Posted by: morrowsl | July 9, 2018

The Final Purge

If I am very diplomatic, I say that my relationship with my mother was complicated. I have learned to be exceptionally diplomatic when it comes to my mother. And our relationship.

Especially our relationship.

I grew up being told, repeatedly, that I was a mistake. I understood from a very young age that I was not only not planned, I was very much not wanted. Hearing that you were a mistake will do a number of things to a young mind. Some kids might do everything in their power to make it up to a mother.

For being a mistake.

Others might try to be invisible. So as to be much less of a mistake as time passes.

Not me.

I decided early on that if I was a mistake, it certainly wasn’t my fault. And since it wasn’t my fault and I was still getting blamed for it, I’d make damn sure to be the biggest mistake she ever made!

I may have been sweet up to about age six or seven, but it didn’t last much longer. Along with the frequent reminder that I wasn’t supposed to be born, I was chastised for talking too much, for being too tall and gawky, for getting my period too young, for being near-sighted and needing glasses.
There was pretty much nothing I could do to elicit a positive reaction from her. Eventually, I stopped trying.

It is possible that I was a difficult baby. I don’t recall and there was never much talk of it.  I know I took a bottle until age four and I even remember crying out in the night and the taste of cold milk in my mouth. I remember hearing that I once went into convulsions. I know I had endless bouts of strep throat and tonsillitis. I once came very close to blinding myself in one eye. And I had at least one concussion. At those times, I can remember my mother being pleasant, almost tender. I grew to mistrust her most when she was trying to be motherly. She seemed able to turn it off and on. I never felt she was sincere. Eventually I avoided any circumstances that might cause her to need, or want, to nurture me.
Not all of our days together were horrid. But most of the time I could count on doing something to disappoint or anger her.

And so, I grew up far too fast, made colossal mistakes, caused so much heartache, took the hard road. It was the only road I knew. Along the way, I paid dearly for my mistakes and accepted they were mine alone.  I didn’t blame my mother for not wanting a fourth child.

I hated her for it.

It took most of my life for me to realize that my mother wasn’t unfit to be a mother. She had no frame of reference for what a good mother might be. Her own childhood had been hell. Alcoholic father, enabler mother, alcoholic younger brother. Constant bickering and fighting. No anger management. They lived like gypsies, following my grandfather’s work across the state. She married young. Her husband came from a huge family. He was happiest surrounded by kids and noise and chaos. She was out of her league. Swallowed up.

As time passed, we settled into the best relationship we could muster. It worked well enough as long as we didn’t spend too much time together. We never had a truly loving mother-daughter relationship. We weren’t friends. We simply learned to tolerate and, when that failed, we got really good at biting our tongues.

My mother died nine days ago. Since then, I have had no reason to grieve beyond that which I might do for anyone I have known all my life. There is no great gaping hole of sorrow. No unexpected tears. I grew up mourning the loss of my mother. Her passing only ended my need to continue.

I know it sounds cold and unfeeling. I have swallowed whole gallons of guilt, mostly on the nights when I was taking care of her and she wanted to be sweet and childish. She wanted to express her bountiful love, as if we’d always had a relationship that made room for it. I think sometimes she knew I struggled to stay in the room and be kind. A time or two she would start to chastise me for not wanting to linger and give repeated kisses goodnight. I would end up angry for being manipulated. I hated thinking I hurt her feelings even while I hated myself for having them.

Now, the time to make it all right is gone and will never come again. And I am relieved. She had children she loved as a mother should love her children. I just wasn’t one of them. She was a wonderful grandmother. She was a wonderful aunt. She was a wonderful friend. I am happy there are others who will miss her and grieve for her. She deserved to be loved so. And I’m glad I was able to help keep her out of hospitals and off life support.

I will never water a Christmas Cactus without thinking of her. Or play Chickenfoot. Or eat a burger with sweet pickles and mayo. We had some good laughs along the way and those will be the memories I hold on to. I chose to forgive her long ago. I do not revisit such a touchy topic now out of need for sympathy or support. I just don’t want to be caught not being acceptably sad and have to explain. It makes others uncomfortable. And there’s been far too much of that already.


Responses

  1. Oh my…I cherish your transparency. I can grieve for the loss of something that began decades ago, as it shaped you. I can appreciate and treasure the person you are, as you have trekked through your life, leaving your own impact and footprint. I can observe your truth and reality without judging it. I can respect your position without calling it into question. Thank you Sheree…for revealing things as they were and things as they are. I love you Sheree and always have done so, either up close as we used to be present in one another’s lives…or from far away, but the far away part being only by miles, as you have never ceased to be present in my heart. Walk in peace my friend.

    • Thank you, sweet friend. Some of my best days were escapes with you!


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