Vision perception - Memoirs
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Memoir Bytes: Forgiveness? Love? The Power of Money – Backstory from Conflicted Hearts

Memoir Bytes

Vision perception - Memoirs


Sometimes I look back in reflection at some of the poignant moments in life, at some of the characters in my family. I like to analyze in retrospect, how I felt about a certain situation while emotions were running high, and interpret them later in time by dissecting some of those events to see how I handled the situation while experiencing the emotional moment and if my perceptions were accurate.


This particular incident recently resurfaced in my memory. I try to look for the compassion I may have missed back then while originally feeling confusion and resentment. As a memoir writer, I tend to do this with many of life’s difficult situations I’ve encountered to assess and better understand not just my perspective but what the other parties concerned may have been feeling. So today I’m going to bring up a sad memory about my father’s death. It seemed only fitting to write about this today when January 9th was the day I buried my father in 1991.

The situation was tragic enough that my father had died suddenly and out of country, but with a dysfunctional family background to add to the mix, there were many more mixed emotions presented at that time.

My paternal grandmother had been dead for a few years prior to my father’s death. And my dad was the only child left of my grandfather’s – a man who’d been dominated by his overbearing, bossy wife throughout his marriage. My dad had one older brother who had been disowned, completely banished by his parents, and consequently, from all of our lives when the edict had come down from my grandmother twenty-five years prior. “We shall speak no more of his name” were her words. And so it was written. And so it was done.

Dad and my estranged uncle Don ran the family business with their father up until that fateful day when something huge went down. I was only about 6 or 7 years old at the time and my investigative listening skills were already fine-tuned from growing up in a volatile and emotional roller coaster household, where listening in the shadows always gave me a leg up on what I could expect come tomorrow. But despite my efforts, I wasn’t permitted to ask questions without being reprimanded for doing so, consequently, much about what I learned about this occurrence was from the chatter that went on after the event at my grandparents’ house and afterward in my own home while I listened to my mother tell her sisters and friends.

To this day, I still don’t know the whole reasoning behind the incident that had my uncle banished for life, but what I got from it was, my quick-tempered uncle grew very angry at his father one day at work and pegged his dad up against the outside brick wall and was stopped short by my father who heard the ruckus and he restrained my uncle from throwing a brick at my grandfather’s head, as he shouted in anger with what seemed the end of his tolerance for his father’s orders. After the feud was broken up by my dad, my uncle was thrown out from the family business – and the family.

When my stern grandmother was informed about what had transpired, she made an instant declaration ( I heard it with my own ears), her son Don was now dead to my grandparents. They even sat the traditional ‘Shiva’ period as we do in our religion to mourn the dead.

We never saw my uncle or our cousins again for almost a quarter of a century.

On January 9th, 1991, 4 children and their grandfather sat in the mourner’s room at the funeral home before it was time for the funeral to begin in the chapel. The door opened and a strange man walked in. He looked as though he was in his early 60s, dressed in a dark suit and tie, slighted hunched over with age, he kept his eyes focused toward the floor as he entered while adjusting his yarmulke (skullcap). I leaned over to my one brother and asked him who this man was that just invaded our mourner’s space. My brother replied, “It’s Uncle Don.”

My heart skipped a beat. In my dire moments of grief, I didn’t know what to make of the sudden appearance of my long lost uncle. Within the same one whirlwind moment of emotions, I felt curious, angry, and heartbroken. I never said a word to him and moments later we proceeded into the chapel for the ceremony then out to the cemetery. We buried our father on that freezing cold day in January and my Uncle Don stood along right beside us.

After burying my father, we proceeded to my younger brother’s house to commence the Shiva where we’d sit in mourning for one week from morning til sundown and receive guests and visitors who would come by to keep us company and pay their condolences.

We’d just arrived from the cemetery, and took our respective seats on the cushionless couches, as tradition warranted for the immediate mourners. Immediate family of the lost loved one are the mourners – parents, children and siblings. And then into my brother’s home walked Uncle Don. That’s when emotions were escalated. My siblings and I were dumbfounded, wondering why he had suddenly showed up after a quarter of a century to his brother’s funeral and for mourning. This was a brother who never even went to his own mother’s funeral a few years earlier.

