I go back and forth. Sometimes I call this person 'mom' out of habit, and sometimes 'the woman who raised me' because she was not worthy of the title 'mom'...yet for the purpose of clarity, let's just do the 'mom' thing, 'k?
I grew up in a home where my mother set the tone. She was the boss, no question about that. For one thing, she was sober, and for another, she was the only adult who knew how to read. The prevailing atmosphere there was one of strange meaningless secrecy, grinding resentment, rage, unbelievable cancerous guilt and a complete acceptance of life as a miserable practical joke with disaster waiting just around the corner. That was home, and that was her. To a lesser degree my father too, but he was usually pickled and so his part in the equation wasn't as strong.
Truthfully? I don't want to. This my story. I don't want to drum up any sympathy for her. She wasn't worth it. When she was a child? Yes. But not by the time I got her.
Whenever I got up the nerve to approach an adult to make it stop, I got the same treatment...'What was your mother's childhood like?.... Oh! That poor woman! You should be more understanding. Anyway, you'll be 18 soon and you can move out!'
I mean, it's bad enough when things go wrong for someone with no power. When they feel like they have to turn the situation into a pissing contest with their abuser just to try and 'deserve' help... that's criminal. That's just fucking obscene.*
Anyway, that's crucial to the way I've had to learn to think about my mom. No matter what she had gone through, how bad she was, or why she was the way she was, I wasn't responsible for it. More importantly, no matter what her past had been like, this was the present, and these were the things SHE was choosing to do NOW.
Meanwhile, I was a wonderful little citizen. I gave nobody any trouble whatsoever. I was a good girl. Quiet, shy, timid, well-mannered.
Because I lived in constant, unrelenting terror.
She went though my trash-and kept things! Hidden in the pantry closet! I found them, and I mean a stash of stuff covering years, freaked out and burnt it all in the fireplace. This wasn't state secrets either...this was things I'd copied out of books or figure studies I'd torn up. Stupid kid jokes. Drafts of letters. Stuff like that. Her 'blackmail file', she called it.
And all during this time, while I was supposed to be some kind huge grammar school deviant, the woman knowingly allowed me to be sexually abused by my cousin. Over a period of YEARS, beginning when I was six. I mean, she busted this kid numerous times! She blamed it on me for being 'such a sexy little girl'. By the time I was eight? No longer a virgin.
The reason another cousins' 30 year old shitbag husband had grabbed my 13 year old breast? "Because you're wearing a bathing suit top, Miss Sexy-Suzie! What did you expect? Go change into some clothes and start acting like a lady!"
Now the worst thing this woman did was not any of the above.
No, it was the lying.
That last one was the worst.
This was an alcoholic family situation, and so everything that went on between the members was secret anyway. Nobody acknowledged it, nobody talked about it, nobody thought anything was wrong and nobody from the outside ever saw a thing.
On top of all this, the lying that I'm talking about was a thing that went on daily. She lied when the truth would have sounded better. About anything. She interrupted me while I was talking to people to tell them that every word I was saying was a lie. Not that I was passing nuclear secrets to the Chinese; either, I mean during the course of a casual conversation, out of the blue she'd pop up with 'Oh, ha ha, now, honey... don't go telling little stories now, ha ha..." all weird The person would look down at me with contempt, and she'd smile at me.
I might happen to ask her an offhand, innocent question about an event that had occurred in the past- no matter how trivial, now- and it was pretty much a crapshoot whether she'd remember it and continue on with the conversation, or turn on you like a dog snarling 'What in the hellarya talkin' about? You just make up the biggest stories-! EVERY WORD out of your mouth is nuttin' but a stinkin' lie!'
If any particular item of food could be fit into a pressure cooker or, better yet, boiled, then by God, that's what happened to it. You'd get the mess handed to you and then the screaming-literal screaming- would commence, about how it was a sin to waste food, and we never had nuttin and was glad to eat what was put in front of us, and we were lucky to get oatmeal, and nothing pleases you, and on and on and on. Yes, it was done on purpose. Not even the dog would eat the shit.
Did she shoplift? Oh my. This deserves a post of it's own. One of her favorite things to swipe was toilet paper. She was big on toilet paper out of public restrooms. I rode the #30 bus many times with a double-sized roll of asswipe from the ladies room at Meier and Franks under my coat. We had money- money wasn't even an issue. She just stole shit.
-My grandmothers' house. Held in trust for me.
She hoarded, and I've already written about that. Mostly paper things, like pamphlets and books. Also food. We had food from-literally!-1962.
When she 'received the Lord into her heart' in 1974 it meant that she could no longer be a screaming harpy 24 hours of the day because that didn't look good. What happened to her then was like a form of satanic Tourettes...she'd be going along, all nice, and then suddenly out of nowhere say or do something just outrageously evil...and while you were standing there with your mouth hanging open, just keep right on going like nothing happened.
Oh, it gets better, though. She had the gall to recount the entire (edited) version of this story years later to my cousin Emily, with herself in the starring role as 'tolerant modern Catholic woman.' Imagine my joy upon hearing that secondhand. And from Emily, no less!
Do I have anything good to say about my mom? I do, actually. I'm not going to say it here, because if one person in the comments mentions something like 'Oh, but you're SO lucky to at least have something positive to remember! ' I'll fucking lose my shit on them.
You see, when you survive something horrific, recalling those few moments when things didn't suck doesn't mean anything. It isn't even relevant. Its like saying 'Yeah, Ted Bundy was a killer and a necrophile and everything but the man did drive a very economical car!" There is no 'up' side to shit like that. The 'good things' don't make it better. You don't go' Damn, why didn't I think of that! That Bundy, boy, what a maniac... but he drove a Volkswagen! Wow! That sheds a WHOLE NEW LIGHT ON THINGS!"
I have a great life now. I've been through therapy, and it was successful beyond my wildest imaginings. Nothing in my life resembles my former world in any way, and I'm proud of that. Every now and then, though, this comes back, and reminds me that I have to say these things too.
Kind of a 'like me, like my dog' thing.
And lets not forget to give a big ol' heapin helpin o' thanks to Dr. Lendon Smith, of 'childhood asthma is most often merely an attempt to get attention' fame, for providing my mother with a doctor-endorsed "reason" to deny me medical care.
**Not an out of control teenager, not an icky adolescent. A little kid with health problems.
***I claimed that karma and I pay it back proudly. I was a helpless kid then, but now I can make a difference. When the chance comes to do that, I get involved.