My mom makes me crazy. What’s worse, is that left to her own devices, she creates this special reality where she always looks like the shining beacon of virtue and perfection to strangers, while making sure she puts as equal amounts of energy into decrying, manipulating and belitting the people closest to her.
Case and point number one: We took mom with us to my sister’s house in Arlington (about a three-hour-drive from where we live going the long way). My mom was thrilled when we picked her up. She had a little box of stuff she’d bought for my sister; some flower bulbs and two really ugly coffee mugs which my sister accepted graciously. We made the drive, mom was totally fine, she was in an excellent mood. She behaved moderately well during the stay, except for the occasional slip up of snideness, but that was minor. Her most annoying behaviours were her blatant lies. She invented a sudden case of lactose intolerance, said that my dentist tore her mouth up, bragged about how she told some old dude off complete with F-bombs, and all number of other random crap. Most of the time, when she lied, my sister and I would exchange a look of incredulity and laugh, and we’d tease her, to which she would respond with laughter and tease us right back. We have *always* teased mom about her accent, and when she said to my husband: “Jou did whaat?” And my husband said: “What about a Jew?” we all had a good chuckle. We laugh when she says jankee pot-roast and when she says joyo instead of yoyo; squeedle instead of squirrel; cheessbehrgehr instead of cheeseburger. It’s just something we have always done, and she’s always given it back with equal jocularity.
We also didn’t allow her to fabricate lies about the absent sibling, and stopped her short whenever she came up with some madness or other. She did not like that, but we wanted to keep the visit positive and having mom play her ‘I’m going to play you against your siblings’ game was not something we were about to entertain. We called her out on every one of her wild suppositions and utterances, and she was a bit cowed by our united front.
She didn’t eat much, and when we were back in Gresham, she declared she was starving and insisted we stop at Jack-In-The-Box to get her a cheessbehrgehr. Miss Lactose-Intolerant was shouting from the back seat when hubby was at the drive-through “Does it have cheess? Make shoor eet haz cheess!” Mind you, both hubby and I are still doing WeightWatchers, and sitting in a closed car with the aroma of fries and burger wafting around our heads was pure torture. We get her back to the assisted living facility, she’s so happy and delighted and she tottered off to her ‘warehouse’ carrying her bag of fries.
The next day, I get an email from my eldest sister (in Florida) admonishing us for our terrible treatment of our mother. Apparently, my mother called her in a tizzy as soon as she got back on Thanksgiving. According to Satan, we were ‘disrespectful and ungrateful, making fun of her. We were horrid, and we were mean to her (which is bullhockey). She whined at my sister for a long time about how ungrateful and horrid we were to her. Little did eldest sister know that hubby and I had to listen to my mother ripping my eldest sister apart on the drive all the way home. People with Borderline Personality Disorder can shape realities into whatever best suits them, ultimately.
Second case: I stopped by to visit mom on Monday, and when I walked in I was confronted with Amy, the activities director. She assailed me at once with: “Oh, thank goodness you’re here! Your mother is so sad, she’s pouting! I’ve never seen her so upset.”
“Why is she upset?” I ask, already developing a sense of trepidation.
“Oh, she was so sad. She told us about the big dinner you have planned, and how she spent all this time and effort to prepare a special dish for this dinner, only to find out she wasn’t even invited! She’s been depressed ALL DAY.” For one... WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, OVER? Seriously? Who the hell does she think she is confronting me about this supposed dinner. Even if there WERE such a dinner, whether or not mom was invited is none of her god damned business, and it sure isn’t her job to censure me for not inviting my mother. OMG the gall! But the worst part is, this supposed ‘big dinner’ is a figment of my mother’s imagination, one of her convenient fabrications created for the sole purpose of inviting sympathy from her apparently gullible and vapid audience. I mean WTF????? You’d think someone who works in a Senior facility would be well-versed in knowing that you can’t believe everything that comes out of these octogenarian mouths. They spew all sorts of shit about their families that isn’t even remotely true... But the crime here was that this Amy chick had the stones to stand in front of me and dump guilt on me for something that was none of her business for one, and something that was not even true to boot. Oy.
Incidentally, Amy did it to my husband too. He walked into the facility and she was standing there, and said: “OH! Good! You’re here! Your grandma has been looking forward to your visit all day. You’re taking her out? She’s been so excited that you were coming to take her out, she had her hair done and everything!” Dan is very susceptible to guilt when it comes to his family. He often extends himself to a breaking point to help them when they can’t be relied upon to do anything for him when he needs it. His grandma is an especially sore subject for him, because he loves her to hell and back, and it’s taking a very hard toll on him watching her fade into a figment of who she used to be, with fractured memories and no capacity to hold short-term anything in her head. He will be there visiting, she’ll get up to go to the potty, and then forget he is there and go back to her room. She will state the same things over and over again, and she still thinks she can go home at any time. He visits her every week, and brings her a 20 oz mocha coffee (we are Oregonians after all) and sits with her while she repeatedly asks if he’s heard from his father (which he never does), and if she can go home (which she cannot), and she asks him again and again what he’s been up to. When we take her out, she stays for ten minutes and then wants to go back. She’s not easy. And Dan is struggling with her decline. I’m not sure if Amy just invented the whole thing about Grandma spending all day getting ready to go out, but Grandma would not have held onto the knowledge of it for more than ten minutes. Getting her hair done to go out? He never planned it, or called her to tell her she was going anywhere, so either it was a fluke, or Amy was pulling this out of her rather large ass (which is my guess). I had to call the facility to day and talk to the director and explain to her that deliberately dumping guilt on relatives when they come and visit isn’t the best incentive to compel them to return.
