10 June 2008

my mother died today

not today actually, but three years ago, august 6, 2005 to be exact. it's just that I found out today doing a google search of her name and I read the Social Security death records. hey, lin, your mom died and she was 89. at least I know I have some genes for longevity because my father died when he was 86.

my mother and I were seriously estranged, physically estranged for about 20 years since I neither saw her nor talked to her in all that time. but emotionally estranged for much longer than that. I figured she started getting even wackier when I was about 10 or 11 when she was in her early 50s, so around my age now. back in the mid-1950s when I was born, I think it was unusual for a woman over 40 to have a child. my father was almost 50. my mother liked to tell everyone that I was a "change of life baby." I don't think she liked me very much for that. but she waited until I was in my 20s to tell me that I should have been an abortion. thanks, mom. thanks for telling me that at an age where I could handle the craziness of that statement relatively well and not when I was 5 or 10 or 16. thank god for small miracles.

I am a survivor of more than a few things, and abuse at the hands of a parent is one of them. I won't go into specifics as I am not as brave as Utah Savage in writing about it. I feel that some things should be kept private in this age of in-your-face reality shows and tell-all confessions, but that's me. I have always kept my pain private and personal, but again, that's me. those of you who feel the need to scream your pain from your rooftop, more power to ya. despite everything I've lived through at the hands of others, I think I survived damn well and made it through my private hells relatively unscathed. better than a lot of other people I know, that's for sure. some are no longer alive.

when I think back about how my mother acted when I was growing up, I'm pretty sure she would be classified now as bi-polar. she had manic phases of high energy, doing yard work or cleaning the house from top to bottom, and then one day stay in bed all day in her darkened bedroom, never saying a word. there were times when she would not talk for days. when I was in college she told she was seeing a counselor, someone at a public mental health clinic, but she stopped because the person told her there was nothing wrong with her. she was very proud of that statement. I called the clinic to ask if my mother was seen there -- I said that I knew they could not tell me anything, I just wanted to know if a woman with my mother's name had ever been there. they said no. I never told her I did that.

growing up in the '60s and '70s, as a young feminist I came to realize that my mother was totally frustrated in her gender role. I remember her getting part-time jobs of one type or another and they would never last. I never knew the reasons why she quit them. my mother was very intelligent for a person who had never even gone to high school, she was a voracious reader, and was very proud of me that I always was one of the best students in school. of course she always said that my intelligence came from her. but I also remember that she never had anything good to say about her parents or her upbringing. she said her parents were ignorant Polacks. I never knew my grandparents from either side.

the bottom line was that my mother was nuts. I ran away (I had no idea where I was going, I just needed to get out) when I was about 15 and tried to kill myself when I was 16. I remember that the next day my mother was worried about what people would say if they found out.

you might ask where my father was during this time. he owned a little grocery store and meat market, he was a German butcher who came for the American Dream in 1927, so he worked 16 hours or more a day. I can't blame him because all my mother did was bitch about one thing or another. or scream at the top of her lungs. or lock him out of the house for days and weeks at a time. let's just say I did not grow up in the most positive and uplifting of households.

it was very obvious to me that my mother hated being married, and looking back, I don't think she liked men very much at all. so I guess it's because of that I was Daddy's Little Girl, there was nothing he would not do for me. when he could. my happiest memories are those of spending time with my father, not with my mother. it was never father-daughter abuse, it was mother-daughter abuse, but I guess he would be called negligent. negligent for working all the time. besides, he could never stand up to my mother. nobody could. she always liked to say that she'd kick the Devil himself in the ass. a tough broad. like mother like daughter.

you also might ask if I had any siblings. yup, one sister who is 19 years older than me and she left the house when I was 4 when she got married. she never looked back. I also have neither seen nor heard from her in 20 some years. so I guess you can say she abandoned me. once a tarot card reader told me that I've always been betrayed by women, never men. got that right, sister. now is there any reason I've never had lots of women friends, only a few close ones? I hate being with a group of women. I'd rather run with the boys any day. maybe that's why I feel so outside the box in the yoga world -- most yoga teachers are women.

