Shepherd of the Hill Lutheran Church Faith Clowns at the 1989 Lockport Canal Day’s Parade. My mother and I are pictured on the right.
Recently I decided that the only way to truly come to terms with my twenty-eight year relationship with my mother has been to write a book; the crux of which will address the fundamental issue of whether it is possible to overcome the path ‘nature vs. nurture’ sets out for us.
Though, while the book will use the experiences (and their reprocutions) of dealing with my mother through the course of my life to illustrate the point, it will not necessarily focus on what, specifically, is awry with the relationship. It will describe events that have shaped my relationship with my mother – events that have left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I cannot see her, or even think of her, without the flush of memories coming forward to explain her present actions. For my mother will never change.
When I was ten years old, I lived with my mother for one year. During that year, I walked in on her with a boyfriend a total of five times (that I can remember) – the last, of course, on my way home from school; in the living room – them on the floor. It is hard to think how she could not have thought I would walk in on them; although, now it is quite clear that she just did not care.
When I was ten years old, she sent me back to live with my father because she had (supposedly) fallen in love and planned on moving across the country to be with the man “of her dreams.” (Two years later, he of course admitted that he was still married and would not be leaving his wife.)
When I was twelve years old, on visits to see my mother over the holidays and summertime, she began taking me with to sit in one of the booths at the many lounges she hung out in. I busied myself with books and art projects; and (of course), I was constantly made fun of by all her booze-hounding, bar-friends for being such a nerd. [At this point this posting will be upgraded to PG-13…] This same year, she started calling me a “cock block,” for (apparently) my visits with her prevented her from feeling she could go balls-out on the drunken, bar-room hook-ups.
By the time I was sixteen, my mother had set me up on a blind date with one of the twenty-one year old bartenders at her current watering hole. The date began with the guy being so drunk he slammed my hand in the car door; and ended with my walking home to my mother’s after the guy tried to convince me to stay at his friend’s party by licking my ear.
Every boyfriend that has ever broken up with my mother has been blamed on me; every thing that has gone wrong in her life has been attributed to my presence. She has shamed me, rejected me, yelled at me, picked on me, and hurt me so many times it is more logical to keep track of the times she has not done me wrong (for the bookkeeping would be much simpler).
And I just can’t stop asking for more.
No matter what my mother does to me; and no matter how much her behavior crosses over the border into abuse, I just keep coming back for more. She is my mother – for some unseemly reason I feel a sense of obligation towards her more than anyone I have ever known. It is, perhaps, for the very reason that I am used to her abuse that this is the case – but whatever the reason, I continue to set myself up for it.
So the question remains (which is the centerpiece of my book): is it possible for me to overcome this cycle of dysfunction and be the better person I wish to be? Regularly, my mother tells me I am a bad person; compares my actions to hers (when they are in no way comparable); and, spreads such vicious lies and rumors about me within her family that they all seem to believe I am nothing short of a monster.
My relationship with my mother is one that is complex and yet (paradoxically) reducible to nothing more than typical. I am sure that I am not the first to have this (seemingly) bizarre relationship with one of her parents; and I am sure I will not be the last. But on the evening of having seen my mother for the first time in almost two months – when she announced she is marrying a man she has known for three weeks; I take pause. I take pause and I remember that to come to terms with such a relationship, one must overcome it.
The only question, then, is: how?