My Mother’s birthday is today, she is 65 years old. She has a slew of mental health/health issues. None of which I actually know the true diagnoses of. As far back as I can remember and piece together with family, my mom has always been unstable. Growing up, I know that she and her 9 other siblings were physically abused. She claims some sexual abuse and trauma, though I don’t know the stories. 2 of her siblings have different father’s. The story of her childhood is an ugly one, as most of our stories are.
I believe it was 1998 when she suffered what I can only refer to now as a “nervous breakdown”. It was due largely in part to family drama. She was never accepted by my father’s family as “part of the family” although at my age now, I don’t know how much of what she has told us is actually true. You see, I have no idea who my mother is. I don’t know her stories, I don’t know her deep dark secrets, I don’t know why she chooses to live in a false reality that she’s created for herself. I have always been the daughter that was stuck to her like glue. I would always come to her defense, I would always try to be the voice of reason for her, the liaison between her and my sisters. I have always tried to protect her.
Growing up we’d hear stories about my mom’s behavior. She’s always been labeled “crazy”. My dad recounts times with us now as adults, how she used to literally lose her mind, appear to be possessed or just take off running from their apartments or houses. So in 1998, I don’t know if her mental health issues had just been dormant for decades and that’s why we never fully understood the magnitude of it or if she just knew how to hide it that well. Either way, I watched my mom go through prescription after prescription of various different anti-anxiety, anti-nausea and other medications that I am not even sure what their purpose was. It was about a year after that when we were back in FL that I would bear witness to the insanity that must have been in her mind. She would literally faint out of nowhere, she would wake up in a trance like state-open the front door and walk out. She would literally pass out and seemingly “wake up” acting out what I can only guess were her dreams. If we tried to wake her up or stop her , she would scream and violently flail to get away from us, not recognizing who we were.
This went on for years. Eventually my middle sister joined the Navy and left home. I was alone dealing with all of this. My father drove trucks so, as a young teen I had to be the one to care for her. She still worked at this time, she hadn’t yet filed for disability, but these attacks grew more and more frequent and more violent as time went on. I was always scared to be alone with her, not that she would hurt me, but more scared of how I would handle it. I vividly remember one day, during a horrible thunderstorm, my mom and I napped together. Any storm or impending storm, she didn’t want any electricity being used so we couldn’t watch tv or be on the computer. Anyways, lighting struck something on the roof and a huge flash exploded in the corner of her bedroom, where we were sleeping. She woke from a dead sleep screaming at the top of her lungs about her “babies” (us) and crawled underneath the desk in her room. I was totally panicked, I was trying to talk to her and she just kept saying “I need to get my babies” over and over. Not knowing what to do I tried to calm her and ask questions, that it was just the storm and it would be okay. Kind of like how you shouldn’t wake up a sleepwalker, we learned that we had to entertain whatever she was experiencing or saying to avoid disaster or more panic. There would be a lot of these moments. Some where she’d try to physically hurt me. I never got upset or mad, because I don’t believe she knew what she was doing. She couldn’t ever recall after she’d wake up.
My poor dad dealt with the brunt end of all of this. She never treated him well and he did absolutely EVERYTHING for my mom. He took care of her all those years. Took her to the hospital all the time. The time she attempted to take her own life, we were all home. I saw my dad withering away. He’d get home on a Friday and disappear for about 2 days. I cant imagine what it was like mentally for him, or what its like today. We don’t discuss that stuff.
Flash forward to about 2006, I got out of the military, for the first time, and moved back home. Over that time she had become a bit of an agoraphobic, she didn’t like to leave the house. Working through my own separation and divorce with no plan I thought I could help my parents out even if just emotionally. My Father actually asked me to not re-enlist, said that I should come home and help with my Mom. I did. I was on unemployment, so financially I couldn’t help at all. His car was repossessed about a week after being home and I realized I had walked back into the same situation I had left at 19, with my parents. I don’t share these stories with anyone, my sisters have their own versions and it’s a difficult part of my life that I can’t reconcile. Either way, I tried to help. I tried to help my Mom build confidence in herself. She had suffered from dental issues, no insurance, so she had lost some teeth and felt so ashamed. I didn’t want her to feel that way so I began to try to get her to start looking and feeling better about herself. I would straighten her hair, pick out her clothes. We’d go for rides. She seemed to start feeling better and making effort to work on her appearance. I introduced her to MySpace as a way to keep in touch with my siblings and family. I tried to tell her not to rely so much on her meds. All of these things I thought would help her become a better mom or a better wife. What was an innocent attempt on my part created some sort of a monster.
