they found my mother on december 5, 2016. i can’t say she died on that day because they don’t know when she actually died. she was found in bed, nothing out-of-place except for the fact that she was dead. apparently autopsies are extremely expensive and the coroner decided one wasn’t needed after talking to her doctor. part of me understands that, she had heart problems, was an insulin dependent diabetic, and had survived breast cancer twice. they decided it was either her heart or her blood sugar and that was that. i wish i knew for sure, though.
my mother and i had a difficult relationship. we didn’t speak for the last four months of her life because she wouldn’t respond to me. we lived in different cities and i texted and emailed and called. she never responded. she didn’t even call on my birthday. for the second year in a row. not that i celebrate my birthday but still, a phone call would have been nice. i called the day before thanksgiving and left her a message that i hoped she had a good holiday, was spending it with one of my sisters, and that i loved her. i called her a few days later and left a message that i was just checking in on her, hoped she was doing okay, and that i loved her. i called a few days later, same message.
my last call to her was on tuesday, december 6, 2016, a little after 2p.m. i was just so tired of the game. i’d say something wrong, or wouldn’t respond the way she wanted me to and she’d get mad and stop speaking to me for a period of time. she’d ignore my messages, emails, and texts then call, the sad and lonely parent who didn’t understand why i was doing this to her. tired of the game i left her a message and god help me i remember exactly what it said.
well, i’m supposing if you were dead or in the hospital jeanne or michelle would have called to tell me, so you’re probably just home listening to these messages. you’re not answering my texts. you’re not answering my emails. and you’re ignoring my calls. i’m done, i’m just done. if you decide you want to talk you know where i am.
an hour later my husband called and said my little sister was trying to get in touch with me. she couldn’t, so she had called the switchboard at his office and left a message on his voicemail. i called her back and just said, “she’s dead, isn’t she?” that’s how i found out that she had been found. i left her that message and she was already dead. she had been dead for days. alone. in her apartment.
i grew up in a very abusive household. she knew about it and didn’t do anything about the physical abuse or the sexual abuse. she was a victim of emotional abuse just like the rest of us. i went back and forth for a long time wondering what she knew and when she knew it. why she stayed. all the questions we normally ask. she acknowledged it once then took it back and said she had no idea what i was talking about. she also told me that one of my abusers had tried to rape her in our living room. but she still let me stay weekends with him. she still let him take me. i found out at her service that she knew and had discussed it with her sister at least once.
she was a narcissist, a hypochondriac, and played passive-aggressive games like nobody’s business. she knew what was happening and she stayed. she let it continue. she told me lies about my sister and told my sister lies about me so that she could keep each of us for herself. like our love was only valid if it was hers and hers alone. but. i have to balance all this negative with everything else.
she loved to read and instilled that love in me. my first trip to the library with her she let me check out books on her card because my card wouldn’t let me have more than two books at a time. she never went anywhere without a book and taught me to do the same. she didn’t refuse me books, she looked at what i wanted to read and asked me why i wanted to read it. if i could cogently explain why, i could check it out (or she would if necessary). there were books all over our house and we had a whole encyclopedia set which was a big deal because it was expensive but it was awesome.
one year there wasn’t money for christmas presents so she had a friend who knew calligraphy make cards that presented each us with a “day with mom”. we could cash it in whenever we wanted and have a day alone with her, doing whatever we wanted. we went to the library, had lunch at home (grilled cheese sandwiches – she always put two slices of cheese on them which was a big deal because our cheese was a giant block of that government cheese, and hot chocolate made with milk not water), and spent the rest of the day reading. i still have my card in a desk drawer, she never actually made me turn it in.
when john quit his job and spent two years on the couch, drinking diet coke, eating m&ms, and smoking, she worked three jobs so that the heat and electric would stay on, they wouldn’t take the house, and all the other things that adults needed to pay got paid. the times there wasn’t a car she took the bus to and from work. when she worked nights i would meet her at the bus stop so she didn’t have to walk home alone. i had to sneak out but it was worth it.
somehow, i have to find a way to balance these two diametrically opposed views of my mother. i know that times were different when i was a child. none of the doctors reported the multiple times i was in the e.r. with pelvic inflammatory disease. none of them questioned why a 9-year-old had p.i.d. in the first place. none of them wondered how a 12-year-old ended up with lesions adhering her uterus to her bowel. there weren’t any mandatory reporting laws in the 70’s and 80’s or, if there were, the doctors just didn’t follow them. in high school i found out, after yet another exploratory laparoscopy, that i couldn’t have children because of the damage to my uterus but nobody asked any questions. nobody looked at my medical history and said, “hmmm. maybe there’s something bad going on here.” or maybe they did and just didn’t care. i don’t know.
but. i still have to balance my views of my mother. the questions i always thought i would have time to ask i can’t ask and now i’m out of time. i can’t ask why she married him. i can’t ask why she stayed. i can’t ask why she didn’t do anything. i can’t ask …
i haven’t cried.
i’m having nightmares.
i left that goddamn message and she was already dead.
she’d been dead.
alone in her apartment, tucked into bed like a goddamn fairy princess waiting for her prince to kiss her awake.
you could still smell the decay that saturday when i was there with my aunt while she was looking through papers.
i have to balance my views of my mother.
i don’t know how to do that.