Suspicions, doubts, and curiosity ran through each one of us and before any of us even voiced our opinion to the others, my grandfather stood up, embraced his long lost son and announced aloud, “I lost one son, but I gained another.”

Who does that?

Resentment built up within me that the complete stranger to us could walk into my brother’s home the day we buried our father and our grandfather greeted him like he was the consolation gift God had given him – the man who threatened to kill him a quarter century past, when his only other son who had been nothing but obedient at his beck and call for all his life had saved his father’s life.

Many thoughts rolled through my head that day – why did he show up decades later? Was there remorse? Was his sudden arrival back into my grandfather’s life for monetary gain?

I felt heart-broken when I lost my father, but I also managed to feel sorry for my grandfather too, for losing his only son who had stood by him all his life. I was never close with my grandfather because of the years growing up around him, feeling no love or compassion from him or from my grandmother – the price I paid for my mother’s deceit when she purposefully got pregnant with me to get my father to marry her. I was a constant reminder to them of my parent’s union.

Because I harbored a life-long resentment toward my grandfather, it wasn’t difficult for me to speak to him with snark and sarcasm. I never had a problem letting someone know what I thought once I moved away from home and found my voice. The four of us confronted him when we were alone together, questioning how he could welcome our uncle with open arms as though the past had never happened. We didn’t hesitate to let him know we suspected the only reason our uncle had shown up was because he knew he was the only child left and there was plenty of money to be gained if he got himself back in my grandfather’s good graces and ultimately back into the will. My grandfather didn’t seem to care. In his own moments of grief I think he felt alone with the loss of his beloved wife and no children left, and so he clung to whatever rope was thrown to him despite motives. Sad.

Us four kids had spent much of our growing up years at my grandparents’ home, despite our reluctance or desire to do so. We were to become the inheritors, but as suspected, my uncle did manage to get involved with the finances. Sure there was some left in the end of it all, but not much. And whatever was left was not divided evenly between us four. I got the biggest shaft of all of us, and that was quite expected. But I never used that against my own siblings because, as I learned well, money had the great potential to divide a family.

@DGKaye 2018


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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Stevie Turner

    I guess you’ll never know why your uncle had tried to throw a brick at his father’s head, but as the years passed I expect both your uncle and grandfather mellowed. Maybe your grandfather felt guilty for causing his son so much anger, and wanted his company again and wanted to include him in his will? Your uncle might have felt he was the rightful inheritor of his father’s estate? Whole families can fall out especially when money is concerned.

    • dgkaye

      Yes Stevie, money can certainly create a wedge in many families. I suppose it was a mixed bag of emotions for my grandfather, but it was disheartening for us 4 kids who had been the only ones in his life for all those years with my father, and his body wasn’t even cold yet before open arms welcomed a stranger.
      Like I said, looking back in retrospect stirred up new questions, some of which the answers will never make sense. 🙂

      • Stevie Turner

        I remember when my grandmother died. I had been the only one of her 7 grandchildren who visited her on a regular basis – so regularly that she gave me a key. On the day she died my uncle asked me for the key back. Four of my cousins hired a van and stripped Nan’s flat bare before she was even in the ground.

  • Kate Johnston

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions, Debby. Dysfunctional families are beyond any kind of understanding–why certain members insist on constantly weaving conflict, anger, blame, and guilt, while others are caught in the web. I’m glad that you have your storytelling skills to aid in your healing. Because of that, you are leagues healthier than many others in your family, although I’m sure that doesn’t lessen the pain or sadness. Hugs.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much Kate. You are so right – writing has saved my sanity for much of my life, and yes my siblings and me all carry our damages, but I feel blessed that I have been the one to find a way to release. I write from memory, I write to share lessons and I write with freedom from all those chains of a troubled past that no longer haunts me, It’s much easier to look back without the hurt. 🙂 xx

