3 Jan

My mother was bemoaning what a horrible year she has had.  In an effort to point out how we should all be thankful for what we do have, I mentioned an article I read about a Palestinian doctor whose three daughters were killed by mortars during an attack by the Israelis.  This, two months after his wife and mother both succumbed to acute leukemia.  In an effort to make sense of his losses, he is promoting peace in the Middle East and says it will be his life work to ensure his daughters’ death would be the last in a long-standing war.  There was silence and then my mother rolled her eyes.

It would be easy to look at my mother and label her a depressed person.  She has been to varying degrees as long as I can remember.  My aunt said my mother is not capable of handling emotional turmoil as most people can.  I scoffed at her diagnosis, which excused and allowed my mother’s bad behavior.  Perhaps it is our entire history, which makes me unable to find sympathy for her.  I look at the upheavals in my life, the pain I have endured, the disappointment and I look at my mother as simply ungrateful and spoiled.

For the first time in years, her prodigal daughter returned for Christmas.  Her husband stood by her this year despite her devastating their lives with her selfishness and refusal to quit a myriad of pills she consumes.  Her sister survived her third bout of cancer.  Her grandchildren are healthy and happy.  These things apparently are not enough to be thankful for.

My father is blind to her manipulations and nefarious plotting.  Early this year, my sister and I determined our mother no longer wanted to be employed and simply wanted to stay at home taking various pain pills and muscle relaxers.  We staged an intervention that quickly spun out of control.  There were wounds opened and salt copiously poured and all the while, she sat there seething with anger.  When we asked her why she did not want to see a psychiatrist, her reply was “Because I don’t want to.”

There, in a nutshell, was my mother.  Our entire lives she has been a depressive person.  There were uncontrollable rages and hours spent locked in bathrooms.  There was an incident once where I ordered her out of our house as she pummeled my sister who had been begging at her bedroom door.  My father has seen all of this, and still he sits beside her, mute to demanding or asking anything from her, and feeds into her desire to be completely taken care of.  She does not want help because the dynamic of their relationship would most certainly change.

Despite all of these incidents, she has never seen a counselor.  Because she has never wanted to.  Her behavior has served her well over the years.  As cruel as she can be to my father, he loves her unconditionally and takes care of her ever need.  He even turns a blind eye to her current addiction and swats away our feeble attempts to get her help.  When she is passed out on the couch, he simply tells himself she is tired.  When she was unbelievably cruel to us as children, he put the onus on us to get past it.  I said it before; she is my father’s favorite child.

She’s lied to him.  She’s been fired from job after job for behavior she could most certainly control.  She’s quit the other jobs because she has hated a manager or a co-worker and simply could not tolerate the environment any more.  She’s lost friends and family who no longer could tolerate her behavior.  She’s devastated my father financially this year with money spent on prescriptions, doctor’s visits and being fired from yet another job.  Yet, there he is this Christmas, waiting on her hand and foot and scurrying to fix what she has broken.

I watch all of this and I think of that Palestinian doctor.  There are worse things in life than watching this train wreck of a family.  He has no one to sit at the table with him, even if there is resentment and anger served along with the ham.  I look at my daughter, so smart and beautiful, the whole world to be explored.  I have not been the best mother, but I hope she looks at mine and thinks to herself, I am grateful for what I do have.

4 Responses to “THANKFUL”

  1. webeasy2101 January 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Some times you have to just accept the fact some people are defective and move on. I know it would have been nice to have a more caring, less self absorbed parent, but I suspect you wouldn’t be writing without your past.
    Your father has figured out how to live with her and he allows her to be selfish in order for him to survive. You need to accept her lack of ability to care and be happy you didn’t get the depressive gene and fail your own little girl. I wish I had the words to let you know that you can love a parent, but not like them and it is okay. Your piece was very painful for me, because you are fighting a battle with someone who is not capable of changing and after all these years you are still trying.
    Stand at your front door and bang your head on it, that is what you have here.

  2. Cold Dead Heart January 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Web – thanks so much for your insight and taking the time to respond. You’re right. I am banging my head against the wall hoping something will change and disappointed time and time again when it never does. You said something really profound, you can love your parent, but not like them and it is okay. I think I’ve wrapped myself in guilt for my feelings toward them and instead I should be letting it all go. I’m dealt the hand I have, and I’m very lucky I have such a great life. I use to think “maybe someday” with regard to my mother, but I think it’s time to let go of that thinking. Misery does not deserve company.

    Thank you again, your words helped more than I can say.

  3. Scotia Nightpoetry January 4, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    I read your blog with interest as I too have a wife with similar traits. She, however has been through that door marked “getting help” and it has made things significantly worse by adding additional diagnoses and prescriptions. There have, to date, been many suicide attempts by her – though some have clearly been manipulations. I too have children. The decisions I have made – or, more importantly, not made – have been based on what I have felt best for the family. I have taken, for instance, decisions to keep us together as, living apart, could have had worse outcomes. It is not always easy to live with these decisions as there is guilt and worry involved but, in the end, it is what it is.
    Not everyone will agree – and my children are at the age where they express strong feelings on decisions I have made on what was best for the family in years gone by.
    I try to be open to the children about the reasons for making the decisions and what I saw as the potential outcomes over the years but not every father will be as open.
    Good luck – Brian.

  4. Cold Dead Heart January 4, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Thank you for your heartfelt post exposing what is surely a raw wound for you. I hope you know how I understand how difficult it must all be for you and the sacrifices you are making. I repeated the pattern of my father, having been in a long time relationship with someone who was a male version of my mother. I tolerated a lot, endured even more, all believing if I left, his world would implode. I did it out of a sense of duty to my daughter too. The decision I made to get out of that relationship is not right for everyone. I know that it might not be for my father. But I left and rediscovered just exactly who I am. I could not save him, I cannot save my mother and I had to walk away to save myself and my daughter. It’s painful and difficult, but for me and my daughter, it’s the right decision.

    I am responsible for my daughter and raising her to be healthy and happy. I also have to be a good role model for her how to handle life’s adversities. I asked myself, would I want her to be in this relationship I am in? The answer was no. I would never want her to subject herself to what I did. I want her to believe you can seek happiness unselfishly by being true to yourself.

    It’s amazing how happy a person can really be and I believe we have both found it. I hope you and your family do too.

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