I digress....But all that is a perfect illustration of the drama my mother creates simply for the sake of being evil. My mother invents all sorts of tall tales to elicit sympathy. She has always had people convinced she is a paragon of virtue and wonder, a sacrificing soul, a giver and a hero. I’ve gone through life having people arch their brow at me and look at me in disdain because I don’t share the glowing opinion of my mother. You see, they don’t *know* who she is. Not even remotely. They don’t know about my brother being locked in a bedroom for 18 hours a day, smearing his feces on the wall because my mother didn’t want to deal with him. They don’t know that the reason why my father was repeatedly hospitalized in his final year was because he was malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from bruising from being roughly handled and hit. My mother’s ardent fans are not aware that my mother had repeated affairs throughout her marriage, and brought a pedophile into our home. They don’t know that the sacrificing, wonderful mom they saw would take us to bars on school nights after knocking my father out with valium and laughing most heartily about it, or leave a fifteen year old girl in charge of the riding club and the bar, so she could go out partying all night, or take off to the US and leave her 17 year old daughter in charge of the stable without a penny to buy horse food, and the electricity turned off because she hadn’t paid the bill. They have no idea that when we moved back to the states, she flew back to get my brother from his school, and disappeared for two weeks. When we managed to hunt her down, and found her at a friend’s house, she’d been out drinking and partying and hadn’t even bothered to go see my brother, let alone notify the school he was going to be flying to America. Oh no. Instead, these people who see her as the paragon she’s painted herself to be just look at us children like we’re awful for feeling the way we do about her. We watched her neglect and abuse our brother, we watched her pretty much kill our father by roughness and neglect, and we watched her introduce the concept of lying, cheating, duplicity and manipulation into our lives very early on. To this day, I am still amazed at how aptly my mother was able to hide this bleakness behind the glossy sheen of our household. Nobody ever knew.
I’m amazed the three of us stepped out of childhood moderately intact. I won’t lie; the things we’ve had to live with have taken their toll. For me, it’s been a constant struggle with depression and for a short time, I was almost committed for entertaining some pretty dark thoughts about suicide. For my sisters, it’s issues of abandonment, trust, overcompensation. We’re all broken in one way or another, but we did not take the bad road, thank god. We are not alcoholics or drug-addicts, we are not criminals or ne’er-do-wells. We all managed to emerge with a particularly strong sense of empathy, a near-obsessive desire to surround ourselves with pretty things and to take care of them obsessively, or in one case, to put little to no value on pretty things at all. In some cases, we have issues with identity—and figuring out who we are—often becoming chameleons to suit what we think are other peoples’ preferences which goes back to the whole abandonment thing. We’ve emerged with strong personalities and we are all so different.
It’s taken me years to be comfortable enough with myself to talk about these things with a matter-of-fact sort of approach, to talk about these things without personal shame. I had to figure out that these things weren’t my doing. I had to learn that in spite of what society tells you, the adults in your life might be fallible and they can’t *always* be relied upon to be what they are supposed to be to their children. I learned that adults don’t always protect you and that kids sometimes have to learn to protect themselves. I had to learn that there’s nothing I can do about it now, and there was really nothing I could do about it when I was a kid. It took a while to finally figure out who I am. But I know now, and I’m comfortable enough to spout it all out on a blog for the world to see, flaws and all. I’m okay with oversharing. LOL. I don’t take medication (though some of my friends might argue that I could definitely use it to despazzify myself). I can laugh at myself, and I can laugh at the walking tragedy that is my mother, and still sit down across from her and look at her watery, beady little eyes as she tries her very hardest to undermine me and be okay afterwards.
“You used to worship me, I don’t know what happened...” she told me one day a few months ago while we were out shopping together. She doesn’t understand why we don’t have the same relationship anymore, as we did when I had no self-esteem, no self-value, and was too depressed to care.
“I opened my eyes, Mom. I’m not a kid anymore. I grew up. And I got tired of carrying you, enabling you and apologizing for you.” When I say these sorts of things, she does this thing where her eyes sort of focus somewhere else far away, and she goes: “Hmmm” and then deftly changes the subject. She hates it that I can laugh at her lies now and it bothers her that her manipulations aren’t working on the three of us anymore. She bitches about me to my sisters because I reflect the truth of who she is back onto her like a really cruel dressing-room mirror—bad lighting and all. If that’s disrespectful, then so be it. Respect is earned—my mother is bankrupt of it.