Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Time My Mother Went Crazy in the Hospital Waiting Room

When I was in my early 20s, my dad fell ill with a severe infection.  It landed him in the VA hospital for treatment and what turned out to be a series of surgeries, some a 4-hour drive from my parents' home on account of his needing specialized care.  I lived halfway across the country, but we were in regular contact by phone and email by this time.  My mother seemed pretty crazy by this time. 

The night before one of his surgeries across the state, my mother called me in a panic.  She demanded I make her same-day flight arrangements so that she could be by her husband's side for the surgery.  "He's my husband!  I need to be with him!" she cried.  Without hanging up the phone, I warned my dad by email, as we always warned each other back then.  Even on her best day, he didn't want her there. 

I looked at flights online and explained that there were no direct flights -- not that night, not ever -- from their hometown to the hospital.  It was only a 4-hour drive.  Getting to the airport and through security would take 2 hours on its own.  She grew more upset.  What were the flight options? she wanted to know.  The best one involved flying a few states away and back again.  It would take a total of 8 hours and cost over $1k on account of the short notice.  When I refused to buy her a ticket on my credit card, she lost her temper and said she'd just figure it out herself.

I don't know why she didn't just drive her car, but my mother ended up taking a Greyhound bus across the state, followed by a taxi to the hospital.  When she arrived, visiting hours were long past, so she screamed at the nurses.  My dad said he could hear her down the hall when she arrived.  When she got to his room, she told him she needed money for a hotel.  She said she hadn't brought any with her.  I don't know where all her credit cards were, but my dad told her he'd left his wallet and cash at home on account of being in the hospital.  She went to the waiting room to move furniture loudly in an effort to create a makeshift bed.  Security eventually escorted her out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mother Goes Off the Deep End

When I was 21, my uncle died in a car accident.  He was one of my mother's younger brothers, and she told me later that he was an alcoholic.  In hindsight, I don't know if this was actually true or just something she told me.  He might have become an alcoholic later in life, or it's also possible she was referring to the fact that he wasn't a teetotaler.  If he was an alcoholic before I left for college, he hid it well.

He'd been out for drinks with his son and drove home drunk.  My cousin was driving behind him to make sure he got home safe, so he was there when my uncle crashed his car and died.  My mother was understandably distraught.  She immediately got herself a prescription for antidepressants.

I tried to tell her that I didn't think the antidepressants were a good idea in this instance.  She was grieving, not depressed, and I was afraid they would make her anxiety attacks skyrocket to new heights.  She'd already dropped out of college due to her anxiety at this point, and she reported that she woke up in a heart-thumping panic most nights for no apparent reason.  My mother took the antidepressants anyway.  I don't know what else she was taking at the time.

If I were to make a timeline of my life, there would be a mark at age 21 that says "Mother Goes Off the Deep End."  She'd exhibited mood swings and money problems and spending sprees and binges and reckless driving for as long as I'd known her, but they were normal day-to-day occurrences for her, intermingled with quiet time.  Now they lasted for weeks without a break.  She seemed to function in fast-forward.  She seemed high to the point of being almost psychotic.  She didn't hear me when I talked, and it seemed like she was intent upon hurting everyone she knew.  This was around the time I started feeling upset and afraid every time I heard from her. 

Occasionally she seemed deeply depressed for the first time since I'd known her.  Her voice was much deeper and quieter on the phone.  She didn't cry or scream.  It was like she had no emotions at all.  She still didn't seem to hear me when I spoke, but she didn't threaten me either, so that was good.  Most of the time, I could guess she was depressed by the fact that she wasn't calling me at odd hours or leaving me shrieking voice mails demanding money and calling me a bitch.  We could go months without talking when she was depressed.  No warning calls from my dad to say that she was gunning for me, or for him either.  Depression was good.  Depression was safe.  I felt bad she had to endure it, but if it had to be one or the other, depression was better for the rest of us.  There was no "normal" anymore.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mother's Day Card 2015

I suppose it's true that practically everything I am is at least a byproduct of her and her words and actions.  While I think this card would infuriate her, I mean it as a compliment.  I think it's one of the best qualities I have.






Saturday, April 25, 2015

How My Mother Bought Me a Car

When my brother was a teenager, my mother promised to buy him a new car if he made straight A's in the years leading up to his 16th birthday, rather than the failing and barely passing grades he had previously earned.  I was very young and assumed the same deal would be extended to me, the straight A overachieving child, and argued "not fair" at the claim many years later that it was not.  "Elephants and children never forget," she muttered, and my parents were buying me a car.

