I’m dying here. It’s so close. She’s home in four days and I’m so excited. My brother agreed to come on the drive. Never thought he would. We’re not telling her. She’s going to cry so much.
I’m trying to look at things a little objectively right now. My boyfriend has been reading into stoicism and sending me bits of advice via “remember…situations are neutral. It’s all about your reaction that determines whether they are positive or negative.” I don’t really know if that’s stoicism or not but I’m going to take a page from his book right now.
What are my fears about my mom’s release? Well it probably breaks down into a few categories. I think I’ll focus on the ones that are closest to the present.
One big fear is that my sister and I will butt heads. She’s very controlling and I’m nervous my mom may flock to that sort of authority. I don’t think she needs people controlling her life once she gets out. But I’m also most afraid that she will be forced to pick sides. Seeing as my sister are constantly in competition with each other (as dictated by her, not me), I don’t actually care if she picks her side just to save face. I do care if she picks sides with her because she doesn’t want to make her own choices and she’s afraid to see how she actually feels about things she wants to do. I can see how it would happen. She’d come to me “hey bugg, I’m thinking about…” and we’d launch into a conversation and she’d come to a conclusion and then she’d talk to my sister about it and my sister would go “well obviously that’s the wrong choice. Do this.” and because she’s so fragile right now, she’d just follow blindly.
I don’t know if that’s a rational fear or not but it’s in my head.
I think the other part is how to introduce her to people. How do I explain her absence. Do we lie? Do we only lie to certain people? I’ve always had my “PC” version of the truth, will we need to implement it? How do I introduce her to the people in my life who already know the truth?
My other fear is that I won’t want to pursue the same things anymore. I’ll be dealing with actual real life stuff. I’m a fixer. I’m a conflict resolver. I’m a person who jumps 200% into helping people and when I’m doing that, I forget to care about the stuff I like to do. I’m afraid a piece of myself may disappear when it shouldn’t. But I’m also prepared for the pieces that aren’t relevant anymore to evolve. So I think that falls under the umbrella of the “unknown” which is fine. I can’t focus on those without more information.
My other fear is that she’ll be really inappropriate in social situations. She doesn’t have a filter for some things and I’m not sure how being institutionalized has affected her tendency towards aggression. She was never really a physically aggressive person, always a psychological one. Will she regress? Or has she already evolved?
What activities will bring her peace? What activities won’t?
I know I can’t carry her burden for her but I want to help her transition the right way and I’m totally freaked out that I will give her the wrong advice one day and she’ll be thrown into a situation where she can’t handle it.
I’m afraid of the rescue phone calls. I’m afraid of the midnight ones where she can’t sleep. I just want to get her a cat.
Feelings for me get pretty tricky. I used to feel them so much and so often, I had to turn them off for a long time. Eventually that would erupt into some kind of giant crying scene complete with me writing poems for hours and smudging around the ink with my tears, feeling very sorry for myself wondering how the world could have wronged me so. But then again that was fourteen for most I believe. Then all those angry years took all the tears and turned themselves into screams and broken glass from all the bottles I smashed in my alley when I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those feelings.
It’s taken some time but I don’t really do any of those things anymore. I know part of the mess was hormones but it was also that my mom and I were learning how to grow up together. She went through a lot of passive aggressive attitudes and dirty maneuvers before she became someone I wanted to talk to. She told me I was a druggy (because I’d smoked weed and drank alcohol at a friend’s house in high school). She told me I was neglecting her because I didn’t come to visit more than twice a year – even though it’s a four and half hour drive (one way) and I was only fifteen. She called me repeatedly throughout the day to talk to me even if my friends were around and I couldn’t hang up because of the guilt I felt if I didn’t stay on the phone – not to mention the manipulation I’d be unwittingly forced to endure for days (even weeks) on end.
And then I she wrote me her last horrible, seven page “intervention” letter for my 18th birthday and I didn’t talk to her for a year. She stopped. We’ve both grown up since then.