When I finally moved away to Tampa, she had started, I guess, online chatting with random men. Long story short she started to push my dad away. She lived with some disgusting truck driver, created all kinds of problems between my father and the mutual friend they had made over the years. She lied that he would take her money and all of these other horrible things. She had moved into my grandmothers old trailer and invited my dad over, him not realizing she had another man there and my poor dad wet himself from the shock. She turned into a literal selfish monster. I’m not sure but I think she stopped taking any medicine completely. My Dad was devastated, and out of that blamed me. He and I were both living in Tampa at the time. He told me that her behavior was all my fault.
Eventually my mother became estranged. My Father decided to move to Ecuador and start a new life, coming back every few years. My mother moved to Wisconsin with some man. Some old “veteran” who worked for the veteran’s cemeteries who supposedly murdered someone. My sisters and I would call each other all the time to ask if anyone had heard from her, worried that she’d turn up dead somewhere. My entire life I have always feared this would be the outcome. Somehow she managed to make it to California in a homeless veteran shelter. It seemed the more she spent time at the VA hospitals, the more she became like the old vets who told made up war stories and tried to scam their way into everything. She is a pro-scammer. Soon after getting to CA she shacked up with some other veteran guy who was disabled and wheelchair bound. She had bounced from place to place. I wouldn’t hear for her for months. I would try to call the last numbers she had called me from with no luck. I even called the San Jose PD once to do a wellness check at the last address I had fearing that they’d call me back and say they’d found her body.
You see, my entire life has been one of worrying about this woman. This woman who could honestly care less about the stress and worry she has put all of us through. Never making a choice to be better. Forever the victim of her horrible family, her shitty husband and her ungrateful kids. There are some times where my sisters and I discuss, whether or not she ever really wanted to have children because of the way she treats us. My older sister and I decided to open our doors to her, for my sister it was her final attempt, to move to upstate NY and live with us. She bought herself a ticket and flew into town. I hadn’t seen my mom at that point in person, in probably 5 years. I kept up with her life through social media. I barely recognized her. She was probably 100lbs, her poor teeth were a mess, painful I’m sure, her hair was half dyed but I was just happy to see her alive. She told us that her boyfriend had planned to come to NY soon. And then soon, turned into a few days later. My sister and I were so upset. She had pulled her old tricks, seemed to be doing well, seemed to want to change. We felt so stupid. This man showed up and I had to pick him up from the airport. My mother never mentioned it until the day he flew in. This man in the wheelchair. Then I realized, he had been using her for her disability checks. It was so clear to me. As I struggled to fit his damn wheelchair into my car, I thought to myself, “what the fuck? what is wrong with this woman? why would she do this?”. She had assumed we would somehow accommodate this man, this stranger in our homes. And as bad as I felt I asked her where he was staying. As usual, her plan was to go to a “motel”. And he was all about her spending her money.
Those next few months he went to the VA and was placed in a homeless shelter and she stayed with me. She had no regard for my space. Burned a hole in my brand new couch with her cigarette. My older sister had financed about $2000 to get her full dental work done along with dentures. We thought she would appreciate it, she would feel good about herself, but instead she never wore them and continued to hang out the VA with this guy. I had to head out for Texas for 6 weeks for tech school (I had joined the Air Nat’l Guard the year prior) I would be gone for 6 weeks and no sooner had I hit the road, did she have this man in my apartment. What kind of mother disrespects their daughters home? Mine. When I returned from school my carpet was destroyed from the dirty wheels of his wheelchair. My couch had a hole in it. She smoked inside so everything stunk horribly. She had absolutely no concern for my space or my belongings and still, I tried. She ignored all of my boundaries. He was gone by the time I got home, but still I was so angry and I couldn’t react or she’d leave or do something crazy. We lived in upstate NY, so winter temps are pretty dangerous. One night we were heading to the grocery store, she and I, and I noticed she didn’t put her dentures in. I asked her “you don’t want to wear your dentures?” and she replied that they hurt her gums. I had reached my limit. With all that we had done to help her, I made a comment about it. One thing led to another and we were in a full blown argument. This was probably November time frame so it was cold and had already been snowing the entire month. She left. I told her not to, but she left. She went walking, I still don’t know how she got to where she was going, but apparently this boyfriend had already had an apartment. We didn’t speak for awhile.
