Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mommy Dearest

Over the years, my Mother and I have had, at best, a somewhat strained relationship, although for the past few years, we somehow were both able to put this to rest and have enjoyed what has very much felt like a normal and healthy one. To say this has been like a breath of fresh air does not even begin to do it any sort of justice. As this was something I had dreamt my entire adult life of having, I was careful to ensure I did nothing to jeopardize it, although I wouldn't have just accepted it without question had I felt that there might be possible negative consequences. In fact, in order to reach the previously unattainable, I had had to completely severe absolutely all ties with my Mom for near two years. Drastic action begets dramatic results it would seem.

Growing up, there was just Dad, Mom, my slightly younger brother and myself. When I was five, my parents decided it was time to leave the land of our birth, Ireland, to try our luck in another country halfway around the world, Canada. While I have some very vivid memories of this time, I certainly was far too young to fully comprehend the drastic, not to mention dramatic, changes occurring within our little family. Immigrating to a new country is daunting enough when one is young, single with their whole life ahead of them, I can't even begin to imagine the stress involved for a couple just a few years away from forty with two small children in tow! Not only this, but they had to do it completely on their own as no one else from either one of their families had done this, nor would anyone ever do it. 

What this meant was that neither my brother or myself had the luxury of being part of an extended family while we grew up. Although we had a total of nineteen cousins, we rarely ever saw any of them as an ocean separated us and still does. While we were fortunate enough to spend many a summer vacation visiting and getting to know them all, it was never quite the same as if we had been able to share our daily life on a regular basis with them. On occasion, I sometimes found myself filled with envy if one of my friends had the opportunity of being able to get particularly close to one of their cousins simply because they could - location...location...location.

Yet, in reality, as I grew up, this was really nothing more than a minor handicap because all in all, I was darn fortunate enough to have a pretty idyllic childhood. My folks were amazing enough and neither myself nor my brother were ever victims of any sort of abusive treatment. We were treated more than fairly, and certainly didn't lack for much of anything growing up. I seemed to naturally gravitate towards my Dad, while my brother seemed to be my Mom's favorite. I most definitely was my Daddy's Little Girl, and I surely managed to stay this way until he passed away in 2003. We shared similar interests and I always found it much easier to confide in him than I had ever found in my Mother.

While she doted on my brother who could do no wrong in her eyes, I struggled to simply get along with her at times. She could be overly harsh and critical of me if allowed, but as long as my Father was alive, it rarely happened. From time to time over the years, I'd find myself worrying what would end up happening to our relationship once my Father was no longer around to temper our behavior and treatment of the other. 

Then in 2002, my father was diagnosed with cancer. After his first month of radiation and chemo, he found himself getting weaker and felt that he could no longer drive himself safely back and forth to the hospital. As my Mother had never learned to drive, he asked me if I would drive him back and forth to his hospital appointments. Of course I agreed without hesitation but this also meant that I would be responsible with having to take him five days a week, every week for approx five to six months. 

Although this obviously greatly impacted my life as well as my own immediate family’s, I didn't mind doing it in the least and would gladly have done it again without hesitation. As some days I was required at the hospital for near eight hours, plus had to be there Monday through Friday, I quickly found it was impossible for me to continue to work full time while I did this. Luckily, I had an amazingly empathetic boss and was able to take a six month leave of absence without pay remarkably easily. Tragically, she found herself in a near identical situation with her own father a mere two months after me so...

I began driving my Father on a regular basis about the second week of July and continued to do this every day until just before Christmas of the same year.  My father managed to finish all of his radiation and chemo treatments a scant six days before Christmas Eve. Christmas that year was nice, although we already knew that my father had ended up not responding well to either one of his treatments and wasn't going to be really getting any better. 

This was confirmed before the third week of January had even started. In the interim from Christmas til this time, I had returned to work and was trying my best to settle back into some sort of routine. I was barely back at work, when my father was admitted to the hospital for what ultimately turned out to be the rest of his life. From the moment he went in, I made sure that I visited each and every day though it became increasingly harder to see him suffering so much as it got closer and closer to the end.

For the first time since I had been told that he had cancer back the previous June, I started to really feel stressed and overwhelmed. I often found it quite challenging trying to juggle a successful return to work while meeting my own immediate family’s needs - Sara was only twelve when all of this started and had yet to lose anyone close to her from death so...

At the same time, I found I was at the beck and call of my mother without the benefit of any safety net. As I knew that this was incredibly hard on her, I tried not to take some of her many and frequent outbursts personally . I got it. She felt powerless to help her life partner, a man that had looked after her now since 1956 and visa versa. All faults aside, they really were a truly magnificent couple who loved each other deeply until the very end.

OK, this entry now seems to have taken on a life of its own, so in the interest of looking towards a bit of a conclusion on the way to wrapping this all up, I'm not going to bore you with all of the specifics of what ultimately caused my Mother and I to have this serious falling out. Instead, the following anecdote should illustrate quite nicely what I was more of less up against.

By the time my father finally passed away the second week of March, I was pretty much overwhelmed with so many different emotions, never mind feeling so very, very tired. Through the last week of his life, I had spent every night at the hospital sleeping beside my father in a bed that his nurses had put together for me. The following day the only thing that I wanted to be excused from was having to take my mother to the funeral home to finalize our earlier arrangements. I was so very shattered that I just didn't have it in me to do this. As Jim and I had taken Mom there prior to Dad's passing, I figured now that it could be my brother's turn, especially as he had only visited him twice the whole time he was in hospital.

At the time, I really didn't give this request much thought at all, but it soon became quite apparent that perhaps I should have. My Mom was a little bit demanding of my time the first few months after Dad died. After working hard all week, I rarely had a chance to slow down once the weekend arrived as I was required to chauffeur my Mom around so she could get whatever errands she needed to get done. It seemed as if every place that I happened to take my mother, whenever she was offered condolences, she just had to stop so she could also share a particular story with everyone. 

All puffed up and proud, she told everyone who would listen what an absolute rock my brother had been to her, and how she wouldn't have known what to do had he not been there to look after everything the day after my Father’s passing. Canonization for sainthood must surely be around the next corner. Not one mention of what I had done for five months, nor even the last three months that he spent in the hospital. Nothing at all, nary a word, and, to make matters worse, she did all of this right in front of me, and not just on one occasion, but multiple times. I started cracking up in short order let me tell you.   

This was barely the tip of the iceberg and now that my Father was no longer around to temper my Mother's actions and treatment of me, I found our situation intolerable not to mention untenable. The longer it continued, the more I felt poisoned and shattered, and increasingly more and more depressed. Ultimately, for my own self preservation, I ended up having to sever all ties with my Mother. It turned out to be easier than I had ever imagined, and in the end I managed to avoid my mother and her abuse for nearly eighteen months. 



Lydia said...

I have been thinking of you for some reason the past few days so I was pleasantly surprised to see your post to-day. Well written. I look forward to the 'continued' part. I wonder how well your brother stepped up to the plate? Did she perhaps brag about you when you weren't around? Some women only compliment men (comment wise!). I'm coming up to my 40ith year without my Mom and think that I would take any shit she threw my way just to have her. But would I? The last letter she sent me about 15 months before she died ended with "Don't worry dear, life is only temporary". Did you make it to the Philippines? Why do you label your comments section as such?

sickgirl said...

If you continue to read, you'll soon find out that my Mom and I have since reconciled, and for the most part get along famously.

Haven't been to the Philippines yet though this is a future family trip on Jim's side and is not supposed to happen for another two years.

Blasphemous Rumours is a song by one of my favourite bands of all time, Depeche Mode.

peace, love and happiness...