“One of these days, I’m going to pack up my bags and leave. And then you’ll find out what it is to not have me around.”
I heard my mother yell those and similar words many times when I was a child. Usually it was during a tirade when she was complaining about how hard she worked and how little she was appreciated.
The words scared me. I pictured my mother packing suitcases—it was always two suitcases in my imagination—and leaving the house, leaving me behind.
What would I do without my mother?
It didn’t matter what kind of mother she was. I needed my mother, and I didn’t want her to leave.
I have been thinking about her words a lot over the past couple of weeks. Maybe they’ve been on my mind because her suicide attempt seemed like the ultimate threat. Perhaps that’s not a fair assessment, but that’s the connection I’ve made.
I told you in my last post that some wise people have helped me. One of those is my minister.
A few days after my mother was taken to the hospital, I met with him. I wanted to get feedback on my reaction to what she had done. I wanted to talk about the guilt that I felt because of all the anger and hate I felt, not just over the recent incident, but over a lifetime of pain.
During our conversation, I made the comment that I knew my feelings were wrong, that the Jesus of my faith tradition taught that we should love one another.
My minister said he couldn’t say what love was.
But he could say that love was not always saying yes. Sometimes, he said, love was saying no. Love didn’t mean that we had to put up with whatever someone did.
Those words helped me tremendously.
I have begun to see that loving my mother doesn’t mean that I have to place myself in circumstances where I am open to abuse.
I love my mother because that is what I needed to do as a child: bond with and love my mother.
She is my mother. She is not evil. She is not a monster.
But she has never acknowledged the truth about our past, nor does she admit that there’s anything wrong with the continuing put-downs, manipulations, and lies.
I was hoping that she would finally get the help that she needed. But she is choosing not to.
I rarely saw her or talked with her on the phone before her actions almost two weeks ago. I was trying to resolve my sense of guilt even then.
Now, I have a sense of resolution.
I cannot be around my mother, at least not now. I cannot talk to her or see her. I cannot have a relationship with her.
I don’t wish her harm. I hope she has a good life. I hope she is happy and healthy.
But for my own health, I have to stay away from her.