Best [Blank] in the World

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…

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Blood on My Hands

Mental illness, abuse, suicide. These things are laced throughout my family history.

My mother was sexually abused by many growing up: her brothers, their friends, friends of her parents, and so on. I think that because it started so early on in her life, she might have thought that it was normal or that it was her fault in some way, and she never told anyone. And you can imagine the effect that years of sexual abuse from many individuals can have on someone’s mental health.

My mother met my father and it was instant attraction. My father was recently divorced and my mother was currently engaged to another man, but they hit it off. After a while, my mother threatened my father that she would kill herself if he didn’t marry her soon, and this was how it all started.

Shortly after they married, my mother became pregnant with me. My father was in the military and they lived on base, doing drugs and living it up. They were caught, and my father was dishonorably discharged. After I was born, my mother’s brother committed suicide.

My mother slept through most of my childhood and into my teenage years, suffering from bipolar disorder and depression. During this time, my father was physically and psychologically abusive to myself and my brothers. My mother never intervened. She was like a wilted flower, always lifeless, always frowning, always sleeping, never present.

One day, I came home from school and found her, more lifeless than usual. She had overdosed and was waiting to die. That was the first of many times she has attempted suicide. After this point, she left our family and spent much time in and out of mental institutions. When she wasn’t institutionalized, she bounced from girlfriend to girlfriend’s house. Lovers that she met at bars. She started doing drugs again. At one point, she was raped by a strange man as she laid on the ground in front of some house or apartment, paralyzed from the effects of narcotics. She would come back to live with us periodically, claiming that she’d kill herself if my father didn’t let her stay.

During this time, the abuse with my father continued as I tried to take care of my brothers. My mother returned somewhat permanently toward the end of my stay at that dark place. At that point, I could hardly look at her or speak to her. Knowing her history of sexual abuse and psychological diagnoses, I wanted to have pity on her and to love on her. But at the same time, I felt that those things shouldn’t be acceptable excuses for neglecting your children and allowing abuse to continue.

Years later, much more disappointment and pain has come. My mother continued her maddening indifference as my brothers grew up in that place. I’ve always struggled because I want to express to my mother my feelings regarding her behavior, but feel that she is much too fragile to hear what I would have to say. And I can’t have her blood on my hands.

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