She wanted to get the cheapest new car possible.  I was concerned when she told me that the car she wanted to buy would crumple like a tin can and kill anyone inside if I got into an accident.  I suggested getting a nice used car like my friends had instead since they are dramatically cheaper than new and we could get something better quality, but she said she didn't want to have to worry about me being stranded in a broken down car at night (spoiler alert: it broke down a lot). 

When my social security checks started arriving in the mail in my name instead of hers, my mother decided I should pay for the car myself.  The new, poor quality car she wanted to buy cost double the amount of my checks, so I again claimed "not fair." She told me to lease the car so that my checks would just barely cover it, to which I again said "not fair."  She refused to add me to the car insurance plan she and my dad had, arguing that I would make their premiums skyrocket.  Their premiums were already high based on the number of tickets she got and accidents she caused.  She spent my high school career so close to losing her license that she went to court every time she got a speeding ticket.

She eventually caved to my complaints and they paid for my car.  I would pay for the insurance and gas and maintenance, and it would remain in her name.  "You can't have a car in your name at 16 anyway," she said.  "You're still a child."  When I asked again at 18, she said no, that putting the car in my name would put me in the pool to be called for jury duty.  Jury duty starts at age 21 there, but I didn't argue.  

When I left for college in a big city far away, I left the car behind.  My mother was angry at my refusal to continue paying for my insurance plan in my absence.  I would no longer be receiving my social security checks since my mother said she needed them to pay for my tuition, so the only money I had to get me through the school year was what I had saved up working that last summer at home.  I told her to add the car to her insurance plan.  The car needs to be covered, not me, I explained.  She calmed down.  I don't think she understood how car insurance works.

A few years later she rolled the car into a ditch, as depicted in The Car.  She had taken Ambien before driving and fallen asleep at the wheel.  She said the car was totaled but demanded I pay to have it fixed.  I hadn't lived in the same state or driven the car in years, but she insisted it was still my car and thus my responsibility.

I reminded her that the car was never in my name.  She had forgotten.

How My Mother Spent My College Fund: Part 2

When I turned sixteen, my social security checks started coming in the mail addressed to me instead of in care of my mother.  My mother was very angry when that happened.  She took care of me anyway, she said, so why did I need money?  Now she wouldn't get checks addressed to her name at all.  The checks made out to my dad still went into their joint account for her full use, but it wasn't the same.

My parents continued to let me live in their house rent free and eat their groceries and use their utilities, but I took over paying for my own makeup, entertainment, gas for my car, car insurance, just-for-emergencies cell phone and plan, and clothes, which I bought at second hand stores.  I'd always been more of a saver than a spender, so I socked away everything I had leftover into a bank account my mother had opened with me when I turned sixteen.  Birthday money and savings from summer jobs went in there too.  It would be my new college fund -- the one I saved up all by myself.

The summer before my senior year of college, my mother took me on a trip to visit the colleges I was considering attending.  It was a multi-city tour that spanned 1500 miles.  We went sightseeing, ate expensive food, and even saw Broadway shows.  By the time we got home, I'd picked my first-choice school.  It was expensive, but my mother was adamant that price wasn't a factor -- I'd been a straight A student and I deserved to go wherever I wanted to go. 

When I next checked the balance of my bank account, it was almost empty.  I'd saved thousands of dollars since opening it, but now it held about $50.  I went to my mother in a panic.  She explained that she had needed the money to pay for that extravagant college visit.  "I spent it all on you," she said, so I had nothing to complain about.  She hadn't taken my money.  I'd just spent it all without realizing it.  "I'm going to be paying for all your college anyway," she said.  "You wouldn't have been able to pay for it yourself."  The meager amount I'd saved up shouldn't matter.

How My Mother Spent My College Fund: Part 1

When I was little, I remember my mother telling me I had a savings account.  She said my dad put $1k in it towards college each year, which would yield a good amount for a college fund back in that day.  I must've been about five at the time because she said there was currently $5k in it, and that my brother, Dante, had a comparable savings account too. 

I remember asking about my savings account when I was a little older, and my mother said it had $5k in it.  I wondered why my dad had stopped putting money in the account, but I didn't question it.  I didn't want either of my parents to yell at me.

