Death of a Mother part 2

(This is part 2 of the series - for part 1 go here)

I started getting correspondence from my mom in my mid-teens.

At the time I was back living with my paternal grandmother (aka Gram). From the ages of 6 to 12 years old I had lived in a few different households on my paternal side, along with a couple of psychiatric facilities to boot.

Understandably, Gram was very leery of allowing a relationship with my mother due to pain I had endured at her hands. By this point I had been a born-again believer for a couple of years and felt the Christian thing to do was to reconcile with my mother; I was seventeen.

She and my dad had divorced not long after my departure and both had remarried. My mom, older sister, younger brothers and step-dad, were living in Germany and heading back to the states. I would be seeing her for the first time in eleven years.

I had a habit – addiction really – of spending hours living in my imagination, which was a coping mechanism I picked up early on.

Fantasy was a means of escape from whatever pain or emptiness I felt. It enabled me to manipulate the characters in my mind to my advantage. I could be the victim or the hero in the storyline. Because fantasy provided a way to act out what I believed would make me happy, my mood state could be changed in an instant.

A woman rescuing me, seeing me for who I am, and enjoying my existence was a common fantasy theme for me. I didn’t realize I had constructed the perfect mom in my head until I met my real mother. It was then that I could see the stark contrast between reality and my fantasy-fueled ideal.

My estranged family had returned to the states with a plan to pick me up and head up north for a visit with the maternal side.

I was on pins and needles awaiting their arrival, unsure of what to expect or how I would feel. The moment I had built up in my mind had finally arrived. The romanticized picture of how it would unfold shattered when the encounter failed to uphold the fantasy.

When I met my mother, there was an almost instantaneous disappointment that flooded my soul. I was unnerved by how utterly let down I was. In no way did she resemble what I thought she would look like or how I thought she would be. I was devastated.

It didn't take long before she and I were in a shouting match due to a disparaging statement she made about the paternal side of the family. My Gram's misgivings about allowing me to travel with them proved to be true and I was flown home, the visit cut short. It seemed the relationship was over... yet again.

After some time had passed, however, we would try again. My excitement to have her in my life quickly faded and the relationship became an obligation. My mom was never one for keeping up with me, and I was just fine when I didn’t hear from her for a long time.

I was clueless on what to do with my disappointment in her, on how to forgive. I earnestly prayed and thought I had forgiven only to discover on the very next encounter that I hadn't. There was this deep hatred and disgust in me whenever I thought about her with no understanding of how to make it go away. I felt powerless.

I simply didn’t like her. I found her to be self-absorbed, easily offended, and weak; I hated weakness. No matter the discussion, she managed to find a way to bring it back around to be about her. The invalidation of your feelings was a common occurrence with her and she was the queen of complimenting others in front of you, making you feel less-than.

Through the years we would have pockets of harmony where we would get along rather well and I found myself enjoying those times with her. Unfortunately those moments were few and far between.

Every so often we would talk about the past. Rather than getting answers to my lifelong questions, I walked away feeling more confused and doubtful if I was hearing reality. She had a keen ability to distort the truth.

I wanted so desperately to hear and know why she had given me up!

She would “apologize” in her own way, but it never felt as if she was truly sorry for what had happened. It was as if she would acknowledge only what she was comfortable in owning up to and then ignoring all the rest.

On one occasion, she told me that she felt she was not the “right mother for me.”

That did not sit well with me and brought a slew of questions to mind...

Who was the right mother then?

How is it you were the ‘right one’ for my siblings but not me?

Why didn’t you work through it and learn how to be the right mother?... or was I not worth that?

Did you not realize I had NO other mothers?… they are kind of hard to replace or perhaps you thought I would find a better one?

I didn’t ask any of those questions. I learned quickly you didn’t question my mom! That was a path towards an over-the-top reaction and being cut off for a while.

It was always a battle with her. Like walking on proverbial eggshells, even when she was pleasant you feared doing or saying something that would upset her. You just never knew what you would get from her. Over next 30 years, I would spend as little time with her as possible. Just enough to ease my guilt.

Because she was often preoccupied with some other thing in her life that was always more important than you keeping distance was pretty easy to pull that off. My guilt over it waned less and less as bitterness rooted deeper in my heart. I had been living with and wanting to work through this gigantic mess in my heart but to no avail. As hard as I tried, the anger over what had happened and my disappointment of who she was, would not go away. I needed a miracle. This is the backdrop for the work of God that I didn't see coming!

(Head here to read part 3 ~ the miracle I was hoping for) ~ Heather

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Who made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever.

Psalm 146:6