The vent begins.
This February a bitch will celebrate five years of blogging here at AngryBlackBitch.
I’ve written a lot about my family…my sister, brother and my father, rest his soul.
But I haven’t written much about my mother, because we are estranged.
I have not spoken to my mother in over seven years.
I’ll confess that part of why I have not written about my mother and our estrangement is because people don’t receive that information well. I don’t hide it in my life…I’m not ashamed or embarrassed…but I’ve learned from people’s reactions and advice that folks feel compelled to try to inspire a Hallmark reunion when someone tells them they are estranged from a parent.
And there will not be a Hallmark moment tearful reunion bursting with tenderhearted joy between my mother and this bitch.
And the choir asked… “Okay, bitch…fine…why the fuck are you bringing her up?”
And a bitch replied… “Because my mother resurfaced in my world last week…arriving in town and stirring up shit like only she can.”
Here’s the deal…my mother is a toxic person for me. She is manipulative, judgmental and verbally abusive. I’ve seen her treat others well, but with me things are different and always have been.
For the first seventeen years of my life I internalized that and blamed myself, thinking that there must be something in me that inspired her to lash out and generally not like me. When my older sister went to college and it became just the two of us in the house things escalated (my older autistic brother was in residential care and my father moved to Chicago after my parents divorced).
My sixteenth year of life was the single most challenging twelve months of hell that I can remember. I was at an emotional bottom and desperate for relief from being the target of the daily verbal target practice my mother indulged in…the kind of verbal abuse that is so very hard to explain, that a body somehow learns to endure but never truly release.
I developed the following technique…a routine that allowed me to fool my friends, teachers and classmates into thinking everything was okay. My mother would go off on me during the drive to school each morning, not stopping until I broke down and cried. I took early hour classes at high school, so there weren’t a lot of students entering the building when I arrived. I’d close the car door, wipe the tears from my face and quickly walk inside, going straight to the bathroom. Once inside, I turned the water on cold at the sink and thrust my hands under the rush of frigid water palms up…and I’d stay there, ice cold water flowing over my hands, until my heartbeat slowed and my breath no longer hitched in my chest. After a quick splash of water to the face I took five deep breaths, checked my reflection in the mirror and then gathered up my shit and went to class.
I’ve met folks I went to high school with who had no idea that my home life was absolute shit. It’s amazing how people see what we want them to see…how easy it is to put on a show day after day when everyday a part of yourself is dying inside.
My salvation came in the form of college…my acceptance to Simon’s Rock College literally changed my life. I applied, got letters of recommendation, took the required tests and mailed off my application without telling my mother. When I was accepted I told her I was leaving.
She told me I would fail.
I told her thank you.
I meant it…really meant that thank you…because proving her wrong had long been an amazing motivator.
So, I took my first step away from mama drama when I was seventeen…and another a year later when I transferred to Brandeis…and yet another three years after than when I moved to Texas to live with my sister.
But I didn’t sever ties completely…and my mother remained a toxic force in my life. She’d call or visit (she eventually moved to Texas too…and may the gods be damned for that one) and I’d be right back in that house with her, sixteen again and dying inside while working to maintain the appearance of a successful young woman with a supportive mother who made all that success possible.
That shit went on for years…it might have gone on forever, but I got sick when I was 29. After a year of trying other shit I had to have surgery for fibroids and I never even thought to tell my mother about the initial diagnosis or the upcoming surgery. I was focused on getting well and I knew that my mother was the last thing I needed around me. She eventually found out when my sister let it slip during an argument…and my mother decided to play maternal and come to the hospital for the big day.
True to form, she couldn’t stay in character long…she picked a fight with my sister soon after I came out of surgery and, after upsetting everyone present with the exception of this bitch (I was out of it, thanks to some exceptional meds), exited stage left.
I was in the hospital for three days.
She didn’t come back.
She called several days later after my release and asked to come visit. I held her off for another week because I didn’t want her in my house while I was taking powerful pain meds and unable to properly defend myself. When she did visit I couldn’t wait for her to leave…to just walk out the door and cease trying to pretend that she gave a flying shit just because society expected her to. And when she finally did leave…after dropping several rancid comments about random shit…I sat down and acknowledged that both of us were playing the same stupid game and that the only reason I kept engaging my mother was because society expected children to.
I was 30 years old when I broke with my mother…there wasn’t a huge scene or massive battle. I didn’t stage a moment of closure or set up a final conversation. I moved back home to St. Louis and just stopped engaging. She continued to talk to my older sister and harass her for information about me while defending herself as the innocent party in the whole mess…I finally sent her a letter explaining that I was done and that harassing my sister wasn’t going to change that. She sent a reply explaining that I was crazy, the years of manipulation and abuse never happened and that I should check myself into a mental hospital to get help.
That’s the last I heard from my mother…that’s right, I was mama drama free for years…until last week.
I got a call while at work – my mother was in town driving around my brother’s old neighborhood looking for his house. She had not been in contact with her son either for damn near seven years, choosing to sever ties with all her children even though my autistic brother was the one person she used to have a positive relationship with. Now, after years of silence, she was driving around looking for his house…he moved years ago but she didn’t have the new address. Now, after years of silence, the staff at my brother’s house was on my phone asking whether they could give my mother his address and phone number (my sister and I are co-guardians and things like that have to be approved by us).
My sister and I nixed the surprise drop in attempt…my brother’s the kind of autistic person who doesn’t always respond well to sudden changes or surprises.
We agreed to a dinner meet up between my brother and my mother…by all reports it went well.
Throughout the week I was on edge…out of sorts…but not as out of sorts as I often thought I would be when I allowed myself to wonder what my reaction would be if she suddenly showed up.
And it just hit me…just now, while writing all this shit down…that this vent isn’t the rant it would have been years ago…that I’m stronger now…that I’m further along on this road than I thought I was…that I am, rather than a mass of reactions and fear, truly at peace with my choice.
Whether my mother is here to stay or just visiting remains to be seen.
But my family…my brother and sister and this bitch…we’re going to be okay.
Our mama’s drama doesn’t have to become our drama.
Yeah, we’re going to be fine.
The vent ends.