I knew Dante's savings account had paid for three things:  a new bedroom set when his bed broke, sessions with a child psychologist, and a very old Mustang that our mother had bought and presented to him as a gift. 

I don't know where my savings account went.  When I started getting my college financing lined up at age 18, I asked my mother about it and she said the money was gone.  Later, when I was grown and started talking with my dad on the phone, I asked him what year he had stopped putting money into the account.  He said he hadn't. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Letter from My Anonymous Sperm Donor Father

About a week after my half-siblings Hans and Simone contacted me online and "friended" me on Facebook, I received the long anticipated letter from my biological father.  Our father. 

He said he'd never expected me to be able to find him.  He said I'd had 20 years to get used to the idea of who he might be but that he had literally never thought of the offspring he'd created from his "donations." 

He said his wife was very upset that I had found them.  He said she is staunchly Catholic and had only agreed to let him donate sperm all those years ago under the condition that no one would ever know.

He forbade me ever to say his name on social media.  He forbade me ever to mention his children on social media.  He forbade me to contact Hans or Simone unless they contacted me first. 

He told me to be grateful for the parents who raised me because they made me who I am. 

He told me his favorite book, how tall he claims to be, and that he has no hobbies to speak of.  He answered all my questions.  Then he said breast cancer runs in the family, as does colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.  My grandfather died young after quadruple bypass surgery.  My grandmother had colon cancer when she died, but he says it was the diabetes that killed her.  She was already senile at the time, Hans told me later.  Barely 70.

He told me never to contact him again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Clothes My Mother Bought Me When I Was Eight Don't Fit Yet

When my mother bought me clothes, they were over-sized.  When I was a child, she said it was so I could grow into them.  When I was an adolescent, she said the bagginess was slimming.  "I'm not saying you're fat," she sometimes said when I bought my own clothes, "But those clothes make you look fat."  A few times when I came home from high school she showed me baggy, knee-length sweatshirts she had bought for me, enthusiastically explaining how, when she lost just a little more weight, she'd be able to wear them too.  She outweighed me by approximately 100 lbs at the time.

The last time I stayed in my parents' home, I went through some of my old clothes.  I tried on a set of velour sweats I remember my mother buying me when I was eight.  I had been a plump-but-not-technically-overweight child.  I was a healthy-but-not-particularly-skinny adult woman.  I could still pull the waistband of the pants up past my breasts, just as I could when I was eight.  Worn properly, the crotch of the pants hung at my knees, just as it had when I'd worn them to elementary school.  I would never grow into those velour sweats -- or the almost identical set she'd bought in another color -- and that felt encouraging. 

One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she said it was a good thing I'd had so many clothes I didn't wear or else she'd be naked.  She gesticulated towards the shirt and pants she was wearing.  They looked similar to the clothes my mother used to buy for me in both size and style, but they weren't familiar.  They hadn't been mine.  I presume my mother bought them for her and said they'd been mine, for whatever reason.  Or quite possibly she'd bought them, loaded them into my childhood bedroom with many of the shopping bags and unopened HSN boxes she'd filled the room with since I'd left, and given them to my grandmother when she ran across them later, genuinely assuming they'd been mine.  She sometimes confused the things I'd owned and left behind with the things she'd bought and forgotten. 

The last time I wore something she bought me, it was a cheap, black, acrylic sweater she'd bought in every color available -- about nine in total -- when I was in high school.  I liked it because it could survive the dryer.  It was good grocery-shopping, errand-running attire, or so I liked to think.  It also worked years later as extreme maternity wear, flowing comfortably until the day I gave birth, after which point I forced myself to give it up.  I had a nightmare that it was so threadbare it was see-through, but I hadn't noticed until I wore it for a photograph.  I was afraid that might happen in real life.  I didn't want to be a person who could wear threadbare, see-through clothes without even realizing it. 

I took my last knee-length sweatshirt she'd bought me -- a men's XL from my college bookstore -- and let my husband keep it.  He likes it, and it's only a little too big on him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Time My Mother Put Me On Antidepressants

When I was in high school, my mother already had a knack for finding doctors who would prescribe whatever she asked for.  I remember her taking me to an ENT and asking for a specific dosage of Augmentin, and he just wrote the prescription.  I don't remember what was wrong with me, but growing up in a hoard house where the basement had standing water and there was visible mold on the walls, I had a lot of upper respiratory infections, sinusitis, and related ailments.  When I tested positive for a mold allergy, the doctor told me the best thing I could do was avoid having bouquets of flowers in my room.  I spent most of my childhood, as I remember it, on antibiotics.  My mother told me they would bolster my immune system.

