Thursday, February 10, 2005


I have so many issues with my mother, I don't even know how to start this post. it doesn't help that it never really felt like she was a parent, and she still has a childlike quality that makes people want to take care of everything for her. today that responsibility falls to my stepdad, but when I was a kid, it fell to me because I was the oldest. I was to keep an eye on the boys, to do the housework, to pretend not to notice when strange men ate breakfast with us (shhhhh - don't tell grandma!).

she was never really affectionate with us, no hugs or kisses or I love you's or hair ruffling. she has gotten better about that with my kids though, so I don't hold it against her. also she never hit us, which in those days said a lot.

my parents divorced when I was about six, from what I can remember. early childhood memories...yeah, don't have many of those. my dad moved back home, to Idaho, I think and we never saw him again. it must have been hard to raise three kids on your own when you couldn't even take care of yourself. I'd like to say that it wasn't all bad, but it probably was.

when she couldn't handle us anymore, we were sent to live with our grandparents for a while while she did who-knows-what. maybe she had a breakdown, maybe she just partied the whole time, I have no idea. it was never explained to us, because our family never talked about things. ever. someday I'd like to fill in those gaping holes from my childhood, but I doubt that anyone would want to tell me all the sordid details.

things were a lot different after we moved. we were living in the country on a farm when before we lived in an apartment in the city. and it was time for me to start school. I was suddenly expected to be a kid and I had no idea how to do it. they may as well have asked me to be a cat, I probably could have faked that better.

my grandmother was pure evil then. she has mellowed with time but I still despise her so much. she was hateful and cruel and malicious and demanding and judgemental. she took every opportunity to make a hurtful remark, to crush my spirits. once she had control of us, she never let go. my grandfather (step, actually) was kind but clueless and uninvolved. he worked a lot and ran a farm after work so he really just wasn't around. he was a good man, somehow married to the devil.

when my mother returned from her sabbatical, the four of us lived with them for a few months. when we did move out, it was only next door. they fed my mother's tendency to shun responsibility, gave her some land and a house and helped her get a car and paid her bills and bought our clothes and while all of that seems pretty generous, to me it seemed like just another way for the bitch to keep control of all of us.

mom worked as a preschool teacher, of all things, and worked in a daycare during the summer. when school was out we were pretty much left unattended, except when I was called over to slave for my grandmother. if I wasn't cleaning or doing chores for her, she wasn't at all concerned with what I was doing. she never bothered to check on us throughout the day or make sure that we were safe even though she charged herself with our upbringing.

my mother would go out a lot on the weekends, leaving us with various babysitters, or her youngest brother. strange men began showing up at the breakfast table again. they were all harmless and usually pretty friendly with us kids, and I personally couldn't get enough of their attention for the half hour before they left, never to be seen again. my desire to have a father was probably pretty obvious then. by the time she remarried, I was out of the house, married with my own kid.

for so many years, I tried to give my mother the benefit of the doubt. I thought that maybe she didn't know that her mother was evil, maybe she thought she was doing what was best for us. then I found out that she had been abused by her father when she was a girl. I think her parents were already divorced by then. after it was discovered, she was sent away to a Catholic school and her mother basically did nothing more to help her. I don't really know what to do with that. it explains so many things, but a lot of other questions are still unanswered. it gives me some insight into why things turned out the way they did, but it makes it harder to forgive her.

I still feel like I don't even know her, that she hasn't ever really been my mother. we live in the same town but I don't see her that often. I call her every other week or so, mostly out of obligation. there are so many things about me that she doesn't know, things that I will never tell her because she's not strong enough to handle them. she has her own image of my childhood, I think I'll let her keep it.


::: said...

What a beautiful post. That's some of the best writing I've seen out of anybody in a long time. Well done.

And, obviously, do lots more.

Michelle said...

thank you.

panthergirl said...

Wow. That was powerful. I'm sure you know from reading my blog that I've got "non-mother" issues too... The only thing we can really do is to be wonderful and loving moms to our children. I often wonder how I'm going to feel when my mother dies. Will it be totally bizarre to feel NOTHING?

Michelle said...

you're right, panthergirl, all we can do at this point in our lives is chalk it up to "lessons learned the hard way." even though they're probably sick of it, not one day goes by where I don't tell my kids that I love them and I hug them whenever they will let me (which isn't often with the teenagers!).