Friday, March 28, 2008

The Plague

We are all sick.

Well, the three of us that are here, anyway. DH is conveniently in Canada, doing his final presentation for his grad degree. Hooray! He's been in grad school for almost five years, meaning that our time together has been very limited for a long, long time. I'm actually a little nervous about how much together time we're going to have now. I'm kinda used to being on my own now in the evenings. For the first year, it was really hard, being alone so much, but then I got used to it, and actually started to enjoy the peace and quiet. Hmmm. I hope that's not a bad sign. Anyway, he's almost done, and he'll be home on Sunday.

In the meantime, I am hacking up a lung. Josie has the runs. Patrick has had a nose thing for almost a week, and is finally feeling just about normal, which is good for him, but bad for me, since I in no way can keep up with him. Luckily, he has discovered that his room is full of - gasp - TOYS that he can actually PLAY with! By HIMSELF!

I believe that these things have happened to us because my mother, otherwise known as the Plague, was here this week. She lives in my hometown still, and every time she comes to visit, which is usually two or three times a year, we get sick. I don't know why, other than that she's a nurse and maybe carries germs that she's immune to but which kick the crap out of the rest of us?

I do not like my mother. I hate it when she visits. It's the most stressful, unpleasant thing for me, EVER, especially with all the house crap we've been going through lately. It's not really how she behaves when she's here, per se, although that doesn't help (examples: she frequently swears in front of the kids, she leaves waist-length processed hair all over my house), but rather how she was when I was a kid that still bothers me.

When I was three, she and my father divorced. This is a long story that I will get into another time, but basically it was my grandmother's doing. We then moved in with my mother's mother and stayed there until I was fifteen, while my father left for parts unknown (until I found him as an adult, yet another post for another time). For those twelve years, I was choked, ridiculed, physically violated, aimed at with projectiles, and hit. I was wished dead by my grandmother. When I tried to get help from the school counselor, the woman called my grandmother (who also worked at the school), and not only did I get the worst beating of my life, but I also was forced to march into the school and say that I had made it all up. No one ever believed a thing I said again. When I was frightened after seeing Gremlins and cried at night, she told me that I'd better go to sleep, because the only thing I had to be afraid of in the dark was her. She actually told that story to my boyfriends for years, thinking it was a big joke. (I actually only stopped being afraid of the dark about two years ago, embarrassingly enough.)

After we moved out of my grandmother's house, we got an apartment, and my mother's boyfriend moved in. He hated me, and wouldn't speak to me unless she was there, which she wasn't usually when I was around because she works nights and was never home before I left for school, and slept a lot when I was home. I was afraid of him, and for years slept with my bedroom door barricaded. One time, he slammed me repeatedly against my bedroom wall behind my door (I was trying to get into my room and shut the door, because he had been chasing me) while she watched. He cheated on her, and she expected me to be her confidante and consoler and secret-keeper while she went through all his things, just like she always went through all my things. She cheated on him once, too, with his sister's husband, and expected that she could share it with me.

Her boyfriend has several children, two of whom are younger than I am and have been around my mother since they were toddlers and I was about 15. I get to hear all sorts of glowing things about how amazing they are, and how wonderful it is that they've had the chance to travel through school, when she took every opportunity to make sure I could NEVER travel through school (to the point of telling me that there would be no more college money for me if I even *applied* to study abroad). However, she didn't think that those two were wonderful enough to warrant help through school, while they were literally eating box noodles every day and constantly in danger of not being able to return to school because they couldn't maintain three jobs plus their schoolwork. She actually refused to marry her boyfriend because she didn't want to be responsible for His Children in any way. She had the money to help them, she just wouldn't.

I have tried to work this out with her. I wrote her a letter about ten years ago, but all she did was scream and cry and refuse to talk. Her basic comment is that the past is the past and she won't apologize for it, and that she's a different person now. She is the reason I moved so far away from everything I had ever known, and from a nearby city that I had loved. I knew if I didn't get away, she'd find a way to infiltrate my life, and I couldn't risk it.

