Skeletons in the Closet

My family has so many skeletons in the closet, it's amazing there's still room for the coats. Adultery, alcoholism, divorce, drug abuse, mental illness, suicide, not to mention chain-smoking (my father and grandfather, not me!): we've had it all and then some, just in the time that I've been alive. Who knows what else lurks in our past? (Other than slave-owning--yup, back when the Fultons still lived in Virginia before the Civil War; my grandfather seemed pretty sure about this from his genealogical research). And yet, to look at us, we are pillars of our communities: physicians and teachers and scientists and scholars, ministers and artists and Air Force generals. How is it that our outward appearance to the world could be so at odds with our many-storied reality?

Being Fencing Bear, I am (as I'm sure you've guessed) itching to write about some of this, if only to figure out what it all means. But I am fairly certain that this would piss off my family; not because any of it (well, depending on which side of the family we're talking about) would be news, far from it. Such is the regular stuff of road-trip confessions and late-nights over coffee in the kitchen. But, because, well, We Don't Talk About Such Things, as if even to name them would give them a greater power over us than they already have.

Do we think that we are particularly special in our oh-so-human tragedies? I don't think so. Most of us have friends or colleagues who have suffered even worse. And yet, We Don't Talk About It. As if, like Adam and Eve in the garden, we believed that we were even capable of hiding our shame. Which, most likely, if only for the sake of decency, we should. Who wants to see anybody else's naughty bits? (Unless, of course, one is famous, and then everybody does.) It's probably better that We Don't Talk About It, right?

Except for the fact, I am convinced, that this is the way the Devil, that great blackmailer, holds power over us. As long as We Don't Talk About It, even after the immediate hurt is long gone, we spend our lives perpetually afraid of being Found Out, Exposed, Shown To Be Less Virtuous Than Other People Think We Are. And so we are enslaved to our sins, just like our First Parents, just as human beings have been ever since, desperate to cover themselves with the fig leaves of respectability, desperate to convince themselves and others that There Is Nothing To See Here.

And so we remain, cut off in our shame from each other, hiding, afraid, embarrassed by our nakedness, alone. Unless, that is, we are able to embrace the greatest shame of all, the shame of the Cross, and realize that, special as the Devil has made us feel in our ignominy, we are not alone, but surrounded by almost every other human being in the human race.

So, I suppose, that is why I want to write about my family's skeletons, at least insofar as they affect me. Because it is only by embracing our shame that we will be freed from the Devil. It is only through confession that we will be saved.

So, what d'ya say, family; are you with me on this?*

*Rhetorical question.  I seriously doubt you would be.  I'm not sure I am.  Y'see, the Devil really knows his stuff.


  1. Being one of those "family members," I would be a hypocrite to say that confession did not help me to rattle my personal skeletons from the closet and to subject them to the blinding light of day, both privately and publicly. However, more important is the continued action that must be taken after the verbal confession, for without it, all is for nought. Otherwise, words, words, words...

    Just FYI,


    [No, I'm not commenting on my own posts! A number of us in my family have the same initials, although mine are now properly RLFB, of course!]

  2. I have a get-out, in that my main weblog is nominally under the banner of my employer, so I can draw a line about family/personal topics. But your post is very pertinent, as a great deal of what I write about on JSBlog is deeply linked with family issues. My parents divorced when I was a baby and I was brought up by my mother, and the Isle of Wight topics are inextricably linked to a mid-life experince of closure: reconcilation with my father and other Isle of Wight close family I was brought up to believe were bad people (and turn out to be anything but). And with that comes return to the landscape, and quite a lot of the flavour of what I write about - experiences, talents, irritations - has connections with finding that most of my personality is far more explicable in terms of my father's family than the segment I was brought up by. Sorry if that's a ramble, but it's essentially agreeing with your post: we are shaped by our families, yet there are personal and practical inihibitions about explaining how.


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