It was time. The moment had come that had been twisting my insides in knots. My husband and I were about to move across the state and it was time to go see my mom. I hadn’t seen her in two years and hadn’t talked to her in one. It could be the last time I would ever see her.
In the days after my father’s death, my mother and I talked more frequently by phone. I had at one point thought that maybe my father’s death would bring her and I closer together. But it was me who always called. I would call to check in on her and how she was doing, how she was handling my father being gone. But every time we spoke, she’d want off the phone after just a couple minutes. She never asked how I was doing, instead only talking about how she was doing and how everyone else was. After a few months of that, the pain inside my heart started to grow. All my mother could talk about was how proud she was of everyone else – my sisters, my brother, my nephews. Never once did she ever ask about me.
The breaking point came just after the holidays in which my son came home from the military for a visit and didn’t even tell me he was home. My mom called me to tell me how angry my son was with me. Here we go! I told her that Kevin had never once told me what his problem was with me or why he was angry. I told her that as far as I knew, there was nothing I had done to warrant his behavior. But all she could do was keep repeating how angry he was with me, like I was a liar. She said that he wouldn’t tell her why but that he was so very angry. God damn! Why did my mother not give a damn about her own daughter yet believe her grandson without question? Had my sister’s gotten their hands into her brain that far? By that point, I was more angry than hurt. The anticipation of talking to my mom again only brought extreme anxiety and heartache. She was no longer the mother I had always known, a kind and caring mother. She had become judgmental, mean and even cruel – I stopped taking her calls. When she wouldn’t stop calling, I sent her a letter letting her know that I needed space from her and the entire family, that the family drama and the emotional abuse were just too much. I let her know that I would always love her but that I couldn’t be part of a family that never truly learned to care about or support each other.
A year later, I went on a 2-week retreat to a private ranch that helps women deal with certain issues, mine being the abuse from my childhood and family estrangement. One of the things discussed was that we each are each responsible for who we allow in our lives and to what extent. If I wanted a relationship with my son, then it was my responsibility to try to fix it. That was fair enough since I was the parent. I asked about where the responsibility lies with my mother if I chose to try to rebuild a relationship with her – they told me that was also my responsibility! WTF? She’s the parent – why isn’t it her responsibility? Why was I responsible for both? This was bullshit! According to them, the person with the highest knowledge has the higher responsibility. So, with everything I had learned at the retreat, I had the higher knowledge. That was a hard thing for me to accept. It took me right back to being that person who always tried to fix things, who always got walked on and taken advantage of and I didn’t want to be that person anymore. But if I wanted a relationship with my mother, then it was up to me to initiate it. Oye! Funny how the more things change the more things stay the same.
The decision to see her was not an easy one. I didn’t really want to, instead feeling like I should, like I owed her that much because she was my mother. I wrote my mom a letter asking if she would like to see me:
I wanted to reach out to you and let you know that you are still very important to me. I love you mom; that has never changed. I heard a saying that other day that touched my heart: “The hardest things in life are to trust, to have faith, and to forgive. And to forgive is to move forward.”
I know that I hurt you, mom. It’s just that I was hurt too. I don’t think either one of us really understood how or why. And then dad’s unexpected death hit me hard and I eventually shut down. I miss him, mom, terribly.
Regardless of the past, I do want to forgive and I do want to have a relationship with you, one that moves forward and not backward. If you are open to it, I would like to come visit you soon, one-on-one.
If you would like the same, please let me know write me back.
I know I could have called her, but I just couldn’t get myself to pick up the phone. The last few phone calls we shared were torture for me. My worst fear was to still feel her disappointment, all this time later. She wrote back to me and we agreed that I would drive to see her in a couple weeks. The 4-hour drive was long and filled with anxiety. I just didn’t know what to expect. Once I got there, I sat in my car to gather myself and my emotions. Finally, it was time. No going back now.
Standing at her doorway, I froze. I must have stood there for about 5 minutes trying to find my courage. I mustered everything I had inside me, took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Nothing. I knocked again. This time the dogs inside started barking but still no one answered the door. I knocked again and waited, my courage dissipating into defeat. She hadn’t even set an alarm to be up and ready before I got there. She finally answered the door in her pajamas, half asleep. For some reason, I was expecting a hug or something. Long, lost daughter returns home! Instead she just opened the door to let me in. I took in a breath, “Hi, mom.”
“Hey, Sarah. Let me go get changed.” And with that she went to her bedroom and closed the door behind her. My heart started to bleed. I knew in an instant that this had been a HUGE mistake. Nothing had changed. There I was, so far from home, and all I wanted to do was run out to my car, get in and drive away as fast as I could. I fought that urge with every ounce of strength I had left. At the same time, I fought back tears at what I perceived to be the continued rejection of my mother.
I sat in one of her recliners and tried to catch my breath. It was then that the smell hit me. The stench of dog urine and feces hit me like a rock! My eyes scanned the tiny apartment and I realized how messy and dirty everything was. My brother had moved my mom down there to help take care of her and improve her health. From what I could see, no one was helping her take care of the apartment and that smell certainly could not be good for her.
I looked around more and saw all kinds of pictures of all my siblings and nephews and my niece. And then I saw it – a picture of my son who had been down to visit her. It all just seemed so unfair. I had done nothing wrong and yet I had lost my mother and my son. How does that happen? All the feelings of betrayal and loss and anger and hurt started coming back to the surface. This was going to be a tough. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to stay very long.
I must have sat there for about a half hour before my mother finally came out. She sat down and asked how my drive was. I don’t know what I was expecting from the visit. I guess I thought she might want to talk about what happened between us, maybe find a way to move forward and rebuild our relationship. I thought maybe she would apologize for not believing in me. Maybe, just maybe, I would see a hint of the mother I used to love so very dearly. Instead, all I got was small talk and updates on everyone in the family which is exactly what I didn’t want. It was two years earlier all over again, listening to how proud she was of everyone else but me.
I kept waiting, waiting for her to be the parent, waiting for her take control of the situation, waiting for her to care about her daughter, waiting for her to show any inkling that she still actually loved me. None of that came. And so there I was, a daughter beside her mother, experiencing the pain of loss all over again. I was an abused little girl realizing once again that mommy wasn’t going to protect me. The pain that I had tried so hard to push away was filling my soul and crushing me. The weight was unbearable; I had to get out of there!
Luckily, I had to make a long trip the next day, so I used that as an excuse to leave early. There had been no set plan for the day so it worked well. I could tell she was a little surprised and maybe even a little hurt, but the pain in my own heart was just too big. We said our goodbyes and I gave her hug, got in my car and drove away crying uncontrollably. In that moment, I knew I would never see my mom again. I no longer had a mother – I had lost both my parents.