I originally published this back on Mother's Day in 2010.
After reading BoiseBlue's diary I used to have a sister just now, it reminded me of the diary, and I'd like to share it with all of you, once again.
The update is that my mother is now suffering mid-stage Alzheimer's disease and things have calmed down considerably for all of us. In fact, I'll be off to my sister's in just a few minutes, where my mom spent the night last night (she now resides in a locked-door, skilled nursing facility). Hopefully our Mother's Day Brunch will go well, as mom is now loaded up on a full dose of anti-psychotics and other meds...
Keep that in mind, as you read this tale....
My Mother's day will probably not go as well as intended, but then, I can't remember a year when it did.
My Mother's day will probably involve a lot of sitting about in a restaurant, waiting to be seated, with my mom and my sister. Maybe.
Possibly for breakfast at 9:00 am, or around 11:00 am, for Brunch. Or not.
Holidays in my family are always a mixed bag of fruit. Some sweet, some sour. It all depends upon how my mother's bi-polar disease and her increasing dementia is.
How bout your Mother's day?
I come from a family of women.
There was my mom, myself and then my three younger sisters, all paced out at just about two years apart (august, september, august and finally, october). Oh, and my dad.
That's a whole lot of estrogen in one house. Especially a house with one bathroom and a herd of teenage girls all at one time.
Mother's day, back in the day? You know, I can't recall one from before my own children were born. I just now realized this, and it strikes me as odd, because I know, as sure as the sun will rise in the east in about five more hours, that I made Mother's Day gifts in school and brought them home for my mother. It was public school in Washington State in the early 1970s. This sort of project was the highlight of the school year for some teachers, you know, the older lady who wore the really thick glasses and bright pink lipstick. She must have had ten children of her own, and boy howdy, did she practically worship Mother's Day.
Construction paper tulips, with dark green stems and leaves, and flamingo pink or red or orange flower petals, all strung together with folded-cut-out-paper-doll-chains. Paper flowers for mom to last all month long, magnetically attached to the Amana Frigidaire side-by-side with Freezer door.
So I know damned well I made some of those ugly suckers, and brought them home to my mom, proud as punch. I just can't recall any of them.
The Mother's Day holidays that I can remember, well, they are memorable, but never in a good way.
For the most part, starting around the year that I was 25 and my mom was 45, for my family, the holidays became the least favorite times of the year. Because my mom would invariably end up pitching a tantrum of one sort or another, and then stomp out of my home and down the driveway, walking her angry ass the four miles home.
Or at least as far as the end of our dead-end private road, before my youngest sister (who is now 42 and still lives with my mom to this day) would go get in her car, go hunt my mom down and either spend a half hour in a 500 decibel verbal storm and then try and convince my mom to calm down and come back for the meal - or just drive her home.
I spent countless hours talking to my very young daughters during these events, explaining about why grandma was so upset and what was wrong.
So my mom's disease didn't stop with causing damage with myself and my sisters, it reached down into the next generation, to damage my children, too. Depriving our entire family of the ability to have a simple holiday dinner, and expect everyone to behave reasonable well, and enjoy the day.
We never had that, never once. Not for 4th of July, not for Thanksgiving, not for Christmas. Every holiday was the same, we'd all be just waiting for my mom to have her moment. It was usually easy to catch, because we'd all hear her, "well, goddammit, then I'll just take myself home, I'm not staying where I'm not wanted..." and off she'd go, stomping out and slamming the door on her way.
There were countless holidays when I would have daydreams about a different life, one where my mom did not exist. Where there were no loud, vulgar outbursts to ruin a lovely afternoon of family and good food and smiles and happiness. But of course, they were just daydreams.
By the time I'd reached 40, mom's emotional state became more precarious, because she'd managed to survive another round of heart attacks. The first round, which occured when she was about 53, resulted eventually in a triple-bypass graft in the upper chambers of her heart. After a fairly long hospitalization (over two months counting prior to the surgery and final discharge after some post-surgical infections), she was sent home.
Her 2nd husband had, in the meanwhile, passed on during this period. He too, had been hospitalized then stabilized and sent back to the nursing home, where he'd deteriorate and be sent back to the ICU unit, from his ever worsening pancreatitis and cirrhosis. Sadly, I must confess, none of us missed him. He was a violent alcoholic, a retired state trooper who (I learned long after he passed) liked to waive his .357 magnum about at my mom and sister when he'd downed a fifth of Black Velvet to top off his afternoon of couch-surfing, while entertaining them with a list of their failures in life. My mom never did have much luck, and she most definitely had bad taste, when it came to men. Something she passed on to me. Lucky me.
Following her recuperation from this horrendous year, she was somewhat more like a normal mom. No outbursts, no crazy 'I'm going to kill myself' threats. For more than a year.
But, as in all other parts of life, all good things must pass, and this more motherly version of my mom faded out of the world, never to return.
