Saturday, January 17, 2015

a student story

I heard recently from a longterm student, a woman I admire deeply. She's a busy professional with a family and a painful background - an abusive father, a passive, ill mother. Her stories are often funny, about her job and day to day activities, but sometimes she has written about her despair at being helpless to protect her sick mother from her dad; how she was excluded from all family activities and had not seen them for a long time.

She found out recently that her parents had decided to move to assisted living, and the staff at the residence saw immediately that her father was a bullying abuser and separated them. Her mother and father now live in separate rooms, and their time together is strictly regulated. For the first time in years, last week my student was able to visit her mother, spend time with her and not have to deal with her father. It's a new life for them both. She wrote a stunning essay about it. And then she sent this to me:

Thank you for giving our writing, and me, a safe haven in which to grow. 

Beth, do you remember when ... wrote (in your day class at U of T years ago) a piece that closed with the image of him walking down a corridor with his back to us, holding the hand of his child self, and promising to look after him? You wrote to me afterward that we all need to do that. I have thought of that image so many times this week. I can see my hand reaching out to the little girl who has felt abandoned and hurt her whole life, by the "blood family" she tried very hard to please and love. I write about my mom's freedom. But Beth, "What the story is really about" is, I think, the dawning of my own freedom, and being able to reach out to that little girl and save myself.



  1. I can feel that little girl start to relax and even smile.

  2. Me too. Wonderful what writing the truth can do.