I’ve been thinking about death lately.
Not in the ‘what happens after we die’ sort of existential questioning kind of way some think about death. More in the ‘how will I feel when my mother dies’ kind of way.
I don’t speak to my mother much. The last time it was to say “I don’t want to talk about it.” She’d called my cell phone, which I didn’t answer. She then called my work phone, which I did answer, because I didn’t look at the caller ID first. Rookie mistake.
She asked if I was busy, and I told her I was. “I’ll just be a second, I promise” she told me. I told her I really had to go. “I’m just so worried that you’re going to get screwed in all of this!” she said. She was speaking about the divorce that my husband had recently initiated after deciding he was in love with the woman he’d been carpooling to work with for the last two years. I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. She’d already been informed of this via email, which is how I broke the news to her in the first place. She continued her attempt to shove some advice into my face while I continued to repeat “I don’t want to talk about it.” Finally she gave up and said “Okay. I love you.”
“Thanks. You too” I said, and hung up. Saying ‘I love you’ to her is like trying to choke down gristle at a dinner party.
My mom lives in my home state with my step father, who molested me in my childhood. I didn’t confront this issue until I was well into adulthood, after I’d moved to California, done some traveling, and was engaged to my now-ex husband. When I told my mom what I was dealing with, she had mixed reactions, of course. What she settled on, however, was denial. She convinced herself that I must be remembering incorrectly. She questioned details that I’d never forgotten as if I’d suddenly decided to invent them, trying to catch me in my mistake. She never did, the memories ran too deep. We grew apart.
Before all of this, as a child, teenager, and young adult, I adored my mother. I respected her, revered her, thought her the wisest woman I’d ever met. I saw her as strong and accepting, compassionate and fair. Now I see her as fearful, painfully passive aggressive, and in a lifelong state of denial.
I don’t miss her. I don’t feel bad for forgetting her birthday every year. My kids never ask about her and have to be reminded who ‘Grandma’ is when she sporadically sends them gifts.
I see her when I go home to visit, sometimes. I give my friends and close family priority, and if I have enough time, I’ll let her know I’m in town. Our meetings are always awkward and forced. Lots of talk about the weather.
So when I think about the idea that she will die some day, the thing that bothers me the most is the question of whether she’ll go before my step father, and then I’ll have to see him at the funeral. I’ve only seen him at funerals since I let our secret out of the bag over a dozen years ago.
My siblings and cousins and aunts and other concerned parties occasionally appeal to me for a change of heart. “Your mom won’t be around forever” they say. “Some day you’ll lose her and you’ll always regret that you didn’t allow yourself to forgive her so you could repair your relationship” they tell me. “Once she’s gone you can never get her back, you’ll always be sorry” they warn.
I’m not so sure. I might continue to feel slightly angry but mostly indifferent toward the idea of her. I might feel a certain peace at not having to feel so hurt by her choice of him over me. Or resentment when I think about all of the years and years and years and years that it has taken me to get through and past the abuse itself, and then her reaction to it.
Then again, I might feel really sad. I might moan and beat the walls and say “Whyyyyy Amanda?! Why did you have to be so selfish and stubborn? Why couldn’t you just agree to disagreeeeeee? Now she’s goooooonnnnnee!!!”
I can’t see myself doing that. I’ve never been much of a wall pounder.
I can say that I think I’d rather she hang on a while longer, until I can put some more thought into this. As long as she doesn’t call me at work anymore.