I hadn't had a regular doctor since elementary school, when my male pediatrician had insisted on giving me my first breast exam and, subsequently, nightmares.  I'd never liked that doctor, but that was around the time I refused to see him again.  When my mother found out a woman from our church was a hematologist and oncologist, despite my lack of any blood diseases or cancer, she decided to make her my general practitioner.  My first PAP smear was done by that hematologist, though I don't know why.  She was not good at it. 

I remember one day my mother called the hematologist's office while I sat on the couch beside her, and she announced into the phone that her daughter was being "a moody teenager" and needed to be put on antidepressants.  I'd still never been allowed to speak to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist of any kind at that point since, as my mother said, "our family doesn't believe in therapy."  I also made straight A's in school and was absolutely terrified of getting into trouble, so my parents stood to gain very little beyond my own happiness by letting me speak to a professional.  I didn't get to speak to the hematologist either, but she called in a prescription for an antidepressant to our local pharmacy at my mother's behest.

I took the pills my mother gave me.  I thought they might help me get through my final years living in that house, which had been hard.  My mother had been self-medicating with prescription drugs for about three years at that point, some combination of pain killers and muscle relaxants and sleeping pills, though I don't know how consistently she took them back then.  Her behavior was more erratic and confusing than before, but she didn't seem high all the time.

I don't remember what the antidepressant was called, but the pills made me feel self-conscious and anxious in a way I thought I'd long outgrown.  I had been a shy and nervous child, but as I got into high school I'd learned to lock down my fears, put on a smiling mask, and act my way through situations that would have crippled my younger self with social anxiety.  The pills unraveled all that. 

I remember in kindergarten my mother bought me an ugly red sweatsuit with clowns on it and insisted I wear it to school.  It looked like pajamas to me -- ugly pajamas at that -- and I desperately didn't want to wear it, but she insisted.  I sobbed and begged, she called me ungrateful, and I spent the entire day I wore it sure that everyone was staring at me, judging me for wearing pajamas to school.  The antidepressants made me feel like that everyday.  My nerves felt raw.  Fortunately, I recognized it must be the pills doing it.

I don't remember how long I took the antidepressants, but I would guess just a few weeks.  They broke me down pretty quickly, and I remember approaching my mother in tears, telling her honestly but melodramatically that I couldn't go on that way -- that I had to stop taking the antidepressants or double the dosage, but I felt terrible all the time and something had to change.  My mother said I wasn't acting any better yet and therefore couldn't stop taking them.  She looked me in the eye and told me to double the dosage, which struck me as odd because -- even though I'd proposed it -- I knew it was dangerous and a bad idea.  Was she calling my bluff?  Had I been bluffing?  Was she serious?  She didn't call the doctor.  I never saw that doctor -- or any doctor -- about the antidepressants, so I took matters into my own hands and just stopped taking the pills.  I know now that you're supposed to taper them off under a doctor's watchful eye, but I didn't have that, and I quickly went back to normal, mildly depressed but high functioning, feeling better than I had in weeks.

Much later, as an adult, I tried to look up those pills online to see why I'd had that reaction to them.  I'd become scared of ever taking antidepressants again, and I thought maybe if I knew what they were I could be sure to avoid them in future without writing off all antidepressants forever.  I tried to request my file from the hematologist's office, but she had retired years ago, her private practice no longer existed in any form, and no one knew what had become of her records.  I remembered the prescription was a generic, and I know it was the '90s.  I also know it had to be something commonly prescribed in order for a hematologist to feel comfortable doling them out.  I'm guessing it was an SSRI like Prozac or Paxil since these were the most common kind of antidepressants on the market at the time.  What I did learn from the internet is that my reaction -- anxiety, essentially -- is a common symptom of SSRI overdose.  I also learned that the starting dosage for these drugs in the '90s was often too much for a lot of patients -- meaning a lot of people had the same problem that I did -- and starting dosages are generally lower now.  Cue "The More You Know" music.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mother Goes to College

Both my parents came from working class families filled with mostly skilled laborers and artists, where going to college was unusual.  I had always planned to go to college for as long as I can remember, originally planning to attend an Ivy League school and become a doctor, and my parents had been supportive of my ambitions.  One of my cousins started taking a sign language interpretation course so that she could hopefully pay rent while looking for work as an actress.  As I got closer to graduating high school, my mother tried to convince me to do the same.  I could continue living at home and attend a local community college to become a sign language interpreter too and then, she said, I could finance my own four-year degree after that.  This had never been my plan -- neither the extra two years of school nor staying in the same state as my parents -- and I refused. 

