Writing about Mother’s Day is risky business.
I don’t particularly like to think about it much less write about it. It is so loaded for me.
My mother is dead. Prior to her death she spent about 5 years in a nursing home, deteriorating into Parkinson’s dementia. Before that she and my dad were at home with helpers, both deteriorating. I remember visiting her at the nursing home, rubbing her back and, at the worst of it, thinking how lovely it would be to just quickly squeeze her neck until the breathe was gone from her. I know that if she was aware she was repulsed that this kind of life was happening to her, if she wasn’t,well, I pray she wasn’t.It was very hard to tell. Sometimes she’d seem to respond, mostly not. It was awful to visit her and I did not go as often as perhaps I should have. It was hard, so hard. It became harder after Tom died….just the raw pain of everything kept me farther away. I do remember going to visit her one day soon after Tom died and sitting by her bed, crying and telling her about it. It was an unresponsive day, useless to me and frustrating. I’m not sure what I wanted, her to pop out of her dementia and hold me? Yes, probably that.
But,would she have? Probably not. Had she been clearer she would have known that her husband , my dad, had died a year and a half earlier. And the only way she could have responded is through her perspective, her narcissistic self, and that would have been awful. It would have been about her husband dying, not mine. Her pain, not mine. As it was, it was a moot point. I don’t even know if she realized my dad was dead, there was no major response when we told her that. She was gone for way too long before she was actually gone.
I loved my mother, but she was difficult. She was an alcoholic. Knowing what I know now, I would say that the stress of having 4 kids and a husband gone all the time made drinking her friend and companion.I see that with so many young women these days, and I see so clearly the similarities between us, our lives. She and my dad were partiers..had a huge group of friends that partied together. Every weekend it seemed like something was going on. I’m not sure, or even actually aware, of when she moved into every night drinking, but it was early on. I remember my dad getting home from work late, after we were asleep, and the fighting starting. Almost every night being woken up by loud, angry awful fights, things better left unsaid. I remember when I got older how she would give up drinking every Lent, and how awful that was. We hated it, because she was so crazy. I think by this point my dad had stopped drinking pretty much, so the fights didn’t happen much, it was more a calm detente around the house. Mom drank her wine every night, dad was gone. I remember many times thinking I wish they had divorced, how that would have been better for all of us.
She was a narcissist. Pretty much everything that happend was about her, even if it wasn’t. I can see how that affected me in the ways that I am like that. Oh, I hate that about myself, but it is there…overly sensitive, self-involved, taking everything personally. I’m aware at least, and trying to address it, but it’s hard. And it was hard living with that. I left home at 19 and really very seldom after that did my mother ever really know what was going on in my life. Sure, she knew the generalities, but boyfriends, broken hearts, lost jobs, exciting travel, anything real that went on I just didn’t share with her because it became about her. I’ll tell you the 2 biggest things I kept from my mom. Actually, truth be told, from my whole family, so maybe it was more than my mom, but it FELT like my mom. Prior to adopting our son Barney, Tom and I had an adoption fall through. We went to another state, met the baby, had a relationship with the parents for several months before the birth, bought nursery furniture…and the parents decided to keep their son. The pain was unbelievable, but I chose not to discuss it with her because I knew it would be about her losing a grandson, not our losing a child. I couldn’t do that, pile more pain on. Then, when Barney was 6 (he’s 19 now…you do the math). I started having these weird symptoms of numbness and faintness followed by panic attacks. My doctor advise an MRI and I was found to have an AVM, a congenital mass of blood vessels all gnarled together (again, you look it up!) that could, I guess, explode at any time. I needed brain surgery. I ended up being VERY lucky and was able to have a procedure called radiostatic surgery, which is essentially specifically applied radiation that breaks down the mass. It was a couple of months of figuring it all out and procedures to get ready for the radiation, and then several years of follow-up mri’s to make sure that the mass was disappearing as it should. I never told my family about it. My friends all knew, Tom’s family knew. Not mine. I could not have my mother mothering me through that, in her self-involved, anxious way.
And here’s a really good story, because I want to be fair, and because I did love her. I have a picture of me and her dressed and made up like clowns. Because my parents took me to the circus when i was little and the clowns scared the shit out of me. So the next day my mom explained clowns and made us up as clowns and took the fear right away. And my prom dress. I knew the store I wanted to get it from and I had been saving but I didn’t have enough and she took me and paid for it with money she had stashed away. Believe me, there are more. She wasn’t a monster, just difficult.
And then there’s me,as a mom. So much like mine. My son sometimes looks at me and says, flat out, “this is not about you”. I have had that terrible thought, and, sadly, I know that he has too, that I should have been the one who died, that Tom would have been the better parent left. When Tom died I got scared, afraid of everything. And that is not the way to bring up a son. He has his life, his path, but I don’t think I’ve been much help to him on it, and that makes me so sad. I tried, tried to do all that I could, but he fought me at every turn. I know I can’t have a do-over, but I am trying to “man-up” now, be different, be more helpful. We’ll see how it plays out, because I have no idea. I hid in my pain and my uselessness and succumbed to the drinking too much that my mother did. Now all I can do is be different, be present and supportive and honest. My boy has problems, and I am sad that I have been one of them. But I adore him, I truly do. I hope that in time there will be peace and forgiveness between us. I’m WAY better than a monster, way better than my mom, but, like her, difficult.
So, Mother’s Day.