I have been thinking about my mom lately, and it popped into my head again today while I was making lunch. I guess I was thinking about cooking and moms and also C, because IT Ma’am is angry at her and not returning her calls and C is really sad, although C is not directly saying this. I was thinking how C misses her mom’s cooking and actually from my observations, her mom almost never cooks. Like once in a month will C’s mom cook—when C is doing some approved activity and not available at meal-making time. I suppose she might make lunch, because C is at school and not there to prepare. I make lunch at the same time as breakfast, but in C’s house, they might make three separate meals a day. Most people do.
Anyway, when you have a strained bond with your parent, you probably don’t have a continuous sense of your parent. You have a sense of your parent as being several different people, and you miss the one who nurtures. You miss the mom who cooks for you, even if this mom is rarely seen. You miss the mom who nurtures you, even if that mom appeared only once or twice in your entire childhood. You miss that mom.
I do not remember a mom who cared for me at all. I mean, my mom did things, but there was no care involved. It just had to be done. I don’t remember ever connecting with her over my need to be cared for and her wish to care for me, the way I connect with C. I see C with clean clothes that look newish—they don’t have holes in them, and they aren’t so old you can’t scrub the dirt out of them anymore, which is what I used to see her in. And I feel happy. I think, “I bought that shirt that looks so nice on her.” And I feel happy looking at her. I feel happy she looks cared for. (C’s family is not poor: they are living in dysfunctional poverty.) I don’t ever remember my mother making food I really liked and feeling very happy to get to eat something I liked and her feeling happy she could make me that particular food. Maybe I never felt safe enough to experience care even when she gave it to me. But it seemed to me she made cookies, for example, because she liked cookies and because it made her feel like a good mom—like she was accumulating points on a mom-chart. Everything seemed to be about her in terms of motivation. There never seemed to be any connection to me and my sister.
So I don’t remember feeling cared for, and I don’t remember her ever wanting to listen to me talk. I kind of remember obliging her with an account of my day, like we were going through the motions of something, but I never remember feeling she wanted me or wanted to listen to me. It is a very profound sense of just never being wanted.
And I found myself thinking, “Why did she never want to listen to me?”
It seems to me I have gotten some insight into her dysfunction and some of the dynamics involved in her abusiveness, but it’s as though she never pulled out of it. To contrast it with myself maybe, I have all of these triggers, but there are chunks of the day when I am fairly normal. I can have conversations. I can listen to people and talk to them. Similarly, VP Ma’am attacks me sometimes and there are more times lately when I just don’t feel like revealing anything personal to her, because it might be used in the next round, but there are times when she is really interested in me. There is a point of intersection, perhaps, where what I have to say lines up with her desire to listen, and I feel wanted. Otherwise, we would never have gotten to this point, where I seem to her to be close enough to start triggering her baby trauma.
But it’s as though, with my mom, she was never normal. She was never in a place where she could relate to me or extend interest to me. It’s hard to imagine. How could she just never have any interest in me? It’s hard to fathom. Still, I reach into my past and it really feels like “never.” She never wanted me, she was never interested in me, she never wanted to nurture me or care for me. I remember a friend saying something about how you remember those good times and you always long for them to be like that, and I don’t remember them. I remember times when she was happy and I felt if I stayed out of the way and didn’t attract her attention, she wasn’t going to attack me and so I felt safe. I don’t remember any connected times, even ones that might have been wishful thinking. I remember moments of freedom, where I could quietly go about enjoying myself alone without fear of her, but I don’t remember connection.
How could she never be able to connect? What was really wrong with her?
Was it really that she had so little capacity to empathize with me that she could not respond to me in a connected way? That happens to me when I teach sometimes, because they have me teaching these little kids I have no experience or training with. I have no idea why they have done this. It’s someone’s idiot idea, I am sure. And there are times when I am really, really frustrated with them and then I suddenly realize, Oh, fuck, I don’t know how to do this. That’s why I feel so angry at them. They are trying really, really hard to please me, and I have no idea how to get across to them what is expected of them or how to enable them to meet my expectations. They are getting more and more distressed and agitated, because they don’t know what is expected, and I am not able to help them, because I have no training in how to teach 8 and 9-year-olds. I have no fucking idea. Was my mom like that all the time?
There is no real answer to this, no way to go back and understand it. It has within it a degree of resolution for me, however: my mom is ill. She is really, really ill, and I don’t know why. I don’t know what caused it. It is not semi-obvious like it is with my dad, where I know his own mother was psychotic and very likely tortured him to get the demons out or something like that. My mom’s mother seems identifiably lacking in empathy, but her level of dysfunction is nowhere near to what my mom’s was, and I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t know what happened. But my mother is ill. That is truly the source of my grief. My mother was and is mentally ill, and she could not care for me.