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Eulogy for My Mom
Eulogy for My Mom
Three years ago tomorrow, my mother suicided. Naturally and understandibly, this has been somewhat on my mind this week; however, since I plan on having a *very nice day* tomorrow, I'm just going to get this out of my head today.
Her reasons (I will not go so far as to justify her decision-making process as "rationale" or "thinking" ) won't be discussed in detail here; that is more appropriately the subject of another post to be composed when I am feeling truly sorry for myself, probably sometime around the holidays. I will say this much. My oldest brother died in 2001. My mother did not have a happy life, but through it all, she appeared to exercise a certain strength, and said that the only thing that would destroy her would be to lose one of her children before she died. So, fate being what it typically was for her, that happened. In fairness to her, I can appreciate what that did to her emotionally...I know what it did to me.
Not saying that was a good reason to swallow a pharmacy followed by a chardonnay chaser, but I suppose objectively, it's not any more insane a reason to take your own life than anything else would be.
I mentioned this anniversary to my friend this morning, who asked if I was okay. That's a good question.
Am I? Yes, I am. And part of me is honestly sad about that. My father died in 1992, and I'm okay about that, for entirely different reasons (look for further explanation around the holidays as well). But I'm still not okay with my brother's death. I was closer to him than anyone in my family. He was eleven years older than me and, in many ways, was more a dad to me than my dad. I can discuss my father or my mother with equanimity now; him, I still can't.
But mom. Yeah.
I was hurt at first. Then I was angry. I'm less angry now. I was sad, but not because she was gone so much as what a waste her life had been. My life has been remarkably better since she's been gone, and I can think of no sadder commentary on a life than that.
My mother wasn't inherently evil; she was sick. And I suppose a part of me always hoped she'd be better and I'd have my real mom back someday - the one that made me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into star shapes for lunch while I watched "The Bozo Show"; the one who showed up to most, but not all, of my school plays, chorus recitals, awards days; the one who, on my twenty-first birthday, brought a birthday cake to the bar where my friends all hung out in college. The mom who was apparently abducted by aliens or possessed by a demon sometime in the 90s and who *looked* like my mother but bore no emotional resemblence to that woman.
Sometime around then, she decided to take all of her angst about her life out on me. I always found that an interesting choice. I was (and still am, I guess) the baby and the only daughter. I was the only one to finish college and the first member of my family ever to go to graduate school. I was rumored to be pretty, smart, charming and talented. Nevertheless, it was me on whom my mother focused all of her internal rage.
She wrote me off twice before her death. I still have those letters, because I am a sick, masochistic bitch. But, especially after my brother was diagnosed with cancer, no matter what she did to me, or failed to do for me, I could not bring myself to remove her from my life. Anyone else who was that toxic I would have cut off years before. But I was not so cruel as to take another child away from my mother.
I apparently severely overestimated my importance to her.
I was not surprised when the police showed up at my house on June 22, 2003, and told me to call the sheriff's department in the county where my mom lived in Florida. And I was not surprised when the officer there told me that my mother had apparently overdosed on June 17. I wasn't even shocked. My surviving brother (two years older than me, although that is not important to this self-indulgent story) and I had honestly been expecting this for some time.
I even knew why. She'd made it clear to me throughout my life that I was personally responsible for her happiness and emotional well-being, despite the fact that this responsibility was in no way reciprocal. And after a final, completely devestating abadonment by her, at 33, I finally divested myself of this duty. Perhaps I was misguided, but I couldn't help but think that a 65 year old woman was responsible for her own decisions and for the consequences of those decisions. And selfishly, I couldn't help but think that she was my mother and I was her child, and as such, my job description seemed rather insane.
Six weeks later, she was dead. If there was ever a physical embodiment of "this is all your fault," that'd be it.
I have never really blamed myself or accepted personal responsibility for her suicide. Nevertheless, I've analyzed and overanalyzed this, and paid someone else to do that for me, and only recently realized that I did, in some small part, know that if it were not for me, she would still be alive. If I had not decided that, since no one else was taking care of me during what was probably the hardest and most horrible time of my life, I was going to have to focus on taking care of myself, and if I had simply continued to be her emotional whipping-child, she'd still be alive.
