I Wish I Had Never

4 01 2011

Growing up in a household with my mother was like walking through a minefield where you never knew whether the next step would set off an explosion that could rip you to shreds. Every moment was fraught with danger because my mother’s extreme mood swings could go either way and I always seemed to take the wrong side of the swinging pendulum. It was impossible to avoid her moods, her tantrums, her caustic words and ever-present self pity, thus making life a constant battleground.

Shortly before my mother left my father, brother and myself, she was ranting on a car ride around town to run errands while my father was at work. She was driving, crying and talking as we drove while I sat silently in the passenger seat, staring out the window and wishing that she would get distracted by something so she would change the subject. The topic was how disappointing her life was and how burdened she felt by us kids and her family…yet another time for her to over-share and speak of topics that should not have been brought up with her daughter.

My mother grew up in a privileged household with an Army father, an alcoholic social-climber of a mother, a perfect cheerleader sister, a smart brother and a brother that died on the slopes of Chamonix in France. Her existence as the youngest was never one imperative to anyone’s happiness and she constantly sought affirmation and assurance of her self worth as an adult as a result of feeling neglected and out of the spotlight as a child.

She stopped working as a nurse when she got married, got sick with kidney disease and had a transplant, adopted an Asian daughter, had a Caucasian son and raised the two of them as a stay at home mom. She finally went back to school for photography and nursing when I was halfway through high school and seemed to find something of herself as she rediscovered talent, purpose and independence with her almost fully grown kids becoming less of a burden on her time.That discovery led her to seek travels, fame and fortune as she longed to travel and take photos to satisfy her love of photography.

On this particular day she was enraged that she had to stay at home and put her life on hold to care for a family and she reached the pinnacle of her outburst when she turned to look me straight in the eye and say, “I wish I had never adopted you. If I never had started a family I could do whatever I wanted now.” That moment seemed to freeze as she looked with so much hatred, regret and anger in her hazel eyes and I wanted to shrink smaller and smaller so that I could disappear from that moment, from her life and from the misery of being unwanted. The core of my relationship with my mother died forever as I realized the extent of her sickness; that realization has only been compounded by subsequent conversations where she has reiterated that sentiment, once more assuring me that only a mother can wound you in everlasting ways that never truly heal.

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