Even with this large distance, she still calls and complains to me about the old woman she helps, who was my grandmother's best friend and whom I actually did love because she was the only one who was kind to me, ever. She complains about having to help her, having to spend time with her, having to take her places. Now, first of all, she doesn't have to do any of those things - she volunteers to do it. Secondly, why do something if all you're going to do is complain? She complains about her friends, her patients at work, everyone. She even has pet names for people, like Bimbo or Miss Perfect.

Why do I let her in at all? Oh, boy. Well, part of it is guilt. She's my mother, and I can picture the scene if I cut her off. I can also imagine her being the kind of person who would try and sue for grandparents' rights, and then I would have to deal with all kinds of court proceedings, which if I lost might result in my children being alone with her.

Also, I want my children to have a family. When my father left, all of his brothers, sisters, and parents abandoned me as well, leaving me with just my mother and grandmother, who were both only children. As long as the woman behaves herself around my children, I'm willing to allow her to be near them so they can have a balanced sense of family.

Finally, I suppose it's because I'm scared to cut her off. I mean, that's a huge decision, when she's all the family I have (my wretched grandmother died almost ten years ago). I think subconsciously I imagine some huge hand coming down from the sky and smiting me where I stand if I do that, some kind of cosmic Getting In Trouble. That's probably the childish part of me being afraid of her still, I suppose.

The best thing for me to do, probably, would be for me to forgive her and move on. I mean, adults are supposed to forgive and move on, right? The problem with that is, it's difficult to forgive someone who won't acknowledge that she's been in the wrong, and also it seems just...unfair for her to Get Away with everything, scott free. I mean, I know since I allow her to be in my life, and since she managed to never get caught, she has already gotten away with
everything she did to me, but I feel like if I forgive her in my heart, that will be a final betrayal to myself, like saying, well, it's OK.

So, she keeps coming. And I keep getting sick.


AndreAnna said...

She's just a toxic woman.

There's a lot of history and a lot of issues there that I can't even begin to understand. But I am sorry you had to go through such a rough time and have such a bad relationship with your mother.

You are doing the best thing by ending the cycle of abuse and being a great mother. That's the best revenge.

Melinda said...

I just wanted to tell you how much this post resonated for me. I have been visiting your site for a while now and really enjoy your sense of humor and the glimpse of your life. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm glad you turned out spite of the crazy influences in your life. Hope you're all over the plague soon.

Creative Kerfuffle said...

once again the power of the internet shows me i'm not the only one. my childhood wasn't quite the same but i too have a mother i don't like; she too was a mother who thought of herself instead of her kids. i've never posted about this part of my life and am probably not really ready to yet.
from reading your blog it's obvious you are NOTHING like her (and really, isn't that our biggest fear in life, that we'll morph into them one day?).
thanks for this post.

desperate housewife said...

My first thought after reading this post was, Good for you Astarte, for being the one to break the cycle. Clearly your grandmother was a toxic, abusive person who raised another toxic, abusive person. But you found the strength inside yourself to become a GOOD mom, despite having no example to follow.
I'm sorry you still have to deal with this person in your life. And I understand how difficult forgiveness can be when the person you're forgiving hasn't actually APOLOGIZED in any way. Just remember that forgiving is about freeing YOURSELF, not your abuser. And also remember that forgiving isn't a one-time thing. In my experience, some people can wound us so deeply we have to forgive them every time we encounter them in order to rid our spirits of the weight of anger.
And again, I just want to say, good for you for making a healthy, happy family for yourself without any help from those who should have been your biggest supporters and encouragers. They should be very proud of you, but even if they don't have the sense to be, we are!

Swistle said...

Your mom should be ON HER KNEES with gratitude that you're willing to have anything to do with her at all---let alone that you're willing not to PROSECUTE. But I can see why you ARE willing, and I think I'd do the same. And get a really good vacuum cleaner for the hair---YICK.

Kristin.... said...

Oh wow. You sound strong; stay strong. I have a good relationship with my mother, so I just cannot imagine what it must be like for you. I'll send you good thoughts.

Astarte said...

Thanks for all the support, guys! It's so nice to be able to air this stuff once in awhile and know that there are people who will listen and understand. :)