Sunday, January 31, 2010

Me & my heart, we have issues

I have Mommy issues. This is made all the more confusing by the role I find myself in anytime she has a personal or medical emergency. As the oldest child and the only one willing to set aside my selfishness to be there for her, I am the caretaker. I am the one who drives her to the emergency room when she needs to go or attends her major doctor's appointments when necessary. I am the one who stands up and tells her to straighten her shit out when she's caught up in any one of her various addictions. I do this b/c no one else will. I know they won't b/c I've stepped back and waited for them and nothing happened. This isn't something that comes easily or naturally for me; at least not where my mom is concerned.

I can count the number of times I was let down by my mother and it easily outweighs the number of times I felt protected by her. The blame can fall on a number of different variables, but to me, those are just excuses. They don't matter. As a mother myself, I don't understand the lack of maternal instinct; the primal nature that lights on fire the second you know a human is forming inside you or when you see their face the first time. So it's really hard for me to feel much emotion for her after so many years of trying to love her and being shown time & again how unimportant I was. It wasn't always like this. There was a time when I loved my Mom a lot. Anytime she cried, I wanted to make it better. When she was unhappy, I was unhappy. I grew up with this intense emotional tie to her. But by the time I was about 13, it started fraying. Little by little it stripped away and now the only thing I feel for her is a sense of obligation. In my mind, family is paramount to anyone and everyone else. We watch out for our own and when one of us is sick, the rest need to step up and lend a helping hand. Though I'm not sure where this value came from b/c it's evident my mother didn't teach it to me.

This past weekend, my mom went to the hospital. Ever the dutiful daughter, I drove her there and stuck by her side for 7 1/2 hours the first night, 3 1/2 hours the second day and drove her home on the third day. I didn't cry for her. I was not affected by her incoherence or disorientation. When speaking to the doctor about her medical history, in particular the tumor in her brain, I was cool as a cucumber; as if I were speaking about a complete stranger. When, in a daze, my mom started stroking my hair, my instinct was to pull away b/c she was invading my personal space. There were no warm memories sparked by this tender gesture. And before you start to think I'm a heartless bastard child, please know that I tried desperately to conjure up anything that would make that moment less awkward and more intimate. But I was struck by how difficult it was for me to feel much beyond casual worry for her, even in her diminished and vulnerable state. My concern was that of what I would expect to feel for a distant relative or a parent of a friend. Not at all what I imagine a daughter would feel for a mother.

As my immediate family (my brother & stepdad) remained M.I.A throughout the weekend, I felt an extreme guilt for not having stronger feelings for this woman. Here she was, alone in a hospital with the knowledge of a foreign mass growing inside her brain, reducing her life by the day, robbing her of the most basic thought functions, being stuck in there for 3 days with what seemed to her to be a simple flu and no one seemed to care. To me, that is heart wrenching. To be completely alone when you need someone the most. And yet no matter how many times I tried to recoup some of the emotions I felt for her in my childhood, nothing happened. I felt sympathy for her but not much more. Even now, just writing about it, I feel ashamed that such an emotional person could be so callous toward another human being, particularly my own mother. My only consolation is that my mom doesn't realize this is how I feel. I play the part fairly well b/c I'm not so uncaring that it wouldn't bother me for her to know how broken our bond is. (Presuming she hasn't already figured it out and isn't just playing along as well. Though given her penchant for denial, even if she did at some point realize how dysfunctional our relationship is, she has long-since fooled herself into believing everything's fine.)

Despite all of this, I am there when she needs me most. As her child, I feel it's my duty to take care of her in whatever way I can. Partly to salve my own guilt and partly b/c I understand the importance of family. Everyone deserves to have at least one person there. One person they know they can truly count on. Maybe it could be considered masochistic to deny the reality of my fucked up relationship with my mom; to prevent myself from moving on and leaving behind the toxicity. But to me, that seems like turning my back. I don't foresee myself ever being a healthy person if I just simply cut my losses and high-tail it out of dodge when something becomes uncomfortable. Everyone has their own reasons for sticking by someone when it would be easier to go it alone. When my Granny was sick, I was there b/c I loved her the way I expect your average daughter would love her mother. There was not anything that could have torn me from her, especially at the end. With my mom, it has less to do with the obvious (she's my mom, duh) and more to do with my sense of right and wrong. Maybe it's less wrong for me not to love my mom if I do the right thing and stick by her when she needs me most. At least, that's what I tell myself when I need to sleep at night.

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