I moved out when I was 18 and got my own apartment and I tried to have some semblance of a relationship with my mother, but it was not to be. in my 20s I realized to save myself, to save my own sanity, I had to sever all emotional ties with a toxic woman. there are many women who are not meant to be mothers.

when I got married for the second time at 35, before we moved to Texas for a corporate relocation, I wrote my mother a long letter telling her exactly why I can never see her again, with no return address. I had written my mother a similar letter once before, journaling all her actions in my life and my reactions, but that I forgave her. she told me I was a liar.

all these years I wondered how my mother was, whether she was dead or alive. I wondered if she ever thought of her long-lost daughter. there were times when I wanted to see her, to tell her in person that I forgave her, to try to get a mother's love that I so desperately wanted and needed when I was a girl. during the 18 years I lived with my parents my mother never once told me she loved me or hugged me. she always said the fact that I had food and a roof over my head was good enough. when I was about 15 she grabbed all the clothes in my closet and threw them down the basement stairs -- she said it was time I did my own washing and ironing. and I did.

I tried to convince myself growing up that I was adopted because I thought no one would treat their natural born child with such disdain.

I cried a bit today when it hit me that my mother was dead, that I finally knew for sure after all these years. in reality I cried for the way things should have been. I thought that I should have tried harder to find her, that I should have reached out. but when it came right down to it, the truth was that I was afraid of being rejected, again, and even at this stage in my life, I knew I could not stand that. maybe some people will call me a bad daughter for not having anything to do with her all these years. after all, "she's your mother, you should have been there for her." yes, like my mother was there for me all those times back in the day when I tried to kill my pain with booze or drugs or men. or when I used to hide in a closet when I was a little girl and talk to my invisible friend. I still have the teddy bear I used to hug. I can never look at pictures of myself as a little girl, they upset me too much because I am reminded of a lost childhood, but I can not let go of that teddy bear.

I forgave my mother a long time ago for the things she did to me. I make no excuses for her. we are all responsible for our actions, but in a way, she could not help herself. as a Buddhist, I have compassion for her, for how she grew up, for whatever or whoever made her the way she was, because something did. but more importantly, I have compassion and love for myself. I am a survivor. and I am glad her suffering is over.

rest in peace, mom. I wish for you the peace that you never had when you were alive. I wish happiness for you in your next life because you never had it in this one.

that is all I can do.


  1. Man. You have been through so much. But you are not a bad daughter. You did what you had to do and it's not your fault your mother was a mess.

    My mom told me a couple of years ago that she never should have had kids. Nice, huh? Not too far from the abortion comment, but at least she didn't go that far (of course, if she didn't have us, she would've had abortions). A mother saying her kid/kids never should have been born is so horrific, so painful. My mom's a mess, but not as big a mess as yours. Thank God you've survived and become the beautiful person you are.

    Sending you a hug.

  2. What a powerful and touching story. I am so sorry you had to go through that kind of a childhood. I think you were right to refuse to participate in that toxic relationship, and right to forgive her as well.

  3. thanks, G and YM....your words mean a lot to me. it never ceases to amaze me how much support there is from people you don't know and might not ever meet....:)

    women who never should have had children, but did, are abominations to me.

  4. "women who never should have had children, but did, are abominations to me."

    Yes, and I think there are quite a lot of them around. In my own mother's case, she has some imagined beautiful life in her head that she thinks she would've lived if only we hadn't come along and ruined her life. Yes, twisted thinking---we certainly didn't ask to be born, but she doesn't seem to take responsibility for her own role in "ruining" her own life.

    I agree that it is is wonderful how we can support one another in this way even though we haven't met and yeah, probably never will. Sure, it doesn't replace one on one friendship, but it's still relevant and for me, very meaningful.

  5. but then, on the other hand, all things happen for a reason in my Buddhist mind....

    those of us who were born to the women who should never have had children are here for a reason...as a yoga teacher, my path is as a healer. I have found that the private students who are drawn to me are the ones with emotional or spiritual healing that needs to be done, not the ones who need physical healing, like a bad back or tight hamstrings.

    go figure, eh?

  6. Linda Sama--I think you are incredibly brave. I am sorry that I did not read this sooner. I've been busy with that flash flood. But I want you to know that I hear you. You did what you needed to do to take care of yourself and survive and that is always the right thing to do.

  7. I came here via your yoga blog, and just wanted to offer my support to you.



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