September 2, 2011

Mom

Every one in awhile I think, well, my whole life is here, laid out in this blog for everyone to see. I've shared it all and there's nothing left. What now? Shut it down?
I was thinking that during the middle of the night when suddenly, at 2:44 a.m. it hit me. Mom. I've never really wallowed through my relationship with her. Maybe it's time?

My mother was an interesting person, and that's putting it mildly. Complex, funny, simple, wise, foolish, intense, giving, needy, controlling, and whatever the opposite of "controlling" would be....those are all words that come to mind when I think about her. Having a child-mother raise me has complicated my own mothering; everything I say and do and think as a mother has to be sifted and sorted to weed out anything unhealthy that might stem from hurts or bad examples or whatever.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is that I don't miss her. I miss the idea of a mom, but not her. I was heartbroken when she died, but after a week or so I actually felt relieved that that relationship was over. Finished. It was such a confusing relationship-it felt good knowing that that chapter of my life was closed and there wouldn't be any more pages written. I closed the book and haven't looked at it since.

At first mom was a very normal mom. She cooked amazing meals and baked our bread, pies and cookies from scratch. She cleaned like the pope was coming over every day and when I was sick she would gently hold my head over the toilet as I threw up and read mountains of books to me as we cuddled on the couch.

Mom had some wonderful qualities and good advice:

-She always told me, "Say yes to your kids whenever you can. Life is long and hard and will be full of "no's". Give them yeses every chance you get."
-She was adventurous. Always willing to try something new, or go somewhere new or even discuss something she knew nothing about just so she could learn something new.
-She set me free to try my wings. She encouraged me to "go for it" and not be afraid of trying new things. She encouraged me to make life rich with experiences and memories.
-She didn't try to pit me against my dad or be bitter toward him after my parents' divorced.
-She never let go of her dreams. I think it took her 3 tries before she was able to pass the test that would give her a Real Estate License. She just kept plugging away at it until she did it.
-She taught me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the mountains, a sunset, a bug on a leaf, or the way trees grew twisted and curled by the constant mountain winds.
-She was spontaneous and always up for a walk, a ride, or a Hot-Fudge Sundae at McDonald's.
-She was willing to love and accept everyone she met, no matter what they believed or what their lifestyle was.
-She taught me to appreciate and love music.
-She could make anyplace feel like home.
-She was an optimist.
-She was willing to laugh at herself and not take life so seriously.
-She had a never ending sense of humor and laughed often.
-On my 16th birthday she took me to get my driver's license, then handed me her check book and a credit card. She showed me what they were for and how to use them and never looked back. She treated me like a responsible young adult and expected me to live up those expectations.

However, after my parents' divorce she only partially seemed like a mom to me. She gave me no boundaries growing up. No bedtime. No rules about what I did with my time, watched on TV, or what I ate. She never asked me if I'd done my homework or checked my grades. Even when I was 9 or 10 I can remember feeling like I was my own parent. Then, to add to that pressure, my mom turned to me for comfort. It got so weird that she would send me Mother's Day cards thanking me for taking such good care of her. I was "asked" to be a mom to my mom just when I needed a mom the most. I know she didn't mean to put that kind of pressure on me, but the pressure was there, under the surface, giving me the feeling that I truly had no one to turn to.

I think my brother Jimmy's death was the straw that broke the camel's back for mom. For a long time she just checked out. I'd get home from school and start dinner or work on homework, expecting her to walk in the door around 6pm. More often than I care to remember the phone would ring around dinner time and mom would say she was going out to dinner with friends and to expect her when I see her. There were many nights when she wouldn't come home until 2 or 3 in the morning and she wouldn't be sober when she got there. I was only 11 or 12 and had a vivid imagination. Every strange noise I heard was a bad guy stalking around outside. I was very lonely, terrified, and the pain of losing first my dad, then Jimmy, then seemingly my mom was more than I could stand. I'd frequently wander around the apartment, pacing, and crying until mom got home. I'd help her get undressed and into bed then I'd finally get to go to bed myself.

In high school she compared me to other girls such as the cheerleaders bouncing around the football field and say things like, "Look. Look at those girls! Why can't you be like them? They're so full of life, so pretty. They know how to have fun!"
One time she looked at me and said, "Well. you're cute. You'll never be pretty, but you are cute." Um, thanks mom?

As a teen I managed to date a few old fashioned boys who would actually ask her what time she wanted me home. "Whenever you bring her home is fine with me. Just have a good time!" It was very scary to be that "on my own". When I was 16 she said, "Judy, you're going to be dating now and spending time with boys. Let's go to the doctor and get some birth control. It's OK to have fun, but you don't want to get pregnant yet."
I think that was the moment I lost respect for her.

She raised me with weird advice and what she proudly called Reverse Psychology.

Some of the advice she gave me:
-be careful how you pray, you might get what you ask for.
-don't trust men, Jude. They cannot be trusted.
-if your husband buys new underwear it means he's having an affair.

As for the reverse psychology? I'm not sure if I got that treatment because I'm such a headstrong person, or if she thought that was just the way you raise kids....you tell them to do the opposite thing you want them to do so they'll actually do what you want them to do in the first place. All that did was make me angry, hurt and confused...

So, there you have it. Or I should say, there I have it. Mom in living color and black and white. If you think about yesterday's post, this would most certainly fall under the line: past. The painful part. The part I still don't like to look at and wish I could change....

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