My husband and I visited my mother the other day at her apartment in the city. It’s small, dingy, and fairly empty inside. It reeks of smoke. We have a seat on the lone living room couch and are having ourselves some small talk. Then I see it. Up on the wall, next to the T.V. There are three framed pink certificates. Quite ornate and very official-looking. I squint my eyes and look harder, trying to read what they say. I see the word “Lover”, panic a little, and avert my eyes. I continue my conversation with my mother while stealthily peaking back up at the center certificate and look away again in horror. I glance at my husband. Yes, he’s staring right at it, unable to turn away. So I just go ahead and put it out there.
“So, uhh, mom, I see you have been awarded a very prestigious award” I say.
“Heh?” she says.
“Best Lover in the World” I respond. “In the WORLD. Wow. What’s the, uh, criteria for something like that, eh?”
“Oh” she laughs, embarrassed. “My girlfriend made me those.” (YES, the girlfriend she is referring to is the same one referenced in Engaged Against Her Will).
“Wow. That. Is. Immmpressive. Best lover in the world.” To my husband I ask, “Where’s my certificate? Certainly, I’m the best in the world at something?” Wink, wink. He responds with awkward laughter. I ask my mom, “How is she these days, your girlfriend? How’s that going? I’m guessing pretty well, judging by the certificate?”
She says “Oh, you know, the usual… we break up, we get back together, fight, break up, get back together, I call the cops on her and get her arrested…”
“Say what?” I ask, interrupting. “What was that last piece you said?”
She proceeds to then tell me the story of the last time they had broken up. Her girlfriend was upset, drunk, and trying to get my mom to let her into the apartment. My mother refused to let her in, so her girlfriend banged on the doors and windows and yelled and cursed for hours until eventually busting one of her windows. So my mom had her arrested. But then, she thought about it and decided that her girlfriend must really love her a lot to have spent all those hours banging and yelling at her door. So they are back together now. You know. The usual relationship stuff.
Later, I think to myself- best lover in the world? Good for her. At least she has that. Because she definitely doesn’t win the “Best Mother in the World” award. But then, I immediately feel like an ass for having that super snarky thought. I’m still working through some of my anger and resentment I feel toward her (see Blood on My Hands).
I’m certainly not the “Best Daughter in the World.” Or the best sister. Or wife. Or anything, really. I beat myself up for not being there for my brother more when his wife took her own life. Over the recent years, I definitely feel like I’ve let all three of my brothers down significantly at various times. I let them down because I was afraid of getting myself hurt again. Or I felt I needed to focus on my own healing or my own relationships. And my brothers looked up to me for support, growing up. I took over the mother-role during our mom’s absence through the years.
So is there actually much of a difference between my mother’s neglect and abandonment and mine in their time of need? I’m not so sure…