When I solidified my college plans and got ready to move out, my mother decided she would go to college too.  She would attend the local community college and become a sign language interpreter.  I thought this was a fantastic idea.  While my older brother, Dante, was still living at home when he hadn't recently been kicked out again by one of our parents, he was no longer treated like a child and my mother seemed to be going through empty nest anxiety.  Second, she had a history of taking jobs for which she was both overqualified and ill suited -- fast food service, warehouse temp work, the paper route -- often followed by getting injured in some way or doing something else that would abruptly end the job.  Finally she was aspiring to a job that required her to become more qualified and might hold her interest too.

My mother was very nervous about the community college entrance exam.  She was a perfectionist.  She told me that, in high school, she had taken remedial classes whenever possible so that she could be the best in the class.  The community college entrance exam covered two years worth of math she hadn't taken.  In preparation for the exam, she bought some geometry and trigonometry flashcards, and I taught the subjects to her.  It was unexpectedly easy.  She understood most concepts without my having to explain them twice.  She was obviously smart -- even at math, which I consider hard -- but she demurred and gave all the credit to my teaching.  She'd never believed she was smart and certainly never expected to go to college.  I understand the second part -- neither of her parents finished high school, they were poor, and she was a girl in the '60s -- but I don't know why they didn't tell her she was smart.  She always told me I was smart, and it is the one thing I never doubt about myself.

She had to write an entrance essay too.  It was riddled with unnecessary commas and all the same cliches she used when she spoke.  In fact, it sounded exactly like how she talked.  If she'd been writing as a character, it would have been fantastic.  Her style required a bit of tweaking and editing for an academic setting, but she was a good writer.  She didn't believe me.

She was afraid the other students would make fun of her.  She was an old, fat lady, she said.  She was self-conscious about her appearance, her eyebrows.  I reassured her and taught her to apply makeup.  First she seemed happy and calmer; when it came time to visit the school, she said it looked ridiculous.

Finally the summer ended and we both started classes.  She made two new friends, one my age and one a little older than Dante.  I was homesick, halfway across the country from anyone I knew, so I called home a lot.  My mother got angrier.  "I let you go to that school because I thought it would make you happy!"  "All you ever do is talk about yourself!"  Aside from the homesickness, I was actually happier.  School was hard, and I had to make all new friends, but having access to healthy food whenever I wanted it, walking outside without anyone stopping me, and living in a clean space with friendly people had a positive effect on me.  Colors looked brighter.  It was literally like a grey veil was lifting.  I was just experiencing new stressors and missed my mother.

She upset one of her new friends by saying her 4-year-old daughter was so fat she looked nine months pregnant.  She didn't understand why her friend was upset.  "It's true!" she insisted.  This was her standard defense when someone became upset at her insults.  Her other friend got married and adopted a toddler.  She told me about each of her friends' marital and sexual problems.  She recounted the stupid decisions they made and how each of them was better and kinder to her than me.  I don't know if her insults were becoming less subtle or if I was becoming more attuned to them. 

Near the end of her two-year degree program, my mother's anxiety attacks reached an apex.  With less than a semester left, she dropped out of her classes.  I couldn't convince her to stick it out.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chosen & Wanted

I grew up the younger of two non-biological siblings.  My older brother, Dante*, was adopted at birth.  This was near the end of what is sometimes called the "Baby Scoop Era," just before Roe v. Wade.  My mother said she got a call from the adoption agency (or whoever did these things -- I honestly do not know) asking if she "wanted a peanut," "peanut" being a slang term for a premature baby, she said.  He had just been born, unexpectedly early, and my mother had already lost out on twin girls she'd planned to adopt when their mother had changed her mind and decided to keep them.  She still talked about those twin girls sometimes, despite never having met them.  She had planned to dress them alike and call them Missy and Chrissy.  She recycled one of those names for me when I was born.