In 2008, my mom had a second round of heart attacks, which lead to a week in the local hospital. Her cardiologist came out of the procedure which they did to assess the level of damage done, and explained that she had suffered some considerable damage to the lower chamber of her heart. But because she had the earlier graft in the upper chamber, there was no surgical option. If they opened her back up, the first graft would likely detach, and leave her dead on the operating table.
So, her list of medications went from four to fourteen. Her attitude did not improve.
Imagine, if you will, Marge Simpson's sister, Velma of the dangling cigarette and the Gladys Cravits personality. My mom, to a tee, excepting the cigarettes, which she was forced to give up by her cardiologist, in order to be approved for the bypass-graft done fifteen years ago.
That's my mom.
But all the emotional blackmail and manipulation which she has used like a freakin professional over the years aside, she is still my mom, and god help me, I still love her.
So, tomorrow, I'll get a phone call from her or my sister (the one who lives with her), around 8 am, with the beginnings of an argument between the two of them already brewing. There will be five minutes of her asking if I want to go where my sister wants to go, or somewhere else, and where would that be, and - wait a minute, your sister is yelling at me...
... oh, I forgot. The funny, well, funny ironic thing. My mom, for years, worked for a hearing aid sales company. She has about ten sets of hearing aids, brand new, in boxes, in her house. She won't wear one. She will pretend she hears what you're saying to her, then answers a question you didn't ask. She refuses to have her hearing tested. When she comes over to my house, and I go to the restroom, when I come back the sound is loud enough to rattle the living room windows. I ask her, "did you turn that up this loud? Do you need a hearing aid?". She says, "I worked in that fucking business for ten years, don't you goddammed think I'd know if I needed a hearing aid! Stop it, stop it, stop yelling at me about it!". At this point, I give up, and drop the subject.
So, someone is yelling at me about where we're going for breakfast Brunch, and "what time do they stop serving Brunch" woven around "I'm not going there, I get sick when I eat there". My mom and sister have eaten at every restaurant in the Portland Metro area. My mom has had bad news and and nasty remarks for about 98.99% of the poor, unsuspecting wait staff at those restaurants. She wants to eat out every meal, and finds something wrong with every one of them. It boggles my mind to just ponder it.
Eventually, around phone call four or six or ten, hopefully after I've gotten a whole cup of coffee into me, there is a meeting of the minds or someone's will has been broken, and a final destination will be conveyed to me, along with the departure and arrival times. Then my mom will call me every hour or so, until it's time to leave for the restaurant. And six more times, between the time I call and tell her I'm leaving my house, and when I arrive at the restaurant.
All of the other diners will be sharing small talk and soft smiles. Tulips and roses from grown sons will grace the tables of some of the diners. Round some of the tables will be three, or four generations of family members. Shiny, happy people, some of them will even be holding hands.
Our table will have none of that. But if I'm very, very lucky tomorrow, our table will not have a public explosion and a swift end to our meal.
There will be some tense moments, when I and my sister notice that mom is getting a bit hot and bothered about something, and we will gently try and steer her to another topic of conversation.
I will hope that the food comes fiery hot for mom, because she has lost the ability to feel heat in her mouth so far as I can tell - she complains that everything she gets at restaurants is too cold anymore.
I'll have to set the alarm on my cell phone for 30 minutes before we will be served, and remind mom she has to go to the ladies room to inject her insulin, or she will hike her pants leg up, right at the table, to inject into her upper thigh. She has also, apparently, lost the ability to be embarassed about her behavior in public. She's like that old lady at the door in her tattered and stained nightdress, cigarette dangling and curlers in her hair, who says, "I don't give a shit how I look anymore!"
By the end of the meal, I'll be deperate to escape, and eventually, I will.
But tonight, as I post this sad tale, which seems to be hopeless and empty of love, remember this:
My mom has a disease. She refuses to acknowledge, much less treat this disease. I spent years hating my mom, before I understood that it was not my mom that was causing all of this trouble and destroying our family emotionally, it was her disease.
For 40 years bi-polar disease made me loathe my own mother. It only took me becoming educated about the disease, and getting some good advice of my own, to totally change the way that I interacted with my mom. I was finally, finally able to put all of the horrible, nasty behavior in a box labled "bi-polar", and see that my mom was still in there. I could still love her.
And I do.
I'm sure that tomorrow, like all of my family holidays, will start out with the best of intentions, and end with my mom crying and protesting our terrible treatment of her.
But I hope that I'm wrong. That tomorrow, on this Mother's Day, a miracle will happen. We'll have a happy day.
It could happen.
Either way, tomorrow's on it's way here.
Be happy with your moms, and for them. Tell them, "I love you". They deserve it. Even the one's who don't, maybe especially the one's who don't, because there's a very good chance that they need it the most.
Happy Mother's Day.
3:05 PM PT: Thanks to all who stopped by for a read.
I also have to report, that with a full load of the right medication, finally, my family had a WONDERFUL, peaceful Mother's Day brunch.
Love, apparently, can find a way. Even if it takes a lifetime.