  • D. Wallace Peach

    A sad memory, Debby, and I’m glad that hindsight has allowed you to look back with compassion. What a tragedy when love is so compromised within some families and members can be cast out. How damaging to a soul. It’s too bad that it took so long for a reunion to happen, and under such sad circumstances. Thanks for sharing your experience and feelings and the wisdom you gleaned from it. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for your comment Diana. Some things don’t really ever have a resolution, but it’s interesting to revisit and try and look at things from another perspective over time. Regardless, the ending never changes but compassion can take over from bitterness. 🙂 <3

  • hilarymb

    Hi Debby – interesting family tale – I too wonder for you. We never know what’s going on with families … I don’t have the same stories, but can appreciate where you’re coming from. Sadly we’ll never know … just tragic when we are unable to understand because we don’t know. Thanks for writing this up – Hilary

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for chiming in Hilary. So true we never know the answers to some things but as we age we can certainly look at them with a different perspective. 🙂 x

  • Jacqui Murray

    So much in this memory, Deb. Losing an uncle, family divisions, and a family separated over money. I know you know these are so common in relationship. My mom’s will divided me from my siblings to this day, for no good reason I understand. I’m not sure how you come to terms with this sort of baggage.

    • dgkaye

      Sadly Jacqui, these events happen all too often to so many in various scenarios. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed the power of money too many times from my younger life on and lived in the fallout. Being left out hurts and can absolutely drive a wedge between others in the mix. I had enough experience to know that my relationships with my siblings meant more to me than the money. So I ate it.

  • olganm

    A sad episode, Debby, and as many have said we’ll never truly know the reasons behind it. Some people only value money, and that is a sad thing in itself. Thanks for sharing.

  • Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    My grandmother would not speak to either of her sisters after their father died as she said they had stolen cash that had been put aside for the three of them. That isolated her as a war widow with a young child to support. On the other side of the family my grandfather’s parents offered to support my mother who was only a year old provided she was brought up a Catholic. My grandmother refused and cut my mother off from them as well. When we came along we had no knowledge of our aunts, uncles or cousins. It made my mother’s childhood very lonely and shaped her personality for ever. A thought provoking post..

  • Adele Marie

    Family dynamics are so cruel and heartbreaking. I know. When I was a very small child my Grandmother Park died and the belongings in the house, which had come from all over the world, were stripped before she had even been buried. Before my aunt who had to fly from Orkney to the mainland even got there. It was so sad and so unnecessary. My Aunt Dorothy had never moved out and I suspect she just got pushed away when they took things that she had grown up loving. xxx

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    What a wonderful write Debby, and forgiveness is a great healer, Also is the ability to look more deeply into our emotions.. Often we grow up with ingrained feelings and opinions which we formed not knowing full facts at the time..
    And I can so understand your feelings that day towards your Uncle. And many have had those motives to come back into a family fold.. I have seen it within my own..

    I turned up at my own Mothers Funeral, after her not speaking to me for ten years.. Two of my sisters did not want me there and made it very plain to me..
    I was prepared to stand at the back with my sister until my brother took our hands and said No you are the head of us and your rightful place is at the front.. I did not wish that but stayed with my brother and family.. And we left right after the service.. I wanted nothing of my Mothers or felt the need at the time to speak to my other two sisters whose looks could have killed..

    So I fully understand how we perceive and how our motives are often misconstrue .

    Writing them out brings clarity..
    I have been doing some of my own memoir writing recently within my poem collection revisiting to assemble them.. Then deleted much of it.. Because I saw too, Maybe it was my own distorted perception.. Even though I know I tried many times to mend the rift, And she was stubborn and vindictive and held onto bitterness.. I try within my own mind to validate her actions.. And wonder could I have done anything differently..

    Thank you Deb for this.. A most poignant post.. that touched me deeply..

