Last Line Crossed
My sister wrote me after my Christmas Day blog. The post made her realize there was a so much of my mother she never knew. When I read the passage by Annie Lamott the other day, I realized I am not done with my grief. Nor is my sister.
There are people around us who are invested in keeping us quiet. Telling us we are wrong. We don’t remember things right. Can we please stop talking about it?
We remember what we remember. We feel what we feel. I am so grateful I have her willingness to talk about the hard things. The painful pieces she would rather forget forever. But when I tell her I need to say it, again? She sits down and listens. Opens her heart.
It is so hard to read my sister’s belief that she did something so horrible my mother could never find a way to forgive her. The abuse ripped a hole in my sister, one she ached to have her mother’s love heal.
I always wondered why Mom wouldn't connect with me like you. I mean she would tell me about dinner with [friends], but she'd never go further, into the shrimp boats, into anything that she was really feeling. I always wondered why she didn't go there with me. But I have at least figured out part of it out. It is not that she didn't go there; it is that she wouldn't go there.
So now the question has become why? Was she so mad at me for stealing her husband that I could never be forgiven? Was she so drunk that she couldn't see how crazy that was to blame for me that? Or, what I think is true, something so terrible happened in those early years that she could not find a way to forgive me and thus would never allow herself to get close to me.
That's why her "I always loved message" was so important. Because she knew she had spent her life not loving me and wasn't going to die with that on her shoulders. I wonder what it was about me, or what I did that was so horrible to her? We will never know…what a wonderful thing to live with…
Mom did love you.
But you know, she knew she fucked up- and fucked up bad.
I believe it is why she could not get sober. Even with her sheer joy about her grandchildren, she could not get sober. She could not face herself.
It wasn't about you. It was never about you. It was about her. And how she perceived herself. It was never about anybody else. Just her. How she was affected, how she responded, what she did, her failure, her agony... I believe she thought very little of herself. She thought she was a piece of shit and bemoaned that her whole life.
When you were 17 years old, she threw you out to live with Dad in a drunken rage. The very man she divorced because, as she said over and over, a social worker told her to get him out of the house. She was so rageful in the moment, she sent you to a certain fate. Remember how she called you the next day and begged for you to come home? She knew she was wrong. Beyond wrong.
She knew about his abuse, regardless of what she said in the end, she knew. When confronted with the social worker’s warning, she did the one thing she could- divorced him. It was the most selfless thing she ever did. She loved you. She was trying to protect you.
And she fucked up big. I mean, really big. As a parent? I can not imagine the guilt she felt.
It wasn't about you. It was her failure she could not see past. Your face was her failure. She could never see you because she would have to sit with it, and sit with how she fucked up. She couldn't bear it.
It’s why she could not stop drinking.
Everyone can say I killed Mom with my letter. Perhaps I did. She sat in therapy with me years before and said I was her one hope. I was the only one Dad had not damaged. I was okay. I was her dream of success. She hated that I was a lesbian because it wasn't the image of the white picket fence-husband-suburbia-good job-children vision. She grew to love Jeanine and I believe she forgave me that one fault- for the most part. I gave her three grandchildren. When I told her I was broken, too? It was the final insult. The last line to be crossed.
Her hope was gone.
She couldn't see you. She couldn't listen to you. She couldn't share with you. It hurt her too much. It was all about her, Cathy. It always was. Her failure, her pain, her loss.
I'm sorry she hurt you so much. She was only kind to me because I was her redemption. It was about her success.
I love you. You are good enough for me. We can hold each other. We can hold our truth.
We will learn how to live with it.