for him, Fran and teenage Jeff to live in until the store that also included two-bedroom living quarters could be built.

Jeff and that wife didn’t have any children. And their marriage was very troubled. But as Fran saw it she got her way by keeping her grown boy nearby, at least for a few years. Then it all blew up and fell apart.

By the time I met Fran, Jeff had made retiring from the Air Force his commitment. That was a huge disappointment to his overbearing mother.

I wanted him to stay in also. Well, I can’t be sure, but it seems that she saw me as taking her baby away from her. Who’s to say for sure. But, about the second full day we were there Fran had an explosive anxiety attack like I had never seen before. (My parents were not outwardly given to anxiety fits.) And most of her vitriolic anger was directed at me!

I was helping her with the dishes and was feeling exhausted. Marilyn’s adult kids with their families had all come for dinner, then got up and left. I was told that was their standard behavior. I’d been raised to help with the housework, so I naturally was in the kitchen helping.

Well, the long story short is that Fran had never accepted me. She always held a contentious attitude toward me. In other word’s she rejected me from the beginning and continued to do so all the years I knew her.

After about six years of being overseas between Germany, then Turkey we were sent to Shaw AFB, near Sumter, SC. By that time, we had all three of our girls, and we five settled down in a subdivision near the AFB. This was going to be Jeff’s last duty stationed, except for his six months in the Middle East during Desert Storm.

So, we started visiting all our relatives and were glad to be back in the USA. Life seemed great all the way around. At least it did for our family. Jeff’s dad had passed away by this time and he missed his dad funeral by just a few days.

So of course, when we visited Fran, Jeff wanted to see his dad’s grave site. Within a few days of our arrival we all got in her sedan and traveled up to Atlanta where Al had been buried, next to their son. They had chosen the plots early in the sixties, when they lived in the metro Atlanta area.

Then, on another day we went all the way to the old neighborhood, right outside of Atlanta, where Jeff had spent most of his school years. We never got out of the car, even though Fran still recognized a few people there. They had taken me there once before and all I ever saw was some shabby looking little wooden houses. I couldn’t figure out why we had to go back a second time. The neighborhood was still shabby only more so since the last time I had seen it.

Maybe that second trip was worth the effort, though because that’s the only time I ever heard Fran say she was glad that she didn’t have to live there anymore. It seems that she was finally grateful and at peace with all Al had accomplished even with his limited grade school education. Neither of them had gone beyond elementary school, but life had turned out well for them. I thought so from the first time I met them.

They did have a difficult marriage in many ways. Too many to mention. But, through their fifty-plus years of marriage they had experienced both harsh and wonderful events. All through it though, Fran did have a difficult possessive personality and was prone to high energy anxiety attacks.

During the second year that we were back in America, I decided I didn’t need to be the recipient of her verbal abuse anymore. It seemed to upset Jeff that I spoke out against his mother. So, to keep the peace and my sanity, our girls and I stayed at home and stopped visiting her.

I made sure Jeff visited his mother, though. But, I never saw my mother-in-law alive again that I can recall. When she passed away Jeff wanted me to go to her funeral. I wasn’t planning on it, but ended up going anyway. I stayed as briefly as possible though.

One way to turn around rejection is to recognize that’s what’s going on in a relationship. Reconcile if possible. If not, then, break the relationship off completely.  You’ll be better for it. Take positive action that benefits your mental-emotional wellness.

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