My biggest regret about the state of my relationship with my mother is what it did to my relationship with my maternal grandmother. My grandmother was the nicest, sanest person in my family. She was cheerful, kind, and generous with her time, attention, and any money she and my grandfather had. She was the only babysitter I ever had growing up, and she would cook for me, help me sew clothes for my dolls, and let me help water the enormous number of flowers in her yard. When I went away to college, she wrote to me every week -- as she wrote to all her friend and family who lived far away -- and I wrote back occasionally too.
By the time I graduated from college, my mother's mental illness was already starting to be apparent to people who met her. She would say cruel things to people's faces -- not just to me and my dad, but to her brothers and parents who she loved too -- and you never really knew what mood to expect from her when the phone rang, but she was often yelling and angry. It was around that time that I started shaking every time the phone rang.
I was living far away, working full-time, and engaged to be married. During one phone call with my mother, she asked where we were holding the wedding, since my fiance and I lived about a thousand miles away from our parents, who also lived hundreds of miles away from each other. I told her we'd decided to get married in my hometown so that my dad -- the only parent of the four who we knew wouldn't be able to travel long-distance -- could attend. My mother was angry. It was a convenient location for her and everyone else in my family, but she said since I was doing it for my dad, I obviously didn't care about my grandparents, who also live in that same town. "I'm going to tell them the truth about you!" she said. I didn't know what she thought "the truth" about me was, but I knew it wouldn't be good. She told me that as soon as she hung up the phone she was going to call her parents and tell them all about me and how I don't love them at all.
When my mother hung up the phone, I called my grandparents. As soon as I could get through, my grandmother answered the phone sounding unusually tired and unlike herself. I told her I just wanted her to know that, no matter what my mother tells her about me, I loved her and Grandpa. She said okay and that they loved me too, but she still sounded tired. I'm not sure if she sounded that way because of things my mother had said, the fact that her only daughter was so clearly mentally ill, or just because she was getting old and tired.
I saw my grandma a couple more times after that, but she didn't come to my wedding. My mother said it was because she didn't want to embarrass me with how poorly she got around. My mother came to the wedding though, dressed in some old knit pants and a t-shirt and a wheelchair she didn't need. She wore no shoes, and based on the oiliness of her hair, I don't think she could have showered within the last two weeks. She was wild-eyed, and one of my bridesmaids mentioned that she appeared to be high.
One of my uncles escorted her there, and they left before the reception. By that time, my parents had divorced and my mother had moved back in with her parents, where her brothers came by a couple of times each day to do the laundry and cook their meals. That was how they lived until both my grandparents died and my mother had to find somewhere else to go.