My mother said Dante's birth mother was fifteen years old.  She said she'd been impregnated by an older man while she was babysitting his children.  I don't know if any of this is true; it's just what my mother told us.  Dante -- my mother said she named him after a soap opera character she liked -- remained in an incubator for somewhere between two weeks and two months until he was strong enough to go home.  My parents had been married for three years when they finally adopted him, and my dad had two years left to live, according to the projected post-accident life span his doctors had predicted.  I wonder if the adoption people knew that.

I'm a little fuzzy on my mother's attempts to become pregnant.  She indicated that she'd tried to get pregnant before adopting, but it hadn't worked.  With my dad being paralyzed from the chest down, I know they'd exclusively tried via artificial insemination.  I don't know if they tried conceiving with his sperm though, or exclusively used donor sperm. 

My mother told me she'd always wanted to experience being pregnant.  She said she'd seen her own mother go through the better part of ten pregnancies in eleven years -- six of which had resulted in live births -- and she'd wanted to experience it herself ever since.  When my brother was five years old, my mother says her reproductive endocrinologist called her to entice her into trying one last time to get pregnant.  The technologies had changed and improved, he'd told her.  She went for an appointment and discovered that one of her Fallopian tubes "trailed off into nothing," as she described it.  They reattached it with minor surgery, and the very next time she was inseminated with anonymous donor sperm -- my father's sperm, Joseph Von Trapp's* sperm -- it worked.  She was finally pregnant.

I don't know if my dad ever wanted children.  My mother said he hadn't started hating Dante until he learned to talk.  She said he hadn't wanted me at all and had told her he hoped she miscarried -- and threatened to hit her until she did.  I don't know if this is true; it's just what my mother told me.  It sounds like the kind of lie she might tell, but it also sounds like something he might say.  He became my defender after I was born, but it almost exclusively made home situations worse.  When I got upset or Dante did something to hurt me, Dad screamed at Dante and my mother.  Sometimes he threw things.  He defended me so much in this fashion that, when she found out Dante had done something to hurt me, my mother would scold and threaten me in advance to make sure I wouldn't say anything that might prompt my dad to start screaming or lashing out.  He also screamed, "Why is that bitch crying again?" when he could hear me crying alone in my room.  He seemed to like me more than he liked anyone else, but he didn't seem to like anyone all that much.  Ours was a complicated family dynamic.

* These aren't their real names.

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Mother the Virgin

[Warning: I do mention sex in this post.  But as the title might indicate, it's rather limited.]

I want to write about how my parents created their family through adoption and donor conception, but I think I need to explain this part first.  I've mentioned how my dad became paralyzed from the chest down.  He could never walk again, but that was far from being the only side effect.  He had no control over his muscles below his chest.  He couldn't sit up without something to lean against.  He had violent muscle spasms.  He urinated through a catheter into a bag he wore tied to his leg under his pants, and he set aside an evening each week for "bowel training," when he sat on his toilet for hours, screaming curses and attempting to defecate.  He also experienced "counter attacks" -- a clever phrase I imagine came from the VA hospital -- when he catastrophically shat himself without warning, often when we were out for dinner. 

He also couldn't have sex.  He'd been this way since he was 21.  I didn't know that until my mother told me I was conceived via artificial insemination.  Until then, I'd assumed I just didn't understand what my dad physiologically could and could not do. 

I've mentioned that a major facet of my mother's identity seemed to be wrapped up in the fact that she was a virgin.  She told me she had been saving herself for marriage because she knew if she got pregnant out of wedlock (like much of her family) it would "kill" her mother.  I don't know if my grandmother ever told her anything of this nature, or if she intuited it or simply made it up.  My mother has always had a rather uncomfortable relationship with the topic of sex, to put it mildly, so I can imagine one of the things that appealed to her about my dad might have been her ability to get married and have children -- as she'd always planned to do, either because she really wanted to or simply because it was expected -- without being expected to have sex. 

My mother used to reminisce about her wedding night -- how she and my dad laid on their bed in their new apartment, fully clothed, eating takeout barbecue and watching the traffic out the window.  She told it like it was her fondest memory of marriage.  She really liked watching traffic go by.  When I was a teenager she added a new part to the story:  he had approached her with his flaccid penis in some attempt at intercourse, she had said something along the lines of, "Ew, gross," and he'd never tried to touch her that way again.  It's not the sort of story a mother ought to tell her daughter, but I can't help but feel sorry for both of them.  More rational or hope-filled people might have annulled their marriage after that, but my parents stuck it out for 35 years.  Their misery compounded.