    Love Sue <3

    • dgkaye

      Sue, thank you so much for sharing your own heart with us here. I knew some of your background as we have talked about how similar our growing up lives were with our mothers. And I am not surprised you went to the funeral after not talking for years, just as I did with my mother. But you and I had no motives behind our showing up. We went to pay our respects and ‘do the right thing’. Sadly, my uncle had ulterior motives. He also didn’t show up at his mother’s funeral 2 years earlier. If he had a beef with my grandfather and cared about his brother so much (my dad) he had 25 years to pick up the phone and call my father but he didn’t, he just showed up.
      These incidents that live on in our memory are certainly a tricky thing. We second guess ourselves wondering if this and if that, but in the end, we have to just make a peace with it as you and I have been working on for most of our lives. And yes, writing is truly cathartic.
      Thank you again so for sharing here. I know there are plenty of others like us out ‘there’ who may also take some food for thought from my post and from your heartfelt comment.
      Thank you my dear friend. <3 Peace be with you. :) xoxo

  • Annika Perry

    Debby, there is so much pain here my heart and mind are in a whirlwind. I have no personal experience of anything like this…it is beyond my comprehension. I’m trying to see, did you ever have any closer contact with your uncle again. Where you got to talk to him properly? In Sweden the problem of inheritance doesn’t become such an issue as by law the assets are spilt equally between all the siblings…parents cannot favour one over the other. In the uk things are very different, many cases of people finding everything has been left to animal shelters etc! Hugs, my dear friend. Your road has been bumpy and full of heartache. Xxxx

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Annika. No, I never brought it up to my uncle. I never invited him into my own life after that. I stated my piece to my grandfather and it didn’t seem to matter. He changed his will as per my uncle’s request – his newfound son.
      Here you can make a will and designate your assets to whomever you choose. But I did hire a lawyer on mine and my siblings behalf to contest the will – it was too late and all it did was cost us the excess money there was that went to the damned lawyer! Sad all around. 🙁 xxx

  • robbiesinspiration

    A most interesting read, Debby. Your grandfather reaction is not unexpected to me. It is probably better to heal the breaches while there is still time to do it. With regards to your being shafted, that isn’t nice at all. I think you siblings should have shared equally with you. I look after my parents but I would never expect to rank differently from the others with regards to inheritance. I do it of my own free will.

    • dgkaye

      I’m with you Robbie, all the way. Sometimes you can only lead a horse to water! There’s a reason God put people like you and me on earth. <3

  • elainemansfield

    This sadly reminds me of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son. It seems the parent always longs for the lost sheep and forgives them everything–even digging for gold and an undeserved inheritance. My mother thought she deserved more of my grandmother’s money because she’d spent more time caretaking. It was ugly. Everyone turned on her and I didn’t blame them. She could have talked to her brother and sister instead of taking it in an underhanded way. Fortunately, I wasn’t involved except to lose contact with my aunt and uncle for a while. (We connected again later once things cooled down, but they didn’t connect with my mom.) Sigh… We humans are a mess and so easily forget that love is more important than money.

    • dgkaye

      It’s amazing how much my story brings out too many similar incident’s in other’s lives here. Your last line sums it up well Elaine – “We humans are a mess and so easily forget that love is more important than money. 🙂 <3

  • Norah

    Wow, Debby. That’s a backstory! Thank you for sharing. I thought of two other stories as I was reading this – The Jazz Singer, and The Prodigal Son. Dysfunctional families take their toll on all of us, don’t they. I appreciate your final statement: that money had the greatest potential to harm families so you never used it against your siblings. It must have hurt so much to see your grandfather accept his “lost” son so warmly on the day you buried your father. Relationships and motives can be very complex and confusing, and frustrating. The anniversary of your father’s passing must be a sad reminder each year for what never was – a warm and loving family. Look after yourself. Treat yourself with kindness. Give yourself the love you deserve. Best wishes. N.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Norah, for reading and leaving your thoughts and lovely comments here. Funny you should mention the Prodigal Son, as a few others have mentioned here. As for the Jazz Singer, one of my favorite old movies – so relatable.
      Yes, it’s strange when you speak about a loved one who has been gone for so many years, it’s sometimes difficult for the listener to imagine how one could still remember a day so vividly, but for the one who experienced the loss it’s as though time as stood still.
      Thanks for your warm wishes Norah. 🙂 <3

