Thursday, December 13, 2012

Moms and other mysterious creatures, part one

I loved my mother always.  Sometimes I didn't like her much, though.

My mother and I had a strange relationship.  I lived with her for the first eight years of my life, and from all accounts, I was a happy child, content to be left to my own devices.  Then my dad got custody of us, he was PCSed to Thailand with the USAF, and I didn't see her for another seven years.  By that time, I was deep into the teenage years, and did not feel the need for nor enjoy having another mother figure, particularly not one with strange ideas about how I should behave toward her or in general.  I had things going on in my personal life that were traumatic and that summer was probably not the best timing to rekindle our relationship.

She tried to be a mother to me at first, and that just really didn't gel, so we eventually created a friendship that mostly worked for us.  She shared things with me that she might discuss with another peer, and I talked to her about things, even private things, comfortably, because that mother/daughter vibe just wasn't there for me.  I think she missed that, since I never stopped being her elder daughter in her mind, but I just couldn't make the transition back to being her daughter.

One of the things about her though, was that she talked about me a lot.  She'd praise me to the mountains, to anybody who'd listen, when other people were around.  However, she never made a point to say any of those things privately, and I kind of felt that she was proud of the idea of me, but not necessarily proud of the me that existed right in front of her.  I resented that she only seemed proud of me when there was someone to listen to her saying it.

By the summer I started seeing her again, she was fairly well-known in the local and regional pagan and Wiccan community and many, many people called her Mom.  I have to admit that I also resented the time she seemed to have for everyone but me.  I'll stipulate that it was my perception as a selfish teenager, and probably not the reality, though there were certainly times that I wanted to do something with her and she couldn't because she'd already committed the time elsewhere.  I guess I just thought that if I was going to go to all the trouble to come see her in the summer, she'd be available for me to see.

At some point, I got into therapy and started to grow up, intellectually and emotionally, and began to see my mother's behaviors from a more detached perspective.  This both helped and hurt our relationship, as I was able to see and accept her for what she was as a mother, and at the same time, I saw that she was stuck in a victim mentality.

I grew to hate that she couldn't take responsibility for anything in her life.  In her mind, everything happened TO her.  If something bad happened, she could (and did) always lay the blame on someone else.  Most of us know someone like this, I think.  I sometimes thought myself better than her, because she couldn't or wouldn't rise above this mental place and be her own person, and I had struggled through years of talk therapy to become a better, more emotionally mature me.

In the end, she was pretty determined that she was going to die relatively early, like her mother did, though my grandmother died from breast cancer.  My mother accomplished this through heavy wine consumption and chain-smoking and basically not eating much at all.  At the very end, when she was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, she sent someone back inside the house for her cigarettes.  I always kind of laugh at that.

All of us kids saw her a couple of months before she died, and I was stunned to see how emaciated she looked, though in the pictures of that day, it doesn't show much.  By the time she died, my 5' 10" mother weighed less than eighty pounds, and she looked horrible.

During the last year or two, I struggled mightily with letting go of her and detaching myself from her negativity, because I could just get sucked down into that morass and never climb out, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time with her.  That was what I needed at the time, to keep my sanity, and I don't regret the decision I made to spend as little time with her as humanly possible.

I do miss her, though, these ten years later.  She always had good stories, from her own childhood and from mine.  She loved people and people loved her.  One of the things I tried to do in the wake of her death was to compliment random strangers, as my own strange way of honoring her memory (This was something she did that I always admired and wanted to do).  For an introvert like myself, it was difficult, sometimes to the point of tears, but it made me feel a little more connected to the woman I had adored when she was at her best.