There was once a time when I was the wise man of my group of friends. When it came to down-to-Earth advice, I was the go-to guy. There's just one topic I've never been very good with: death. The closest I ever came was when my buddy Bryan proposed the idea that he'd been responsible for his mother's demise; that he, years before, at the age of 13, should have done something to alter her self-destructive habits. (He wasn't exactly sober when he made this declaration, but I took it seriously nonetheless.) Really, what was a kid who'd only recently officially became a teenager supposed to do?
Now, oh so many years later, it's Bryan turning around and helping me to come to grips with my biological mother's death. He said, and this is a direct quote, "I'm sorry, Rob, not specifically for the loss of your bio mom, but rather what it represents. Her death is a reminder of what her presence should have been." I was swift to correct him on the use of the word "mom." There is a vast difference between a mother and a mom, and the woman who gave birth to me was merely a donor of genetic material. I simply cannot have "mom" associated with the woman who reared me in any way.
But I am mourning, and it's for the exact reason Bryan said. I'm grieving the loss of what SHOULD have been, but never was. And as last night wore on, I dwelled in a dark place where "would've, could've, and should've" played heavily. I've made quite a few radical changes in myself from decades ago, and was always trying. I was still trying when it came to my biological mother, right up until that phone call between her and I when I was going to see Stu in the hospital. I offered her the chance to sit down for a cup of coffee and perhaps talk. Boy, was I stupid, for my offering of the olive branch was met with, "You and I have nothing to discuss."
(To be clear, it had been approximately eight years since I'd last had any contact with her. It's an old story at this point, but my last contact with her was a visit to me in the psych ward, a month after she'd tried to kick me out after I'd overdosed on numerous medications and sliced up my left arm. When she attempted to make her visit to me in the hospital about HER problems, I blew a gasket.)
Just a couple of years before that "fateless" call, I learned from my Uncle Jimmy that my biological mother wondered why her children didn't call. After all we did - all we endured under her tyrannical rule - what was stopping her from making the calls herself? What was stopping her from using Stu to get addresses and phone numbers, to reach out and open up with an apology, and perhaps an explanation? What made her WANT to be as lonely as she was? (And it had to be some kind of desire, because she made no efforts to fix what had been oh so broken for so long.)
Actually, I can answer those questions. You see, she was never wrong. It was everyone else who were the offenders in one way or another, while she was innocence incarnate. And until EVERYONE mustered an apology to HER, she would hang on to her anger for as long as possible. In her eyes, she had nothing to apologize for.
In the wee hours of the morning, I was trying to tire myself out - to make my brain stop focusing on her death - by playing Just Cause 2. When the soldiers in the game were after me, some of them would shout, "You bastard!" So much for finding a distraction, as there had been countless times when my biological mother said those exact words to me. She was also fond of calling me a son-of-a-bitch. (Only later in life, when I was older and smart enough to come up with a response to such name-calling would I reply to being called a bastard, "So you DON'T really know who my father is?" To "son-of-a-bitch" was the reply, "You realize you're the bitch in that equation, right?") When living under the same roof, she never called for her children; she shrieked her summons, and we were always in trouble for one thing or another. We were never good enough. Not ever.
And there was Stu, on the phone with me, making the statement that he was her favorite. Personally, I don't think that that's something to boast about. I mean, who in their right mind would proudly announce, "During the Nazi occupation of so many European countries, I was Hitler's best friend!"
Yes, I am comparing my biological mother to Adolf Hitler. While they weren't exactly on the same level of atrocities, there certainly were a few similarities. Hitler came into power with influential, charismatic speeches that drove Germany to believe he would bring their nation back on the map, so to speak. Well, after so much griping from me, friends would meet my mother and come away saying, "She's not THAT bad," to which I'd reply, "Live with her." She wasn't completely friendless, and was certainly able to con a few people into believing she was a good person. And that's just the thing...She COULD be a human being...or at least pretend to be one.
But acts can only be maintained for so long, and the fact that my biological mother was an unmitigated bitch could not be hidden for decades at a time. People started seeing her for what she really was, and her friends started wandering off to spend time with higher quality company. The reaction Stu seemed to be getting when he called old "friends" of our biological mother was, "Oh, that's too bad." As far as I know, no one asked for funeral information; no one wanted to attend. In fact, Stu said that there will likely be only seven people at the funeral...and it's one of the saddest things in the world to realize that this woman knew so many people, yet only one son, his family, and a couple of her nieces (and their spouses) will see her corporeal remains into the ground. No one else is interested, and I...Well, I gave my reasons for not going in my last couple of posts.
As I mourn the loss of a mother I never had, I'm slowly coming to realize exactly how foolish I truly am. You see, a part of me has been waiting...waiting and hoping that she would become a member of the human race, and that one day I would receive a lengthy letter, stained with tears, explaining and apologizing for the decades of psychological torture she dished out. That she would acknowledge her countless, monumental mistakes, and say SOMETHING in an effort to make things right. That perhaps, as she came to realize her years were waning swiftly, she would realize that she didn't truly want to be so alone as her life dwindled. And that it wouldn't be an act; it wouldn't simply be her seeking solace, but a genuine effort to make amends. I can't begin to imagine how I might have responded to such a letter, but I'd like to think that I'd give her that one last chance - the 1,000th last chance - to see if she had truly changed, praying all the while that it wasn't some kind of act.
Alas, a leopard doesn't change its spots. My biological mother having an emotional epiphany like that would be against astronomical odds. She'd had countless opportunities to realize that maybe - just maybe - she was the offending party, and she never showed any interest in exploring such an emotional avenue. Way back in this post, I spoke of our family therapy. (Ninth paragraph down.) Right then, with four of us seemingly ganging up on her, (my father not quite sure if he should be defending his kids of defending his wife), you would think she'd have one of those aforementioned epiphanies. No such luck. Even after she divorced my father, she went into therapy, but not until she found a therapist who agreed with her that she was right and everyone else was wrong.
I'm a fool, alright. Even now, with my brain still clinging to some kind of hope that she found humanity toward the end, I imagine that a piece of mail might yet arrive - something Stu might find while going through her possessions...that tear-stained letter, begging for forgiveness as she knew the end was closing in on her. And that's as probable as me confessing that I'm currently working on earning my second million dollars, as the first million is too hard to make.
Be well, my friends...at least better than me, and DFTBA.