It took me a long time to visit her after I started talking to her again. I’ve been back once or twice since my 21st birthday.
But it doesn’t fail to amaze me each time she makes me feel better when I don’t even know I’m down. Since I’ve never had a conventional mother-daughter relationship, I’ve never had one to compare myself to. I’ve seen things from a window I’ve always looked in on but never experienced. And I still don’t really know what it is that I’m a part of. It’s like a horribly unhealthy relationship that finally blossomed. I feel like our bond is kindred to tales of those old, aging sisters that live off in some secluded house on the top of a hill somewhere who spend their days making jam and painting.
Whenever there’s a separation from someone who’s supposed to be an instrumental part of your life and they come back, there’s this awkwardness. What do we do now? How do we act? Where do I put my hands? Is it okay to laugh at this? Am I holding on too long? Can we sit in comfortable silence? What now? And even at visiting, there’s still a little bit of that. But over the phone and via letter, it’s completely washed away. Ironically enough, I feel closer to her when I only hear her voice than when I hold her hand. Because in person, she’s still a stranger to me — but her voice, I know it by heart.
She tells me I’m a good person, that she wants me to dream big, that I’m smart, tough, strong, loved, needed, beautiful. She tells me things I’ve never known I needed to hear. My dad has always said those things (albeit sparingly, he stresses the intelligence thing, that I’m the spitting image of him and therefore beautiful, all in good humor of course) but for whatever reason, hearing it from her makes it feel a little realer. And I feel bad that I didn’t know I was unsatisfied with my dad’s validation but to be honest, a mother’s love is different. Plus, considering she’s somewhat of a hardened OG nowadays it’s even more of a ego boost than it might’ve been before.
She told me today that she makes 15 cents an hour. That she’s happy she got a new job and took the pay cut even though she was making significantly more before (enough to support herself). She said being able to work at night and see the moon and be surrounded by quiet is worth more than money. She said it was the first time she’d been outside at night in nearly ten years. That made me cherish the moonlight a little bit more.
For several years it was really hard to get through all the letters. Most people relish the idea of receiving snail mail and it’s because it’s probably pretty rare nowadays to correspond with paper and pen. Now I let them pile up until there’s a decent sized stack and subsequently read through the cards, letters, and sift through the pictures I can’t display because they’d stir up too many unwanted questions.
When I used to go off to sleep away camp for those two brief weeks every summer, I checked for letters everyday. Before my mom went away, I think I got a handful over the course of 6 years, most of which from my dad.
Today, I have bins and boxes filled with letters and envelopes (because I keep almost all of them). I have hand stitched purses dyed with pink koolaid. I have really old plastic baggies of cakes, so far crushed that they resemble brightly colored cookies, from all the birthdays she sent them to me.
I have more bibles than I can ever need, all dog-earred, annotated and highlighted. She’s converted a few times so there are more than a few I don’t know if ill ever flip through. I have scripture cutouts, pamphlets, and bookmarks. More bookmarks than a Barnes & nobles. I could quite literally start making money selling them wholesale to various religious sects around town.
For a few years she sent me these plastic cups. We use them for cat food and other random tasks now but for a little while, I treasured them. They were detailed with little logos or phrases that she paid other women to do for her and in exchange she traded food or coffee or sandals. Every holiday I had to tell her through gritted teeth, which new design I’d like. I have tinker bell, surfers, cars, basketballs, footballs. I think we both ran out of ideas eventually.
I used to keep all of her clothes. My mother had a walk in closet, so there were QUITE a few items. They smelled like her perfume that mixed in with the smell of cedar like the big door framing the room. I’ve since thrown most of them out. Her old living room couch still sits in our yard, moldy from months of rain.
I have boxes for the jewelry she sends me. The only things I actually use. She sends beaded bracelets and earrings but the earrings are so big and dangly I’d never wear them. The bracelets are delicate and beautiful.
My brother doesn’t wear the ones she sends him but I keep them secretly and add them to the boxes. I never realized I’d have so much stuff I could never throw away.