I heard back from my mother on my birthday a little while ago. She wished me a happy birthday, in a brief text message. I was not happy. I have not replied.
It seemed appropriate though, as if she’d sensed through the ether that I’d softened a little on ever seeing her again, just like your ex somehow knows and calls you the night after you’ve taken up with someone new and it’s gotten serious.
My girlfriend has offered to go with me to visit my mother. I think she thinks I’ll regret it if I don’t see her, get some closure before she dies.
I got the courage to ask my brother how old she is. She’s 76. She’s still working two full time jobs. That means she’s still avoiding everything.
She’s not going to change, I realized when I heard that. She’s still avoiding hard through work addiction all the trauma of her marriage, which at the very least would have contained rape, and definitely contained agreeing not to report the rape of her preschooler by her husband to the authorities.
Women I know who are the age my mother is tell me that there was huge pressure not to divorce in those days, that many parents would disown their daughters over leaving even a severely abusive husband. Abortion, similarly was not possible. My own aunt, my mother’s sister tells me this was so in my own family. My grandfather, kind and gentle, my grandmother who was such a strong and independent woman, would not have countenanced my mother leaving my dad. In fact, she did not leave him until after they were both dead, a fact I didn’t take note of before.
On my birthday, I ended up sobbing on the floor of my living room and hour before my party because my mom had sent me an unwelcome, unasked for text, of four or five words. My girlfriend did not know what to do with me – that I would cry so inconsolably amidst the decorations when she thought people would be arriving at any minute, not realizing she had the time an hour incorrect.
So, if she’s not going to change, and as Brené Brown would say, she is doing the best she can, then what do I do with that? There will be no confession, no explanation, no answers. Is there therefore no reason to see her? Is seeing her some kind of alchemical experience that will set these facts in stone for me so I can move on?
Or would the extraordinary chance, the once in a decade chance, to see me and make amends pull out of her a strength I haven’t yet seen?
That is, perhaps what seeing her would resolve – whether she can woman up and tell me, or not.
It was March of 2009 when I last wrote her and the last communication I received from her was a card she delivered to my door in 2010. In July of 2009 I have the vaginal examination that proved that I my vulva had been torn open as a child, consistent with the memories of pain, blood and passing out I already had. On that day I decided she could not have not seen that kind of injury on my child’s body, and that there was no way she could not have known. I decided she was dead to me. That same 2009 I had a big fight with my older brother, who didn’t want to hear another word about abuse from me. We haven’t seen one another since either. So it’s been about 8 and a half years my mom and I have been estranged, and about the same that I’ve been estranged from my older brother.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, is turning 80 this year, and his daughter has invited me to a kind of family reunion birthday party this summer several days drive from here. Perhaps my mother’s text is connected to this, as she would have been told that I am going. I unfortunately accepted before realizing she would almost certainly be there. I’m still not sure what to do about that, other than cold distance, like avoiding one’s ex at a party they have also been invited to. I’ll be a wreck. I’ll need a separate, private place to sleep and be. Perhaps I can talk to my cousin about this. Maybe I can drive there in a borrowed van, so I’l have a place to sleep and get away to.
My girlfriend says she might go with me, bringing her daughter too. Her daughter is ten, and is whole and strong and fierce like I had been, like I would have been had I been free. She inspires me.
I just reread my letter. In it I asked for several practical things that my mother could do for me to make amends. They were things within her power, mostly giving me information about my childhood. She has done none of them. She will likely never do any of them.
I had a conversation with my friend a few minutes ago, a friend who is four years my mothers’ senior. I advised her to write about her life, truthfully, despite the secrets it would disclose to her children. Sometimes the children really want to know.