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.

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