I’m not sure I want to share this post, but I definitely want/need to write it. I am headed back to California in the morning, most likely for the last time to ‘visit’ my family there. My dad died in the fall, I miss him terribly, and my 93 year old mother is going off the rails slowly but surely.
Its odd how normal she sounds when I talk to her, but there are breaks where she yells and screams at me for what she assumes is criticism or comments on her life and how she is living it. This is a woman who has never had a single happy day in her life as far as I can tell. The analogy for my mother is the kid on Christmas morning with too many presents who rips through all of them and looks for more. She has never taken the time to enjoy being in the moment. There is always another prize to acquire, another Thing to get, hold and hoard.
I did have a really happy childhood in many ways, probably because I am the antitheses of mom. I seized every single joyful moment and relished it like another one was never coming. I’m still that way.
I fight my weight and the idea that there is never another good thing coming is what informs a lot of my ingrained behavior. I may never completely get my own mental garden completely weeded. I had parents who had Rules for Them and other Rules for Us, my brother and me. My father was like the spoiled oldest son, mother kept him in line by indulging him ala Life With Father. Best porkchop, heart of the watermelon, only the best for dad and ultimately my brother, the Golden Child.
I think my dad died to escape. My father was no angel. He was charming, weak and spoiled and he loved my mother more than life itself. They yelled, screamed, threw things and fought incessantly. I didn’t know some families weren’t like that until I was old enough to spend the night at friend’s houses.
They kept boxes of candy in their dresser drawers and didn’t share them. My mom was always working on a Whitman’s Sampler. We were adept at looting the lower layers invisibly. She turned us into sneaks and thieves and liars because we were so afraid of punishment. My brother lost his moral compass then and he couldn’t steer true north, even after we were grown up.
We weren’t allowed to eat between meals. I can remember as a teenager earning my own money in a part-time job, starving after school but afraid to be caught eating. I could wolf down a burger and a coke in the space of two blocks in my friend Gayle’s Volkswagen. My mother was always dramatic, violent anger and sweetness in the same ten minute period, it was crazy making. When she hit menopause she got a bad case of violent crazy and the happiness pretty much left us, I spent my teenage years at home being yelled at and belittled and hit with hands and a belt. The psychological abuse from the person who was supposed to love me unconditionally was the worst of it all.
There was a level of crazy there that I still don’t quite understand. I know why she is the way she is and a lot of what happened to her but I still can’t quite grasp it even after all these years. We had some insanely happy times, camping in the desert, going on fishing trips in Colorado and decorating for holidays and so much more. I have wonderful memories but I think they are more intense and lit up because there was always an undercurrent of fear running through the good parts.
My brother never escaped her orbit. He is now 63 and a complete failure at everything. He put a business up his nose in the good old cocaine days, destroyed two marriages and families, and got deeply into street drugs. He has cleaned up the drugs but the addition of an alcoholic stupid girlfriend iced that cake. He has lost every job he has managed to land through his own actions.
Both he and my mother have never been able to accept responsibility for their lives and actions. He lost his last job and his home a few years ago and landed on the street with two big dogs and the drunken girlfriend. They showed up on my parents doorstep and never left. My brother has never been able to escape his mother’s barbed wired apron strings. He lives in the same small town where the police know him by name and his reputation precedes him. He is so emotionally crippled he can only talk about what he’s going to do and where’s he going to go, but he can’t make it happen. His mouth is foul and so is his temper, he is unemployable in part because every job interview he gets my good old mom calls the business and says don’t hire my son the drug addict. She does it from pure malice but she won’t ever admit it.
Just like she won’t admit the 33 phone calls to the police in the last few months since my dad died. The police are now so tired of her and her fabrications that they are threatening to lock her in an old folks home and confiscate her estate. She doesn’t understand this. She doesn’t understand a lot of things.
Her house is completely wrecked, her yard and property are trashed and fouled beyond belief. She has had a string of ex junkies who “helped” her, helped carry off everything of value is more like it, while selling drugs from the guesthouse. This is what I’m having to walk into. I am not looking forward to this trip.
I feel like owe this last trip to my dad. I left the house on bad terms two years ago and said I would never be back. My dad’s last words to me face to face were, “Next time you see me I’ll be planted in the ground.” We were both sobbing at the time. He was right. I don’t want to go but as the only sane member of my family of origin I feel compelled to at least understand and try to make some decisions that will affect my mother’s ability to live her life. She just turned 93 and I can say truthfully, I do not love her, I do not respect her, but I do respect what a mother is and that these people are family, like it or not.
I escaped when I was 18 years old. My trajectory was up and out and I never looked back, I hate having to do this with all my heart but my own moral compass says I must give it this one final effort before I let go of the rope on their sinking ship.Yesteerday, I fielded 13 insane phone calls from them all, I have no idea what today will hold. I have to give it to God and the universe to keep me on course through this.
We are planning on camping in the yard because the house is so awful. God bless Terry, he is going with me for the one to two weeks, depending on how much I can actually stand.
I will be writing posts from the war zone. Stay tuned.