Letter From Home 7/6/10

Over the past ten days I have been dealing with, and reacting to a very hurtful event that took place in my family.  It is not the sort of thing one hears happening with any regularity.  For that we can all be grateful.  The details of the event will be made clear below.  While I write on a wide variety of topics on this blog I have allotted “Letter From Home” as a more personal space to reflect on matters that hit close to home.  As such I am going to use this space to post the complete letter that I sent last week to one side of my family over a most unsettling recent event.  Should it be read all the way through it will leave you wondering where good manners and moral guidance might have been placed by some who claim to have so much of each.

The reason I post this letter is to show the lengths and depths that bigotry and hate can take people.  We often allow for a lot in our society to go unchecked and without comment.  Often in families we are expected to let  the slights and slurs slip off our backs.   There comes a time when bigotry needs to be met head on and called for what it is.  I am under no illusions that the older generation on this side of the family will find the letter theatrical, and even act flippant after receiving it. That speaks volumes about them.   But I also know this letter was a teaching moment and found one young person in the family receptive to it.  In the end, as I have always stated, it comes down to one person at a time making a difference.  It is for that larger good that I share a personal part of my life here.

Finally, though I was off my stride for a few days I am back in the game of living life.  There is just no way I am going to allow the dark side of others to take more of my time.  I choose to have good days.


It is not yet time for an annual Holiday letter, but reason has come up that makes an off-season note important enough to be sent.

Over the past few days, several of you have inquired as to the reason why James and I were not in attendance at the 90th birthday party for my father, Royce, which was held in Coloma on June 21, 2010.  The first phone call to ask me why I was not at the party was also the first time I had heard that such a party had been held.  Imagine my feelings at that moment.  I am one of the three children of Royce and Geneva.  And yet, I was not invited and therefore could not have known to attend this milestone celebration.  Most never attain such a fine old age; I will never be able to attend another party like this one for dad, just by the very nature of life.  I hope knowing this makes it pretty easy to understand why this letter is coming your way at this time. 

It is hurtful enough to treat James and me shabbily.  I have gotten used to that, but that is not the issue.  Instead the issue here is that not only were we not told that a party was to take place in dad’s honor, but that Florence  (my father’s sister) decided blatantly to exclude us, and let it be assumed, by our absence, that James and I were either not interested in attending, or too busy with ‘our lives in Madison’ to attend the party.  It should be noted that we’ve not missed a single reunion in the past ten years.  She didn’t even have the courage to tell all of you that she did not invite us, that our absence was perfectly planned well in advance.  Can you imagine how it must hurt to be excluded from something like that, when forty or more of you were asked to be there?

What’s more is that since there was still snow on the ground, we along with some mom’s family, have been making plans to honor my father’s birthday.  Everyone, on both sides of the family, was given the opportunity to participate in our plans.  In April, we sent a mailing about a party to be held during that family reunion.  Those of you now reading this letter were invited to participate in that event with a written story, photos or anything else you wished to contribute.  We excluded NO ONE from the mailing.  In the end, each family member had a letter encouraging him or her to help celebrate my father’s 90th birthday.  Several of you have participated, as well as others from folks around Hancock who have known my dad for decades, to Governor Doyle and to President Obama.  Several took the time to respond to our call.  In short, when everyone is included good things result.

I have understood the family dynamics since my mother passed away three years ago.  Those acts were meant to be hurtful just to us.  The lack of an invitation from Florence to the event on June 21st, was more than injurious, not only to us, but also to you.  (One has to ask, too, how one of my siblings didn’t protest more vehemently at the intentional slight or just do what was right?   Why didn’t one of them override the ugly decision not to invite us by giving a call and letting us know of the party just the same?)  Sad would my mother, and all those others we have loved and who have gone on before her, have been this past week to look down from their lofty reward to witness these darkened acts filled with hatefulness and bigotry.

When confronted with issues, such as the ones mentioned above, I find talking about it very helpful.  I have had many a close friend listen in confidence over the past few days.  When I talked to a lay minister who lives down our street about the situation that unfolded he listened, and termed what happened “Christ-less”.  He continued, “Those who were hoping to make a memorable moment for the one celebrating a 90th birthday could not also at the same time construct a divisive move without it casting a shadow.  Instead of looking to the horizon (the larger good) they were distracted by weaknesses (and Satan) on either side.”  Was the exclusion of James and me aimed to lift our family toward a shared memory?  Or was it just one more very ugly attempt to let me know where I stand?  It is obvious to all what was done, and why.

All of this leads me to my final thought.

