My mother Pat died a year ago today.
She never liked me. I’m not guessing or indulging in self pity here. She told me so many times.
I am my father’s daughter in every way. This was part of the reason she harbored such animosity towards me. I was not the child she wanted or expected. But I think her main issue was that I am as strong-willed as she was, and she could never break me, even after years of physical and emotional abuse.
She could never break me.
She made me play in the cellar all day until my father came home, beat me with belts, and then dressed me like a doll and put me on display.
Perfection was required in all things at all times. The repercussions for slip-ups or refusal to comply were cruelly out of proportion to the offense.
But even her rage was not enough to stop me from being me as I grew older.
Excellence was always expected. That high IQ and POTENTIAL you know. But neither of my parents wanted to help guide my way to an Ivy League future. They weren’t around, and I gave up because no matter how much I excelled it was never enough.
I became a young woman. My mother called me a slut, a whore, flirted with my boyfriends while she spent all her time carousing the local bars. When I got pregnant at 20, she threw me out.
As I raised my kids, she encouraged them to disrespect me and disobey me. She favored my daughter and didn’t have the time of day for my sons.
Divide and conquer, just like with me and my two younger brothers.
Even so, I forgave her. I felt bad for her. It had to be hard to live in her skin. I always try to put the shoe on the other foot. Not always such a great character trait if keeping your sanity and self-respect is a priority.
When she wanted to be, she was great. They found an ominous lump on my breast when I was 38, and my dumb-ass primary had me dead and buried. My mother lost her shit, and before you could say “crazy Irish bitch,” the head surgeon at the Sagoff Breast Center in Boston was taking care of me.
I’ll never forget it.
I was going through some stuff of hers recently, including a box where she kept her dearest keepsakes (my Grampy’s driver’s license and cigarette case, a love letter from my Dad(!!!) poetry and letters written by my uncles … and the paperwork from That Day.
I was taken aback at first. So weird, right? Who keeps shit like that? Dare I hope she saw That Day the same way I did and kept tangible proof of one of the few times she really came through as a mother for me? When we actually bonded? Sober? I really hope so. Because she really did. A few times she really did try. It’s important that I be fair.
In her later years though, she really ramped up the mean. She told me and my children we were not her family, only her sons and their girlfriends and their kids were. (Interestingly, they all disappeared after my dad and his wallet passed away.)
She made it hard for me to communicate with my father in the last year of his life, didn’t call me when he sickened (he had appointed me his health care proxy, so she was actually obligated to), and didn’t even pick up the phone WHEN HE DIED.
Then she called me a bitch at his wake. AT HARRY’S WAKE. IN THAT PAT VOICE.
I never saw her again.
In the last year of her life I tried to contact her a few times. I emailed her pictures of my grandson who she only met once as a baby, and even tried to call when I heard she was feeling crappy. No response.
Then she was gone.
I wish her soul peace, I truly do, and I will always mourn the shit-fest that was our relationship because there is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, I wanted and needed more in my life than a mother. A real mother. A mom. I feel the lack of such every day of my life.
So if you have that, or even if you had it and don’t anymore, cherish it, cherish the memories.
And, in spite of it all, I miss my mother. And I loved her.
She made me unbreakable.