May 112020
 

Mother's Day when you don't have a great motherI’m writing this the day after Mother’s Day so as not to take away one iota from the celebration of really terrific mothers. Tribute after tribute on Facebook brought tears to my eyes as I read about these wonderful women who trained up a new generation of daughters to be mothers just like them. It’s a beautiful thing. But my mother wasn’t one of those. And since I know I’m not alone, I’m writing this Mother’s Day thought for the rest of us.

A Little Bit of History

My mother didn’t like me much. It was pretty cut and dried. I didn’t look like the correct side of the family and I wasn’t what she had in mind when she thought she was getting a cute little daughter. I never lost my baby chubs which was anathema in a family that worshiped thinness. I was well-spoken, well-read, got straight As in school and really tried my best. I made her beautifully hand-crafted Mother’s Day gifts, but I was fat, ugly and good for not much, according to her. She wasn’t mean to me or physically abusive. She just didn’t like me.

I saw the moms of friends when I went to their houses to play or do schoolwork. Their moms were kind and sweet and looked at their children with love in their eyes. I was envious. Hell, I was downright jealous. There were times when I went home, crawled under the covers and cried. My mom wasn’t bad. She just didn’t like me. I knew it. She knew I knew it. It made for a very awkward childhood.

A Rather Rude Awakening

And then came the day I found out the hard way that I wasn’t the only one with a mother who wasn’t straight out of the pages of Ladies Home Journal. My then best friend invited me to be her maid of honor. I was over the moon. Her mother wasn’t. She didn’t like the way I looked either and said I would ruin the wedding photos. Where had I heard that before? She was afraid to tell me, but she finally had to because her mother threatened to not pay for the wedding if I were included in it. So I bowed out gracefully. And. . . you guessed it. . . I went home and cried.

As much as that hurt, it opened my eyes. Now I knew that I wasn’t alone in the not-so-perfect mother department. Some moms were downright nasty and vicious. Some were physically abusive. Some stood by while their daughters were abused. Some drank and turned into monsters. My mom wasn’t any of those things. She just didn’t like me.

Life Goes On

Time passed. We lived a little ways apart. She still slung her verbal missiles at me every chance she got. One would think she enjoyed them. Maybe she did. I don’t know. And then two things happened that changed everything. My father died. She started getting wonky. Then my grandmom (her mother) died. She lost her mind. By this time, she lived with me. Yeah, I know. She took all her grief out on me. And there I stood, a 50-something year old woman transported immediately back to when I was ten years old and getting browbeat about how I wasn’t good enough, didn’t look right, wasn’t good for anything, nobody would ever want me, yada yada yada. That lasted for ten long years.

Life Changes

And then came the day she broke her hip and went into rehab. I was fully prepared to take her home and let the cycle begin again. She was my mother. I had to take care of her. I had no other choice, right? That’s how we were raised. So imagine my surprise when she told me she wanted to stay in the nursing home! The place wasn’t all that great either. But she wanted to be there, so I signed her in.

The Beginning of the End

She had two happy years there before I am convinced their lack of care let her die. One day they told me my mother was sick. The next day I was running to the intensive care unit of a local hospital to be told she was dying from total organ failure. The last time I talked to her, she called me in and asked me to sign her into hospice. She said my father (he passed 14 years earlier) had come to take her home. I had her power of attorney so I made the arrangements. She said, “Thank you.” Her last words to me. That night they took her to a beautiful hospice unit of another hospital. Two days later she was gone. It was the day before what would have been my parents’ 63rd wedding anniversary.

Moving Forward

That was six years ago. Do I miss her? I think I miss the idea of having a mother. But do I miss MY mother? Maybe. No. I honestly don’t know. I know I can think about her now without getting upset. When I drive by her grave these days I yell out the window, “Hey, Ma, how ya doin’?” And maybe after a lot of years, I’m okay. Or sort of okay.

So I’m writing this for me and for all of you who didn’t have perfect mothers either. It’s a Mother’s Day thought for the rest of us. I try to keep in mind that nothing in life is perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. But it’s up to us to take what we have and do the best that we can with it. We made it in spite of that mother thing.

Mother's Day can be quite different when your mother didn't like you

Sep 192014
 

“WHY IS THAT WOMAN STILL IN MY HEAD?” I shrieked, as I threw my vividly purple and very expensive pocketbook onto the car seat. All I heard was my mother’s voice, in her trademark sneer, saying, “Don’t you think you’re a little too effin’ old to be carrying a bright purple pocketbook?”

I’m editing as not to offend. She had a mouth worse than two ships full of sailors.

“No, Mom, I don’t”.

Gone But Not Forgotten

My mother passed from this earth eight months ago. Her legacy is still with me, I’m afraid. The legacy of me being fat (true), ugly (debatable) and no good for nuttin’ honey (WRONG-O!). I can still hear her like she is standing next to me. It still hurts like hell, too.

A Time To Forgive

When I knew she was dying, I realized what I had to do. I had to find a way to forgive her. Did I want to? HELL NO!!! I screamed, cried and cursed quite creatively in multiple languages all the way home that day. But I knew it had to be. I had to do it for me, the one who would go on and not for her, the one who was leaving.

