Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I was always the "wild child" in the family, coming up through the hippie years. My mother didn't understand why I didn't, wouldn't, COULDN'T conform, she just knew she didn't like it . My behavior embarrassed her at the bridge table. Other women were bragging about all the accomplishments of their children & she had a flower child.

I was an only child for 8 years & then my parents had a baby every year for three years. The pressure was mostly off me & focused on the babies, I thought.  But more children just made mom crankier, bitchier & pickier.  She didn't have time to fool with my escapades & didn't want to anyway. I realized later my parents preferred the, "don't ask, don't tell" policy & I was too much of a bonehead to pick up on it. At the same time a pecking order developed: Sara was the favorite child, Robert was the baby boy & Lee was the smart one & I was the bad girl.
At any rate, this bad girl grew up, went to school, got married & had three children of her own.  My mother was a dandy roll model: don't do ANYTHING the way she did & I would be a wonderful mother & that is what I have done.
My mother mellowed for years and then somewhere in her 70's she & dad picked up the old  banner of crabby unhappiness & began to wave it with vigor. After a number of confrontations, the worst after their 50th anniversary party, a party that she demanded we have & pay for, we had a fight so ghastly that I quit talking to her. My dad pleaded & Barry getting tired of telling Joan/mom that I wasn't available to talk begged me to resolve  the problem and so I talked to her. At this point in a story this is where I would tell you that our differences were resolved, we both gained insight & became the best of friends. Well not in my story. Mom was unrepentant & I just didn't care much anymore.
We talked off & on but I rarely picked up when she called. Thank the goddess for caller ID! I would see that she was calling, not answer, compose my self & tighten my belt & then call her back. We really didn't have a lot to say beyond trivialities.
Ultimately, both my parents got ill & needed a lot of tending. They had sold their house & moved into a place in Sarasota that had independent living, assisted living & nursing home care. Because I was the oldest I flew back & forth for months helping them. They finally died, 8 weeks apart to the day, dad first then mom. Mom had gotten very frail, lost over 50 pounds but lost none of her mean-spirited disposition. The last things she did was call my sister Lee (who had long since fallen from grace, too) to the bedside & read her a long list of "bad" things that Lee had had done. This is how my mother chose to spend her last time with Lee. She did the same thing to Barry, my husband. The only reason I was excluded was because she need me to help take care of her. There was a lengthy list with my name on it , too.
My mother died while I was sitting with her watching M.A.S.H reruns & it was the happiest day of my life. I still marvel that the burden of "Joan" is gone. The phone rings & my heart doesn't flip or my stomach roil. I am sorry that I feel badly about my mother & do wish things could have been different but they were not & that is that. You do not get to pick your family & would have NEVER chosen someone so nasty as a friend.
I try to tell my sons every time we talk how much I love them & how proud  of them we are. We let bygones be bygones within our little group so that long-past wrongs are not brought up endlessly & critiqued. We are supportive, nurturing & loving & our boys seem to be doing fine. My parents have been dead nearly four years. They left us all some money & used part of mine to buy trophy diamonds, in part because I wanted them & in part because it would have annoyed my mom so much for me to fritter my money. It is my final, finger waving salute.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes, the only possible response to a person, related or not, is to "come to terms with them." Congratulations on having done just that with a woman who sounds as if she was extremely unhappy all her life, and incredibly difficult in response to her own pain. You've made the best possible response to "Joan" by bringing the love she could not show you into your own relationship with your children.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

As unhappy as she made your life, it sounds like her own was even unhappier (by her own doing). Sometimes parents are role models for us by being bad examples!


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