I have a story that I don’t know how to tell. I can relay the facts and some of the feelings, but there is no appropriate way that I know of to get started. So, I’ll just begin.
On March 9 of this year, I Googled my mother’s name. Sometimes I do this, because I haven’t seen or spoken to her in many years – ever since she called my then-9-year-old daughter a “bitch” at my sister’s wedding. I knew the town where she lived, and had a pretty good idea of her mental state. I would look her up periodically, just to see if I could find any information. Was she working? Was she on Classmates.com or even Facebook? As much as I knew that I had to stay away from her for my own sake and for that of my family, it’s not easy to be estranged from a parent. Sometimes, I just wanted to know where she was.
Only on March 9 when I Googled her name, her obituary showed up. She had been dead for 4 months by then, since November 1, 2012. No one called or wrote to me or my sister. There was no deathbed plea to see her daughters, no brief extension of maternal love sent our way, no sad call from my Aunt or cousins, no “you may want to come down for this.” Nothing. I even looked back at my calendar to see what I was doing that day — to see if maybe I could remember feeling something.
This is some hard shit to wrap my brain around, but I’ve gotten very good at living without a mom. I knew she was in the throes of some kind of mental illness, and I knew that I’d never have a relationship with her, and I knew that she was telling her sister and my cousins that her kids were the most horrible children on the planet. Still, it hurts.
And then I received her Will in the mail, but only because I harassed the county probate clerk for a week. My sister and I are not in it, as she left all of her property to my Aunt, and the remainder to 2 churches. And this hurts, too.
Parental estrangement is a nasty bed of thorns. In my case my mother and I never quite got along, although she was brilliantly social and friendly to our neighbors and family friends. My own friends remember her as beautiful and engaging. But living with her was a lesson in capriciousness, narcissism, and full-blown hysteria. There was ALWAYS something not-quite-right with her, which later on became a real, bona fide mental illness. And not a bumbling, forgetful kind of mental illness, but a mean one. Some of the mom stories I tell my family and close friends are quite hilarious. There was one that made a therapist’s jaw drop open, but I tell it with a full appreciation of its ridiculous humor, and have never taken it too seriously.
In fact, that’s how I manage to stay relatively sane – humor. I think almost everything that happens to me or around me is slightly or outright amusing. And I think it’s humorous in a really bizarre way that I found out my mother died through Google. I mean, it’s not funny, but it’s strange and sad, which is enough for me to have a periodic laugh or two at my own expense. I have a healthy appreciation for the absurd, and this is definitely absurd.
Only, this one is hard. I keep trying to process that my mother died hating me. Our estrangement was mutual – I never heard from her, either. Is this my fault? Was I a terrible daughter forever, or only once I knew she had a full-blown mental illness? Was it her fault? I can’t help comparing my own experience as a mom and knowing without question that my kids would NEVER be able to keep me away from them, no matter how hard they tried. Why didn’t she try? Why didn’t anyone let us know she had died? I would have gone to her funeral and I probably would have cried. I would have gone.
I’m almost 50 and I feel like I’m 8. I have more stories to tell, but I had to start here.