Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How Do I....?

Usually I don't like to air my dirty family laundry publically. But today I am posting this because I know that some members of my family read this blog from time to time. And it is the ONLY means of communication I have with them. Please know I love you. I have always loved you. All I have ever wanted is to know that you loved me, too.

Your sister, your daughter, your niece,

Last night I received the news. My mother has Lou Gehrig’s disease. Apparently she has been bedridden for quite some time and now there is talk of inserting some kind of a tube. Her body has wasted away to almost nothing. The real clincher of this hideous disease is that, while the muscles of the body eventually become paralyzed, the patient’s brain continues to work and function normally, so the patient is very much aware of what is happening to him or her.

In any event, a family member called me last night to tell me – apparently against the wishes of the rest of my family from whom I have been estranged for over three years now, since my mother ran out on me just days before my son’s funeral and the day before the Army returned his body to me. Upon her return home to Idaho, she told the family some story – I do not know what – that caused both of my brothers and my step dad to refuse to talk to me or to return phone calls. Within a very short period of time, I lost not only my son but also half of my family.

It wasn’t the first time she ran out on me. It was just the last time I was willing to let her hurt me like that.

Now this family member thinks I should call my mom while there is still a chance to reconcile and make peace with each other.

I sat up most of the night thinking, crying, and talking with Maxx about this. Mom has known about this disease for awhile now and she has known how to get in touch with me to reconcile if she wanted to, yet she chose not to. My brothers could have gotten in touch with me if that had wanted to, yet they chose not to. And apparently the rest of the family felt that I shouldn’t be told about mom’s illness.

How do I reconcile all of this in my mind and in my heart? Right now I feel so damn hurt and so damn angry with mom, my brothers and my step dad. What the hell did I ever do to deserve them turning their backs on me? I have never known why mom left in the midst of planning Jeremy’s funeral. I have never been told what it was that mom said that, in fact, turned my whole family against me.

All I ever heard was from my brothers: “You can’t treat my mother like this. I won’t stand for it.” What the hell did I do? I was trying to plan a funeral for my son. I was trying to get through the worst hell I have ever experienced in my life the best that I could. It would have been nice to have a little understanding and kindness from my own mother, my brothers, and my step dad for a little while. But they couldn’t give that to me. So I had to mourn not only the death of my son but also the loss of the rest of my family, too.

The last time I saw my mom was when we went out to dinner on our way home from the funeral home where we had been making arrangements and met with my ex-husband and my daughters. Everything was fine at dinner, or at least as fine as they could be under the circumstances. When we got home, Maxx and I went into our bedroom to change our clothes and we got into a heated discussion, something that will happen to couples during times like that. And when we came out of the bedroom, Mom was gone. I assumed she had gone to her hotel room down the street from our house, and would call when she was ready. She never said goodbye. She never said she was leaving. She just left.

A couple of hours later I got a phone call from my brother, Andy, cussing me out because “his” mother was in a hotel room in a strange city all by herself and I shouldn’t be treating her that way. Mom was in a hotel room because we had asked her to go to one. We lived in a 900 square foot apartment and had nowhere to put mom other than on the couch in the living room. Under the circumstances we were in, Maxx and I weren’t sleeping and found ourselves up roaming around all night long. We felt mom would be more comfortable in a space of her own.

And then there was the drinking. She started drinking the night she came into town and got real ugly when she did. If she wanted to drink, that was fine, but I couldn’t tolerate it right then. I needed some kind of peace and it wasn’t happening with mom sitting in my living room drinking all night long and cussing, and waiting for me to leave the room so she could tell anyone within earshot what a terrible person I was.

We finally got hold of her on the phone and she said she was leaving the next morning. She had been drinking again. So we went over to the hotel and confiscated our car from the parking lot and took it home without telling her. We didn’t know what she was going to do. She had said she wanted one of us to take her to the airport the next morning. We told her we couldn’t because we had to be at the funeral home the next morning to wait for the arrival of Jeremy’s body from the Army.

This was later followed by a rather nasty email from my brother, George, on my birthday a couple of weeks later. It just also happened to be the day I was sitting at home waiting for the delivery of my son’s personal effects from the Army.

We haven’t talked in over three years. I couldn’t let this woman who had given birth to me hurt me any longer. She was my mother, for God’s sake, yet she couldn’t be kind to me, she couldn’t help me, she wouldn’t be there for my son’s funeral – her grandson.

And now, a well-intentioned family member wants me to reconcile with my mother before she dies. Why didn’t my mother make the attempt to reconcile with me? Why didn’t she call me when she could and just say, “I’m sorry. I love you, Sis”?

Why should I?

How do I?


jarvenpa said...

dear Amy, I can't and won't tell you what you can do, and how you can do it. Family dynamics sometimes suck big time.
Alcohol makes it worse.
My step mother managed to totally estrange my father from me, through various accusations and lies (most of which I only found out about when too late to deal with them). I was, however, fortunate, because my father when he was dying did make that phone call--when he was diagnosed. And my step mother found that maybe my help would be...good. So I stepped in and helped, as I could, and he died in my arms. We had a couple years (death from cancer, and he fooled his docs to a degree).
Step mom (and she is alcoholic) does from time to time set me up, pull odd strings, get other family members riled up.

I don't know how to deal properly with all that,and this is nothing so hurtful and intense as your own story (I suppose I am telling you this to say--you aren't alone. But I know that doesn't help, because in grief we are alone, we do our grieving in our own way. This includes grief for the if only moments: if only mom had been able to truly love me, if only she had called, if only she were not in some way damaged, if only...)

I don't know. I send you a metaphoric hug. It is very little. I hope you find comfort.

Anonymous said...

Amy,I appreciate your posts as you think deeply about life....You have had so much pain from childhod and adulthood....Jeremy is a fine young man who lives in your heart forever;and he made changes in his life to break the same old pattern that many families the hamster on the treadmill...I am a recovering alcoholic(25 yrs.sober,one day at a time}It is a family disease.physical,mental and spiritual;...Praciticing alcoholics cause crises,but run from crises of others..The 12 step program saved my life...I would not allow myself to feel anything..bottomline whatever decision you make is the right one for you(not for your family or your mother)The decision that brings YOU peace......Do you want to be like the rest of your family???What would Jeremy do????Read the Serenity prayer which is a mainstay of A.A....You cannot change others;however you can make changes in yourself to have peace of mind,and get off the hamster treadmill which happens to us all...Jeremy did, and you can also..I have 2 daughters whom I dearly love,and I needed to let them live their lives, make their decisions,grow-up even tho I don't like all their behaviors or decisions;and I am always concerned for their well-being and safety..Don't know if all this is much help for you, but I wanted to pass my thoughts along to you....Frances

Amy Branham said...

Thank you so much for your comments. I have made the decision that I am not going to try to reconcile with my mother or the rest of my family. If it had just been a one time thing, then yeah, I would. But this is 45 years of heartache and pain and the same patterns repeating themselves over and over again. At this point, I feel, it's too late.

I feel so very sorry for this old woman that is suffering from this terrible disease, but that is about all I feel for her. I feel sorry for me because I am now faced with all those dark memories and shadows from my past once again. I wish things could have been different for us.