I have hemmed and hawed at writing about the past few weeks. I guess it just feels so close and so personal. I know that is strange coming from me. I have bared my soul here in the past years. Nothing was off-limits. Why this? Life is complicated when it comes to my mother. Always has been. I think myself and all my siblings understand clearly she is a product of her upbringing and the subsequent years of life in survival mode. She did what she had to to get out and to get away from that small coal town in Penn. She ran till she got to NY. As each of us can attest we have seen an anger in her that never seems to die. It simmers there just under the surface just waiting for some event or perceived slight to unleash it. Though that never seems to extinguish it, not in the least. Most people get angry, snap or yell. Fight or flee and the anger subsides. In the process of reacting our anger diminishes as it is released. Molecules evaporated off the boiling liquid and we are less angry. It never seems the case with mom. There is always something else to be angry about. Yet another item slides into the place of the one she had just become angry about. And so this goes. Life exists sliding between poles. Cool and distant, almost hermit like until yet again conflict erupts beneath a shower of rage. It doesn’t always have to be an all out eruption. Those are easiest to deal with. It is the insidious quiet conflicts that tear the family apart. The endless need to create problems. To push people away and turn them against their loved ones. I don’t know if it is jealousy or contempt but often it is those that marry into our family that get the worst of it. They are the ones subjected to endless criticism and biting comments. They get driven out, weakest in the herd. The decision made they don’t belong. And the pattern repeats. Sadly, I am not sure she even sees that she is doing this. Each of us pull away and keep our families at the perimeter for fear we will get lost in the imbroglio. I don’t blame any of us. We do it without thought or awareness anymore. We know and are conditioned to understand the cost of venturing in. and so she is alone. Lonely and sad. For that I feel terrible. I wish we could tolerate the maelstrom and live within those quarters but the risk is too great. I do not want to lose my partner just as my siblings do not want to lose theirs. and so the dance goes on. We come together for dinners, holidays, or short days spent together before we once again run for the hills. I understand that. It doesn’t work anymore. She needs us now. We have to be there for her in a way we have not ever needed to be. How do we navigate within that perimeter without losing ourselves? our lives? our loved ones? How do we create boundaries when they don’t exist for one half of the equation? To mom boundaries = rejection. They are never about creating a healthy relationship. She does not understand their place and how critical they are to keep everyone okay. Without them anything is fair game, even preying on those she dislikes. As she has gotten older it seems this habit has gotten worse. She is willing and apt to say almost anything even if it causes those near her to cringe. I can only hope she doesn’t speak of me or my partner that way when we are not the ones present. It seems the edit button function fails with age. As I sit and listen I repeatedly stop her. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care nor do I see the point. Why bitch and carry on about someone? Why expend the energy, never mind I can’t understand the hate and disdain. I don’t know where the hate comes from, or why it breeds so readily somewhere within her. I do not understand. I just want to live my life and hold on to my partner. She means the world to me yet I understand I must also care for my mother as she ages. This incident was a wake up call to all of us. It won’t be long. For now I know my life must begin to integrate her into it. Not just from the perimeter on occasion, but within that mine field. There is no option now. The avoidance and distance I have employed for years in an attempt to protect myself just doesn’t work now. I can only hope I am stronger than I once was and that I can handle the anger and the hate with patience and kindness. Sadly I doubt my ability to do so. I doubt my capacity to engage with her for any length of time. I can only hope each of my siblings can carry their weight and that we can each take turns in the mine field.
I hate that I wrote this. It feels dirty and unkind. It bristles because it is the truth. The unspoken truth about living with my mother.