Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?
Can we possibly know the end from the beginning?
Sally gazed thoughtfully at her 12-year-old niece, Manda, who was thumbing through old family photo albums at the kitchen table. She sighed. Who knows what will happen to this lovely girl as she gets older, Sally mused. It all depends on the choices she makes. And even then, nothing is certain.
“Aunt Sally …”
Sally drifted back to the moment at the sound of her name.
“Yes Manda, sweetie …”
“Did you and Uncle Ted plan not to have any children?”
Trust a child to get straight to the point.
“Why do you ask that, love?”
“Well,” began Manda, “you would have made a great mother. I just don’t understand why I don’t have any cousins … why I have you all to myself.”
Sally walked toward the small pine harvest table and sat on one of its companion chairs. She reached for a photo album and gazed at the page that had prompted Manda’s question. There it was … a family reunion photo of several years before, with all the cousins and their children, including Manda as a toddler, and no one under her and Ted’s wing. She pushed the album away and turned her attention to her niece who was patiently waiting for an answer. She’d have to have an answer or Sally would get no peace.
“You know sometimes, Manda, you can make all the plans you want about achieving a certain thing, but …” she hesitated, truth was a hard thing, ” … but unless you have a true understanding of yourself and the support you need you will rarely achieve it.”
Manda tilted her head toward her right shoulder in wonderment. “Hmmm … I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
Sally took a deep breath.
“Well,” she began, “I always wanted children. When I wasn’t much older than you I had dreams of having a large family. Wanted six children, you know.”
“Six!!!” Manda’s eyes burst open wide.
“Yes, six,” Sally repeated with a sigh. “Within a couple of years of getting married we started trying to have a baby mostly, I think, because all of our friends were having babies and we wanted to keep up. For some reason I couldn’t get pregnant. Your uncle went back to school for his Masters and upon his return we tried in earnest to create that first child. Even went for fertility treatment a couple of times.” Sally stopped, checking to see if she’d lost Manda, but her niece seemed fully committed. She took a deep breath. The memories were almost too painful to share, but perhaps in the sharing some of the pain would release.
“What happened?” Manda whispered, intent to know but somehow understanding the sensitivity of the story being shared.
“Nothing. Nothing happened. There was no baby. When I found out we’d failed the second time I was devastated; heartbroken, and my emotions got the better of me. I cried so much and your uncle was not at all supportive or empathetic. In fact, it was as if the whole episode had not touched him at all. Instead of offering me any comfort he told me I belonged in a nut house,” Sally paused seeing the shocked expression on her niece’s face. “I’m sorry, but you need to know this because it explains what I did next.”
“And what was that?”
“I was so shocked by his lack of empathy and the emotional gulf which seemed to divide us that I told him that I would never go for fertility treatment again. That a pregnancy had to occur naturally or not at all.” Sally sighed. “And, of course, it happened not at all.”
Manda shrugged her shoulders in sadness. “Is that why you left Uncle Ted in the end?”
Sally looked down at her hands and played with her wedding ring from the new man in her life who was everything Tim was not. “It was the beginning of the slippery slope as I realized I could not trust him to be there for me. It took a few years, but yes, it was the first step toward divorce.” She looked up at Manda and smiled, “By the time I met your uncle Bob the biological clock had wound down and my chances for bearing a child were gone.”
“Are you sad about that?” Manda wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.
“Come now, Manda, you must not be sad. I’m not. I learned years later after meeting with a hormone specialist and having tests done that my body chemistry could never have supported a baby. My hormones were so out of whack for so many reasons. This, at least, gave me some peace. I could stop thinking of myself as unworthy of being a mother and focus on taking care of my body which my experiences with early life trauma had somehow compromised. You won’t understand all of this now. I simply share it to illustrate that we must really know ourselves to find our real dreams. And we must have support around us to help them come to life. I had neither.”
Manda sighed and smiled. “Do you believe it was your fate not to have children then?”
Sally thought before answering.
“I believe life unfolds the way it should, sweetie. Set a path and see where it takes you. Don’t be fixed to ideas or goals. Use them as guidelines. Perhaps they will lead to even greater things than you can imagine.”
“Is that what happened to you?” Manda asked, hopefully.
Sally pushed the family album aside and reached for her niece’s hand. “Well, I have you, don’t I?”
Thanks for visiting …
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015
One thought on “Where The Path Leads”
Beautiful story Dorothy. We’re missing out on your beautiful presence as well as your terrific writing at Write Now @ King! See you soon!