Over the next couple of years the relationship with that man ended, she was able to move into her own apartment, a brand new multi-million dollar veteran complex. Things were looking up and she actually did pretty well for herself for the 4.5 years she’d lived there. She was on her own, taking care of herself mentally and physically. I didn’t worry so much except that I had moved in 2015 and wasn’t physically close to her anymore. Our relationship got a lot better. I was able to help her through some hard times. I was feeling like I may have a shot at the normal mother-daughter relationship I wanted for so long. She has never had a good relationship with my sisters so, as always, I tried to be the voice of reason for each party. Tried to get everyone, even my dad, to just make an effort to be a “good family”.
Then she decided she wanted to move to VA Beach to help my middle sister with her kids in August of this year. She had finally been able to visit and meet the kids for the first time back in June. We discussed the move and she said she was sure she wanted to do it. So, I made the plans, reserved the UHaul and I drove up to NY with my dog in tow, no help from anyone as usual and packed up her apartment and drove her down. I actually hadn’t spoken to my sister prior to that in about 3 months because she is also damaged, destructive person in my life. She’s a whole other story I don’t have time to write about today. Anyways, she opened her doors so I thought this would be it. I thought they were both at a place where they could help one another. Within a couple of weeks, they were butting heads. I was getting texts and phone calls. No sooner did I drop her off did they have to make their way to where I live now in evacuation of the hurricane. They fought on the way here and I realized again, that my mom doesn’t care about anyone or anything, but herself. My nephew is autistic and my niece is very developmentally delayed. She was having a hard time handling them, as I knew she would and said she was giving up, that we cant use “autism” as the excuse for his behavior. I came home that day to drama. To an argument, to attitudes, to insults and to my mom being the stereotypical crazy lady walking around outside, looking disheveled talking to herself. She didn’t want to hear anything I had to say, even though she followed me out. She began her normal, negative self-talk, began her insults about my sisters. Started to get emotional and make herself the victim. I tried to explain autism to her and she said she didn’t care. I tried to get her to understand the different behaviors and different levels, she kept saying she didn’t believe it. She hasn’t changed at all. She will never change. It took 2 weeks for her to be the same person she was only a few years ago. And for the first time I accepted that. For the first time I realized that I will NEVER have a normal Mom. I will never have a mother who is mentally well because she doesn’t care to be. I will never have a mother who is anything, but selfish. Who doesn’t appreciate anything. Who doesn’t care about the hurtful things she says that we can’t forget. Who can’t stop dwelling on every negative thing she’s experienced in her life. Who doesn’t appreciate the countless sacrifices that each of us have made to make her life better. The way we walk on eggshells in our own home when she’s in a mood as to not upset her. She just doesn’t give a shit. Not about me, not about my sisters, not about her grandchildren. She doesn’t care about having good relationships with any of us. She treats strangers with more kindness and respect. She helps everyone else out, but can’t help us. She can love her “friends” so much, but can’t love us even a smidgen in comparison.
It’s a harsh, harsh reality to accept. To accept that I will never have those “mom and daughter” dates everyone else has. To know that my mom would rather live in a seedy, dirty motel than with me. And I’ve offered, more times than I can count. To know that no matter how hard we try to take care of her, her hateful words will never allow us to want to get close. Her cranky demeanor scare away her grandchildren. I’ve been the only one she can count on. I have been the only one out of our family who has gone above and beyond to help her with everything. I’m the only one that can get her down out of a panic attack, that can lift her spirits when she’s down. I have driven literally 30 hours in 2 days to move her safely to another state. When her mother died I drove her all the way to FL and protected her from all the bullshit her family threw her way. No one had the audacity to come at her sideways. We bonded so much on that trip, but now here she is, doing the same shit. I feel so guilty in saying that her appearance embarrasses me. I have to constantly apologize when she’s around because she leaves cigarette ashes everywhere. Her mouth is always denture-less, her hair is a mess, her nails are dark and destroyed from her self-mutilation. I will never have a “normal” mom. She has now made a plan to go back to FL alone, to live in a motel that may not even exist anymore, to “start over”. My fears are resurfacing because I don’t know how long I can continue to allow this toxicity to dictate my life. I don’t have the energy anymore to lie awake at night hoping she’s alive. And she just doesn’t care. I can feel myself getting to a point where I want to stop trying, but I’m not that person. I will always worry. I will always care.
She’s my mother. She’s the only mother I will ever have and yet, she’s not ever really been a mother to me. She doesn’t care to be. I feel like I have always been the mother where she’s concerned. She will forever be the victim of people who don’t care, even though that’s all we’ve ever done.
I find it amusing when people ask me why I don’t want to have children…