Tuesday, July 31, 2007

She Didn't Mean It. She was Ill

"I hate you! I wish you were never born!" my mother would often tell me. "I hate you, too!" I would exclaim back, "I wish you were never my mother!" That is a terrible thing for a mother to say to her child, isn't it? It was a terrible thing for me to say as well, but it was a commonplace fight for me and my mother during my adolescence. "Your mother argues with you all like she is your sibling," my father would say, exasperated. My mother had schizophrenia and never grew up just like her mother before her and her mother's mother. It is hard to believe she managed to be a school teacher until retirement. My father would have to become president of the school board for her to keep her job and the subsequent retirement in those last years of her illness.

Me and my mother have a wonderful relationship these days. Mom came over yesterday just to sit upon my porch with me and talk. She brought me a care package of my favorite foods. We spoke of weight watchers. Her nightly jaunt to a friend's house for finger sandwiches. Just the characteristic small talk between a mother and son. Long gone are the days that we would fight like cowboys and Indians. My mother still is like a small child in many ways, but I show a kindness and understanding that I didn't have within me as a young adult and child.

"I would just leave my kids and go wandering out into the neighborhood around the school," my mother told me of her symptoms. "I can't believe I would do that."

"You were sick," I replied with an understanding.

"The principal would drive around until he found me and would send me home for the day. That is when I started sleeping all the time."

Mom's hands started shaking, talking and reminiscing about the last hard days of trying to hold it together.

"Do you think I was a terrible mother?" she then asked.

"I think you and I both did the best we could under the circumstances," I replied. "We didn't ask for this disease. We inherited it."

My mother seemed to take great comfort in my words and soon left to go home. For so many years, our illnesses were secrets in the family that just festered and served to sever family bonds and relationships. Nerves and ties would become frayed under the great burden of us trying to go about our natural lives despite almost insurmountable odds. Now we freely talk about it and are open with each other. I don't know when this great sea change occurred, but I like it. It was time to let those skeletons out of the closet so to speak. Our lives have changed immeasurably for the better because of it.



As a mother I could hear the pain in her voice through the words that you typed...the question that every mom ill or not fears to ask..do you think I was a terrible mom? My gosh. What an interesting evening/afternoon you had with her.

The worse thing a mother can ever carry with her is guilt-it's a terrible feeling.
great read by the way, Great read!

abbagirl74 said...

I love posts about your mother. It's nice to know how far you both have come. Did she give you a bunch of canned spaghetti? Reminds me of Dumpster Dan.

Barb said...

My mother passed on a disease to me, and it is a cross she and I carry hoping not to pass it to my son. Often asked, "Was I a horrible mother...?" My response is like yours, "We didnt ask for this disease, we inherited it" I wish everyday for different circumstances to have fallen my way...but they didnt.
Thank you for your insight, and witness. It makes me stronger in some weird way.

"I can be changed by what has happened to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it" Maya Angelo


justLacey said...

There is no worse feeling of guilt than contemplating the mistakes oyu have made as a mother. I'm glad you made her feel better. I often look back and think of the things I did wrong with my older daughter. Some of them I knew at the time and some I have only realized now. It's a hard job under the best of circumstances, but your mom really couldn't help the things she did and now that oyu have been through it, I bet you realize how hard it really was. I bet it's harder now with her mind clearer and realizing the things she did.

Josie Two Shoes said...

Wow! I so love that you are able to grow beyond the hurt and show compassion to your mother, in that you realize it was her disease, not her telling you such things. You are working wonderfully on all your relationships these days - it feels great, doesn't it?! :-)

Pen and the Sword said...

What a touching lament of how water truly does flow under the bridge. I hope to some day be able to say that of me and my mother. Unfortunately, her mental illness (coupled with my pride and anger) have torn our relationship beyond repair. I hope we can learn to forgive each other and some day be mother and daughter again.

Rich said...

Good post dude - I can identify with what you and your Mom are going through now and in the past.

Claudia said...

I am envious you get to have these talks with her... I tried with my mother but it is nothing. Maybe one day.

It just goes to show that things do change, doesn't it?

EE said...

You are so wise, Andrew. I'm glad that you are giving your mother grace.