Is that fault? I can't think it is. Until then, my life had been all about everyone else in my family. No decision I made was made without taking their, and especially her, needs and desires into consideration. I was no longer in a place where that was a luxury I could afford. And I foolishly expected my mother and the rest of them, who were all adults and older than me, were grown up enough to take care of themselves. If they weren't, that isn't my fault.
Am I sad? I guess so, but I don't feel it. I'm more sad for the lost opportunities, but I also know that I would have spent the rest of my life hoping to get something back that really never existed in the first place. If I was destined never to have a loving, supportive mother, at the very least, I deserved a chance at a happy, fulfilling life of my own. And I have that now -- a job I like, my homedogs, a house, a convertible, friends, and a very, shall we say, interesting new friend -- and I find that it is getting better with every passing day.
I think I feel compelled to, if not obsess, at least focus, on her and the relationship we had right now because she was my mom, she's dead, and I'm supposed to feel something about that. And part of me feels very, very guilty that what I feel is not a crushing sense of loss, but rather, almost nothing. And that makes me very, very sad.
As I said earlier, I intend to have a fabulous day tomorrow (I get to go shop for *tires* -- and not tires for *my* car! Does my friend take me to the best places or what?). As I get older and the years pass, soon every date on the calendar will be associated with some memory or some event; I don't intend to let the sunny, bright summer day of June 17 always and forever be associated with the final, vicious, selfish act of a very sick woman. And part of that comes from acknowleding the events that took place, then putting the significance of those events in my life into some perspective.
I doubt the day will ever come when it doesn't occur to me that this was the day my mother composed (what we discovered to be the final of several drafts of) her very terse and cold note to my brother and me, then very deliberately planned and executed her own execution. I can only hope and believe that someday, this is only a passing thought.
That process will continue tomorrow, when I enjoy the beauty and joy that is the life I've built for myself since then. Don't feel sorry for me, and for the love of God, don't pity me. I'm fine, just a little pissed. But soon, I don't even plan to be that. I do not want to waste the rest of the life I have before me, which frankly, is looking pretty damn good, by holding onto the slights and stings of the life that's already passed. And I refuse to do so.
So that's the eulogy on a life. My mother's death served to make my life happier. In that respect, I suppose, I owe her some thanks. Why, though, does that seem wrong somehow?
6/16/2006 5:26 am
I've told you about, oh, a thousand times that I love this side of you -- the side that can understand and put perspective on some horrific things such as a life wasted, a parental bond that was little more than a rotting rope, and an attempt at a cruel and vicious "statement" that became little more than a liberative death.|
Pity you? No. Celebrate you, is what I do. The hand that you were dealt was a shit hand from the beginning, and you've manage to run all the players from the table except those you want to keep.
It cannot be possible for today and tomorrow to mean nothing. So I will be here, as you have been for me. In the meantime, I really DO have to get tires. Don't make fun....
You are really something, you know that?
6/17/2006 4:04 pm
The bottom line is that we are not responsible for another's happiness or emotional well-being. No matter how hard they try to make us responsible for it! We can only be respobsible for our own. I admire you for being able to accept that. I'm still trying.|
Power To FOK
7/11/2006 3:59 pm
Hi...reading your blog for the first time. You're an excellent writer.|
A comment, if you'll allow me (at this late date): Unfortunately, it's usually the ones we love--the ones from whom we long for approval--that end up hurting us the most and even actively trying to capitalize on misbegotten guilt. They have that power, until we take that power away from them. And what they do to themselves after that is their own choice and should, by all that's honest and right, cease to have the power to make us feel guilty. My grandmother is (was? Don't know at this point) such a toxic person that my mother and I had to cut her out of our lives. Now, don't get me wrong--my mom has had her moments of trying to guilt me into something --but nothing, nothing like she went through herself. They say each generation gets better, IF those people take the time to stop and think before they say or do something hurtful to their children. I don't have kids yet. I hope that if/when I do, I'll be even more "evolved". I can relate to a lot of what you said--I'm the first person in my family to graduate from college, much less go on for a master's. And I broke the have-a-kid-at-18-to-20-years-old cycle that my family had for generations.
Anyway...thanks for sharing...I hope each year June 17 gets easier and easier for you, until it's really just another just-pre-summer day.