Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Family is Just a Word

I spent my life wondering why my mother hates me so much, although she tried to explain it to me once, in a rare moment of conscience.  My father had affairs or an affair, while she was pregnant with me, she said.  She never "bonded" with me, she said.  I was 33, my youth long over by the time she finally admitted to me what I had suspected my entire life.   What I had begun to suspect was confirmed, so I wasn't surprised.  I thought she was repenting, but she was only easing her conscience.

I would get sober four years later and begin the process of forgiving, of trying to be a good daughter and make amends for the horror that I put my parents through, wrongly believing  I was justified.  I practiced learning to forgive her for making me endure her obvious disgust when I was trapped with her as a child, Even many alcoholics can't fathom a mother whose child makes her bristle just by breathing.  It's unimaginable, but it happened to me.

Although my mother was beautiful in her youth.  I mean, drop dead gorgeous, she could never see it. Her father was a strict and brutal disciplinarian, according to my mother.  Her mother died when she was 22. After I got sober, I tried to think of these things, practice forgiveness, let go of the resentments that I had so enjoyed to miserably wallow.

We had a screaming blow-out a year ago last Christmas and I finally told my father that I knew she still hated me.  A few days later, I went over to make amends, expecting pride, but surprised by an amends of her own.  She said she knew why I was angry.  I didn't even let her finish.  I didn't want her to have to say it. It was the best day of my life.  All I wanted was for my mother to love me, to approve of me.   I could not fathom a mother hating her child. Even when my brother confessed in shocked horror that a few years prior she confided to him that she hated me and didn't feel guilty, I told him I already knew and all was forgiven. I announced what I thought was a healing from the podium on my 20th anniversary.

I thought all the anger had been washed away, like sin was when John baptized Jesus.  Like Genesis, we were starting new, but alas, it was not to be.  I found out that a stream of resentment flows relentlessly under the surface of our relationship.  I had developed an agile acrobatic ability to deflect bombs disguised as passive aggressiveness. But just like any circus performer, I have off days.  Valentines Day, 2015 was an off day.

It's been a rough year already this year.  In January, two of my oldest cats, Scratchie, 18, and Mac, 15, were put to sleep. I had guilt over whether they were ready or not. 

I know I'm making excuses.  I am unashamed.  I am in constant back pain for which I'm seeking treatment and because of which, I'm just frickin miserable sometimes.  Still, and this is not to make myself seem wonderful, as you will find out soon, I am not, I visited my parents regularly.  They are old. They haven't anyone to depend on.

My brother is a 50 year-old addict who lives in a trailer park, his bills paid by their social security checks and other unmentionable activities.  They live off the kindness of Catholic Charities after spending every dime and maxed out their credit, in a vain attempt to save my brother from himself. My father, the funniest man I ever knew, generous with his time and money and unbelievably selfish, who mercilessly berated his son in his youth, tries to buy forgiveness with whatever they have left to afford.  My mother, who hates herself in a Catholic way, hangs herself in holy martyrdom on my father's cross.

My sister, the smartest of us all, moved too far away to help my aging parents, and to get away from our prying eyes and unsolicited opinions.  In rare moments when the truth rushes like steam from a boiling pot, she slams the lid on it and takes medication to turn the heat down, but the pot continues to simmer.

Though I always thought my aunt was the crazy one, but my mother's untreated neuroses has evolved to the point when even relatives who live in the same town may as well be living on Mars.

So, I took on the role of semi-caretaker visiting them several times a month, sometimes every week for months, bringing them gifts of food, computers, other things, until Valentine's Day 2015.

A day of two before, Dad asked me, as he constantly did, when I was going to come over.  We made a day of Valentine's Day.  I didn't make a time and didn't make it over there until 4:00, but tired after a week at work, my back hurting, I dragged myself over.  The place was a mess.  They weren't dressed when I got arrived. I was immediately uncomfortable, but I sat down at the kitchen table. I had offered to take them mattress shopping when I spoke to my Dad on the phone, but my Dad said he couldn't go in my car.  He had to have the wheelchair.

It all started with me trying to back out of going with them mattress shopping.  I asked who would be driving.  Dad said Mom would.  I made a joke, something like, "no way", or "Well, then, I really don't want to go." But in reality, I didn't want to be trapped and they're both horrible drivers.  Dad began telling a story of Mom having an episode while driving. I should have heard the ticking when Mom started getting defensive, but as I said, I was off my game that day.

I deflected the first bomb by ignoring Mom when she said, "I feel like boxing Carol's ears right now."  When she starts talking ABOUT people while they are right there in the room, there is usually only seconds until detonation. Everyone in the room should evacuate. I began to feel even more uncomfortable.  They seemed tired as if they just wanted to sleep and I began to wonder what I was doing there.

Mom asked me if I was hungry. As a matter of fact, I was, but I said, only a little.  She said she would make me something to drink. That was an odd thing to say, knowing that I'm a recovering alcoholic, but I didn't question it. I knew she didn't mean an alcoholic beverage, but she did mean something.