Back I went the next day. I stayed outside for a long time, not wanting to go in. After a while, I steeled myself and headed back to her bedside in the ICU. I’m pretty sure she was conscious, but it really didn’t matter.

It took me a few times to get the words out and mean them. I felt like Fonzie in the old “Happy Days” show, you know, the guy who could never say he was sorry. Finally, I looked straight at her and said, “I forgive you.”  It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

The last request she made of me was to sign the papers to put her in hospice. I did what she asked. She died two days later.

Sister, Sister

The really hard part was that till the day she died, she never had a kind word for me or my sister. We never knew how she played us off against each other almost from the beginning. There is an eight-year age difference between us so early relationships weren’t close. We never found out the extent of her games until it came time to bury her. Now we are trying again. We can’t get all those years back, but we can try to create new ones. . . as sisters, not enemies.

Things Left Unsaid

So, yes, Mom, you’re forgiven. I really DID mean it that day. However, there are a couple of things I still want to say to you.

Mom, I like purple. You’ve always known that. At some point, you decided to buy everything in purple and rub it in my face. Okay. I can accept that.

Yeah, I like Dooney & Bourke pocketbooks. It’s my one cave-in to irrational spending. You liked expensive things, too.  Lots of them. Daddy made sure you always had what you wanted.  I can accept that.

What I can’t accept is how you ran up $30,000+ in debt to copy me and everybody else and then just didn’t pay it. Now they come after me for it, even after you’re gone. I send them to the cemetery. They’re welcome to whatever they can collect from you there.

I still hate all those names you called me, Mom. Your mother is the one who is supposed to love you when nobody else does. Okay. I’ll accept that, too. I often wonder, though, how you taught me to be compassionate, kind and loving while being a hateful, spiteful bitch. One of the mysteries of the universe, I guess.

Now that I think about it, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the universe. You’re gone and we’ll be here for however many more years we have to try and rebuild what you tore apart. What does matter is that I am going to work harder than anything I have ever worked at in my life to rid myself of your voice.

Mom, one of your common rants was that I never listened to a word you said. You were wrong. I heard every. single. word.

But maybe. . . just maybe. . . you’re finally right.

Feb 042013
 

Girl With hair dryerMy 16-year-old was in the bathroom the other day getting ready to go out. Nothing unusual. Her makeup was all over the bathroom counter and her straightening iron was getting good and hot to take the gorgeous waves out of her hair, the way she likes it. I happened to glance down at my watch and note the time. She wasn’t due where she was going for 2 – 3 hours yet. And then I looked at the shirt she was planning on wearing, casually tossed over the chair, NOT one of my favorites. My mouth was open with words on the tip of my tongue and.  .  . I bolted out of there like the hounds of hell were hot on my tail.

Why? Because the image that jumped into my mind was of a 16-year-old me, looking in a bathroom mirror, my makeup all over the bathroom counter, hair spray in hand, all decked out in my new tent dress that I made myself (and it looked store bought!) out of some great psychedelic material and. . . my mother walking in, looking at me, making that disdainful noise she always made when she looked at me and saying. . . “Are you honestly going out looking like THAT?”

My 16-year-old heart was crushed. I had just spent 2 – 3 hours trying to look good. I was never as pretty as that kid of mine is so I worked extra hard at it. And in eight words, the person who was supposed to love me no matter what shot me down and shot me down hard. She did it all the time. And I was just about to pass on the tradition.

My mother was about to come out of my mouth. Will this woman never leave me? She didn’t like me. I was and still am an embarrassment to her, the way she sees it. I will be working at getting her out of my head until the day they nail me into a box. But this is something that has to stop here and now. I have to be more aware. I have vowed not to repeat the pattern.

Admittedly, my kiddo is a bit stuck on herself. Why? Because in an effort to not do what was done to me, I have told her since Day 1 that she is beautiful, intelligent, hot, the best, that she can do whatever she sets out to do. Some have told me I created a monster. Maybe. She has problems that I didn’t create, but one thing she doesn’t have is a problem with her self-worth.

Apparently, though, I haven’t broken that chain entirely yet. I was about to say something derogatory to her about what she was going to wear. Did it matter? Probably not. The shirt she was wearing was not something I’d wear. Gee, I wonder why? She’s 16 and I’m 60. I thought it looked “trashy,” but it covered her. She’ll grow out of some of this. I didn’t wear the same stuff at 21 that I did at 16. I know this. But there I was, about to inflict the same kind of damage that I’ve been fighting against all my life.

The good news is that I stopped in time. This time. Will I stop in time next time? Oh, Lord, I hope so. No matter what problems the two of us have (and we have some whoppers), I never want her to look in the mirror and hate what she sees, to think she’s not pretty enough, not smart enough. . . simply not good enough. I know that feeling and wouldn’t inflict it on my worst enemy, let alone someone I love.

This is one of those experiences that has made me think. In itself, it’s not much of anything, really. But that “nothing” could have done some serious damage. She’s fragile. What almost 17-year-old girl isn’t?  So I will be on my guard for next time, because there will be a next time. That’s how serious this type of damage is. It’s like it never leaves you, but I am damned and determined not to pass it on.

Can Old Busted Hotness do it?  Film, as they say, at 11.