Family Inheritance, a poem written by Kim Willoughby at
Amar Saleem

Family Inheritance

Family Inheritance

written by: Kim Willoughby


The old grandfather clock chimes the hour
Wishing I could turn back the hands
Open a time capsule from the past
Ancestors telling me where it went wrong
All our ailments, addictions and abuse displayed
Centuries of trauma passed down
Heirlooms of secrets, shock and suffering
Not grandmother’s fine china
Or mother’s jewelry
Our family inheritance
Through the generations
Where did the damage begin
If history could tell us the real legacy
Our family tree, weaved into our DNA
Stitched together with precision
Like your great-grandmother’s quilt
When the first penetrating wound was forged
Stories passed down through the generations
None of them include the tortured tragedy
Who made the first choice
To take someone’s safety, worth, trust, sanity
Who witnessed and ignored
Who kept their secrets and lies
Who stayed quite, in shame
Who became numb to the pain
Who suffered every sting
Who blocked it all from memory
Who experienced loss, guilt, stress
Whose body told the story of their fractured brain

I pull the weathered trunk from the attic
Dust the cobwebs away
Much like my mind
Dissociative memory
It protected me
For half a century
I open the chest
Searching for clues
Looking at pictures of years passed
For what I always knew
Starting the healing process
Of my bruised and battered soul
Flashbacks in my head
Feelings of dread
I have to push through
It’s never too late to tell your story
To mend and improve
What was broken in you
Learned behaviors carried down
Shame and guilt
From a narcissistic, predatory father
An avoidant young mother
A canary in a mine
Lost in recollection
I am vulnerable
No one to trust
My own shadow leaves
When shrouded in darkness

Hoping now that the cycle has ended
Thanks to my sister, who endured every remembrance
Our family no longer holds this secret
How far through the tree does it extend
Causes so many other illnesses
Alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating
Sorrow and depression
Relationships are strained
I’m seeking the answers
I should have got long ago
Before I was married and had kids of my own
Then again, I didn’t know
We fell in love
The baggage we brought
We had no clue
It’s hard to communicate
When you were never taught how to
Triggered by forgotten traumas we endured
We fought, and we screamed
We made lots of mistakes
Hateful critiques
I’m positive we caused our kids some damage
Each generation has to get better
Resources abound
Answers to be found

To my sons
I tried my best to be a good mother
I know I have shamed
I know I have guilted
I know I showed anger
I know I put too much on you
I know I asked for your empathy
I’m sorry for any wrongs that were done
I hope you felt loved
I hope I showed you acceptance and praise
I hope I showed you empathy
I hope you know your worth
That you felt you could confide in me

This is for my sons now
A time capsule poem
For my future descendants
Follow your instincts
Healing your mind and your soul
I want you to have joy
I want you to dance
I want you to know how to communicate
I want you to live, love and laugh
I want you to feel the power of a trustful embrace
I want you to travel and dream
I want you to have endless possibilities
I want you to feel like family
That you want to come home
That you want to continue to make fond memories
That you’ll enjoy your own children one day
That you’ll look back one day, with little regrets
That you’ll get along better than I could dare to dream

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