Monday, July 05, 2010

To My Mother

Posted by Anonymous.

Mother’s Day was filled with Facebook statuses and blog posts about the joy of Motherhood. Most also included special sentiments about the author’s relationship with her own mother, and each time I read one, I scowled like a child.

Let’s face it- you were absent for most, if not all, of my childhood. Yes Mom, I realize
you were always there, in the house. Always commenting about laundry and about how
I will need to tell people about all you do when I get older. Always there, drinking out of glass bottles, because “drinking out of cans is low class.” Always there, locked in your room, smoking marijuana because it helped you to “be creative”. Always there, because you never left the house except for a short walk across the street to buy cigarettes.

The excuses I would make for you were varied and creative- you had seasonal affective
disorder or that you were bipolar (because these had come up on television, and that
seemed to fit at times). You couldn’t come to my concerts because you were afraid of
crowds. You couldn’t come to my younger brothers’ Open Houses at school because you
were sick (an excuse used so often that teachers barely blinked at a 14 year-old showing
up to collect her brother’s special projects). You missed soccer practices and baseball
games. But as I recall, you never missed a nap. Should we happen to wake you up from
one, we knew to run and hide.

As I got older, I was willing to blame the alcohol. It was alcohol that you brought with
you, practically kicking and screaming, to my little brother’s wedding that you tried so
hard to get out of. It was a six pack that you cracked open within 20 minutes of meeting
my daughter, you first grandchild, that you refused to hold as you cradled you can of
Natural Ice (now long past the need for elegant bottles). If you could just get sober, then you could be the mother I wanted, the mother I longed for, the fictional mother, who at the very least could teach me how to apply make-up and could give me advice as three months of colic with my second child wore on and on.

But Mom, you’ve been surprisingly sober for three years, and still that mother has yet to
make an appearance. In fact, in a fun twist of events, after 1 year of sobriety that we as a family had fought so hard for, you left my ever forgiving father for a woman you met on the internet (“Oh please, it’s not a big deal. It’s been on Oprah.”). Suddenly you can drive on I-95, where you were too scared to do it before, thus missing my graduation for my Master’s degree. Suddenly you can fly- but only to Arizona with your girlfriend… not to NY to see your third grandchild.

I go for weeks without hearing from you. It’s like a game. How many days will go
by before you realize you haven’t heard from me, and you can rush to the phone and
apologize? Only you never do, because I give up and call you around day 14. And
your conversations always revolve around how this world has done you wrong; how
much you actually hate your girlfriend; how much you hate having to take care of my
grandmother as she slips deeper into dementia. How much you wish my father would
take you back. How bitter you are that my brother doesn’t speak to you and how it is his fault because obviously it is a “lesbian thing.” (For the record, he wasn’t speaking to you for 6 months before your coming out, but you didn’t notice.) How you are going to call J.G. Wentworth and fight for the rest of your divorce settlement because you and your dogs can’t stand living with my grandparents one more day. And I let you talk, because I don’t know what else to do.

This weekend, for Mother’s Day, we came out to the house to have Mother’s Day
with you and Nana. We ripped out weeds in the garden as you talked away on your
cell phone, upstairs away from your daughter and grandchildren. We planted flowers
while you puffed like a chimney on the back porch. We went out to lunch while you
drove to the Comcast building to replace your cable box, which apparently could
only be done right at that moment. We had a great time with Nana, who is more of a
grandmother to my daughters than you will ever be, but that doesn’t seem to bother you.

So yesterday I struggled with whether or not to call you on Mother’s Day. I had come to the firm resolution that I would not, since I seem to mean so little to you. But in the late afternoon, I wavered, holding out still for that mother who may just show up one of these days. And I called that cell phone that never leaves your side for a second. And it rang and rang. I left a message. You have yet to call back.

So thanks Mom, for the blank slate you have given me on this journey into motherhood. Thanks for the advice you never offer. Thanks for giving me a clear path to make my own mistakes and the resolve to never repeat yours. I may not know how to be a mom, but I know how not to be one. My life is dedicated to being the best mother to my daughters that I can be, if only because I know how hard it is to find a Mother’s Day card that does not include any “great mom!” or “loving” sentiments. They deserve more than that, and so do I.


Cheryl said...

One of the best decisions I have ever made for myself was letting my mother go. Alcoholism and drug addiction are her best friends, and I never will be.

I've also given up on the idea that there was a mother I was "supposed to have". That mother is an ideal created my television, movies and magazines, and very rarely represents real life.

Sometimes she calls. I don't answer. Sometimes she e-mails. I delete them unread. I make no plans, I make no promises, I make no excuses.

Don't get me wrong, it's hard. I heard something in an Al-Anon meeting: expectations are preconceived resentments. If she disappoints me, it's not her fault - it's mine for expecting her to be more than she can be.

I wish you peace as you go through this. I also recommend Al-Anon. It helps more than you would ever imagine.

7aki Fadi said...

You are a very good person to have kept trying to "reach" her.

My Dad would disappear for months and months only to come back and disappear again. I never had a Dad and every time I look at a fully functional father I hurt still although I am 34 and have 2 beautiful girls. He died 5 years ago and I still can't forgive him.

Your writing is very good by the way, if you don't write often, you should.

