Friday, March 8, 2013

Is that what happened?

I shared my blog with my brother a few days ago. It was a risk for certain. No two children see their parents or their family the same way. He wondered:  "Was Mom really that bad?"  The answer is Yes and No. She wasn't the same mom to each of her children. She was more than just a drunk. She was educated, smart, funny, creative, talented,  insecure, anxious, depressed, and drunk. And she may have been in the wrong line of work, mothering, like a lot of women in the 1950s and 60's who followed the plan: college/marriage/motherhood.

 Ultimately she may have felt herself a fraud, because not one of the four of us came from her. We all came from Catholic Charities. They tried to make us match, using pictures of the older sibling to match up the next. But we don't match. My brother J is probably the closest match because our eyes crinkle up in the same way when we smile. We're just four years apart so we shared after school basketball in the driveway and re-enacting the Civil War in the yard.

Mom cut out a newspaper article for me to read when I was in high school. It linked workaholic fathers with adopted children, speculating that the fathers worked so hard to avoid the children. It was years before I realized it was her he was hiding from, not me. I was the apple of his eye.

We two girls were a threat, more than the boys because we might, we just might bear our own children. And we did. She really couldn't forgive that. She wouldn't come see my youngest when he was born, but insisted that I fly with 4 month old and 2 1/2 year old to see her. I usually complied just to avoid the conflict. She held him once: "He's beautiful. I hope you aren't having anymore."

I rescued her from numerous medical dilemmas, all of her own making: vitamin B deficiency, rhabdomyolysis, a brain aneurysm, mini-strokes, a heart attack. Ultimately Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome set in and landed her in the finest nursing home in her town, which closely resembles the institution in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And the daughter who never visits, that's me. It wasn't who I meant to be. But it is who I am.

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