Friends and family close to me know that lately there have been a few new happenings in the continuing saga of my Mother's life. I've regurgitated the story and drama until I cannot even stand the sound of my voice repeating the tale to another person. Needless to say, it's on par with the rest of the stuff I've written about here and here...oh and here.
This week I spent some time rummaging through my Mom's storage unit to salvage every photo I could find before it's all locked up & auctioned off. (Granted, that might not happen for quite some time, but I didn't want to take the chance.) The hubs and I went through every single box and brought home every photo album, frame, and loose picture we found. Tonight, while going through one of the boxes, I found a journal. Go ahead & judge me now b/c I will freely admit that I didn't even take a split second to think about whether or not I was going to read it. I put the baby to bed, popped the top on a hard cider, and started reading.
I don't know what I expected to learn as I snooped through her private thoughts. I do know that I half expected to find some insight into what led my Mom on her path of self-destruction, or at least discover whatever it was that hit the accelerator on her one-woman train wreck. I found neither. What I did find was validation in my sense that her children were never her primary thought or concern. I don't say this to demonize her. My love for my Mom is complicated, but she is my Mom and for that, I'll always care for her. I just don't understand her. I can't empathize with how she feels or thinks and I can't even remember the last time I felt true sympathy for her. (Though I'd wager a guess that it was somewhere around the time my stepdad beat the shit out of me and I had to jump out of a moving truck to thwart his blows and she not only didn't defend me, but she stayed in the truck with him & they immediately went & played Bingo at the VFW. It's hard to feel sorry for someone when they left you to fend for yourself at 16 years old.)
Her journal had entries that centered mostly around the time my stepdad had his hunting accident. She wrote sporadically from 2002 through 2009. Literally every single page was primarily about my stepdad, while I can count on 2 hands the number of times mine or my brother's names were mentioned. What really stood out to me was that when her & I had a fairly close relationship, I still barely garnered 2 sentences while she would write page after page about Ryan and how strong her love was for him. She wrote about an incident before he went to prison where he called her a lard ass in public. She was hurt & humiliated, yet still wrote about him like he hung the moon. I gave birth to her first grandchild and got 1 sentence: "Tricia had her baby today". No joke. To the average person, this doesn't seem like much of an eye-opener, but to me, it spoke volumes. It validates my feeling that she always put the man in her life ahead of her children. From my brother's dad, to whatever random she was dating, to my stepdad, to her latest douchebag boyfriend; they all took up more of her thoughts than her children and grandchildren. Hell, she still to this day can't remember my youngest daughter's name.
When I finished reading, I closed the journal, sat it back in the box in which I had found it, poured out the remainder of my hard cider, and went into each of my daughters' rooms just to see their faces. I told my oldest that I love her & wished her a good night, then peeked in on my youngest as she slept peacefully in her crib. I see these two extraordinary human beings and I feel unworthy of being their Mom. I am so amazed by them and honored to have played any part in their creation. Even at the peak of Mommy frustration, I would never for one solitary second wish that they weren't mine. They push me to the brink of exhaustion, they stress me out, and they test my patience on a regular basis. Yet I love them so much that sometimes it overwhelms me & tears well up in my eyes. This is why I don't understand my Mom. How does a woman give birth to a child and not immediately decide that they will do everything in their power to protect them? Even those women who choose adoption for their children are considering their child's well-being over their own. I spent a good portion of my childhood and young adulthood wishing my Mom had chosen adoption. At least I could have respected her for making that decision.
After communicating my boundaries to my Mom this last week and letting her know that I will no longer help her until she helps herself, the familiar twinge of guilt tried to make me second guess myself. Was my Mom really as bad as I made her out to be? Maybe my perspective was skewed or clouded over by bad memories that really aren't relevant to our current situation? However, after reading her journal, it's as obvious as ever that my Mother and I are light years away from each other. Not only are we completely different types of women, we're so dissimilar that we'll never see things from each other's point of view. And that's okay. I've come to terms with this revelation and it certainly makes it easier to absolve myself of any guilt I was having regarding her current situation.
The point of all this rambling is to say I'm lucky. I learned lessons that many people never have the opportunity to learn. I've survived situations that others have not. I'm not perfect (not by a REALLY LONG shot) but I'm also not the most imperfect, either. Most of all, I know from experience what it's like to yearn for the acceptance, praise, and love of a parent and will therefore never do anything that will cause my own children to have to work for my affection. Down to my core, I love my kids more than words could ever begin to express. I appreciate them, in good times and bad, without limitations or
conditions. They are my greatest pride. It's entirely possible that had circumstances been different, this wouldn't be the case. I don't know if I found what I was looking for in that journal, but I'm glad I read it. I feel peaceful and more appreciative of the life I'm fortunate enough to live. I think tonight I will sleep more soundly than I have in weeks. That is, after I go peek in on my kids one more time.