The Question Never Asked, or Why I Fired My Mother




 

August 2010

 

It's been a year since I fired my Mother. I got a card from her last week that ended with, "Every morning I wake up and hope this will be the day you let me back in your life." Not Today. Maybe Never.

 

I spent July 2009, (2 years into a 3+ year long breast cancer battle), going off the Deep End. Spiraling downward. The recently purchased eighteen foot trailer sitting in my drive, was stirring up a Psychological Shit Storm. (blog post: A Tale of Two Trailers) It reminded me of the trailer my family and I lived in for two years. A trailer in which my father beat and molested me. Except that according to my Mother, that never happened. She never sent me to school in clothes that hid my bruises. My Father never fucked me. 

 

My Mother is sticking to her history, refusing to believe mine. 

 

There were two Final Straws, and they were within a week of each other.

 

Final Straw #1: In a tearfull phone conversation, trying to explain my most recent breakdown, I blurt out, "It's the fucking trailer! Every time I see it I get nauseas. It's all I can do not to throw up." Now, if she really believed her story, and nothing bad ever happened in that trailer all those years ago, the logical response would be, "Why?" I had never specified that those childhood horrors occurred in that trailer, only that they had happened. Never had the chance. The few times I gathered enough courage to bring the subject up, June shut me down, interuppting me to insist none of it ever happened, before any details, like age and location, could be shared. So... In her mind, why would/should the trailer bother me? But June didn't ask why. Instead she asked, "Can't Greg park it somewhere else, where you don't have to see it?" I knew in that moment, in the way the words came out of her mouth, that she didn't need to ask. She knew exactly why I didn't want to see that trailer.

 

Final Straw #2:  June and I are once again marveling at what a Great Daddy my brother Nacho is, despite having such an asshole for a father. June's take: "He was so lucky he learned how to just blend into the woodwork when he was a kid." The words crush my soul. "Lucky" to spend a childhood blending into walls? I turned this over in my mind for hours. It was one of the saddest things I ever heard. Who thinks it's a Good Thing for a kid to dissapear into the woodwork? Children should be encouraged to Flourish, Grow, Express Themselves, BE!

 

"Can't Greg park it somewhere else?"

"Lucky to blend into the woodwork."

"Can't Greg park it somewhere else?"

"Lucky to blend in to the woodwork."

"Can't Greg park it somewhere else?"

"Lucky to blend in to the woodwork."

****************** 

I was telling my shrink Kathy that I was not a wanted child.

 

"You may have been unexpected, but I'm sure you were wanted." I couldn't have been more than seven when I asked why neither of my parents were smiling in their wedding photo. "Well it wasn't a very happy day." said June. "We broke up three months before and were only getting married because I was pregnant with you and we had to." Some kids feel guilty when their parents split up. I felt guilty my parents were together.

 

My father sent June a one sentence note from his Navy ship after he got my first pictures: "She looks like a skinned rabbit."

"How do you know that?" asks Kathy.

"My mother told me."

"Why would she share that with you?" Kathy can't stop herself from asking.

 

Since that session, I have searched my brain for a heartwarming chilhood story I remember my mother sharing with me. Here's what I come up with:

 

"We used to have a chair that matched the couch. We were living in Idaho when the Beatle's White Album came out. Your dad and I took mushrooms and laid down on the floor to listen to it. When one of us got up to turn the record over, we realized the room was full of smoke. The chair had caught fire from a candle. We had to throw it out into the snow." I was two, asleep in the next room at the time.

 

A couple years later, we were living/roadtripping in a VW Van. "Nacho was on my lap and I was feeding him peanuts. I thought I was putting them in his mouth, but I had actually shoved them in his nose. We endend up in an ER in French speaking Canada, trying to explain that he had peanuts in his sinuses." I remember standing in that ER. Based on the looks of horror the doctors and nurses gave my scraggly hippie parents, I was terrified they weren't going to give Nacho back. Those were the LSD years.

 

At twelve, my mother sent away to Kotex for a Becoming a Woman kit. It must have been sitting on the shelf for at least two decades because the damn thing came with a sanitary belt and safety pins. There was no Talk. Just the pamphlet that came with the kit. I learned more from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. The closest thing to makeup in the house was Cherry Chapstick. After months of saving allowances I went to the local drugstore and emerged with a tube of blood red liquid rouge and robin's egg blue eye shadow.

 

At thirteen I had my red-headed mother's white skin, and my father's dark mexican hair. I desperately wanted to shave my legs when summer started. My mother said I was too young. There was not currently a man in the house, and June had not used a razor for years, so I was left to my own devices. I ended up dry shaving my legs with a dull exacto knife blade, the pointed end leaving long scabs up my shins.

 

When I was twenty-two June left the States for seventeen years, to teach on military bases. How she could be overseas while all three of her grandchildren were born and growing up I don't know. Wolfie was 16 when she moved back, and she seemed hurt he didn't want to snuggle.

 

Christmas Visit, 1994. Wolfie is three. We live in a small house with thin walls. June is reading a book, sitting on a couch pushed up against a wall. Wolfie's bedroom is on the other side of the wall. It is way past Wolfie's nap time and he is in full tantrum mode. Greg is trying to put him down. Wolfie is screaming at the top of his lungs. He gets a rare swat on the diaper before he finally calms down and goes to sleep. I am sitting across from June, stressed by the situation. Highly attuned to the drama in the next room. A few moments after Greg has joined us in the living room, June looks up from her book and asks, "Is Wolfie down for his nap? That was easy!" and disappears back to her book. I think about the hundreds of times June said to me, "Michael, I have had to start reading this sentence three times. Would you leave me alone?"

 

Spring Visit, 1996. I have just been released from the Mental Ward. June says all the right things. She can't wait to come take care of me. I just want to curl up and cry, and have someone tell me I'm going to be ok. I am craving Mothering. She arrives with her hand in a brace from carpel tunnel, says hello, and tells me she needs me to cut her fingernails. Shortly after this visit she calls to say she is seeing a therapist. As I'm thinking maybe we can have a Real, Honest Relationship someday, she follows up with: "I know you're going to end up killing yourself, and I have to be prepared to deal with it."

 

Summer Visit, 2006  "Are you coloring your hair?" asks June. "No." I say. "Yes you are. It has so much red in it." "I haven't colored my hair in almost twenty years." "You're lying. You certainly are coloring it." insists June. "Really, I'm not." "That is not your natural color." There's no point in continuing, so I don't.

 

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