Anonymous said...

While I don't have any experience with this sort of thing, my own mother did with her mother who was a rampant alcoholic and also claimed for a short time to be a lesbian.

I wanted to give you hope that my mother has been able to raise me quite well despite not having those paths laid out or not ever having received advice.

Keep you chin up and concentrate on your kids --- give them the example that you never had and end the chain of selfishness.

Hugs to you and your kiddos

Anonymous said...

Just give up. Some women should never have children because they never will be mothers. It's wrong to believe that all women love babies and be mothers.

Susan said...

I am sorry you have had to deal with this your whole life. It's just not right.

Hayley said...

I'm so sorry. It says a lot about you that you were able to learn from her horrible example, rather than repeat her mistakes. Your children are lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry.

Personally, I would focus on my children and let her go. Let her go ...well, wherever it is she thinks she wants to be, because it certainly isn't with people who want to love her. It's not worth your or your childrens' hearts to keep putting yourself through this.

Anonymous said...

OP here. I just wanted to thank you all for the support. I wrote this the day after Mother's Day, and not surprisingly, things have not improved (but I am sure you could have guessed that.) I am honestly worried that she may be doing something (pills? drinking? drugs?) behind the scenes, but I didn't cause it and can't fix it, I suppose. Anyway, thank you all again. I am going to look into al anon as well.

Anonymous said...

I was never able to establish a close relationship with my own mother. It was dysfunctional for my earliest years. At the point she became elderly and needed supervision,I moved in with her (my children and husband in tow) and proceeded to care for her 24/7 pretty much alone. My husband did what he could to help me, but it was mostly me who did the care giving.If I attempted to bring up any subject that made her uncomfortable(which was anything except trivia)she would smile condescendingly and change the subject.I never got to be close to her, but I did get to spend time with her. I am grateful, at least, for that.In the end, I let it all be and simply forgave her for all she did/didn't do for me in my life. Something is clearly amiss in your mother's life. If you can say the words: "I forgive you" if only to yourself, it will begin the healing process in your own heart.It isn't your mother who is damaged and dysfunctional, it's her behavior. We only have one mother all our lives, Try to remain civil, respectful (yes,respectful, she is your mother, after all) and kind in speech and action with her, but don't allow her to make you miserable. Bless her and let her go.I wish you well.

julia said...

i too had a hard time letting go of the idea of that mother i wanted. Finally i had to when she died. i do understand the pain you feel, mine had issues that may have involved some mental illness left undiagnosed. It's hard as the daughter to realize that some mothers, being just people after all, are far too self-absorbed to be parents.

i pray you find a way to make peace with what you missed with your mother--i also hope you can come to the point of grieving the loss so you can move forward with your own life. It took me some good but painful years of therapy to get there, but it's well worth it.

MaggieMay said...

What a powerful essay, you are an excellent writer. Because you have such insight I am sure you are a much better mother to your children. I can read that a lot of your pain relates to the grandmother that your children do not have. Let it go. My very wise daughter once said to me that you either get good parents or good grandparents.....and she did not have involved grandparents. My parents had 10 babies but we were raised with "benign neglect". We had a roof, food, and clothes but neither were very interested in our lives. And as they aged they were so sad about the neglect they received in return, they had no idea why.

CR said...

Take pride in the fact that you have tried your best to reach your mother, most of all take pride in recognizing her flaws and doing the best you can to be the mother you longed for as a child. Your hurt is apparent, but so is your strength. Your own children will remember that.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Yes, my Mother injured me deeply when she left for 12 yrs. then came back into my life and took credit for how wonderful I turned out! I ran back to her heart wide open for a relationship, to explore the Mother/Daughter years we missed. I've been exploring this relationship for over thirty years. Now I am glad she did not raise me. She has hurt me sooo deeply sooo many times it is unbelievable. I am blessed to be a Mother and have loved the 20 years of Motherhood I have been given. I can relate so well to the phone calls and Mother's Day cards. Thanks for expressing so well what I can't express. I hope you are able to let this go, and walk in peace. I have found great comfort in forgiveness and distance. She can leave this earth and I will be OK!

O said...

Have you read the book, "Will I ever be good enough"? I can't remember the author. Or how about, "Why is it always about you?" by Sandy Hotchkiss? These books have really helped me, I had no idea how hurtful & self-centered my own mother was until I read these, and started seeing a therapist.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post... and is an incredible insight into living with a diseased person os soul and mind. xx I hope you can find peace and solace for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Gee, your mother is mentally ill. Probably still unmedicated. Do you actually think she's a "shitty mother" just to be MEAN to you? Or do you suppose there's a big empty hole in her because of her genetic code and events that happened in her past? When you say "Thanks" you're really saying "F You"--like you absolutely KNOW that if she had a choice in her genetics, she'd choose a path of lonliness, isolation and misery==just to piss YOU off.

You're not the only one struggling here. You'll never get that "great mom" but you could have a hint of compassion for the sad one you did end up with--because what you don't know about her would probably fill volumes. I hope that bipolar/personality disorder gene doesn't express itself in any of your children; they do tend to skip a generation, you know...don't be surprised if you see your mother in one of your kids--then, maybe, you'll "care" about the illness instead of treating it like a personal failure.

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