  • Colleen Chesebro

    Sis, I’m still catching up with all my reading and came across your poignant retelling of the day your father died. I can’t help but wonder if your uncle wasn’t the prodigal son returning to pay his respects to your father, his brother. His gripe was with your grandfather not your dad, right? Interesting. He must have felt the same lack of love from his parents you felt from your grandparents. There are no answers – ever. Emotions propel us to do things we might not otherwise do. In my own situation, my father died and no one told me. Didn’t even try to find me. I found out months later from my step mother. My brother who hadn’t been part of my dad’s life for years was there though. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for chiming in here Sis. It seems so many of us ‘writers’ anyway, have had lots of dysfunction in their lives. Perhaps it’s why we write. You and me are lucky in the way we live through things, take from it, accept, dissect, yet move on despite never forgetting.
      Yes, a few here have mentioned the prodigal son, but in response to your question, we’re not talking about children here. My dad and his brother were 2 grown men when this all began. If my uncle wanted to connect with his brother he had 25 years to do so. I just think the timing was questionable. <3 xxx

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I understand that and would have felt that too. Part of me wants it to be for all the right reasons, you know where he felt compassion to make amends. Most families aren’t like that though. Have you ever talked to your uncle about this period in his life? Makes you wonder if he thought that he was finally getting his chance… no matter what. You’re right. We have the strength to move on from the past. We have survived. <3

        • dgkaye

          No, there was nothing to talk about as far as I was concerned. My instincts are rarely wrong. Remorse wasn’t part of the plan. I’ve closed the door on it now. Us kids managed to salvage a renewed friendship with his children though, so that’s something. Yes, we are survivors my dear friend! <3

  • Christy B

    I used to wonder what was wrong with my family… Now I realize no family is perfect and there are strong divisions between some lines in the family tree… I’m sad that once again money is part of what tears a family apart – or divides family members even more than they already were… Thanks for sharing this memory with us, Debby.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing a part of you here too Christy. It seems by many of the responses here we’ve all had some unpleasant family encounter somewhere in our lives. Personally, I don’t know any family that is perfect. And sadly, I will say that money is definitely a root to so much evil. <3

  • Sherri Matthews

    Oh my dear Deb, if we ever do meet up for real, we will never stop talking lol! Talk about 2 peas in a pod, as you so often remind me! I read your post from start to finish absolutely glued, and as I did so, so much about my dad’s family background and my childhood resonated. I too was the quiet, ‘compliant’ child who watched from the shadows for the same reasons and knew more than anybody gave me credit for, at the time. My dad’s family is also filled with recrimination, estrangement and family splits. My Auntie, Dad’s older sister, refused to go to her own mother’s funeral – my grandmother – who died when I was 6 due to some awful family row. My dad and his brother, my Uncle, also worked for their father, my grandfather, who to me seemed like the Godfather. He ruled his family with an iron fist. One of the several things I believe set my dad on the path to alcoholism was when his father took the business away from him. I didn’t see my uncle for almost 30 years, no contact or anything, until the day before my dad died in hospital In 2016. When he walked into the ward, I didn’t recognise him. So much still remains unanswered as it does for you my dear friend. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we’ve always been so drawn to writing memoir, wanting to find those answers if not for what actually happened, but so we find find peace and acceptance to live the life we’ve been blessed with. Thank you for sharing your heart with us in your poignant and touching post. Lots of love to you sweet friend and a great big hug <3 <3 <3

    • dgkaye

      Wowwwwwwwww Sher. Thank you for sharing some of your own story here. I knew (from our friendship) some of your family dysfunction, but once again, the similarities in our almost parallel lives is astounding!
      So happy to see you here my dear friend! And you hit the nail on the head: Maybe we are drawn to memoir in search of piecing together our lives. Maybe we were detectives in another life! LOL
      Receiving your hugs big time and returning the love to you!!!! <3 <3 xoxoxoxo

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…I think we would make a great detective team…maybe we should start an agency lol!!! Aww dear Deb, you’re so lovely. And yes, the parallels are incredible. I felt like I was right there with you reading your memoir. Wowwwwww back!!! It’s so good to read your blog again and I’ll be back next week to catch up some more. Have a wonderful weekend my dear friend, and see you soon! Much love and hugs there and back again! 🙂 <3 <3 <3