This past Friday night a family of six arrived for what is becoming an annual visit from Missouri.  We ate pizza on the picnic table surrounded by torches in the dark as we looked out on the moon-lit Lake Monona.  When I needed to go inside for plates and utensils for dessert, the 14-year old Philip jumped up and asked if I needed help.  Indeed, more hands were required.  In the kitchen, he looked around and said how much he still recalled the talk and laughter that we all had shared around that table the previous summer.  “You guys make us feel like we see you every day; you make us feel like we’re a part of your family.”  We included them in our home and our lives, even if but for the short time they were in our city.  As I think about Philip and what he said, I know James and I will keep living life as we have been for the past ten years together, a full decade as of May 24th.  We will be keeping our eyes on the horizon and continuing to be generous of spirit. 




17 thoughts on “Letter From Home 7/6/10

  1. GB Hero

    Deke while you and I have had a few battles over the years that letter truly saddens me to know some in your family treat you as on outsider. You and James both seem like great guys and it is your family who are missing out on having two very insightful people as part of their lives.

  2. Marion

    seems the green eyed monster of jealousy grows very well in Wis. and it seems that your relatives are so jealous of your bright eyed happiness that they can’t stand themselves. Remember, you got out, moved out, tuned out the old life and have made a sucess of yourself and seen things and done things that those idiot relatives can only dream of.

  3. Carmen

    How very, very sad and hurtful. I’m so sorry that happened and you were excluded, that is just so aweful and wretched. Unfair, mean and yes, completely goodwill-less or christless as the priest says. So unkind to all involved. Everyone. Petty and hurtful. I’m so glad that you two are addressing it with the family. How dare someone, or a handful of folks, think that that would be ok. You have told me a bit about that lot, I suppose it isn’t a surprise how low they are willing to stoop themselves.

  4. Sandra

    I read the letter in disbelief. I can’t even imagine how someone’s
    own sister could be so cruel! And I’m glad you let everyone know what
    happened. I also think you should confront her directly, even though
    I’m positive someone has shown her the letter by now. She should just
    be so ashamed of what she has done: I love you guys, and it hurts so
    much to see how you have been treated–simply for living the life you
    were meant to live. You are doing what’s right, and she will surely
    be sorry someday for being so unkind. Not to mention what others must
    think of her! I hope you are both managing to take it with a grain
    of salt and just concentrating on enjoying your time together.

  5. Anne

    This is the most horrible thing I have heard about in a long time. When I met you in the late 1980’s at the Capitol I found you bright and eager to learn. When you finally placed your shipwreck funding idea into the budget everyone knew you had mastered the process. Now I am very happy that you have taken the step of really standing up for yourself. That is also a skill that takes time, and it looks as if you have mastered that too. I recall you always were too kind when you could or should have been more direct with people. You can be proud of who you are, and how you have grown as a person. There are many standing with you even though you may not see them.

    1. You are most kind, but I must say the shipwreck matter was not my idea, but it did turn into my cause. Thanks so much for your kind words. Those were great days under the dome.

  6. KD

    This is one messed up story. I have a strange family to and am reminded when crap like this happens to look at the ones pulling it off. I have a cousin who has been married and divorced and shacked up so many times no one can keep track. She is the one always to be a prude in public though. Seems like those who have all the advice on how to live have all the reasons no one would want to be like them. Do like I do in my family and count the divorces in the family and then you smile at your ten years together.

  7. Ferrell Gummitt

    I read this post right before I went to bed last night. It made me think how truly mean spirited people can be particularly to family members.

    I am deeply sorry your family chose to exclude you and James from your Father’s birthday. The Lay Minister is correct it is truly “Christ-less” to be excluded from something as a milestone as a 90th birthday.

    It is my sincere hope that your family will realize what they did to you and James and just how crass the non-invite was.

  8. Margaret

    Your situation reminds me of that old saying: “You can choose your friends, but you are stuck with your family.”

    I do not know you personally, but I can not imagine how hurt I would feel if I were in your shoes, not just from the overt act of the hostess but the betrayal of your siblings. I hope you have been able to see your father in the meantime and express your love for him.


  9. Christine

    Wow. Good letter, but I’m sad Gregory that you had to write it. I’ve got some “older generation” family members that are closed minded and rude like that, but the younger generations usually do override them…unless, of course, lying was involved there, which would not surprise me at all in “that sort” of person.

  10. Barb

    Sad tale but it is not uncommon, which makes it sadder. To take a party for a special person and turn it into a personal campaign is truly non-family-type thinking, although it happens so often in so many families for so many reasons.

    I am glad that you have the courage and faith to stand up to evil deeds. Only in bringing such things to light can such things be changed. You did not say how your father is doing. Did he wonder why his son did not come to his party? Did he ask and was told lies? Please comfort him as he is a victim in this story as well as you and your partner. In fact, everyone, except the perpetrators are victims in this story.

    I am sorry for the loss of having a family event taken away from you without your knowledge.

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