So, I sat at the table, talking to my Dad, when by chance, I turned my head and saw her pouring olive oil into a glass of tomato juice. I told her I didn't want any of that. She got angry.  "I knew you were going to say that . Why did you have to turn your head around?"  She wanted to make a concoction of olive oil, lemon juice and tomato juice, she said.  I reiterated that I didn't want any, thank you. She came out with a bottle of tomato juice, shoved it at my father and began speaking to me through my father again.  "I'm going to give Carol just tomato juice." 

The tension in the room was beginning to become unbearable and I had decided to leave.  I stood up and said that I didn't want anything. I was going to go home.  I don't know if my Mom lost it then, or if I said something under my breath about this (scene) being ugly and my father's unfortunate agreement with an added, "she's in a bad mood today."  Either way, my mother lost it.  She told me I could "go and not come back."  I said, "okay!"  Yay! Then, she wanted her hundred dollars back or her change from her hundred dollars.  (I told them I would buy her a Word program for the laptop that I bought her.

She gave me a hundred dollars and told me to "keep it for awhile."  I have not taken a dime off of them for dozens of years, but stupidity runs in my veins.  And I was having trouble paying it back.)  In my anger, I wrote a check for cash for the whole hundred, even though they said they would pay half. Don't borrow money. That's my motto....usually.  A better motto would be, don't offer to pay for things you can't afford.  Whatever, I'm not taking money from old people on Social Security.

Like I said before, I was having an off day, which was perfect for what was about to happen.  I took the bait and announced I wouldn't wasn't be back and began writing a check, which gave her time to hurl more insults, 

My poor disabled father's attempts to intervene were almost comedic.  His guttural pleas ping-ponged back and forth from woman to woman, "Oh Lord, Pam, don't do that. ,"  and, "Come now, Carol, don't say that!" 

As I got up to leave, my 4'11" mother tilted her head backand came at me from the kitchen, barking insults like a rabid dog. When she got eye to chin to me, I could feel my eyes narrow and my hand clench. I struggled not to punch her in the face, and told her so. I'll never forget the satisfaction in her face when she said, "and your ugly on the outside too!" For a split second I was shocked, I couldn't believe she had just stabbed me in my Achilles heel.  My composure shattered.  I shouted, "You fucking bitch?" in their 500 sq foot apartment.  I heard my father groan. She had aimed and scored and was reveling in it.  She shot more insults, but by now, I had been reduced to shouting at her to fuck off.  As I walked out the door, my parting words, were that this behavior was the cause of their loneliness.   Dramatically, I said goodbye and good luck.

You would think that's the end of it, but oh no!

I made another mistake by contacting my sister and asking her to keep in touch with them in case they need anything.  I cryptically told her there was a falling out and I wouldn't be available anymore.  I had forgotten how much my sister is like my mother, Of course, she called my mother first thing the next morning and decided to message me to let me know my mother was fine.  Of course, SHE was fine.  She hasn't had that much fun in years!  She thought I'd like to know.  Nope, I said, just check on them. 

"Yeah right, like you were mother of the year."

WHAT?  THIS from the sister who insisted she didn't want to know what happened, who didn't want to get in the middle of things, and who thanked me for being there for them?

That's when I decided to divorce the whole sick lot of them, mother, sister, brother and unfortunately, father by association.  I started the divorce proceedings by un-friending and blocking each of their Facebook pages.  Immature, but effective.

I've had mixed reactions.  My sponsor (I'm sober 21 years March 13, 2015), said to just not see them today.  Oh yeah right, the one day at a time thing, I can do that.  Facebook friends (a brief burst of momentary lapse of judgment, which was quickly deleted) advised me to allow my mother her wishes.  One of my daughter's, who doesn't care for my mother's rejection of her, called me to find out if I was okay. I said I was and asked why.  She said sister posted something about wishing she could un-sister me.  I asked my daughter not to report what's said about me on Facebook.  As far as I'm concerned, it's done.  Another friend was appalled at every point of my reaction, sharing her story of warm love toward her cold and hateful mother. 

In AA's Big Book, Alcoholic Anonymous, there is a discussion of the consequences of our actions during the drinking phase of our lives.  How we blame others, but continuously place ourselves in positions where we can be, and are, hurt.  That is what a relationship is like with my mother. 

I know I'm emotionally and spiritually immature. I know I'm abrasive, as my warm friend with the cold mother told me, which is exactly why I can't continue a relationship with my family. I've heard of people disappearing, moving far from their families, cutting off relations with them completely. I've wished for that so often. 

People tell me I should be a good daughter; that I will miss her when she's gone. They. are. wrong.

A woman told me this the other day, "Family is just a word.  You're not going to treat me like shit and be my family.  My family are my friends and people who love and support me unconditionally.  Just because I have the same blood as you does not make you my family."

Well said.  Well said, indeed.