Monday, December 19, 2016


It's a long story that began probably in early May or late April of 1954.  That spring, the young woman, was being squired around by a dashing fellow, a former soldier, who she'd met at a communication workers gathering -- yes, one of those union firebrands1954.  She loved to dance, and drink, and smoke -- she was the life of any party,  At 27 years old, she knew well what she did and did not want from her life.  She was no push over.  She made her own rules.  She liked what she liked, and I imagine she had no intention of settling down to some quiet life in the suburbs; making casseroles and raising babies.

And then, she got pregnant.  In 1954, there were no reliable ways to avoid pregnancy, and there certainly was no safe, legal way to end an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. And so, on June 5, she married my father.  Eight months later, on February 5, all of her choices ended, ripped away from her, by my tiny baby fists.  It was a violation of her rights for which my mother never forgave me.

I spent years trying to figure out what it was that blocked the connection between the woman who bore me into the world and myself.  It never made any sense to me as a child.  I did my very best to be good; to do all that was expected of me; to take care of my younger brothers; to never take up any space in my mother's world.  Nothing I ever did was enough, and I never understood why.  Even when I got old enough to do the math, at about the age of 13 or 14, I still didn't fully understand the implications of my 8-month baby status.  I never really comprehended the meaning of being "not wanted."  How could it really be true that she could actually hate me; resent me; forever?  Incomprehensible!  And yet...

Years pass, and a lifetime becomes a picture book of memories; bits and pieces stored away carrying wisps of meaning from long ago.  I remember every time that my father took me on his lap to read a story.  I recall each time I woke in the night with some nightmare, and my father came to chase the monsters away and soothe my fears.  I remember each time that my father held me as I vomited and shook with the flu, bathing my face and changing my soiled clothes.  I remember my father bandaging scraped knees.  I remember the afternoon I dislocated my knee; my father's face above mine, and his voice insisting that no one touch me until the ambulance arrived.  I remember coloring Easter eggs with my father, and carving Halloween pumpkins with my father.  I remember when he would cook scrambled eggs while we waited for my mother to return home after the birth of each new baby.  I remember that he went to bat for me when the high school principal accused me of cheating on the standardized tests...  So many of my childhood memories are of my father, and there is almost nothing of my mother, and what there is of my mother is not kind or sweet.

And still I grew.  I followed all the rules.  I did well in school.  I married.  I had my children.  I had a good job.  I rose through the company, earning praise from supervisors as I moved along.  My mother never had a good word to say about any of it.  She never found anything about what I did that she approved of.  Always, my brothers and my classmates were held up as better, more successful, more attractive...  More.  I did not understand.  I assumed it must be me.  My fault.  My short comings. My failings.  Something that I had not done...

And so the years and decades have passed, and I have repeated the dance over and over again.  I have struggled for a lifetime to find the secret to unlock my mother's love for me, but now I know the truth.  There is nothing to unlock.  She does not love me.  She never did.  She never wanted me.  I ruined her life.  I took away her choices all those many years ago, and she could not, cannot forgive me.  It is an awful thing to hold a tiny infant responsible for such a huge crime, but there it is.  Now, as she nears the end of her life; now she really could use my help.  She needs someone to make wise choices about her care, and she really cannot do that for herself at this point.  I would gladly do that for her, but she will not trust me.  She will not allow me to stand that close.  She still does not want me.  She still holds a deep, smoldering anger toward me.  All these many decades, and the bitterness is there -- hurting her.

I have no mother, and for me, it is only a lingering, lifelong pang.  But for her?  For her, the hatred that she has nursed for all these many terrible years may very well cause her a terrible and lonely death.  What awful sorrow.