Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"I Need My Mother"

When I was in my early to mid-20s, sometime before my parents' divorce became final but after my mother had started calling me almost daily in unpredictable moods, my mother had a fight with her father.  My grandpa had a tendency toward rages and rudeness.  I never particularly liked him, but I wasn't allowed to say so.  Every time my mother complained about him during my childhood, if I dared to agree, she scolded, "That's my FATHER you're talking about!"

Anyway, at this point in our lives my mother had gone so far off the deep end that she criticized just about everyone to their faces.  It was one of the things that made my life at that point easier actually.  Instead of pitting relatives against each other, being sweet to some and treating others as scapegoats, she tore down everyone.  She kept no allies for herself.  I think the cocktail of prescription drugs she was on had something to do with her inability to effectively manipulate the way she once had when I was younger.  Now she just drove everyone away. 

When my mother lashed out at her father for something during this phase, he got mad back.  She was good at angering, and he was an easy man to anger.  Either as punishment or simply because he was tired of listen to her vitriol, my grandfather assigned a limit to how often my mother could call and visit his home, where her mother also lived.  Previously, my mother and grandmother had spent at least three days a week together for as long as I can remember: church on Sundays, a Walmart shopping trip followed by lunch on Wednesdays, and grocery shopping on Fridays.  (Even when I wasn't in school, I was not invited to anything but church.  It was "Mother-Daughter day," my mother would say, and I was persona non grata.)  My mother stopped by on other days and called her mother most days, possibly everyday, but those were the three days they spent together with scheduled regularity.  They were close to a point that might be considered pathological.

My mother called me in tears.  She said her father was limiting her contact with her own mother to two days per week.  TWO DAYS PER WEEK!  She hadn't had such little contact with her mother at any point in her life.  "He's trying to keep me from my mother!" she sobbed.  "She's MY MOTHER!  I NEED MY MOTHER!

I have a gallows humor that made me want to laugh at our mutually stupid situation.  My aging, emotionally unstable mother who hadn't been a comfort to me in several years and hadn't been reliable at any point in my childhood was calling me to comfort her through the trauma of only getting access to her own mother twice per week.  The darkest parts of me wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it.  But I didn't.  I wasn't quite that cold.  I couldn't conjure up the pity she wanted from me -- I didn't even try -- but I could imagine the kind of pain she might be feeling.  She's like a child in a lot of ways.  I had been a child like that once.  All I could think though was, You don't get two.  You already got one mother.  Just because she isn't enough doesn't mean you get me too.  I felt sad for both of us.

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