I’ve been asked by more than one reader about my mother. Apparently she’s missing from my blogs lately and people are curious about my very complicated and volatile relationship with her. It’s like reading a book and there’s a protagonist and you’re just so curious about what really happened to them. I’m not sure if in my case if it’s more Patricia Cornwell or Stephen King. The truth is, I haven’t spoken to my mother since October. Now, before you judge me…..
The last time I saw my mother was at my aunt’s deathbed. I held my aunt’s hand and watched as she succumbed to the cancer that had been periodically visiting her body for the last fifteen years. She was ravaged by pain and regret and although we had a falling out, attributable mostly to my mother and my desire that my aunt stop enabling her prescription pill habit, we were able to communicate both our love and our sorrow before she passed. I comforted my mother in her sorrow and ignored her painful outbursts aimed at my aunt’s husband and myself. It was time to put aside petty things.
I thought the pain and the sorrow of losing her sister would be enough to make my mother realize what she was inflicting on her children and her grandchildren. She was not speaking to my sister. My sister had been angry and said angry words, and according to my parents they were unforgivable. They decided to never speak to my sister again, and in doing that had not spoken to their grandchildren either. I played mediator for a period of time, and had clung to a small vestige of hope that all of it could be resolved. I talked my sister into visiting the hospital with me while my aunt was still cognizant enough to know she was there. I watched from the doorway as my mother snarled at my sister and rolled her eyes and the disgust was palpable. My sister’s egregious act was by telling my mother and my father she was angry, she was hurt and they had caused it. For this, my mother could barely even look at her as she sat crying at my aunt’s bed side.
I was certain death would be the catalyst to bring us all together. After all, hadn’t my sister and I forgiven my parents so many things? There were instances of neglect that were so painful, and yet we saw past them. We had overlooked my mother’s drug addiction for years and had forgiven my father for enabling it. Surely, words spoken would not be the straw that broke my family’s back. Yet, even in the tragedy of death, they could not see beyond their own selfishness. First one, then two holidays past and they refused to see my sister or their grandchildren. I pleaded and ranted at my father, and still he held steadfast.
So, how is my mother? To be honest, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to her in three months and neither will I. It seems cold dead hearted to abandon my parent when she needs me the most, but I’ve extricated myself from the guilt I’ve carried all these years. I cannot have a relationship with her while she’s on drugs, be them prescription or not. It has been her decision to not speak to my sister and her grandchildren. Now, she’s locked up in her house, sleeping in a recliner when she’s not watching Law and Order and I can’t imagine a more miserable existence. I once believed loving her could make a difference, but it hasn’t nor will it ever.
I’d like to say at least I have my father, but I’m no longer speaking to him either. His choice has always been to allow my mother to erode our family. He has chosen not to see his grandchildren. He has chosen to disown my sister. There was a time when I understood his pain, but those are bygone days. The history speaks for itself and my parents have to live with the choices and decisions they made. It sounds harsh and simplistic, but it’s anything but. I’m a parent and I love my child more than my own life. I cannot imagine she could say something so egregious I would cut her out of my life. I cannot imagine saying to her that her pain and the words she may say in it, are unforgivable.
I’ve thought a lot about this. After all, I was grateful I had sat at my aunt’s bed side and said goodbye to her. I was grateful I heard her apology and I was able to give mine. It’s beyond sad to waste moments that could be spent loving and understanding each other. But I hug my sister, this woman who was once this baby I loomed over in her crib. I had loved her wholeheartedly. She was a prelude to the daughter I would one day call my own. She is a beautiful soul, yet in so much pain directly caused by my parents. They did not keep us safe and did not protect us. She wears the open wounds of someone who longed for comfort and never received it.
It is a miracle neither of us are drug addicts or in prison. Instead, we turned to each other and found the comfort in our family of two. Our family expanded with our children and we swore we would do things differently, and we have. Our children have never felt alone in the world. We had each other. I remember laying in bed at night, whispering to each other in the room we shared, trying to cheer her up with funny stories. She deserved better. I deserved better.
So since my father insisted I had to choose a side, I did. I thought of my sister crying in a hallway with my mother smacking her and my father standing feebly by. I had pulled my mother off her and demanded my mother to leave. She didn’t and my father didn’t make her. But in that moment, we became all that each other ever had. So if my parents can’t forgive my sister for the words she said, then they have chosen to be alone. We are surprisingly happy and well adjusted. Not having to watch my mother slur her words and lash out while high on drugs is a relief. Not having to wonder why my father didn’t and doesn’t do more to prevent it is no longer an issue. We have each other. Maybe that’s what got us through it all.
Death puts everything in front of you in perspective
The question of what you really want becomes prevalent
I sat with my Aunt while she passed
Holding her hand
So young with so much unfinished
But she found happiness
Her husband was kissing her cheek
His tears falling onto her pale skin
He loved her completely
She didn’t leave this world alone
She left with her heart full of love
With the knowledge of what she left behind
Of who she touched
She left knowing she had what others long for
Looking into the mirror
I asked myself
Who are you?
What do you want?
My answers were no surprise
Cancer has always been on the periphery of my family. My great grandmother died from it, my grandmother Tumor died from, yes, you guessed it, a tumor. My aunt had colon cancer at thirty five. It’s always been there lurking.
Now it has invaded my immediate family. My father recovered from surgery, the tumor was small and supposedly all gone. It has not invaded the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes. He’s home from the hospital and resuming life, albeit with the knowledge he had cancer. It was there and now it’s gone. Gone. Stay gone.
I would be remiss as a human being for not wondering when it’s my turn. When does the Russian roulette of junky genes call my number? My new attitude has been “if it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.” A mantra I’m repeating over and over as I lay in the dark blocking out whatever negative thoughts might try to creep in my conscience. It’s not happening to me right now, so it’s time to concentrate on my father, on my daughter, on this life I’m navigating.
I keep telling myself I’m different from my family. I have never smoked, and they all were heavy smokers for at least 20 years or longer. I’m a vegetarian. I attempt exercise. I meditate. I try to wash whatever bitterness I have on my skin off in the shower. But it’s still a roulette wheel isn’t it. If it’s my turn, then it is.
I’m not going to change the life I’m trying to carve out because of fear. Fear has never been a friend of mine. It’s led to rash decisions that have reverberated through my life. I won’t allow fear to dictate my future. Or cancer.
I am the captain of my own destiny. Or something profound like that.
Tomorrow is my dad’s surgery. We’ll find out whether or not his cancer has spread and whether he needs chemotherapy. As usual, I am blindly optimistic and steeled to deal with any bad news. It’s almost silly I will be sitting in a room for hours with my mother whom I am still not speaking to. It’s not enough to bring us together. Only one thing will and she knows it. But I’ll be there for my dad before he goes under and after. I’ll thank him for being the person who gave me the ability to sail through life relatively unscathed because I will undoubtedly find humor in everything.
Cancer is unfortunately a fact of life now, but it doesn’t have to be our entire lives. It’s just a small stitch in a quilt of so many good things.