        • dgkaye

          Thanks bunches Sher. It’s great seeing your smiling face back around blogtown. Have yourself a lovely weekend my friend and we shall find each other next week. Lots of love and hugs coming your way!!!! 🙂 <3 xxxxx

          • Sherri Matthews

            Aww thanks so much Deb, love being here again! I can’t work full tilt at blogging just yet with hitting the memoir hard to finish those rewrites and edits, but it is so good to see you as often as I can! A lovely weekend thank you, and hope for you too, and hubby is fully recovering. And you too <3 Will catch up with you this week and hope you can feel all the love and hugs coming right back at ya my dear friend! 🙂 <3 🙂 xxxxxxx

          • dgkaye

            No need for apologies Sher. I know well how it works. 🙂 So glad you’re full on with the writing again. And I can always feel your hugs, no matter how virtual! Rock on my beautiful friend. 🙂 <3 xxxxxxx

          • Sherri Matthews

            You do for sure dear Deb 🙂 Thank you so much for your support and loving friendship. It’s great knowing we can keep the love and hugs flowing across the waves 🙂 <3 We'll keep on rocking through life's twists and turns. Have a lovely weekend my lovely, beautiful friend and I'll see you next week. I'm with my boys this weekend and so much loking forward to seeing them again. Things got a bit crazy this week but onward and upward is our mantra! 🙂 <3 <3 <3 🙂 xxxxxxx

          • dgkaye

            Enjoy the time with your kids Sherri. Yes, as usual, sounds like we’ve had the same week! LOL. Thanks for the good wishes and enjoy your weekend my lovely friend. 🙂 <3 xxxxx

          • Sherri Matthews

            Bless you Deb, and thank you 🙂 Arrgh…we’ll catch up properly next week and let’s hope for a calmer week ahead. Ever the optimists, right? Huge hugs to you my sweet, lovely friend 🙂 <3 🙂 xxxxxx

  • jjspina

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Debby. It is difficult at times dealing with family especially when we can’t understand their feelings or actions toward one another. I think each family has their own underlying problems. Some talk about it while others let it fester.

    Once words are spoken it is impossible to take them back. It’s better not to say anything at all because words have a tendency to keep coming when complaints start. We keep peace in our family by not voicing some things that hurt too much. Sigh! Hugs xx ♥️

  • Jennie

    Debby, this was a powerful story! Money can rip a family apart. I can only imagine what that must have been like to see your Uncle Don walk into your lives after 25 years.

  • Hugh's Views and News

    Such sad memories Debby, but what you have shared has only reinforced my thoughts of how death (when money is involved) can twist the lives of those who are left behind. I went through a similar situation only three years ago when my mother passed away. It’s a part of my life that almost broke me and which I still have nightmares about. However, I learned a lot from it, and time has helped me get away from the grips of the nightmare. I admire you for writing about this piece of your life. I don’t think I could ever do it.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Hugh. I’m sorry for what you endured. Hurtful actions leave such a huge imprint on our lives. I’m glad the nightmares are fading for you. We usually learn from our pasts – and for those who don’t keep repeating the same hurtful patterns in life. Money has always been a touchy red line issue for me, not wanting to get involved with them at the expense of dividing family. I say my piece and move on. 🙂 <3

  • Liesbet @ Roaming About

    Urgh, Debby. This is some serious f&#%ed up stuff! Did you ever confront your uncle with this? Usually, even when there are siblings left when a parent dies, the children of the deceased sibling get to divide her/his share. At least that’s what has been going on in my family. Money does tear families apart and that is as disgusting as it is sad! People who are just after their family’s money should not get away with that. Where is karma then?

    • dgkaye

      Ahh, well karma works in mysterious ways. I certainly wouldn’t want the same end of life my uncle had so who knows where karma fits itself in. And no, I didn’t confront my uncle, just my grandfather and my siblings. I said my piece and moved on with my life. 🙂 x

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